Wollen Sie es einmal anfassen?

English Translation

Do you want to touch it?

I’m having trouble understanding the function of “einmal” in this sentence. I’ve heard the word “mal” often used almost randomly in many German sentences, like “lass uns mal wieder treffen” oder “geh mal Bier holen” or even just “schau mal”… is that equivalent to clozemaster’s use of “einmal” here?

What’s the difference between “Wollen Sie es anfassen” and “wollen Sie es einmal anfassen”, or are they the same? And could you also say “Wollen Sie es mal anfassen” to mean the same thing?

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is that equivalent to clozemaster’s use of “einmal” here?

Yes!
“einmal” and “mal” only differ in register, i.e. “einmal” is more formal, and “mal” is more colloquial.
It’s no surprise to see it being used together with the formal “Sie”.
But I guess most people will use “Sie” together with “mal”, because “Sie” is already polite enough. “Einmal” sounds so formal that I think you will only see it written.

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I totally agree with pitti42 on this sentence.

However, there are sentences where “mal” und “einmal” have different meanings:

Sie dürfen es mal ausprobieren = You might try it.
Sie dürfen es einmal ausprobieren = You might try it once

Sometimes you can only distinguish it by pronouciation.
If you want to be sure, you have to add “nur”.

Sie dürfen es nur einmal ausprobieren = You might try it only once

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What’s the difference between “Wollen Sie es anfassen” and “wollen Sie es einmal anfassen”, or are they the same?

It just struck me that “give it a xyz” might be a good translation for “mal” when it functions as an encouraging modifier - and the literal meaning of “mal” = “once” is pretty well reflected in the “a”:

Sie dürfen es ausprobieren. - You may try it.
Sie dürfen es mal ausprobieren (wenn Sie wollen). - You can give it a try (if you want).

Dreh das Rad! - Turn the wheel!
Ach, du hast ein neues Windrad! Dreh doch mal dran! - Oh, you got a new pinwheel! Try giving it a spin!

Schau! - Look!
Schau mal! - Have a look! / Give it a look!

Or the topic’s sentence:
Wollen Sie es einmal anfassen? - Do you want to give it a touch?

“Mal” can be combined with “doch”, and I think “why don’t you” often corresponds pretty well to “doch”:
Versuch es! - Try it!
Versuch es mal! - Give it a try!
Versuch es doch mal! - Why don’t you give it a try!
Ich werde dich verprügeln! -Versuch es doch! - I’ll beat you up! -Why don’t you try! / Go ahead and try! (You won’t manage to)

When “mal” functions as a request softener, I don’t think there is a good translation, other than adding “please”:

Hol’ mir ein Bier. - Get me a beer.
Hol’ mir mal ein Bier. - Get me a beer, please.
Hol’ mir doch mal ein Bier, Schatz. - Why don’t you get me a beer, honey.

Note that “lass uns mal wieder treffen” is different, because “mal wieder” is a unit, and “mal” does not work together with the verb in this case.
In that sentence, “mal wieder” expresses that it has been a while and it’s about time that it happens again.

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