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How is the modal particle "ja" used? Is it the same as "you know"?

  1. Ich kann ja den Artikel auf Deutsch lesen.

  2. Ich kann den Artikel auf Deutsch lesen, weisst du?

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Voll krass ey ist das, alter, wenn du sagst sagst weisst du am Ende eines Satzes, weisst du? - What I'm just saying is: German do not say "weißt du?". –  Em1 Dec 18 '13 at 8:50
    
@Em1 "Voll krass falsch Altaaaahhh, weisst du? Du kannst doch nich einfach alle meine Bros als nicht deutsche diffamieren, weisch?" Das diffamieren ist hier etwas deutlich fehlplatziert, aber weisch? –  Vogel612 Dec 18 '13 at 9:53

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

"Ja" as a modal particle

1) In statements, ja appeals for agreement (Your example fits here, I believe)

a) by using ja the speaker insists that what he is saying is correct

Wir haben ja gestern davon gesprochen = We did talk about that yesterday

b) In contrast to doch as an appeal for agreement, ja implies that the speaker and listener have the same opinion, whereas doch implies that their opinions do not agree

Du könntest dir ja Karls Rad leihen. = You could borrow Karl's bike (we both know you can)

Du könntest dir doch Karls Rad leihen. = Surely you could borrow Karl's bike (perhaps you thought you couldn't)

2) In exclamations, ja expresses surprise

Heute ist es ja kalt!= Oh, it's cold today!

Er hat ja ein neues Auto = Why, he's got a new car!

doch and ja can be used in this manner to simply express suprise that it's [certain quality], whereas aber and vielleicht express surprise that how/to what extent [certain quality] it is

3) ja intensifies a command: using ja in a command can serve as an implied warning/threat, especially if the ja is stressed

Bleib ja hier = Be sure to stay here!

Er soll ja nichts sagen = He really mustn't say anything (or else)!

4) ja (sogar) can be a focus particle: in a list of nouns, verbs, or adjectives ja and sometimes ja sogar can be used to emphasize one, similar to "indeed" or "even" in English

Er war ein Erfolg, ja ein Triumph = It was a sucess, indeed a triumph

Sie könnte die Aussage bestätigen, ja (sogar) beeiden = She was able to confirm the testimony, even on oath

5) ja as the affirmative particle

Es geht um acht los, ja? = We're starting at eight, yes/aren't we?

Source: Hammer's German Grammar and Usage 5th ed

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Careful with the "doch"-example... it is only the rebutting of a negative if it is stressed in that sentence. If unstressed it says nothing about whether or not anyone was of the opinion he or she could not use the bike. It just likes to hear "Oh, yes" from the other person. –  Emanuel Dec 18 '13 at 11:35
    
@Emanuel - In that case "doch" seems to introduce some new idea, or a proposal to solve a problem like in "Das Auto springt nicht an. Was machen wir denn jetzt?" - "Du kannst doch schnell mit dem Rad hinfahren!" –  Ingo Dec 19 '13 at 10:13
    
@Ingo... that's right but I can use "ja" exactly the same way. "Du könntest ja schnell mit dem Fahrrad fahren.". To me, the only difference is that the "ja" is more sure of itself, while the "doch" wants the other person to agree.... like "Well, you could just go by bike." (ja) , "Well, you could just go by bike, don't you think?" (doch) –  Emanuel Dec 19 '13 at 10:44
    
@Emanuel I agree, nice observation. –  Ingo Dec 19 '13 at 14:09

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