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I mean this punctuation mark: !

I've been puzzled recently by the use of the exclamation point in German. I recently received a message from a work colleague using a couple of exclamation points at the end, which made him sound angry. And we also got one from our landlord, though in this case he had nothing to be angry or excited about; he was just clarifying some of our Nebenkosten.

My work colleague implied that it has more to do with being definitive than being angry, perhaps along the lines of the triumph emoji: 😤

So: What do Germans mean when they end a sentence with an exclamation point (or more than one)?

Examples as requested:

I have written back and I really do not like to fight with you about the simple things any more!

I took this to mean that my co-worker was angry, but he said he just meant it as an expression of "firmness" or something. (He's Swiss, not German, if that makes any difference.)

Das ist für ein ganzes Jahr berechnet und verteilt sich aus gesamthaft 300,-€ anteilig auf

[us] = 170,71 u. für [our neighbor] = 129,29€, ergibt somit 300,-€ Gesamtbetrag!!

Mit freundlichen Grüßen:

[landlord]

I don't think my landlord is angry here, but I wasn't sure what to make of these exclamation points.

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  • 1
    Have you asked your landlord to give an explanation concerning "Nebenkosten"?
    – Paul Frost
    Aug 12, 2021 at 6:31
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    @PaulFrost Well, yes, that's what the e-mail was in reference to.
    – Kyralessa
    Aug 12, 2021 at 7:03
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    Okay, so it was his reaction after you had asked him.
    – Paul Frost
    Aug 12, 2021 at 7:10
  • 3
    The gist of the answers seems to be that there isn't any difference from how English speakers use it.
    – Kyralessa
    Aug 12, 2021 at 11:59
  • 4
    I have some people in my Whatsapp conversations who feel they have to use an exclamation mark at the end of every message when using chat software. No idea why.
    – AndreKR
    Aug 12, 2021 at 14:41

4 Answers 4

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German speakers use the exclamation mark to emphasize sentences, and its main effect is that it's giving the sentence a more emotional or vivid tone. It can also just put a general emphasis on the sentence that makes it stand out in a longer text. It just makes any sentence more of a ... well ... exclamation.

Anger is only one of many emotions that can be conveyed by an exclamation mark. It can also be excitement, surprise, joy etc., it completely depends on the contents of the sentence and context.

Ich freue mich darauf, Sie bald bei uns zu sehen! [excitement]

Es hat endlich funktioniert! [joy, excitement]

Ich möchte Sie nochmal daran erinnern, dass auf dem Balkon keine laute Musik gespielt werden darf! [emphasis, emotion, perhaps anger]

Ihr Trompetensolo heute abend war eine Offenbarung! [emotional praise, emphasis]

Gehen Sie bitte weiter! [imperative]

Abfaaaaahrt! [Drunk bawling]

Guten Tag! [vivid greeting]

Guten Morgen! [Can be anything from a lively greeting to a passive aggressive reproach for being late or not understanding something]

EDIT: Addition after you provided examples:

I have written back and I really do not like to fight with you about the simple things any more!

I don't know the context, they could mean something like "Honestly, we're on the same page, I mean it!". I agree with you though that, in a professional setting, this can be (mis?)understood as anger. It depends on whether they're stating something that they think you agree on.

[us] = 170,71 u. für [our neighbor] = 129,29€, ergibt somit 300,-€ Gesamtbetrag!!

They see some reason to especially stress this, maybe because it has been doubted, or the round amount of exactly 300 € is surprising or they just want to stress it. I agree with you that it's probably not anger, but it's hard to interpret.

'Multiple exclamation marks,' he went on, shaking his head, 'are a sure sign of a diseased mind.'
(Terry Pratchett)

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    I understand from your answer that the exclamation point in German has identical usage and meaning as in English.
    – minseong
    Aug 12, 2021 at 15:16
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    @theonlygusti Yes, that's my impression, too. I'm not sure enough about how it is used in English to really compare it myself though.
    – HalvarF
    Aug 12, 2021 at 17:20
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The exclamation mark has a versatile use. In my opinion is not that far from its use in English.

It is most frequently used after

  • exclamations : Hallo! / Du Trottel! / Ruhe! / Aua!

  • imperatives : Geh jetzt an die Arbeit! / Verschwinde von hier!

