Words like maar and even

Words like maar, eens and even

Kijk eens! Kom maar. Wil je de deur even(tjes) opendoen? Ga eens even opzij. Kijk maar eens even door deze bril.

Although these sentences are hardly considered difficult to understand, they are not really easy to translate into English. They could result in something like:

Hey, look! Just come over here, please. Would you (please) just open the door? Just move aside. (Come on) just look through these glasses.

The problem is, that those little words like maar, eens and even(tjes) do not only have a literal meaning (but,once,shortly), but also a modifying function in the sentence. In a lot of cases you could say that they mean something like just,and are squeezed into the sentence to make it less direct and more polite. In fact, if you take a commanding sentence,you can just ‘soften’ it, by putting one (or some) of those words in it.For example kom hier is a quite rude command, while kom eens hier or kom even hier is a lot more friendly and kom maar hier could even be something like a very inviting gesture. There are a few more words with similar functions, though maar, eens and even are the most frequently used. Take for example gewoon and hoor:

Je moet gewoon naar de tandarts. Nou, tot ziens, hoor.

Here too, you could use just in your translation into English:

You just have to go to the dentist. Well, just goodbye then.

Generally, whenever you notice those words are not making sense when you assign their literal meaning to them, you could leave the mout, get the meaning of the sentence without them and keepin mind that someone is trying to be polite here. But if you want to use those words correctly yourself, the best thing you could do is probably to analyze their use for a while,because they all have their specific contexts. It is impossible to give rules for that, but I noticed that a lot of students were able to develop a good sense for it, just by reading, listening and analyzing.

To give some indications (remember, these are no rules,just vague patterns):

  • maar means often just in a reassuring way,
  • eens and even often mean just in the sense of a friendly come on or just hey, or even please (mag ik even bellen – can I make a phone call please),
  • gewoon mostly means just in the sense of ‘no big deal’,
  • hoor often means something like hey or Isay, but watch out: the meaning is very much depending on the tone of the voice and can vary from a reassuring to a reprimanding hey.

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