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I have heard the following sentence in a Russian-Ukraine war report in the DW channel:

Junge Leute werden immer unzufrieden.

I initially translated this to "Young people always become dissatisfied" (sooner or later), but then learned at https://www.wordreference.com/deen/immer that "immer" alone can mean "more and more", which makes more sense in the context. So the correct translation is "Young people are becoming more and more dissatisfied". My understanding is that the sentence could mean both translations and the correct one has to be picked by context.

Is there any difference in meaning between "Junge Leute werden immer mehr unzufrieden" and the sentence above when the purpose is to convey progressive dissatisfaction? I thought that "immer" meant always and "immer mehr" meant "more and more", but it's clear now that things are not that simple.

3 Answers 3

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There are several issues here, so bear with me:

immer = "always"

Junge Leute werden immer unzufrieden.
Young people always become dissatisfied.

This your translattion correct. Here "immer" means "always" or "every time". Notice, this is a different meaning of "immer" as the one described in the following. It is "immer + Positiv" ("unzufrieden").

Immer + Komparativ
This is a fixed phrase describing a gradual change over time and indeed its most fitting translation is "more and more" or in general "comparative and comparative". For instance:

Junge Leute werden immer größer.
Young people get taller and taller.

Immer mehr This is basically the same as the above. "Mehr" is the Komparativ of "viel" (much) or "viele" (many). Important here is to understand: the "mehr" already occupies the place of the comparative and hence another Adjektiv or Adverb cannot be added. In English there are adjectives which don't have a comparative (e.g. "beautiful" - there is no "beautifuller", only "more beautiful"), but German is different in this regard. In this case the Komparativ of the Adjektiv/Adverb itself has to be used:

longer and longer
immer länger (und länger) correct
immer mehr lang wrong!

more and more beautiful
immer schöner und schöner correct
immer mehr schön wrong!

This is the case even with separable Verben, if they are built from Adverbien/Adjektiven, for instance "hochziehen":

Er zog ihn immer mehr hoch. almost tolerable but BAD
Er zog ihn immer höher. much better

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  • Does "Positiv" in "immer+Positiv" mean the neutral form of an adjective, i.e. without comparative/superlative suffixes? Not sure what "positive" means here, given that the other adjective forms (comparative/superlative) are not "negative". Jan 25 at 18:56
  • Regarding the comparative of "viel(e)", shouldn't it be "viel mehr"? Ex of sentence without comparison: Ich habe viele Häuser. Same sentence in comparative form: Ich habe viel mehr Häuser als er. Jan 25 at 19:39
  • @AlanEvangelista: "Positiv" means indeed what you call "neutral" form. It comes from the latin word "ponere" (to put), from which also words like "position" come from. So, e.g. "reich" (Positiv), "reicher" (Komparativ), "am reichsten" (Superlativ).
    – bakunin
    Jan 26 at 8:05
  • @AlanEvangelista: No, "viel" (and "viele", don't confuse them!) have each their own Komparativ, which is - unfortunately in both cases - "mehr": "ich habe viel Geld" - "ich habe mehr Geld (als du)" - "Ich habe das meiste Geld (von allen)", "Ich habe viele Häuser" - "ich habe mehr Häuser (als du)" - "Ich habe die meisten Häuser (von allen)". "viel"=much, "viele"=many, one is for amounts, one is for numbers of countables.
    – bakunin
    Jan 26 at 8:12
  • I don't see the relationship between having a lot of money (viel Geld) and having more money than someone else (mehr Geld). Ex: Hans can have 2 cents and Maria 1 cent, Hans have more than Maria, but Hand doesn't have a lot of money). It seems to be a German grammatical quirk. Sorry for the off-topic. Jan 26 at 12:31
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This must be

Junge Leute werden (immer) unzufriedener.

You need the comparative because the verb werden as a full verb implies a state change, and those can't be told by a plain adjective outside of some fixed phrase corner cases as e.g. alt werden. They were dissatisfied before and they become more dissatisfield. Hence a comparative is needed.

Or you use a different verb, e.g.

Junge Leute sind (immer) unzufrieden.

which means that they are dissatisfied.


About your question, that immer is actually a modal particle in this example. It confirms the statement. The speaker assesses this is indeed true in her view.


Junge Leute werden immer mehr unzufrieden.

This is ungrammatical and there is no way to heal this. That mehr alternative to the actual comparative form has very limited use in German.

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  • If "werden" can't be used with a adjective that is not in the comparative form, how would you say "People are becoming dissatisfied" (i.e. they were satisfied before and for some reason they are starting to become dissatisfied) in German then? Jan 25 at 2:57
  • This is Die Leute werden unzufriedener. with the comparative. The plain adjective with to become translates into the comparative adjective with werden. And yeah, you can't say People are becoming more dissatisfied. in German other than by adding that immer particle.
    – Janka
    Jan 25 at 3:03
  • For me, the last sentence is grammatical and means "young people increasingly become unsatisfied".
    – Dodezv
    Jan 25 at 12:24
  • Maybe you think it's a colloquial form of Junge Leute sind immer häufiger unzufrieden. ?
    – Janka
    Jan 25 at 14:29
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Your initial translation is correct and the original is wrong.

The sentence "Junge Leute werden immer unzufrieden." means "Young people always become dissatisfied (always have and always will)". It is not what the author wanted to express.

Similar structure:

Junge Leute werden immer alt.

The sentence "Junge Leute werden immer mehr unzufrieden." is mostly corrrect, except in German, the comparative is not formed by adding "mehr", so instead of "mehr unzufrieden", it is correct to say "unzufriedener". The original is just missing the "..er" to make it a comparative.

The "more and more" might be a better idiomatic expression in English, but the basic idea for this usage is that some gradual change (steady increase/decline) happens all the time (always, constantly), so the meaning is not that different from the normal translation.

Note that "immer unzufriedener" hints that there was already some dissatisfaction at the beginning of the time you describe. If people were happy in the beginning, I would omit "immer". But as people are rarely 100% satisfied, it would always fit.

If you omit "immer", the sentence works with or without the comparative, with slightly different meanings.

"Sie werden unzufrieden" means that the satisfaction enters a range that is considered "low" (usually without a formal definition).

"Sie werden unzufriedener" means that the satisfaction is lower than before, but it could still be high, just no longer very high.

"Sie werden immer unzufriedener" means mostly the same, but focus is more on the progress of the change an an expectation that it will continue in the same direction.

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  • I think a common confusion for English speakers is that "always" means literally "forever" or at least "forever" for the existing of the being in question. German often uses it with a less literal meaning. Jan 26 at 12:35

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