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I recently saw this on someone's post on social media:

Ich bin einfach nur unglaublich dankbar.

Google translates it to:

I'm just incredibly thankful.

If I simply remove unglaublich then it means:

Ich bin einfach nur dankbar. (I'm just thankful.)

However, if I ask Google to translate the English form "I'm just thankful" to German it returns:

Ich bin nur dankbar.

So what is actually the point of einfach in this sentence? Even when einfach and nur are used together, Google only translates one of them. Why is it even used in the first place by the native speaker?

  • @SomeWindowsUser I can see that they are related to my question but it's not completely the same. Because in this sentence there ia already a word meaning "just", "einfach" also means the same. It's kinda duplicated. – Vahid Amiri Sep 23 at 12:31
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    Yes, I just thought they might help you, I didn't mark your question as duplicate. You also shouldn't trust Google Translate with nuances in translation, e.g. the translator DeepL does list Ich bin einfach nur dankbar. as translation of I'm just thankful. – SomeWindowsUser Sep 23 at 12:40
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"einfach nur" is kind of a set phrase / enhancement of the following part in the sentence. See examples in search on DWDS.de

That means, the core sentence of your example is:

Ich bin unglaublich dankbar. ~ I'm very thankful/ grateful / appreciative.

Nothing like

  • Ich bin einfach unglaublich dankbar.
    • is pretty much the same
  • Ich bin nur unglaublich dankbar.
    • is a slightly different focus: being thankful is the one and only emotion

So putting in "einfach nur" stresses (in your example) the "thankful" and somewhat makes it the obvious emotion / evaluation.

If you look at the examples on dwds.de, you find e.g.:

  • Und viele von ihnen drückten sich einfach nur die Nase platt an den Schaufenstern.
  • Ein überaktiver Laie ist er heute, den man nicht mehr einfach nur als Original abtun kann.
  • Einfach nur zuzugeben, daß sie da ihr Hirn ausschalten möchte, ist ihr zu profan.

If you take "einfach nur" away, you miss no information. It just sounds less "dramatic".

  • Very well explained. I feel this is a more correct answer, so accepted. – Vahid Amiri Sep 23 at 14:09
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German speakers often use words as mal, einmal, einfach, nur etc. as modal particles. They sprinkle their meaning over the whole sentence then and are often hard to translate.

Let's compare the following sentences:

Ich bin dankbar.

I am thankful.

Ich bin nur dankbar.

I am just thankful.

That just is a modal particle in English, too. That's why we can translate nur as just in this case. In many other languages, we had to fill in a whole phrase for nur. In English, we had to do that for einfach nevertheless:

Ich bin einfach dankbar.

To put it simple, I am thankful.

Ich bin einfach nur dankbar.

To put it simple, I am just thankful.

  • Thanks for the answer but how is it that online translation services completely ignore "einfach"? I tried Google, DeepL and Bing. They all give the same result. – Vahid Amiri Sep 23 at 14:01
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    You can tell it's a modal particle because the computer cannot make sense of it. Most times the exact meaning depends a lot on context. – Janka Sep 23 at 14:18
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Taking away the "just", I'd translate

Ich bin einfach (nur) dankbar

to

I'm simply thankful

or

I'm solely thankful

or

I'm plainly thankful

While in English, combining "just" with these sounds a bit weird (I guess?), the "einfach" in German is an emphasis of "nur". The speaker is thankful and nothing else, he has no other feelings and no ulterior motive behind his thankfulness.

I disagree with the accepted answer that the "einfach" can be stripped from the sentence without missing information.

  • It doesn't sound weird to use "just" in this sentence in English. Some of it is regional, but in the US it's pretty common to say it like that. – treeface Sep 24 at 17:26
  • @treeface I meant like "I'm simply just thankful" (the literal word-by-word translation of "Ich bin einfach nur dankbar") sounds a bit weird to me. "I'm just simply thankful" is better, but not as common in my experience as "einfach nur" is in German. – Bergi Sep 24 at 17:40

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