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I'm a bit confused on the meaning of "noch" in a paragraph I have in my Lehrbuch:

Sara arbeitet heute lange. Sie  ist müde, aber zufrieden. 
Sie kauft noch ein und geht nach Hause. 

does that mean:

Well, she's tired... but she still goes shopping because she has to

OR

She's tired so she shops quickly and goes home

Thanks

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It is something inbetween.

noch is could be part of a temporal adverb. It could be a short form vor gerade/eben noch. The construct is used to focus on "she is going home", adding her shopping stop as a side line of what she did immediately before that.

Sie kauft ein und geht (dann) noch nach Hause. would focus on her shopping. Her going home right after that would be secondary.

It leaves no immediate conclusion to why and how, i.e. if she does it quickly or because she has to.

You could interpret it as trotzdem noch as well, then it would be your "still" translation. This is the less common interpretation though.

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I would read it as Sie kauft (nur) noch ein, i.e. as she is tired and wants to go to bed (or at least home as soon as possible) she does only the most necessary thing on her way, i.e. some shopping. –  Hagen von Eitzen Nov 20 '13 at 19:07
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While what Ben said is valid, it seems there's a strong notion of your second example. Here, the sentence could be read as

Sie kauft zum Abschluss noch ein, dann ist sie fertig.

Noch, in this case, marks the end of a series of chores Sara had to do, but focusing on that "ah, finally done" feeling you get afterwards.

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It's the first meaning (still), with the implication that this is the very last thing she does (which would suggest that she does it quickly, too, in this particular situation). Other examples:

Mother: "Warum gehst du nicht raus (spielen)?" Child: "Ich muss noch Hausaufgaben machen."

After a snack: "Bist du noch hungrig?"

In a bakery or so: "Haben Sie noch einen Wunsch?"

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Sara arbeitet heute lange. Sie ist müde, aber zufrieden. Sie kauft noch ein und geht nach Hause.

Hehe … »noch« is one of those little words that I guess must be really hard to learn for non-native speakers, just like »eben«, »ja«, »halt«, »doch«. (Not implying the rest of the language is easy to learn …)

In this context, it means that on top of all the other things she did, she also went shopping, but that's frankly the last thing the managed to do, because, you see, it's been a long day and she's tired. Note that I've overstated and exaggerated a little bit to make the meaning clear.

More »noch« examples:

  • Gut, noch ein Bier, aber dann ist Schluß! (one final beer, the stress is on »ein«)
  • Los, noch ein Bier, ich hab Durst! (come on, another one)
  • Noch sind wir nicht da. (not quite there yet)
  • Noch ein Punkt. (another point, stress on »noch«)
  • Noch ein Punkt. (one final point, stress on »ein«)
  • Wirst du dies Jahr noch fertig? (Are you going to get it done till the end of the year?)
  • Heute noch kann man die Spuren sehen. (traces can still be seen today)
  • Noch heute kann man … (same as above)
  • Noch was: … (one more thing, another thing: …)
  • Noch eins (= noch eines): … (same as above)
  • Das auch noch! - (and that on top!)
  • Hast du noch Zeit? (Do you still have time?)
  • Noch sowas. (yet another such thing)
  • Berlin ist groß, aber Moskau ist noch größer. (Moscow is bigger yet)
  • Noch schneller geht es nicht. (can't go/make it faster yet)
  • Noch Fragen? (any more questions?)
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Wow this is a great summary. Thanks! –  Shaun Nov 21 '13 at 7:12
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To add to the other answers...

I think the word noch itself should not be translated directly as any option available (still, quickly,...) shifts the tone and adds something that isn't there in the German version. My translation would be this:

She is tired but happy. She does her groceries and then she heads home.

The then adds the same notion of the shopping being the one last task of her day. You could leave it out without losing information just as you could leave out the noch. To me, it adds this idea of "Ahhh... finally at home." that would be missing without it.

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