“dass and das” – What’s the difference

dass vs das

(sorry for my voice in the audio, I have a little .. ahem… virus :)

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day and this time we have another:

“What is the Difference”-Special.

It’s been the biggest project so far. Hordes of interns have investigated around the clock (without pay), our scientists have conducted expensive series of experiments, our philosophers have been pondering like crazy. Heck, we even brought in some linguists to help… with the catering.
And thanks to the hard work and the zeal of everyone involved, we managed to find the answer to one of the most confusing questions about German language:

What is the difference between das and dass?

The answer is so simple and beautiful that any further introduction would insult it. So are you ready? Here it is…

One s.

Breathtaking! It’s so beautifully simple, you just know it’s got to be right.
And we’ve come up with a good way to memorize that:

One of ’em has double s, the other one has one s less.

“Emanuel, can you stop the BS and get to the actual difference?!?!”
Okay, okay… geez, you guys. So goal oriented. No more time for some fun in 2020, I guess. Well fine then. Let’s get into it.

The difference between the two das(s)-s is a written difference only. So you can’t hear it, and you don’t need to think about it while speaking. That’s great!
But still, it is important to write it correctly because the functions of the two words are entirely different. And if you mix up the two, the readers has to make a mental U-turn at full reading speed as soon as it becomes clear that the das they just read was actually a dass.
Seriously… many people have overstretched their Brainus Maximus muscle because of this.

Fortunately, the difference is not too hard to comprehend.
The root of the problem is that both words translate to that. Or 2.5 to be precise.

That is used for a lot of things, but they fall into two groups: article or pronoun on one side and conjunction on the other.
When that is used as an article or pronoun, its function is to verbally point at stuff. And with the highly linguistic term “stuff” I mean persons, things or informations of any kind. Let’s look at some examples.

  • I don’t like that bar there.  – pointing to the bar
  • Ich mag diese Bar da nicht.
  • Maria is dating Thomas now, did you know that? – pointing to the fact that Maria and Thomas are dating
  • Maria ist jetzt mit Thomas zusammen, wusstest du das?
  • I called the car, that I bought last week, “Enginelina Jolie”.
  • Ich habe das Auto, das ich letzte Woche gekauft habe, “Enginelina Jolie” genannt.

Note that all thats have a distinct functions here but in all three sentences, we can replace it with something the, this or which. The meaning might change slightly, but the general idea stays, and the sentence is still correct, because all these words have the same function.
And in German, it is the function of das with one s.
Now, not every such that will translate to das. It can also be der, dem, die, dendoh! or damn…
The one thing it  CANNOT be is dass.

Because dass  has nothing to do with entities. It refers to nothing and stands for nothing.
Actually, it doesn’t really mean anything. Its pure grammatical function. It’s the most basic conjunction there is and all it does is connecting a phrase to another. That doesn’t mean that it’s not important, though. Dass is ranked 29 on the list of the most frequently used words in written German and in spoken it is likely to be even higher.

  • Er hat gesagt, dass er um 10 anruft.
  • He said that he will call at 10.
  • Es ist klar, dass man Deutsch nicht in 2 Wochen lernen kann.
  • It is obvious, that you can’t learn German in 2 weeks.
  • Ich glaube, dass es morgen regnet.
  • I think, that it is going to rain today.

Now, remember the words I mentioned to replace that? The, this or which? Neither of them works here. We would wind up with absolute nonsense.
Let’s try it with the last one:

  • I think the/ that/ which is going to rain.

This is gibberish and it’s really confusing. And that’s about how confusing it is to mix up das and dass.

Now, is there something we can replace this “function”-that with, to check whether we need dass?
Well, in terms of meaning, not really. But we can replace it with other subordinating junk… uhm I mean.. conjunctions; like whether, when or if . The meaning won’t be the same but we still have a grammatically correct statement, because all the words have the same grammatical function.

  • Ich sage dir, dass/wann/ob ich heute komme.
  • I tell you that/when/if I will come today.

Now, these replacement tests are great if you have time, but it’s best if you try to develop a feeling for the different functions. It’s quite an important thing in language in general, and really understanding these concepts will help you get the gains you are looking for.
That said, let me tell you that even Germans misspell… for example my ex-girlfriend. She’s smart and pretty, but she uses das and dass randomly. And she also breaks hearts. But I digress.

So, let’s recap.
We’ve learned that the difference between das and dass is function.
Das used to refer or point to stuff, dass is used to connect actions.

“I tell you that that dress sucks.”

The first that connects the actions to think and to suck. We can replace it with why and still have a functioning sentence (with a different meaning, though). The second that refers to dress, and we can replace it with this or the.
So how would it be in German?
Exactly! The first one will be dass, the second one is das.
And here’s the ultimate mnemonic:

  • das – points at S-tuff.
  • dass – joins S-entence-S

And that’s it. Now you should be ready for a …. dassilicious exercises. Viel Erfolg :)

Sorry English language for the last example in the quiz :).
I couldn’t resist. We just have so many dass das in German.

