What is the difference between “eréischt” and “nëmmen” / A2

During your learning journey you’ve certainly come accross these two Luxembourgish adverbs eréischt and nëmmen. And you’ve probably been told that they are close in meaning and that they are both often translated by “only”, right?

But … they should NOT be. Doing so changes the meaning of your sentence, as the translation of these 2 sentences demonstrates:

  • Mir hunn eréischt ee Kand. – We have only one child (at the moment, but we wish more children).
  • Mir hunn nëmmen ee Kand. – We have only one child.

This lesson is all about learning the difference between these two Luxembourgish adverbs, and how  to use them correctly. This will help you greatly in your studies of the language.

eréischt

eréischt – is usually translated by “only” but  in the sense of either not before or no more than …. 

Beispiller (examples)

  • Mäi Mann kënnt eréischt e Samschdeg heem. – My husband is coming home only on Saturday. (not before)
  • Ech hunn eréischt 5 Säiten am Buch gelies. – I’ve read only 5 pages of the book (no more than).

BUT the best way to explain eréischt is to consider that it is the opposite of already. The Luxembourgish word for already is schonn, which has MANY meanings. 

Learn the different meanings of “schonn” here on my blog. 

Let’s have a quick look at what already expresses. Already is used when we talk about a process and something happens earlier or is “more” than was expected …

Beispiller (examples)

  • Wat? ’t ass schonn 10 Auer? – What? It is already 10 o’clock?
  • Waars du schonn 10 mol zu Paräis? – Have you been to Paris 10 times already.
  • Erwäch mech schonn um 7 Auer! – Wake me up already at 7!

So, the first sentence expresses that we thought it to be earlier, and the second expresses that I consider 10 times a lot. And eréischt is the exact opposite:

  • Wat? ’t ass eréischt 10 Auer? – What? It is no later than 10 o’clock?
  • Ech war eréischt zweemol zu Paräis.  – I was no more than twice to Paris.
  • Erwäch mech eréischt um 10 Auer! Don’t wake me up before 10!

The first sentence expresses that we thought it to be later, and the second tells you that I consider 2 to be not that much and that there are more to come. There is not really one word for this in English, but think of the opposite of already. Let’s do one more example:

  • Ech sinn eréischt 3 Wochen zu Lëtzebuerg an ech hu scho vill gesinn. – I have been in Luxembourg for only 3 weeks (with many more to come as I intend to stay here) and I have already seen so much.

Now this last example is actually translated using only… and eréischt CAN be a translation for only… but only if we are talking about a process.

  • Ech hunn  nëmmen 10€. (no process) – I only have 10€. 
  • Ech hunn eréischt 10€ ausginn. (this is a process) – I have spent only 10€ so far (with more to come).

So eréischt always has the notion of an ongoing process, a notion of time… that is important to keep in mind if you want to translate only. That’s why it would not fit into ” I have only 10€.”… there is nothing time related there.

Anyway… thinking of eréischt as the opposite of already will save you all that extra thought. Here are some more examples.

  • De Concert huet eréischt um 9 ugefaangen. – The concert didn’t start before 9. (which is quite late)
  • Ech hunn eréischt virun enger Stonn giess. – I just ate an hour ago. (so it is not so long ago actually and it is just right not to be hungry yet)

Watch this lesson on Youtube!

nëmmen

Nëmmen by contrast, means “only” and a synonym is just. Nëmmen tells us that something is considered “not a lot”, a quantity or an action that isn’t expected to change.

Beispiller (examples)

  • Mäi Mann geet nëmmen donneschdes lafen. – My husband goes running only on Thursdays (That’s the one and only day in the week.)
  • Hatt bleift nëmmen eng Stonn. – She is staying only one hour.
  • Ech si midd, dofir hunn ech  nëmmen 5 Säiten am Buch gelies. – I am tired, that is why I have read only five pages from the book. (The speaker is not going to read more than five pages.)

Übung (exercise)

Fill in the following sentences with either nëmmen or eréischt: Sometimes both are possible, depending on what you want to say.

  1. Meng Tatta ass _______ haut fortgefuer.
  2. Ech hu(nn) _______ 20€ dobäi.
  3. Mäi Jong rifft  _______ un, wann hien eppes braucht.
  4. D’Nopesch kënnt_________ fir mir de Schlëssel ze ginn.
  5. ’t ass ________ 9h30 Auer.
  6. Ech kucken ________ d’Tëlee, wa meng Kanner am Bett leien.
  7. Nom Owesiessen wëll ech _________ nach d’Tëlee kucken.
  8. Kënns du elo ________ heem?
  9. De Film geet ______ um 22h00 un.
  10. Ech kafen d’Uebst an d’Geméis _______ am Biobuttek.

Download the PDF to get the solutions of the exercise and to practice what you’ve learnt in this lesson!

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I hope you liked it and found it useful. And …. why not sharing this lesson with your friends:-)


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