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I'm reading Goethe B1 Wörterliste. and for the word "die Sache" one of the examples is "Also, die Sache ist so ...." I'd appreciate it if you can give me some examples of where this can be used.

2 Answers 2

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"Also, die Sache ist so ...." is a slightly old-fashioned way to start a longer explanation. To me, it has a slight implication that it's an explanation that could/should have been given earlier, or one that is given hesitantly.

I can't think of a good translation to English, but it's comparable to "The thing is, ..." or "The truth of the matter is ...".

A: Warum warst du denn so unfreundlich in dem Gespräch mit Peter?
B: Also, die Sache ist so: ich kenne Peter schon sehr lange, und wir haben unsere Differenzen. Vor ein paar Jahren hat er mal ....... etc.

A: Gibt es bei Menschen mehr als zwei Geschlechter?
B: Also, die Sache ist so: es gibt inzwischen bei verschiedenen Menschen verschiedene Arten, das Wort "Geschlecht" zu verstehen ... etc.

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  • I might be old-fashioned myself, but the expression doesn't sound old-fashioned to me.
    – tofro
    Mar 21, 2023 at 7:15
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Das Ding is: Sache and English thing are very similar in many ways. Both words seem to come from Germanic legalese as is evident in words like Strafsache and Widersacher. For most intents and purposes, the synonym Sachverhalt can be understood, as a matter of fact, having replaced the root noun Sache "account". More generally, Sache is of secodary interest, since the phraseme appears without the noun, Es ist so. This seems to be an expression of Evidentiality.

Die Richtigkeit des Sachverhaltes ist durch vorzügliche Beobachter verbürgt und kann nicht in Zweifel gezogen werden. [Mendel, Gregor: Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden. In: Verhandlungen des Naturforschenden Vereines in Brünn 4 (1866), S. 3-47.]

  • German is, like other indoeuropean languages, not typically described to have obligatory evidentials, ie. "broadly, the indication of the nature of evidence for a given statement; that is, whether evidence exists for the statement and if so, what kind." (en.wikipedia: evidentiality). This is an area of active research. Thus Gabriele Diewald and Elena Smirnova (2008) list four different definitions as a starting point. However, Bert Cornillie argues (ibidem) for example in Spanish: "Finally, the analysis indicates that speakers use evidential adverbs such as evidentemente to retain the turn, i.e. to keep the word." (bold-emphasis mine). That said, at least also is more commonly described as discourse marker from use as Konjuntionaladverb (thus Maria Alm 2007, apud 2015).

Therefore, a few observations may be in order.

The homophony with sagen "to say" in northern dialects is notable, ik sach ma so, sach ik ma, which can approach the voiced velar fricative [ɣ], na sare mal. Corrolary, Das Ding is the High German cognate to thing. It is unknown whether that may be related to denken etc. (modulo kennen or else). In this case, one should expect to find Die Sache is in introduction to reported speech, not unlike they say, or perhaps word is. This might work as evidentiality in linguistics terms, to mark the reliability of information, ie. I have it from a good source that .... This is also evident in comparison with Sachverhalt, insofar as vorhalten, dafürhalten, einen Sachvortrag halten etc. pertain to speech acts which tend to be attributed to their source, eg. der Sachvortrag des Klägers.

The background is rarely observed in practice and it is certainly not the primary topic of B2 DFS instruction—the fact is only notable because the language teachers ignorance is to some extend the reason why usage is restricted to informal registers. There is no formally correct way, while to say that etymology is ultimately unknown would be a truism, notwithstanding in colloquial speech where folk etymology is acceptable. Hence, Sache is easily replaced by the dummy pronoun es.

  1. Also, es ist so: ich bin heute befördert worden! Und ..." [Rula Förbeck, ‎Eva-Maria Hoffmann. So ein kurzes Leben lang. 2018; bold-emphasis mine]

The stress should rest on so. This is different from the following and it needs to be stressed appropriately. This will concern us immediately.

  1. Jago. Beruhigt euch; es war nur ein Laune; Gewiß, ein Staatsgeschäft lag ihm im Sinn; und deshalb schalt er euch.
    Desd. Wär's doch nichts andres!
    Jago. Es ist so, ich versichr' euch.

[Adolph Boettger. William Shakspeare's sämtliche dramatische Werke, 3. Lieferung. Georg Wigand, Leipzig: 1838. Cf. Othello, der Mohr von Venedig, Akt IV., pg. 565f., bold-emphasis mine]

translated from the English

Iago. 'Tis but so, I warrant. [openshakespear.com]

The focus of the language learning exercise is certainly more concerned with the morphosyntax. We can distinguish two different uses of so in the previous examples. In our case (1.), so appears to function as a demonstrative pronoun, cp. engl. it goes like this, I do it like so.

Notably, it is verging on conjunction, cp. dass, "ich weiß das, er kommt" (DWDS/etymwb: dass), weil, Old High German "thiu (h)wīla sō", Middle Dutch "de wīle dat", Old English "þā hwīle þe" (DWDS/etymwb: weil). That is, it seems to conserve usage from before those conjunctions became fully grammatical. The pronominal usage is well comparable, ich weiß es, er wird kommen.

Although, to say would be considerable once more if so looks very much relatable (eg. Luxemburgish So "tale, story"), if the indoeuropean etymology from imperfective *sekʷ- "to follow" is correct (en.wiktionary), inasmuch as so is synonym to folg-, eg. folgender maßen, also in English:

Returning now to the first division, namely, the water-ways, the case presents itself as follows: To supply six turbines , each of 1,100 horse - power under 140 feet fall , for each turbine assuming an efficiency of 80 per cent. […] [Proceedings of the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia, 1894, XI., 3. pg. 139]

The shakespear example (2.) is clearly assertive.

Another strong point in favour of evidentiality is the verb sehen "to see" which may be attributed to the same root, *sekʷ-: Personal witness report, or "visual evidence" is one of the most common forms of evidence in evidential typologies (thus Francis Grossmann and Tutin, Agnès Tutin in Gabriele Diewald and Elena Smirnova, 2011)

It follows that imperative "see" is a usual discourse particle.

Komm du, du letzter, den ich anerkenne,
heilloser Schmerz im leiblichen Geweb:
> wie ich im Geiste brannte, sieh, ich brenne in dir,
das Holz hat lange widerstrebt. [Rilke 1929, zitiert nach "Das Subjekt der Dichtung. Gerhard Buhr, ‎Friedrich A. Kittler, ‎Horst Turk (Hg.). Königshausen & Neumann: 1990"]

In this case, the emphatic quality is apparent, similar to the adverbial so, so sehr, etc. ("so unfreundlich" @HalvarF.). For the reconstruction it would be helpful to assume different roots with different prefixes, cp. for example Upper German arg, so arg "sehr". The usual sources are rather unhelpful with this, alas.


Alm M. (2007). Also darüber lässt sich ja streiten! : die analyse von also in der diskussion zu diskurs- und modalpartikeln. Almqvist & Wiksell.

Alm, M. (2015). ALSO als finale Partikel im Deutschen. In H. Vinckel-Roisin (Ed.), Das Nachfeld im Deutschen: Theorie und Empirie (pp. 319-342). Berlin, München, Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110419948-016

Diewald, G. & Smirnova, E. (2011). Linguistic Realization of Evidentiality in European Languages. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter Mouton. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110223972

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