Der Haushalt ist für ihn aber nicht so wichtig. Wenn er keine Zeit hat, bleibt der Abwasch schon mal liegen.

Source: "Direkt", LektorKlett, a story about a boy who lives alone

  • 3
    what exactly are you having trouble with? Abwasch = dirty dishes, liegen = to lie, bleiben = to stay, remain
    – Emanuel
    Jul 30, 2014 at 12:20

3 Answers 3


He doesn't take care of the washing-up immediately, leaving the dirty dishes (in the sink, we may presume) for now, putting it off.

  • And what "schon mal" means? Is it used for emphasis?
    – user9065
    Jul 30, 2014 at 12:32
  • @user9065 Simplified: "schon mal" => "sometimes" (in that context)
    – Em1
    Jul 30, 2014 at 12:43
  • Can I ask for the non-simplified answer? On dict.cc (dict.cc/?s=schon+mal) I've found it can mean "ever".
    – user9065
    Jul 30, 2014 at 13:33
  • It means, literally, "on occasion", i.e. it happens.
    – Ingmar
    Jul 30, 2014 at 13:54
  • @user9065 "ever" is another translation in another context. "Have you ever been in London -> Bist du schon mal in London gewesen"
    – Em1
    Jul 30, 2014 at 22:55

Das kann schon [ein]mal vorkommen.

is a colloquial way of expressing that something may happen once in a while. It also implies a certain carelessness and/or fatalistic attitude in respect to the event and its consequences. How frequent exactly this "occasional" event is expected to happen depends on context - from the wording in your example, I'd guess you shouldn't be overly surprised to find dirty dishes in/around the sink more often than not.

Your confusion with the translation as "ever" you found in the dictionary comes from a different use case:

Hast du das schon [ein]mal erlebt.

is a way of asking if you have ever(literally "once") experienced this before.


Additionally, in Germany, we often use "bleibt der Abwasch schon mal liegen." not only for dishes. Sometimes, "bleibt der Abwasch schon mal liegen." is a general sentence to tell, that we dont have time to keep the house clean.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.