What does "maar" mean at the end of a sentence?

If you're learning Dutch, you might have encountered phrases such as Doe maar meaning "Go ahead", or Zeg maar meaning "So to speak". If you're wondering what maar means in these sentences, hopefully this page will provide you with a satisfactory explanation.

In addition to meaning "but" and "just", maar has a few extra meanings. Sometimes, its meaning can be subtle and not easily understood. Using examples of phrases incorporating maar, we will explain each usage of the word to help you appreciate its meaning.

Doe maar

In Doe maar ("Go ahead"), maar has no clear-cut definition. Technically meaning "just", here maar functions as a ‘modal particle’ that tells the listener to relax, and indicates the speaker is indifferent to the answer, in a friendly manner.

In essence, it's a way of showing polite indifference — it is intended to make potentially harsh sounding commands and questions more lax.

Zeg maar

Consider the example sentence In het donker, zeg maar, meaning "In the dark, so to speak".

In this example, zeg maar could be translated as "so to speak", or "if you will", or even (very loosely) "if you know what I mean".

It indicates the speaker is decribing something in a somewhat metaphorical or odd way, just as "so to speak" functions in standard English.