I checked on www.duden.de and it says both versions are correct, however they recommend schon mal without saying why.

On another site I found something that said schonmal is wrong and that it should always be schon mal.

Can anyone give a sensible explanation?

Just in comparison: nochmal (short for noch einmal) and erstmal (short for erst einmal) are usually written together (have never seen them separate and I believe this is also considered incorrect). Why then would schon mal / schonmal (short for schon einmal) not follow the same rule?

  • I've seen "noch einmal" separate. Oct 20 '14 at 19:07
  • Most notably in the question right below yours on the main page of german.stackexchange: german.stackexchange.com/questions/17257/… Oct 20 '14 at 19:07
  • Of course "noch einmal" is separate, just like "erst einmal" and "schon einmal." Please re-read my question which talks about the short forms "nochmal," "erstmal," and "schonmal / schon mal."
    – koljanep
    Oct 20 '14 at 19:09
  • Sorry if I'm misunderstanding here. It sounds like you're saying you've never seen "noch einmal". You say "(have never seen them separate and I believe this is also considered incorrect)". Oct 20 '14 at 19:11
  • Ah I think I understand what you mean. You have never seen "noch mal" and "erst mal". Oct 20 '14 at 19:14

The reason why Duden recommends to separate schon mal, noch mal, and erst mal is because they are (colloquially originated) short forms for

schon einmal
noch einmal
erst einmal

Note the difference to those compounds where -mal is not a shortened form but lost its separate meaning in the compound:

einmal (zweimal, dreimal,...)

Additional references:
canoo.net - nochmal/noch mal
Amtliche Rechtschreibregeln (via canoo.net)
Wörterverzeichnis (PDF)

  • 1
    To get a bit meta: "schon einmal" has to have originated from "schon ein Mal". :)
    – J0hj0h
    Oct 21 '14 at 20:01
  • @J0hj0h yeah that's where it came from. See the links I gave on when to still capitalize Mal.
    – Takkat
    Oct 21 '14 at 20:33

Since "einmal" and "nochmal" are frequently written as one word, I don't see a rock-hard argument to bring against "schonmal". However, an n being followed by an m is quite rare in German, especially in the middle of a word. It makes "schonmal" a little weird to read in my mind.

But as Takkat pointed out – it's a colloquialism. In a private E-mail or text message, the issue becomes a mere matter of taste. If, on the other hand, you were writing, say, a novel where one of the characters uses that expression, you'd use "schon mal" unless you want to make a point of slurry pronunciation.

  • I see dry-soil-hard arguments, at least. +1 for the rest. Oct 22 '14 at 11:26

I would write "schon mal". Wenn I see " schonmal" I have to read it twice to get what is meant.

  • Me too. Is it an orthographically incorrect „Mal“ (mark) to „schonen“ (go easy on)? Or an orthographically incorrect meal if you suffer from an upset stomach (Schonmahl)? Language is fun. The „Deppenleerzeichen“ is spreading like a virus and on the other hand they don't use spaces if they really make sense. Oct 21 '14 at 12:51
  • 2
    @GeriBroser Sagt der Fitnessarzt zum Trainer: "Schon mal schon mal deine Spieler für das Champions-League Spiel". ;)
    – Em1
    Oct 21 '14 at 13:36
  • :-) And, BTW, infrage, zurzeit etc. are equally ugly. I'm really waiting for inrechung, zurdiskussion etc. to come. Oct 21 '14 at 18:03
  • 1
    @ Geri Broser - Yes, you are right, one can exaggerate the writing together of words.
    – rogermue
    Oct 21 '14 at 18:23

Schonmal and schon mal still have the same meaning. I use both of them.

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