  • warnings : Vorsicht! / Achtung! / Betreten verboten!

  • salutations : Guten Tag!

  • questions (in aggressive form) : Wie lange soll ich denn noch warten!

Using more than one exclamation mark is a bad habit. It is somewhat aggressive, or at the least indicates that the person using it believes that nothing can be more important than his message or even his point of view. At the time when people are using it they often feel excited, impatient or offended. In some cases it may also be a bit more harmless - people want to really emphasize something.

A similar phenomenon is the the use of more than question mark. Example: "Wann tritt Merkel endlich zurück ???"

I strongly recommend to avoid the multiple use of exclamation and question marks. It is grammatically inadequate, tries to put pressure on the reader and is impolite.

I think this bad habit is a side effect of electronic communication via e-mail, social media etc. It is very easy to press a key more than once, you do not look into the face of your addressees and in many cases you remain completely anonymous.

Update:

Here is my personal interpretation of your examples (with no claim to be correct, as I do not know the complete context and your relation to these people, and my understanding is certainly a worst case scenario).

I have written back and I really do not like to fight with you about the simple things any more!

The exclamation mark puts a strong emphasis on his statement. Message: I am right and you are wrong, and I am tired of discussing it.

[us] = 170,71 u. für [our neighbor] = 129,29€, ergibt somit 300,-€ Gesamtbetrag!!

There is no reason to use an exclamation mark, let alone two. If it is the reaction to a request by you to provide an explanation, the message is probably this: Do you mistrust me? I said it is 300 €, and there no reason to ask for more details. If your landlord had used a full stop instead of the two exlamation marks, it would have definitely been a neutral statement.

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    Somewhat related to the warning use, it is sometimes also used to draw attention to a particular point (!) - possibly related to the attention road sign which also uses an exclamation mark(?). Aug 12, 2021 at 10:06
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Q: "How do Germans use the exclamation point?"
A: Too often.

As an American in Germany, I deal with this on a daily basis. The intended use of the exclamation mark in German and in English is pretty much the same - emphasis.

The difference is that in written (American) English, an exclamation mark is almost always used in dialog (novels, stories, etc.) to end sentences that would (if spoken) be spoken in a louder voice with lots of emotion. The exclamation mark is (almost) never used in other forms of writing in (American) English.

Germans tend to use exclamation marks in all kinds of writing. The result for me is that, in written correspondence, all of my German colleagues appear to be hysterical (in the "screaming, wailing, overly emotional" way rather than the "ha, ha, laughing my ass off" way.) They're not overly emotional when speaking, but the same polite text written instead of spoken will end in an exclamation mark for emphasis "because it's important."


Replace all exclamation marks in written German with periods, and you'll usually be just fine. Do pay attention to the text, though. Look for words and phrases that truly indicate that the writer is really cheesed off. Those are more reliable than exclamation marks.


In the examples you've given, it seems your landlord is exasperated. You've made some kind of query about what appears to be the "Nebenkosten" for your appartment. Reading between the lines, you've asked more than once about this subject, and the landlord is getting tired of dealing with it. From the landlord's point of view, everything that needs to be said has already been said but you keep dragging it up for reasons that the landlord doesn't understand.

That comes more from the text than the exclamation marks.

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  • Ha ha, thanks for that perspective!
    – HalvarF
    Aug 13, 2021 at 10:28
  • It’s worth noting that this seems more common in Germany than in other German speaking countries (from my experience living in Austria and Switzerland).
    – idmean
    Aug 13, 2021 at 18:31
  • I've barely discussed the Nebenkosten with him at all, though perhaps my wife has done so without my knowledge. My upstairs neighbor (who recently moved out) was a major worrywart, though, over everything from burglars to rent increases to tax increases, so it's quite possible she harassed him quite a lot about the Nebenkosten and he was reacting to her, not us.
    – Kyralessa
    Aug 14, 2021 at 14:48
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I live in Germany since I was three years old:

In Germany the exclamation point is used to signal importance. Say someone writes you three sentences and one ends on an exclamation point -> you should focus on that one.

Its that simple, really.

Obviously some people tend to be more loose with their exclamation points than others. Outgoing types and Psychopath would probably use them more often than their more reclusive brethren.

Your landlord was simply highlighting the important bit of their letter, so was your colleague.

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