Modal particles or Modalpartikeln as they are known in German; a dry sounding term for something that brings a lot of color and life to the German language!
Modal particles are little words that express connotations such as feelings or moods. Because of this, they are also sometimes referred to as “filler words”. Basically, they amount to verbal emojis :D
Modal particles are not strictly speaking necessary, since they don't have a specific and essential grammatical function (they can be left out). They do breathe color into the language though ;)
Most of these particles have multiple meanings depending on the context. Nevertheless, we think it is a good idea that you familiarize yourself with them since they are very common, especially in everyday speech.
These words are particularly important in the German cultural context - where feelings are often not explicitly spoken about - since they are often great clues about the mood or the attitude towards a topic that a speaker might have.
And not only that! Some of them are also very important when it comes to asking for something more politely.
Let's look at some examples:→ vielleicht/eventuell (maybe/possibly)
These are almost like bitte (please):
Kannst du mir vielleicht den Zucker geben?
Can you maybe give me the sugar?
Würden Sie mir vielleicht noch einen Kaffee bringen?
Would you maybe bring me another coffee?
Können Sie mir vielleicht sagen, wie spät es ist?
Could you maybe tell me what time it is?
Wäre es eventuell möglich, Ihr Telefon zu benutzen?
Would it possibly be possible to use your phone?
Kannst du mir morgen eventuell helfen?
Could you possibly help me tomorrow?
Be careful though! In a different context, vielleicht can also point towards indignation or annoyance in the person that uses it!
Na, das ist vielleicht eine unhöfliche Bedienung!
Well, that’s what you might call rude service!
Der Zug hatte zwei Stunden Verspätung. Ich war vielleicht wütend!
The train was two hours late. I was what you might call angry!
Ich war gestern im Kino. Das war vielleicht ein schlechter Film!
I went to the movies yesterday. That was what you might call a bad movie!
You can tell whether a word is being used as a modal particle because it is usually going to be in the middle of a sentence right behind the verb and the pronoun.
Tip: find a couple of these words and memorize them. Look out for them in everyday speech. This is a good way to pick up on the nuances in terms of meaning that they have ;).