Someone wrote me this sentence (a native speaker):

Mein Deutsch ist aber noch nicht so gut.

Shoudn't "aber" stay in the beginning of the sentence? Like:

Aber mein Deutsch ist noch nicht so gut.

  • 1
    Both are correct, as far as I know. But I also wait for an authoritative answer. I'd expect a slightly, subtely different effect caused by changing the natural (0th.) place for aber. Ich bin aber nicht sicher :ṕ
    – c.p.
    Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


Aber is being used here as a modal particle rather an a coordinating conjunction. When used like it is in your example, it has a similar meaning to if it were used a conjunction

I'd say "Mein Deutsch ist aber noch nicht so gut" roughly translates to

My German isn't really that good yet, though.

When you use aber as a modal particle it has 3 meanings/uses

1) In a statement, aber expresses a surprised reaction

Der Film war aber gut! = The film was good!

1a) ja can also be used to express surprise, but aber expresses surprise to the degree that something is a certain quality

Der Kaffee ist aber heiß!> the coffee is hotter than you expected

Der Kaffee ist ja heiß! > you expected the coffee that wouldn't be hot (warm, iced, etc)

2) aber can be used to express contradiction: in this manner the meaning is very similar to the meaning when used as a conjunction

Mein Freund kam aber nicht = My friend didn't come though

Sie muss uns aber gesehen haben = But she must have seen us

3) When used in exclamations, aber can stress the speaker's opinion

Aber nein! = Of course not!

Aber Kinder! = Now, now, children!

Source: Durrell, Martin. Hammer's German Grammar and Usage. 5 e.d.

  • hmmm... it is actually not a modal particle but simply an adverb with the same function that the subordinating conjunction has. "Aber" can be a modal particle but only in exclamations (see your examples 1,1a and 3). Then it expresses surprise. This is theoretically possible here too, but I am 99,9% certain that the person meant a simple "but".... just at a different position. Just as in example 2. The only difference between the adverb "aber" and the conju. is in fact the position. But the fact that I actually can move it to position 1 tells us that it is NOT a particle. Those can't ever be 1.
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 20:49
  • So while the answer contains a lot of correct information I have to give -1 because the main statement is not correct :)
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 20:50

Both sentences mean the same, but it's very usual in German to put the word "aber" after the verb in the 2nd position of the sentence, in the middle of the sentence.

This is different from English, in which the equivalents words "but" and "though" are always at the beginning and beginning/end of it, respectively, when they have the same meaning.

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