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If I write a sentence as: "Vielleicht können wir zu einem Essen treffen", it would mean exactly the same as the sentence: "Vielleicht können uns mal wir zu einem Essen treffen" as per the google Translator.

Is there any grammar to apply uns mal in this type of sentence? Can anyone guide me what rule am I missing? This might be a very common thing but as I am in A2 language course so I am kind of naive in this sector. Your help would be great.

  • Google Translate will often output a correct sentence even if your input is an incorrect sentence. That should not surprise. – Carsten S Apr 2 '19 at 6:54
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    Although different by literal meaning, the mal has the same communicative purpose as the maybe in English: it adds vagueness (as a carrier of politeness) to the proposition. – Christian Geiselmann Apr 2 '19 at 8:37
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The english verb to meet is translated into a reflexive verb in German, if it is not used with another object: sich treffen. (Whereas treffen, the non reflexive verb, means to hit, to strike.)

So, for example:

I meet youIch treffe dich (or Ich treffe mich mit dir.)

We meetWir treffen uns.

You could understand (and remember) this easily, if you take it as if you would say We meet each other instead of We meet in English. For the German verb treffen (in the sense of to meet) the object is mandatory, and the reflexive pronoun takes the role of the object.

In your sentence, uns is the reflexive pronoun in first person plural, and since there is no other object, the reflexive pronoun must not be omitted.

mal (its literal translation would be once) is a filling phrase adding some vagueness about the time. Its translation is discussed at Looking for extensive discussion of German modal particles. Anyway, it could be omitted from a grammatical point of view.

The preposition and article in zu einem Essen would be shortened to zum Essen. The difference is somewhat similar to the difference between Maybe we can meet for a dinner. or Maybe we can meet for dinner. in English.

So possible translations are:

Vielleicht können wir uns zum Essen treffen.

and

Vielleicht können wir uns mal zum Essen treffen.

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    "Treffen" with the meaning of "to meet" is not necessarily reflexive, it can also be transitive: "Ich treffe ihn am Bahnhof". – RHa Apr 1 '19 at 18:28
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    For the notorious German "modal particles" like "mal", check german.stackexchange.com/questions/44235/… – Uwe Apr 1 '19 at 18:37
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    @RHa Thanks for the hint. It is a fair argument and I updated my answer to reflect your objection. I hope, the answer is is more precise now. Thanks for your input! – jonathan.scholbach Apr 1 '19 at 19:43
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    I disagree that 'mal' is 'just adding some informality'. I would rather say that it adds a slight element of uncertainty to the expression and can be translated (in this context) with e.g. 'some time'. There is a similar difference in the nuances between the English sentences 'Perhaps we can meet for lunch?' and 'Perhaps we can meet some time for lunch?'. – jarnbjo Apr 2 '19 at 10:31
  • @jarnbjo I agree to some degree. I think, this is a separate discussion and already answered in the question linked by Uwe. I will incorporate the link in my answer. – jonathan.scholbach Apr 2 '19 at 15:27

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