It looks like just a random exclamation, but eh is actually a proper word. And it’s one of the most overlooked words of German and even many advanced learners are not even aware that it’s a thing. Probably because it’s so short, it’s easy to miss it.
But it’s actually really common and useful because it’s a translation for:
Now, anyway has a bunch of different functions, that all translate to different things. So we need to be a bit more specific here.
“eh” is the anyway, that expresses that some new information doesn’t make a difference to the overall reality.
It’s actually easier to grasp through examples, I think.
- “The party is canceled.”
“Great, I didn’t want to go anyway.”
- “Oh damn, we’re out of butter.”
“No problem, I was going to go to the store anyway. I’ll buy some.”
In both these examples, the information the first person says doesn’t really change anything for the second person, because it just aligns with what was their reality… anway.
And in these contexts Germans love to use eh:
- “Die Party ist abgesagt.”
“Super, ich wollte eh nicht gehen.”
- “Oh Mist, wir haben keine Butter mehr.”
“Kein Problem, ich wollte eh einkaufen gehen. Ich kaufe welche.”
The other possible word you can use here is the word sowieso and there’s no difference to eh pretty much.
But I really recommend using eh a bit more, because it’ll make you sound super authentic.
For some more examples for this eh and an overview over its relatives like ehe and eher, I recommend this article on YourDailyGerman: