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Under the chapter of focus particles (role and position), my grammar book gives two use cases for using auch:

  1. refers to the whole sentence and is placed before nicht, modal, locative and verb 2 position

Ich konnte meinen Vater gestern dank deiner Hilfe auch pünktlich am Bahnhof abholen.

  1. Highlights a part of the sentence and is placed just before the part of the sentence highlighted

Ich schenke dir dieses Jahr auch Blumen zum Geburtstag (nicht nur Pralinen).

The first use case where auch refers to the whole sentence confuses me as I am not sure what is the logical scope of auch as „nicht nur“ to cover the whole sentence.

My guess is - Somebody else could pick up their father yesterday punctually at the railway station, thanks to your help. And I too could pick up my father yesterday punctually at the railway station, thanks to your help.

The reason that I am not sure of this, is that it would be then the equivalent of (in my view) :

Auch ich konnte meinen Vater gestern dank deiner Hilfe pünktlich am Bahnhof abholen.

Source: (B2-C1) Grammatik aktiv, Cornelsen 2019, page 24

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(Note: I know these as modal particles, not focus particles -- that might help for googling.)

In the second example, auch serves as a modifier with the meaning nicht nur, as you rightly observed. It can modify every noun phrase by immediately following it.

However, in its usage as a particle, it does not mean nicht nur, and has restricted positions within the sentence (mainly following the verb). In particular, the usage in your second example is as a particle, and not as nicht nur.

I'll give you some examples:

  • Auch ich konnte ihn abholen: I, too, was able to pick him up. (Not only me)
  • Auch konnte ich ihn abholen: Additionally, I was able to pick him up. (Sentence adverb)
  • Ich konnte auch ihn abholen: I was able to pick up him, too. (Not only someone else)
  • Ich konnte ihn auch abholen: I was indeed able to pick him up. (Particle: "according to what was expected"; often, a "but" sentence will follow)
  • Ich konnte ihn auch pünktlich abholen: I also was able to get him on time. (Focus on pünktlich as "unexpected" information -- usually including prosodic focus, without which it is ambiguous with the "indeed" meaning)
  • Ich schenke dir auch Blumen: This one's complicated. It can have multiple interpretations:
    1. Additionally, I will give you flowers. (With regular prosody, sentence adverb)
    2. I will give you flowers, too. (Prosody: Ich schenke dir auch Blumen, "not only")
    3. "I will fulfill your expectation/requirements by giving you flowers, even though you might have expected the opposite" (Prosody: Ich schenke dir auch Blumen!; particle usage that's difficult to translate)

In the very last examply, you really have to think of someone defending themselves (Doch, ich denke an deinen Geburtstag! Ich schenke dir auch Blumen!) or reinforcing a point (Ich schenke ihm auch immer Blumen. Aber es hilft nichts!).

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If an auch at the beginng of a sentence refers to the whole sentence, it must occupy position 1 and the verb must follow:

Auch konnte ich meinen Vater gestern dank deiner Hilfe pünktlich am Bahnhof abholen.

Whereas in the case of

Auch ich konnte meinen Vater gestern dank deiner Hilfe pünktlich am Bahnhof abholen.

the auch refers to Ich: "I too could..."

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The first one can be changed into small scope like this:

Ich konnte meinen Vater gestern rechtzeitig am Flughafen und dank deiner Hilfe auch pünktlich am Bahnhof abholen.

now the "abholen" also counts for "Flughafen". The "auch" only rules "pünktlich am Bahnhof".


The second can be made general (verb-oriented):

Nicht weinen, ich schenke dir dieses Jahr auch Blumen zum Geburtstag.

A stupid thing to say - but it expresses that "Blumen zum Geburtstag" will make the difference. "Geschenkt!" should be the answer, which is short for "Du kannst dir deine Blumen **** stecken" (hint: the four-letter solution is not VASE).

This flower/birthday example was badly chosen from the start. Needs the parenthesis (nicht nur Pralinen) to clarify.

you really have to think of someone defending themselves

exactly, phipsgabler

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  • I can think of no four letter German word that fits in there well. Sonstwohin works, but that's already euphemic. – phipsgabler May 17 '20 at 9:37
  • A four-letter word in English is not a four-lettered word in German. "Sonstwohin" is what I meant, beside the word that begins with "A-" and has 3 letters in English and 5 in German, but only because of the "-SCH". – user41814 May 17 '20 at 9:44
  • There is no "solution", only a joke with VASE, the real receptacle of flowers. Maybe this basic scene is the source for this saying. – user41814 May 17 '20 at 9:48
  • The point I failed to make is: I don't think you need to refrain from writing in den Arsch. (And I didn't get the joke until now, sorry :)) – phipsgabler May 17 '20 at 9:48
  • "damit den Hintern verzieren" or "hinter's Ohr stecken" . After a: "Na, du kannst die doch in eine hübsche Vase stecken" you have many good options, beside the obviuos one. – user41814 May 17 '20 at 9:59

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