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I know that "So eine Überraschung!" means "What a surprise!"

In this case, is "eine" nominative or accusative? What does "so" mean in this case and are there other examples of "so eine ... " ?

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So eine Überraschung! [... hätte ich jetzt nicht erwartet!]

The expression generally serves the purpose of saying out a surprising / disgusting / outraging thing aloud, which everyone surely knows an instinctive comment to. In the example above, something (the handing over of a present?) is moved into the center of attention, but there's no need to tell everyone that the person is excited, because that would only repeat the instinctive reaction of everyone.

So eine Überraschung is the subject of surprise here, it is the thing that the "inner comment/reaction" refers to. The casus of the subject depends on the "extension". In this example, So precises the sentence to mean that the subject would be "this {specific kind of} surprise (of recieving a present)".

A longer version of this type of expression is:

So was aber auch! [... sollte eigentlich verboten sein!]

Here, aber auch further emphasizes the disgust / outrage of the person saying it. Again, the sentence could be implicitly lengthened as above.

  • Just so there is no misunderstanding: It should be noted that the first sentence cannot be extended as shown above to recognize the case, as "eine Überraschung" would actually be accusative in "So eine Überraschung hätte ich jetzt nicht erwartet." – O. R. Mapper Nov 16 '14 at 22:09
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    Oh yeah, that's true ... so the subject's casus depends on the "extension". Thanks Mapper – Sam Nov 16 '14 at 22:15
  • Just to clarify, "So eine Überraschung" is not necessarily negative. I would actually only use it as a politely positive expression: e.g. when your Stepmother comes for a visit without telling you "So eine Überraschung! Das freut mich aber, dich zu sehen".. In this case it is polite because it makes the other person comfortable and welcome. No matter if one considers it a positive or negative surprise. – GameDroids Nov 17 '14 at 16:47
  • Yeah, I actually intended to make it sound like a positive surprise too, as it doesn't normally mean something negative when Germans say "I really didn't expect that". – Sam Nov 17 '14 at 17:08
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As a native German speaker, I would perhaps have (mis)translated it as "Such a surprise!"

In German, "so ein(e)" is often used to indicate a distinct or special possibility among others.

To stay with the example, there were various possibilities for a surprise, but I haven't expected such a surprise, so I have to say: "What a surprise!"

Please excuse my English ;-)

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