Is there any difference or nuance between the two sentences?

Ich habe mal wieder Kopfschmerz.
Ich habe wieder Kopfschmerz.

I am not sure what is the »mal« trying to point out here.


this is one of these subtle German expressions :) In this case, "mal" (short for "einmal" =once) expresses that the speaker has frequently headache (by the way, it's "Kopfschmerzen", plural). "Wieder" without "mal" only says that the speaker has had headache before. I would say it roughly translates to "I have headache again" vs "Once again I have headache".

You are right, it's a nuance but significant. Similar cases are "Das Haus ist schön" (the house is nice) vs "das Haus ist ja schön" (wow, this house is quite nice) "Draußen ist es dunkel" (it's dark outside) vs. "draußen ist es doch dunkel" (but it's dark outside)

  • 1
    +1; instead of mal wieder one could drop in wieder einmal. The latter is considered exalted speaking, though. Der HSV hat mal wieder im letzten Spiel die Kurve gekriegt. (tv commentator on the last HSV game of the season) vs. Wieder einmal hat der HSV sich selbst im letzten Spiel vor dem Abstieg gerettet. (newspaper on the same topic)
    – Janka
    Nov 25 '16 at 1:06
  • @Janka HSV? Please explain!
    – Beta
    Nov 25 '16 at 7:47
  • 1
    @Beta: HSV = Hamburger Sport-Verein; well known as soccer club. Nov 25 '16 at 8:27
  • HSV is a German soccer club which always played first league, from the beginning, but in the last years was hardly able to maintain that score.
    – Janka
    Nov 25 '16 at 9:48
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    Glad to this answer, dustfinga, as I was also confused by "mal" in such contexts. (By the way, in English we would say "I have a headache" instead of just "I have headache".)
    – Tom B
    Nov 25 '16 at 13:26

"Mal wieder" is short for ein mal wieder. It has the connotations not only "again," but "Here's another one," with the previous one being recent, or in the not-too-distant past.

"Wieder" means "again," and refers to something that has happened in the "past," but not as part of a "pattern" or "connection" as in the first paragraph.

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