From a book on electromagnetism:

Der Strahl besteht aus einfach positiv geladenen Ionen.

Should the "einfach" in "einfach geladenen" be translated as "simply", in which case the sentence would retain its meaning if the word were removed, or does it have a more specific physical meaning?

  • 1
    +1, great question! I would have used "simply charged" for "einfach geladen", but you taught me that it's wrong! Jun 8 '11 at 11:55

In this sentence the adverb einfach is meant as numeral (german: Zahlwort) "single".

The beam consisted of singly charged positive ions.

or (please comment if this is wrong in English or in physics):

The beam consisted of singly positively charged ions.

The German term for words like einfach is "Vervielfältigungszahlwörter":

  • einfach
  • zweifach
  • dreifach
  • vierfach
  • ...
  • hundertfach
  • tausendfach


  • Thanks. How would the word order be if the sense "simply (just like this)" was meant?
    – Tim
    Jun 8 '11 at 11:51
  • 2
    @Tim: "... besteht einfach aus positiv geladenen Ionen." Jun 8 '11 at 11:54
  • 1
    I think this makes most sense. I would understand it to mean ions missing one electron as opposed to those missing 2 electrons (or something like that - school was a long time ago!)
    – paul
    Jun 8 '11 at 12:23
  • @Tim N If the meaning were "consists simply of charged ions" it would be besteht einfach aus geladenen ionen, if it were "consists of simply charged ions" (as opposed to charged and painted red) besteht aus einfach geladenen ionen. In that case, the german sentence would be ambiguous, and you would probably substitute einfach with simpel, lediglich or nur ("only").
    – fzwo
    Jun 8 '11 at 13:16
  • @fzwo: Right, I was only thinking of the first variant "consists simply of charged ions". The second variant sounds a bit strange for ions, but einfach would indeed be ambiguous. However, I can't see that simpel would work here - lediglich sounds a lot better. Jun 8 '11 at 13:37

Attention guys. In this context "einfach" specifies the difference between the amount of positive protons and the negative electrons of a atom. If there is a gap of one electron, this Ion is "einfach geladen". Therefore I agree with splattne, but I have a bad feeling with some comments below. The Ion is not "easily loaded", it is loaded "once".

  • Who's saying here that an ion it "easily loaded"? Jun 9 '11 at 9:55
  • If I'm going to stress my english knowledge somewhat more, I would say noone. It was just a feeling that the discussion about a possible ambiguous interpretation of "einfach" blurres the intention of the original sentence. But even this is significant for a student (Tim N). Sorry if I've upset you, this was not my intention. Do you want my answer to edit? Feel free.
    – Markus
    Jun 9 '11 at 13:58
  • Sorry, you surely didn't upset me; I just thought that you might have misunderstood that other comment discussion. As I said there, for ions this would be strange, but my understanding was that Tim wanted to know the various ways to use "einfach" not just for ions. (If you want to change the wording of your answer, then you could say more specifically that some of those comments might be misleading for the casual reader since one never says that ions are "lediglich geladen".) Jun 9 '11 at 14:04

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