How to use DACH and other tricky words in Luxembourgish

Luxembourgish, like any other language, has particular words and expressions that can be used in more than one way. These include the short but tricky words known as “particles” or “fillers.” I call them “small words that can cause big problems.”

Luxembourgish words such as awer, och, dach, alt, mol, schonn and even jo look very simple, but are often a source of misunderstanding for even intermediate learners of Luxembourgish.

The main source of problems is the fact that each one of these words can have multiple meanings and functions in different contexts or situations. Take the word

AWER

 Most often it is encountered as a conjunction meaning but or however:

Example:

Mir wollten haut spadséiere goen, awer et huet gereent.
We wanted to go for a walk today, but it was raining.

In that context, awer functions like any of the coordinating conjunctions like oder, an. But awer can also be used as a particle to stress what is being said or done:

Example:

Dat ass awer net wouer. That is, however, not true.
Dat war awer ganz interessant. That was really very interesting.

As you will have noticed in the examples, it is often difficult to translate the Luxembourgish word into an English word. The word awer, contrary to what your first-year Luxembourgish teacher may have told you, does NOT always equal “but”!  Depending on how it is being used, the word awer can mean: but, and, at all, however, really, just, isn’t it?, haven’t you?, come on now. 

Let’s now look at the often over-used word:

MOL

How would you translate: So mol, wéini gees du an d’Vakanz? or Mol kucken?

In neither case would a good English translation actually bother to translate mol at all. With such idiomatic usage, the first translation would be “Tell me, when do you go on holiday?” The second phrase would be “We’ll see” in English.

The word mol is actually two words:

as an adverb, it has a mathematical function: zwee mol zwee  (2×2).

as a particle and a shortened form of eemol (once), mol is most often used in day-to-day conversation:

Example:

Lauschter mol no! Listen! or
Komm mol hei! Come over here! 

If you listen carefully to Luxembourgish-speakers, you’ll discover that they can hardly say anything without throwing in a mol here and there. So if you do the same (at the right time and in the right place!), you’ll sound just like a Luxembourger!

Read in this lesson about another use of mol

Uses of the Luxembourgish word “DACH!”

The Luxembourgish word dach is so versatile that it can also be dangerous. Let’s start with the basics: jo, neen and dach! Of course, two of the first words you ever learned in Luxembourgish were jo and neenBut they aren’t enough. You also need to know dach.

The use of dach to answer a question is not actually a particle function, but it is important. When you answer a question negatively or positively, you use neen (no) or jo (yes), whether in Luxembourgish or English.

But Luxembourgish adds a third one-word option, dach, that English does not have. For instance, someone asks you in English, “Don’t you have any money?” Only two responses are possible in English: “No, I don’t.” (agreeing with the negative question) or “Yes, I do.” (disagreeing with the negative question).

Now the same money question in Luxembourgish would be: Hues du keng Suen? If you answer with jo the questioner may think you are agreeing to the negative, that yes, you do not have any money. But by answering with dach, you are making it clear: “On the contrary, yes, I do have money.

This also applies to statements that you want to contradict. If someone says, “That’s not right!” but it is, the Luxembourgish statement Dat stëmmt net! would be contradicted with:

Dach! Dat stëmmt. On the contrary, it is right.

In this case, a response with jo (dat stëmmt) would sound wrong to Luxembourgish ears. A dach response clearly means you disagree with the statement.

Dach has many other uses as well:  

as an adverb, it can mean after all or all the same. It is often used this way as an intensifier.

Example:

Ech hunn hatt dach erkannt! I recognized her after all! or I did recognize her! 

as a particle, dach  can:

 – be used to soften an order, to turn it into more of a suggestion:

Tommel dech dach! Do hurry up! rather than the harsher Hurry up!

 – intensify (as above), express surprise: 

Dat war dach den Tom! That was actually Tom!,

 – show doubt:

Du hues de Rendez-vous dach net vergiess?  You did not forget the appointment, didn’t you? 

 – or be used in many idiomatic ways: Da gitt dach!  Then just go! (and do it!)

With a little attention and effort, you’ll begin to notice the many ways that dach is used in Luxembourgish. Understanding the uses of dach and the other particles in Luxembourgish will give you a much better command of the language.


If you can improve your vocabulary, you have a lot more ways to express yourself in Luxembourgish. You will be able to say exactly what you want instead of trying desperately to think of the right word.

You should learn words in context, in topics and what is even more important is to practice the new words so that you don’t forget them. In my online course “Lëtzebuergesch am Alldag: Lauschter a Schwätz” you learn useful words. Each lesson also includes a quiz and also explains the vocabulary you heard in the conversations, teaching you new words and showing you how to use them.

There are lots of practice phrases which you can listen to and repeat to improve your Luxembourgish speaking. The exercice will help you test yourself and remember the new vocabulary. Learn more about this course here!