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A Closer Look


The satirical writer Karl Valentin (1882-1948) penned the following play on words:

Die Ebene ist eben eben.

What does this mean? Let's first find the different meanings for eben.

Definition 1: (modal adverb) precisely, exactly

Eben diese Tasche suchte ich. - I was looking precisely for this bag.

As a model adverb eben can be substituted for gerade/genau in a sentence. It is usually placed before a noun and adds emphasis to the phrase that follows it.

Definition 2: (temporal adverb) just

Mein Freund ist eben angekommen. - My friend just arrived.

Definition 3: (adjective)

level, flat.

Die ebene Fläche. - a flat surface.

Definition 4:(modal particle)

When used as a modal particle (= flavoring particle), the meaning of eben depends on its context. It is used in colloquial German to accentuate and intensify the meaning of a sentence or phrase. Here are some examples:

So ist es eben. - That's just the way it is.
Du musst eben gehen. - You simply must go.

Used also to express agreement:

Ich glaube, wir müssen fort. - I think we have to leave.
Ja, eben. - Yes, right.

Ja, eben! - Yes, precisely/exactly!

Ich pfeife eben darauf - I couldn't care less.

Related Words:
die Ebene - (n.) a plain; a flat or level ground.
ebenerdig - (adj.) on the ground, at road level.
ebenfalls - (adv.) likewise
ebenso - (adv.) equally, just so

So, in answer to our question...

Die Ebene ist eben eben. - The plain is simply flat.
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