Dann hätte er mich ruhig (mal) ein wenig früher retten können!

{Compared to}: Dann hätte er mich ein wenig früher retten können!

This colloquial locution (ruhig or ruhig mal) departs from the most basic meaning of the word: calmly.

I wonder what it adds to the meaning of the sentence, exactly?

3 Answers 3


In your sentence

Dann hätte er mich ruhig (mal) ein wenig früher retten können!

the "ruhig" (or the "ruhig mal", respectively) adds the information that the person saying this feels to some degree offended or indignated that the person who saved him/her did so relatively late. In other words, the word, as used here, carries the information that the person speaking has negative feelings about the time of when he/she was saved.

In the comments to the original question, there is now an intensive dabate wether this "ruhig" can be classified as used as an adverb, or as a modal particle (Modalpartikel) such as "doch, gar, aber" in certain contexts.

I suppose the categorization of "ruhig" in this sentence into word classes was not your primary concern. However, in order to show the difference, take in contrast this sentence:

Du hättest mich nicht so hektisch retten sollen, du hättest mich ruhig retten sollen!


Du hättest mich ruhig und besonnen retten sollen.

(One could imagine such a sentence to be heard in a lifeguard training.)

In these examples, ruhig is used as an adverb. It specifies the way how the action (retten) is done.

But in your original sentence, the ruhig clearly is a marker for the mood of the speaker (upset about the timing of the action).

Here are more examples of "ruhig" or "ruhig mal" used in this sense:

Ihr könntet ruhig mal leiser sein!

Du könntest ruhig mal deine Hausaufgaben machen!

Präsident Trump hätte ruhig mal aufs Twittern verzichten können.

Du hättest dich ruhig waschen können.

  • Hi. Danke. In the case of the imperative: "Probiert das Parfum ruhig mal an Euch selbst aus, ja?" -- Even though this "ruhig mal" too is a particle-ish use, there is not a hint of an accusatory tone here. Does it mean "Why not try it out?", pushing you to try it rather forcefully? Or is it more like "Try it if you like", leaving you the option of turning it down? May 21, 2017 at 22:56
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    Yes, here it is like "why not" or "it would not be a problem to..." or "feel free to... ". So, it is part of the speaker's attempt to create a comfortable atmosphere, free of stress. May 23, 2017 at 16:40

In this case »ruhig« is a particle with the meaning »getrost / ohne Bedenken haben zu müssen«.

Dann hätte er mich getrost ein wenig früher retten können!
(Then he safely could have saved me a little earlier!)

»mal«, also a particle here, acts as an intensifier.

  • Ruhig is not a particle, it is an adverbial used adjective. But it is correct, that it means getrost. May 21, 2017 at 8:34
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    Irrespective of questions of word classification, I see a different meaning here: in my understanding the ruhig mal adds to the sentence that the person speaking feels offended or indignated that the person who saved him/her did so relatively lately. Or in other words, it adds an undertone of accusation. May 21, 2017 at 8:38
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    @HubertSchölnast: Calling »ruhig« a particle I'm referring to Duden.
    – Pollitzer
    May 21, 2017 at 8:53
  • @Pollitzer: Es kann durchaus sein, dass ruhig auch als Partikel verwendet werden kann. Dem widerspreche ich ja nicht. Aber in dem Satz aus der Frage ist ruhig ganz eindeutig ein Adverbial, also ein Adjektiv, das adverbiell verwendet wird. Ruhig gibt hier eine Eigenschaft des Verbs retten wieder. Wie hätte er mich retten können? - Er hätte mich ruhig retten können. May 21, 2017 at 9:14
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    @Hubert: Einspruch! (Wenn man denn Wort-Klassifikation betreiben will.) Im Beispielsatz - einen 'handelsüblichen' Kontext vorausgesetzt - handelt es eben nicht um ein Adverb sondern um eine Partikel. Ein Adverb wäre es, wenn die Bedeutung hier "ruhig" im Gegensatz zu "hektisch" wäre: "Du hättest mich nicht so hektisch retten sollen, du hättest mich schön ruhig retten sollen!" Im Beispielsatz und seinem naheliegenden Kontext dient "ruhig" aber dazu, eine innere Haltung des Sprechers zum Gegenstand des Gesprächs auszudrücken (Vorwurf an den Retter, dass er so spät kam). May 21, 2017 at 10:28

Here the adjective ruhig is used adverbial, and when used adverbial it has a slightly different meaning. It means

unbekümmert, unbesorgt, getrost
easily, unconcerned, confidently

So your sentence can be translated as:

Dann hätte er mich ruhig ein wenig früher retten können!
Then he easily could have saved me a little bit earlyer!

In this sentence ruhig means, that it would not have been a big deal for him to save me.

The word mal is a modal particle. Read more about Modalparticles here: https://german.stackexchange.com/a/12242/1487 (in German) or on Wikipedia (in English)

  • 1
    Thank you. What do you think about translating it as: "Then he could have easily saved me a little bit earlier!"? May 21, 2017 at 8:36
  • @Alone-zee: Yes, its better, I corrected it. Thanx! May 21, 2017 at 8:39
  • -1, see the argumentation of @ChristianGeiselmann May 21, 2017 at 12:03

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