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I have encountered this sentence:

Werden die Menschen Arztbesuche demnächst nur noch nur über Skype machen?

Why is it written like that? Is the second "nur" redundant?

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    The sentence is not correct. The second "nur" is wrong and there is a verb missing, e.g. "Werden die Menschen Arztbesuche demnächst nur noch über Skype durchführen?"
    – Bodo
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 16:38
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    @Bodo: I don't think the second "nur" is wrong. It refers to the medium Skype (as the sole means of conducting any given consultation), whereas the first "nur [noch]" refers to doing it that way in all consultations. IOW, "nur noch" refers to the entire phrase leading up to the verb (which you correctly pointed out as missing), while the second "nur" describes "über Skype". Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 17:13
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    @O.R.Mapper You are right, it is not necessarily wrong but rather unusual. IMHO the second "nur" would be implied by the "nur noch". If using Skype is the only remaining ("nur noch") way to have consultations, then it must also be the sole ("nur") means.
    – Bodo
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 17:25
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    @Bodo: Check out the examples - "Ich esse mit der Gabel." is different from "Ich esse nur mit der Gabel.", as the former does not rule out that you might also be using a spoon or a knife, while the latter makes the exclusive use of a fork explicit. The same applies to "Ich esse nur noch mit der Gabel." versus "Ich esse nur noch nur mit der Gabel." The former means that from now on, I will only eat with the fork (say, rather than my hands), but it doesn't exclude I might use a knife to support placing food on the fork. "Ich esse nur noch nur mit der Gabel.", on the other hand, explicitly ... Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 22:38
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    @Bodo Although the sentence is formally correct, the second "nur" does not really have an added value. And for me it sounds awful.
    – Paul Frost
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 23:05

3 Answers 3

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First, this sentence no verb ;) It should probably be something like

Werden die Menschen Arztbesuche demnächst nur noch nur über Skype erledigen?

But that isn't related to the double "nur". To get a better grip of the sentence, let's take it apart.

Die Menschen werden Arztbesuche über Skype erledigen.

No "nur" so far, and not a question anymore.

Die Menschen werden Arztbesuche nur über Skype erledigen.

Here the "nur" gives the sentence a sense of lacking, like "visiting the doctor by Skype only, and not properly or fully in person".

Die Menschen werden Arztbesuche nur noch über Skype erledigen.

Here the "nur" gives the sentence a sense of exclusivity, like "doing all doctor visits by Skype, and none in person anymore".

Die Menschen werden Arztbesuche nur noch nur über Skype erledigen.

This is a combination of the two above, with the respective sense given by each of the "nur". To make it into a question is left as an exercise to the reader ;)

An English translation might be something like

People will visit their doctors exclusively by Skype only.

or

Will people visit their doctors exclusively by Skype only?

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  • 'Here the "nur" gives the sentence a sense of lacking' - interesting interpretation. I had intuitively understood this "nur" to be synonymous to "ausschließlich", which IMHO does not convey this sense of lacking. You are right, though, as the "nur" could also be understood as a synonym of "allein" in this case. Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 8:33
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All in all, the sentence is lacking both in language and in meaning.

  1. A verb is missing.

  2. "nur noch nur" is sloppy language at best. It doesn't seem entirely wrong to me, but I wouldn't use it. A more common and precise way to express the same notion would be "nur noch ausschließlich über Skype".
    What it means is that "{nur/ausschließlich über Skype}" is a specific form of a doctor's consultation that includes only the video call, and "{nur noch}" expresses that only this specific form will be used in the future.

  3. The word "Arztbesuch" is a bad choice here. A video call consultation is not an "Arztbesuch". "Besuch" means a visit from either side.

  4. Using the product name "Skype" when (probably) meaning video calls in general is quite 2010.

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Why is it written like that? Is the second "nur" redundant?

In general, it is not redundant. The two occurrences of "nur" refer to different parts of the sentence.

As was correctly pointed out in the comments, your sentences is lacking a verb. As suggested by a commenter, "durchgeführt" ist a fitting verb to complete the sentence, so I am going to use it here.

  • The first "nur", the one in "nur noch", refers to the entire statement. It indicates that from now on, there will be no deviations from the described action anymore.
  • The second "nur" refers to "über Skype". It indicates, or at least emphasizes that an "Arztbesuch über Skype" is not usually, or as a first step done via Skype, to be followed up with optional direct examinations, but that the entirety of the Arztbesuch is conducted exclusively via Skype.
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  • Can you explain the difference between "nur noch über Skype" and "nur noch nur über Skype"? If "nur noch" means that from now on there are no deviations from having consultations via Skype, then this IMHO excludes any other type of consultation in addition or as an alternative to those using Skype, which would make the additional "nur" useless.
    – Bodo
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 22:03
  • @Bodo: As I said, this particular case is ambiguous, but I can well imagine that a consultation that is conducted "über Skype" means that the initial talk, the one that always takes place, is conducted via Skype. During this Skype talk, the doctor will then decide whether they need to look at the patient directly, or whether the patient needs to go to some lab as a part of the consultation. In contrast, a consultation done "nur über Skype" never contains any of those latter elements. Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 22:42
  • I think I get your point, but I don't think one would use it or understand it in this way. Except, perhaps, some philosopher as a kind of very special terminology :)
    – Lykanion
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 7:56
  • @Lykanion: I think it's rather common in everyday colloquial conversation. Any kind of sophisticated language would probably switch to a more elegant way of expressing the same thought, e.g. by using a different word such as "ausschließlich" instead of the second "nur". Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 8:43
  • @O.R.Mapper I'd say that in everyday language one would use different words, because "nur noch nur" looks rather nonsensical at first glance.
    – Lykanion
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 8:53

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