Word of the Day – “Je… desto…”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day and today it is time for a

TAG-TEAM-SPECIAL

This time we will look at the meaning and the grammar of:

“je … desto”  (pron.: yeh dasto)

Suppose you want to express how some ‘quantity’ depends on some other ‘quantity’. In English, there is one word that will do the job for you…  the .

  • The more I study, the wiser I become.
  • The longer I think about it, the less I want to see this movie.
  • The bigger the better.

In German, one word is not enough to do this. You need a team:  je… destoJe itself has several meanings. It can mean ‘a‘ in sense of ‘per’ as in.

  • Die Äpfel kosten 10 Euro je Kilo.
  • The apples are 10 Euro a kilo.

Wow, some expensive apples.
Je
can also mean ever. But ONLY in sense of ‘once at all’…. so it’s not a universal translation for ever.

  •  Has grammar ever been fun?
  • Hat Grammatik je/jemals Spaß gemacht?

 

Cool. 
Desto
 by itself does not have a meaning. You will only see it in combination with je to express the the-the-relation. I just bit my tongue by the way.
Time for examples

  • The more I study, the wiser I become.
  • Je mehr ich studiere, desto weiser werde ich.
  • The more I sleep the more tired I am.
  • Je mehr ich schlafe, desto müder bin ich.

The desto can actually be replaced by another  je, so you could say je… je…  but to my perception that is something you will rarely hear in spoken language. Oh and then there is the word umso (pron: oomzo) which is also used instead of desto and also instead of je at times.

  • Je früher ich aufstehe, umso länger ist mein Tag.
  • The earlier I get up, the longer my day is.
  • Umso mehr ich nachdenke umso weniger gefällt mir die Idee.
  • The more I think about it, the less I like the idea.

These are okay, but what won’t work is the combination  umso… desto. Don’t ask me why but it just sounds wrong to me. I would recommend to stay away from umso anyway,  as you will very likely pronounce it quite similar to um zu (pron: oom tsoo), which means ‘in order to’. A mispronunciation there will totally change the meaning of your sentence and it will be hard to guess what you are going for. So stick with our tag-team je… desto. It’s what people use the most anyway.
So that’s it for today. This was our look at the very very hyper useful combination je… desto… and you definitely should learn and use it. If you have any questions just leave me a comment.
Hope you enjoyed it and see you next time.