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I am a beginner at German learning. I found this line of dialog in the book "Schritte International 1":

Aber Sie trinken doch sonst auch immer Kaffee!

What does it mean exactly? I looked up the meaning of the words and couldn't translate it well. I understand it means something like:

But you always drink coffee here.

But the words doch sonst auch in that sequence are my greatest question.

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A: speaker B: spoken to

sonst

Refers to all the other times the B has had a drink there and also hints at a contradiction between this time and the other times. For a detailed look on "sonst" check out this article on my blog.

auch

It seems a bit weird because B seems to NOT drink coffee this time. So why use "auch". But the "auch" doesn't talk about what's happening, it's talking about what A assumed would be happening - B drinking coffee. It needs the combination with "sonst" and/or "immer"... so basically a word that shifts focus to time. Without it it would sound the "auch" is talking about what the person is drinking (tea and also coffee). With "sonst" it is about when (this time, and the other times, too)

doch

Is a coloring particle that invites/urges B to agree with A's statement. For a detailed look at "doch" check out this article on my blog.

When it comes to translation, the words "immer", "sonst" and "auch" kind of blend together and do not need to be translated individually. I think your translation is fine... just add a stress to always and make it sound like there's an unspoken "Am I right??"

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    Very teeny-tiny nitpick: While you declare OP's translation as "fine" I can't find the "here" in the original sentence. Excellent answer nevertheless! – Stephie Jul 5 '15 at 22:54
  • My best guess for the strange auch: The colleagues already voted for coffee, and the addressed person typically joins them, but chooses something else today, so auch refers to other persons, not other occasions. – guidot Jul 6 '15 at 6:47
  • @guidot: I can imagine at least two situations where sonst auch makes sense: 1. The speaker has just declared that only today, as a special exception, they will take a cup of coffee; 2. the waiter has served the usual cup of coffee without waiting for an order and has just been told by the speaker that today, they'd have preferred orange juice. – chirlu Jul 6 '15 at 8:40
  • @guidot: "Aber auch Sie trinken doch sonst auch Kaffee hier" would then have been the response. – user unknown Jul 19 '15 at 7:15
  • @userunknown: One auch too much? I guess the second one, since otherwise it would be identical with original question. – guidot Jul 20 '15 at 15:51
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Dictionaries can't convey the nuances that are expressed with such formulas as "Aber ... doch sonst auch immer". And it is no use looking up the single words. A sentence type with "Aber ... doch sonst auch immer" simply expresses someone's astonishment that a person behaves in a way contrary to his/her usual behaviour.

It is a ready-made formula, and the meaning of the single words doesn't give the whole idea.

Those filling words or words that express an additional information about the speaker's view are a special difficulty for learners, because our dictionary makers have not yet really understood that we need dictionaries specially conceived for learners where filling words must be treated not in three lines but with a lot of space and clear definitions of the situation where these filling words are used. That would necessitate at least five times more space than is usual today.

  • The mention of nuances is germaine (pun intended) , because a dictionary cannot convey the emphasis placed on the word used in the translation "But you always used to drink coffee." – user19958 Jan 17 '16 at 19:29

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