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I read from Hammer's Grammar that such adversative particles as 'aber', 'doch', 'jedoch' will produce different effects of expression with varying positions in a clause;

for example:

(i)

er runzelte die Stirn, sie aber sagte noch nichts;

versus : er runzelte die Stirn, sie sagte aber noch nichts;

(ii)

der Lohn ist karg, doch genießt man die abendlichen Stunden;

vs : der Lohn ist karg, man genießt doch die abendlichen Stunden;

(iii)

im Allgemeinen war er kein guter Schüler, jedoch in Latein war er allen überlegen;

vs : im Allgemeinen war er kein guter Schüler, in Latein jedoch war er allen überlegen;

vs : im Allgemeinen war er kein guter Schüler, in Latein war er jedoch allen überlegen;

Could anyone help, by using the examples given above, explain the difference in the effect of expression brought out by the variation of the adversative words' position?

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In german the position of an adversative particle has a crutial effect on the sentence: It defines the phrase on which the author of the sentence wanted to put the focus on.

Example 1:

Er runzelte die Stirn, sie aber sagte noch nichts;

Here the word "aber" comes immediately after the word "sie" and therefore the focus on this word changes the meaning of the sentence: in this case "aber" as an adverb means that something does not meet the expectations, so "she" always says something immediately when "he" does a frown, but in this case she does not. This sentence also might let you expect that someone else does instead of her.

Er runzelte die Stirn, sie sagte aber noch nichts;

In this sentence the word "aber" comes after a verb, so the focus is on the action itself, so in this case "she" still does not meet the expectations by not saying anything, but unlike the first sentence it is not the most uncommon thing for her to do. The second sentence also might leave it open if she doesn't do something else instead of saying.

Example 2:

Der Lohn ist karg, doch genießt man die abendlichen Stunden;

"Doch" as an adverb is used to explain a certain fact / action or to initiate a contrast the same way as "dennoch" does. In both sentences the word "doch" is used initiate the subordinate clause which is a contrast to what has been said in the main clause. The focus is set on the contrast itself, so the fact that people enjoy the evening hours is shown as very uncommon for people with low wages.

Der Lohn ist karg, man genießt doch die abendlichen Stunden;

"Doch" after "genießt" may imply that the action itself (for example sitting together and drinking something, which is not mentioned here), that the people mentioned do, does not really differ from what people in general with low wages do, but in contrast to these, the mentioned people do enjoy what they are doing.

To sum it up: Formulating the exact differences can be very hard or sometimes even impossible, but in the german language the place of an adversative particle can have influence on what the auther defines common and what not. The "right way" hardly depends on the context of the sentence, the message the author wants to transfer and the expectations for certain actions to happen.

I hope I helped a bit finding out the clear differences.

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In German, word order can be used to put different emphasis on different parts of the sentence. Typically, the position of the particle is chosen as close as possible to the main adversary part.

Im Allgemeinen war er kein guter Schüler, jedoch in Latein war er allen überlegen.

Im Allgemeinen war er kein guter Schüler, in Latein jedoch war er allen überlegen.

Here the emphasis is on Latin where he was better than everyone else. It seems important to the speaker that it was exactly this language.

Im Allgemeinen war er kein guter Schüler, In Latein war er jedoch allen überlegen.

Conjunction has been moved closer to the verb - The emphasis is put on the "being superior", regardless of whether it was Latin or any other language.

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  • Are you sure the rule is "as close as possible"? I'd say the rule in general is "directly in front" (that also works for "nicht" and "auch"), and for participles like "aber" and "jedoch", also "directly behind" ("X aber", "X jedoch"). – dirkt Apr 24 '16 at 6:22
  • Isn't "directly in front" and "directly behind" very much the same thing as "as close as possible"? ;) I am quite cautious in trying to give "absolute" rules in language. There's always the odd exception. – tofro Apr 24 '16 at 6:27
  • "As close as possible" would for example imply that it can work over greater distances, maybe with a with a verb (which has to obey more strict placement rules) in between, or whatever. I can't think of an example for such a case, so if you actually know an example for "the odd exception", I'd be curious to hear it. Also, for a learner rules like "directly in front" (general rule) or "directly behind" (only for some words) are easier to remember and understand. – dirkt Apr 24 '16 at 11:29
  • The two examples above in the first citation block both set the emphasis on "Latein" - But one "jedoch" is closer to the "Latein" than the other... – tofro Apr 25 '16 at 22:02
  • That doesn't work, you have to count "in Latein" as a unit, just like you'd do for "auch in Latein" etc. – dirkt Apr 26 '16 at 7:29

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