How can I use this adverb in a sentence? Is it correct to think it is equivalent to the English expression I mean and also because?
Would these sentences be okay?

Er wird nicht kommen, er ist nämlich zu faul.
Ich komme aus Villa di Tirano, nämlich einem kleinen Dorf aus Italien.

In these cases nämlich means actually two different things.
In the first example it means because and in the second one I mean.

This is the way I understood it so far, but I would like to know if it is correct.
Is it a word commonly used in German just as much as I mean is common in English?

  • 3
    namely is a good translation. Vale a dire wenn du wirklich aus Italien kommst.
    – c.p.
    Jan 18, 2015 at 17:12
  • Ja, eigentlich komme ich wirklich aus Italien. (Correct me bitte whenever I say something wrong )
    – E.V.
    Jan 18, 2015 at 17:13
  • 2
    More precisely, namely fits for the second usage.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 18, 2015 at 17:16
  • It was not mentioned explicitly anywhere, but "nämlich", differently from denn/weil, cannot be placed in the beginning of the clause when it means "because". May 3, 2019 at 23:24

3 Answers 3


The first sentence sounds good and is correct. However, the second sentence does not sound correct for my German ears.

If you really want to use 'nämlich' in this sentence I think it would only work if you build it the other way round:

Ich komme aus einem kleinen Dorf in Italien, nämlich aus Villa di Tirano.

  • Stimmt, war mir gar nicht aufgefallen.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 19, 2015 at 8:46

The definition per the Duden for “nämlich” reads as follows:

  1. drückt nachgestellt eine Begründung für die vorangehende Aussage aus; denn
  2. dient der näheren Erläuterung; und zwar; genauer gesagt

In my experience as a native speaker, I agree that it predominantly functions as a postpositioned explanation for the previous statement. It's not so much used to explain the previous point made (as "because/weil" would), but rather to further illustrate or clarify it. I would translate the first example as follows: "He isn't going to join us, he is just too lazy". I can't speak to the second example, because I haven't heard “nämlich” used that way.

  • I can not see a difference between "explain" and "clarify". AFAIK "he is too lazy" is the reason he is not going to join us in that sentence. Why not make that clear in the translation by adding a "because"? May 3, 2019 at 23:20

"Nämlich" is used to specify.

Er wird nicht kommen, er ist nämlich zu spät.
- He won't come, specifically because he's too late.

Ich komme aus Villa di Tirano, nämlich einem kleinen Dorf aus Italien.

The last one does not work, because it's not a specification but a generalisation.
However, as Sebastian suggested, specifying the small Italian town you're from as Villa di Tirano makes sense.

  • I wanted to show, that the word 'specific' can indicate when to use 'nämlich'. I hope that still gets across. ;)
    – J0hj0h
    Jan 25, 2015 at 19:58
  • I was confused with the "I mean" meaning suggested by the OP and why the order mattered in the sentence when "nämlich" was used with that meaning. This answer made things much clearer! Also, "specifically" coincides with the meaning I see in the definition of "nämlich" in Word Reference German-English dictionary: "particularly" May 3, 2019 at 23:21

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.