  • Ich denke, dass das Mädchen, das das  Eis isst, später Bauchschmerzen hat.
  • I think that the girl who is eating the ice cream is in for a tummy ache later.

And that’s it for today. This was our look at the difference between das and dass and I hope the explanations made sense. Functuon is the key, remember. And getting a feeling for this function is helpful in many ways, throughout your language learning journey.
If you have any questions about the difference or the quiz,  just leave me a comment and we’ll clear it up.
Hope you liked it and see you next time.

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Anonymous
Anonymous
7 days ago

huh it was interesting article especially for russian native, there is so much stuff like this in my language

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 month ago

Hey thanks for all the things you’ve put out, they are massively helpful

james
james
5 months ago

Thanks for the info. What about using “die” instead of dass?
zb.
1) Ich akzeptiere DASS meine Daten elektronisch erfasst werden
2) Ich akzeptiere DIE allgemeinen Unterrichstbedingungen des Schulwerkes

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 months ago

yeh i have no clue but thanks :P

Kent
Kent
1 year ago

Greetings – I was under the impression that the “dass” clause couldn’t stand alone but I seem to see stand-alone “dass” clauses. For example : Familientag! Dass Sie mir bloss da keinen Termin reinschreiben! How do you translate this? Is there an implied independent clause?

Many thanks

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

ttrash website

priya debnath
priya debnath
1 year ago

Can you please explain this sentence –
Das haben diese angeklagten hier bewiesen.
What is das pointing to here ?

Onur
Onur
1 year ago

I have a main problem that I could never understand. Could you please help?

I can not distinguish “dass” and “relativ sätze.”

Ex:

Ich habe den Witz nie gehört, den unser Lehrer erzählt hat.
Ich habe den Witz nie gehört, dass unser Lehrer erzählt hat.

Das arme Kind, dem ich Geld gab, freute sich darüber sehr.
Das arme Kind, dass ich ihm Geld gab, freute sich darüber sehr.

Are both uses true?

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Hast du das Hausi gemacht

Aftab
Aftab
1 year ago

This was well written post. Thankyou :)

tompegrum
tompegrum
1 year ago

Another great article thanks!

In english a lot of the time we drop the conjunction that from sentences, can we do that in German?
e.g. in the last example I could say this instead- I think the girl who is eating the ice cream is in for a tummy ache later.

tompegrum
tompegrum
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Perfect- you just saved me so many words lol thanks!

yusuf elmal
yusuf elmal
1 year ago

that is the first time i see your blog. thanks for all. danke

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

your writing is shitze

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Thank you!

Randomdude
Randomdude
2 years ago

Thanks for the explanation, however waaaaaay too much fluff, wasting my time and then in the end, your last examples don’t even have the correct translation next to them, despite the fact that you mention multiple times how confusing it can get. I am half a step closer but spent the time for 2 steps and now three with my comment. lol

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

Should also point out if word order changes when you take out the “dass” in a sentence. I’ve heard around that it happens, but I’m not sure if it’s true.
Something like “Ich wusste, dass es richtig war” becomes “Ich wusste, es war (or “war es”) richtig”.

Author's girlfriend
Author's girlfriend
3 years ago

I read this blog you cheating bastard! And my friend told me you’ve been flirting with her!
I’m leaving you!!!!

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Thank you so much! This concept is so much clearer now.

PhilosoFree
PhilosoFree
5 years ago

I was reading ‘Der kleine Prinz’ and I came across the following sentence:

“Du wirst begreifen, dass die deine einzig ist in der Welt.”

After dass, the verb isn’t at the end.
Is there any exception whatsoever or should we avoid writing like this unless we are Goethe?
The place- (in der Welt) is at the end just to sound poetic?
Grammatisch Künstlerische Freiheit..?!?

Thanks in advance. Great blog!

PhilosoFree
PhilosoFree
5 years ago
Reply to  PhilosoFree

I suppose I’ll be without an answer on that one.

Alan
Alan
6 years ago

Nice post.
das – points at S-tuff. dass – joins S-entence-S (This is helpful)
Question: Is the ‘das’ (one ‘s’), in the following example of yours, working as a “pointing” subord. conjunction? (since the verb is at the very end of the sentence)

“Ich habe das Auto, ‘das’ ich letzte Woche gekauft habe, “Enginelina Jolie” genannt.”

If this was a test I’d get it wrong as I would think ‘dass’ fits correctly in this case.

To get acquainted with das/dass, one should be a smart as, and I try to be ass smart ass I can. ;p
Vielen dank!