These 2 phrases:

  1. Do you want it too? - Willst du es auch?
  2. Do you want something too? - Willst du auch etwas?

Are identical in structure, and still, the adverb "auch" is changing positions for some reason that I don't understand. Why?

Note: Translations came from Google

  • The exact same phenomenon can be observed in the corresponding declarative (non-question) sentences: «du willst es auch» vs. «du willst auch etwas». You might want to add this. The interrogative sentences you have used have sent some people on the wrong track.
    – mach
    Mar 2, 2019 at 21:46

4 Answers 4


The reason is that auch can have different functions and is shifting position accordingly. Let's look at the two functions relevant to your question:

Auch to put emphasis in a question

In the first situation, the speaker is unsure about the answer. auch is used to "enhance", to "express doubt or uncertainty" in the question. This means that the sentence would also work without auch, i.e.

Willst du es?

but by adding auch, putting emphasis on the fact that they are not sure about the answer.

Willst du es auch?

meaning, are you sure you want it?

Here, auch is a particle going to the end of the sentence.

Auch as an adverb of degree

Like your 2nd example, auch can be (and most often is) used as an adverb to express "too". It is referring to the verb here, i.e. used adverbial. Thus, it would be following after the verb in a regular sentence:

Du willst auch etwas.

but is placed after the subject, due to the inversion in the question:

Willst du auch etwas?

Do you want something, too?


There are other ways an adverb can be used (prädikativ / attributiv) and then other rules for word order apply.


for more on this see:

https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/auch_Adverb https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/auch_Partikel_verstaerkend

  • Cristal clear explanation. Thank you so much!
    – andrerpena
    Mar 1, 2019 at 12:34
  • 1
    thanks @andrerpena I realized though that there is an issue here. It seems to have something to do with es being definite vs. etwas being indefinite. So I am afraid this might not be the whole story, but I need to think about it a bit more. or maybe someone can expand on this. Mar 1, 2019 at 12:38
  • Yes... I found a glitch on your explaination. Because "Do you want it fast?" is "Willst du es schnell" and fast is definitely an adverb. schnell is coming afterwards which conflicts with your explaination. By your explaination, adverbs should come before
    – andrerpena
    Mar 1, 2019 at 15:39
  • 2
    The emphasis part is only partially true. As "Willst du das Auto auch?" could also the question, if the person wants this car. -> "Ich will das Auto, sie will es auch."
    – miep
    Mar 1, 2019 at 17:10
  • @miep: I disagree with your first example. If you say "Willst du das Auto auch", you are putting emphasis. see second link Mar 2, 2019 at 10:10

This is a very interesting observation. I do not know the answer for sure, so allow me to make some detours in order to approximate an answer. The starting point is your sentences:

  1. Willst du es auch?
  2. Willst du auch etwas?

I first want to examine the different positioning of «auch». In order to do so, I will make these sentences more normal by changing three elements:

  • I will convert them into normal declarative sentences, since the phenomenon occurs there as well (cf. «du willst es auch» and «du willst auch etwas»).
  • I will replace the short words «es» and «etwas» by a longer noun phrase, e.g. «den Kuchen» ‘the cake’.
  • I will replace the modal verb by a proper verb (e.g. «essen» ‘eat’).

Like this, the sentences are changed, but the difference in the placement of «auch» is still preserved:

  1. Du isst den Kuchen auch.
  2. Du isst auch den Kuchen.

In (4), the «auch» is an attribute to «den Kuchen» as can be proven by the fronting test (auch den Kuchen willst du), whereas in (3), it is an adverbial constituent on its own right. The meaning of the attributive «auch» in (3) is restricted to «den Kuchen». The meaning of the adverbial «auch» in (4) applies to the entire sentence. This can be nicely illustrated when we further expand the «auch» into «nicht nur … sondern auch»:

  1. Du hast den Kuchen nicht nur, sondern du isst ihn auch.
  2. Du isst nicht nur das Brot, sondern du isst auch den Kuchen.

Now turning back to (1), the most striking observation is that it the word «es» is very unlikely to take the «auch» attribute as in (4), so the following sentence is highly unusual:

  1. Willst du auch es?

I think the reason is that the pronoun «es» cannot usually be stressed. Its usual pronunciation is with a mere schwa. The attributive «auch», however, stresses the word it is attributed to.

Turning back to (2), it is again striking that the word «etwas» is very prone to take the attributive «auch», so the following sentence is highly unusual:

  1. Willst du etwas auch?

This is more difficult to explain. I guess the reason has to do with the semantics of «etwas». Its meaning is indefinite. The way information is typically structured (cf. information structure etc.), it is the indefinite element in a sentence that is focused, because it is the new element that has not yet been talked about. This can be nicely illustrated by the use of the indefinite and definite article in languages such as English or German: when something is introduced, it takes the indefinite article (e.g. “once upon a time, there was a cake”). Subsequently, it takes the definite article (e.g. “… and the cake was delicious”). The attributive «auch» is a strong focusing particle. Consequently, if a sentence has an indefinite word, we expect any «auch» to be an attribute of that word. Note also what happens when I change the definite phrase «den Kuchen» in (5) and (6) into an indefinite «einen Kuchen»:

  1. Du hast einen Kuchen nicht nur, sondern du isst ihn auch.
  2. Du isst nicht nur ein Brot, sondern du isst auch einen Kuchen.

While (10) is perfectly acceptable, (9) seems puzzling (what cake are you talking about?) and more unusual than (5).


The reason is, in addition to the above answer, that etwas is often used like an adjective: etwas Wasser, ein Bischen Wasser. That might be derived from etwas zu essen (or not), which would be difficult to explain and it is not the point here, anyhow. The point is, etwas auch would sound like auch were a noun. Whereas willst du es auch is understood as es auch wollen, with auch modifying the verb. The difference is miniscule, because eitherway auch modifies a verbal phrase, but at different points.

Maybe compare Do you want more (of) it and Do you want it more.


actually the second translation is misleading at best its more like do you want something as well. which is a whole different animal in both english and german. one thing to consider is that the word order in english is relatively fixed. where as in german word order may change to emphasize certain parts of the sentence over others.

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