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There are a few young German students at my university and when they speak in German I noticed they often say 'genau' or 'ja, genau' in response to a statement made by someone else. Is this something like 'Exactly' in response to a statement or 'Yeah, right'.

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    I'm not sure if this question is suited for this website. A simple dictionary (or google translate) would have answered to you that "genau" does in fact mean "exactly". Imagine if everyone asked single word translations here – Ivo Beckers Dec 10 '18 at 10:02
  • It is the same as responding with „exactly“ or „precise“. It may have a sub notion of „told you already“ or „exactly my point“ or „finally you got it“ – eckes Dec 10 '18 at 11:00
  • @IvoBeckers In this case, no major dictionary explains the rather large portion of colloquial use where the meaning is reversed. Translating (written down) spoken language might get funny results if one were to rely on what a search engine spits out. – LangLangC Dec 10 '18 at 12:07
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    Ther's absolutely nothing colloquial in that. – tofro Dec 10 '18 at 13:00
  • I could have looked in a dictionary, but it seemed to be like there were different shades of meaning to the word depending on how it is said. Obviously the only way for me to know what those 'shades' are is to ask people who speak the language, what else am I supposed to do? – Tom Dec 10 '18 at 13:23
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Yes, Genau! is just an affirmative response, which literally translates to exactly, meaning It is exactly as you said and could well be translated into Right!, Correct!.

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    This is interesting, thanks, it makes me want to learn German but I feel like I am just too busy. – Tom Dec 9 '18 at 23:26
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    Lol. I can understand how a single word can make you want to learn a language. For me, it was "Bier" ;-) – Mawg Dec 10 '18 at 7:19
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    For me it was Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, making me want to learn my native language. – Ray Dec 10 '18 at 11:26
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    I hear this as an affirmative filler word all the time. – Daniel Dec 10 '18 at 19:58
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That pretty much depends on tone of voice.

Genau, used in normal voice means "exactly". Almost just a filler with confirmatory intent. Factual agreement. That is probably the most often heard case, and the usually the only one that dictionaries tell you about.

So, I gather from this observation that the sun is at the center of our solar system? – Genau.

But genau used in a sarcastic/ironic/sardonic voice has to be translated differently. Often the last syllable is signalling hysterical content by being raised, more melodic than usual and/or somewhat stretched. Or like @Marv commented: "The second is also true when it‘s spoken something like ‚genauuu‘ (or „ge-nauuu“), meaning with a dragged out ‚u‘."

In that case it is more or of the "Yeah, right" or "can't be serious", or even "you're pulling my leg!", "nonsense". Then it is not "exactly", but the exact opposite!

So, I know since childhood that the moon is what we call the sun at night. – 'Ge-nau'

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    The second is also true when it‘s spoken something like „genauuu“ (or „ge-nauuu“), meaning with a dragged out „u“. – Marv Dec 10 '18 at 8:08

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