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Is there a rule that tells me when to us "nur noch" over "nur"? Are they interchangeable? For example, consider the following two sentences:

  • Heute sehen wir uns nur noch selten.
  • Heute sehen wir uns nur selten.

To me, there is absolutely no difference.

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"Heute" and "noch" convey the same kind of information: in earlier days, we saw each other more often, but now, this has changed. So you would say "Heute sehen wir uns nur selten" or "Wir sehen uns nur noch selten" with the same effect. "Noch" is not needed in this context. – Martin Schwehla Jan 31 '15 at 0:57
up vote 8 down vote accepted

For me, "nur noch" implies that there is a difference to some other referenced situation. In your example this other situation is a point in time: "We see each other far too seldom" ("nur") as opposed to "We see each other far too seldom, but we used to see each other often" ("nur noch").

PS: When I think about it, you wouldn't use "nur" with a reference to time like "Heute" -- "nur noch" is the only one that is fully correct.

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+1 also note the difference here: "Heute verdienen wir nur zwei Euro" vs. "Heute verdienen wir nur noch zwei Euro." ;) – Takkat Sep 21 '13 at 22:15
"nur noch" can also mark some remaining timespan: "Es sind nur noch 2 Stunden bis Ladenschluss" – Vogel612 Sep 21 '13 at 22:22
I see. I actually took the example that I used from this sentence: Heute sehen wir uns nur noch selten, aber wenn wir uns treffen, ist es immer toll. – echoone Sep 22 '13 at 1:59

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