I looked up the word "richtig" in Duden and I'm not sure which meaning applies in the following sentence:

Er kann nicht richtig Deutsch.

Does it mean "fehlerlos" as explained in Definition 1b or is it more like Definition 2b which is "den Erwartungen entsprechend; wie es sich gehört; ordentlich"?

  • 2
    Definition 2b is what is meant in this case... This obviously implies that is is not "fehlerlos".
    – Gerhard
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 22:31
  • Although the two do overlap somehow … make too many errors and you won't fulfill the expectations anymore @Gerhard.
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 22:36
  • @Jan: That's exactly what I am saying...
    – Gerhard
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 23:50

1 Answer 1


It's kind of hard to see, but it works best when replacing Deutsch with something else you can learn like:

Er kann nicht richtig rechnen.
Er kann nicht richtig durchschlafen.
Er kann sich nicht richtig aufregen.

Especially the last two can't be done with any errors, so it has to be fulfilling the expectations.

However, I would be careful classifying richtig as an adjective in this context. If it were an adjective for Deutsch, then it would need to be inflicted:

Er kann kein richtiges Deutsch.

But it isn't (and the sentence is still correct). Hence I would classify it as an adverb. See also the examples above which all have a verb and not a noun following richtig. The Duden entry for the adverb richtig talks about a different meaning, though.

  • 1
    Dictionaries don't usually make a clear distinction between German adverbs and adjectives because they are often identical in form. Even though it says "adjective" in the dictionary, it doesn't mean it can't be used as an adverb as clearly seen from the examples provided by Duden.
    – stillenat
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 12:09

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.