“verschieden, anders, unterschiedlich” – the difference

anders-verschieden-differenHello everyone,

and welcome to something we haven’t had in a loooong time… a  “What is the difference”-special. And today’s special is especially special , because we’ll look at the differences between the different German words for different.

anders, verschieden and unterschiedlich

 

How does that sound to you, studio cat?
“Mrrreeeeow!”
Studio cat approves. Perfect.
And before I confuse you more, let’s dive right in into the world of differences

The difference between those words and knowing when to use which is a problem for many learners. The good news is that there is a very very clear distinction. At least between anders and the other two. So here it comes… imagine you have two sets of something – A and B.

Anders is about comparing items of one set with items of another set. It is external. 

verschieden and unterschiedlich are about comparing items within one set. They are internal. 

And that makes total sense when you look at the origin of the words. Anders (and of course also andere/n/m/r/s) as well as the English other come from the a turbo old root that was about…  the other one. Us vs them kind of thing.
Unterschiedlich and verschieden on the other hand belong to the family of shed. Now, this family is super crazy and you won’t believe what words belong to it. But we’ll actually do a whole post on it so for today, let’s say that the ones with shit in them are about discerning, telling apart.  Oh… I mean the ones with schied… crap… I think I just spoiled something.
So, anders is about items of one set vs items of another. The schied-words are about discerning, differentiating within a set. And because now everybody is like “Uhm… okay… can we do an example?” we’ll do an example :). Take the following sentence.

  • In the second bar, I tried different beers.

We have two bars here, the first one and the second one. Those are our two sets and the items in the set are the beers I tried at the place.
Now, if we use andere (I hope you don’t mind that I already added the proper adjective ending) we’re pitting the beers I had in the first bar with those I had in the second.  Like… in the first bar, I tried PBR and  PBR Light and PBR Zero Taste®  while in the second bar I tried Beck’s and Guinness and Crew Ale.
If we use either of the schied-words on the other hand, we’re comparing the beers I had in the second bar.

Let’ do another example

Again, we have no context here so both versions are possible. Can you guess what the difference is?
Exactly, the first version means that I tried other things than someone else. The second version merely means that I’ve tried a bunch of things that were somewhat diverse.
Cool. Another one? Yeah, let’s do one more.

I’m pretty sure you got it right: the first version means that Maria and her sister are different than some other group of people, maybe some other pair of siblings. The second one means that Maria is very different from her sister. Anders groups them up and compares them with an external set, verschienden looks for differences within the items.

Now, in the examples we had so far, both option were possible. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes the context only allows for one.

  • My bike is different.

Okay, this is not exactly a lot of context and still we only have one option here:

Why? Well, it would sound quite odd to use verschieden here because we only have one item in the group. I mean how can it be verschieden… it’s only one. No, anders is the way to go and it compares Pink Flash from Hell with all those boring stock bikes out there. What?… Pink Flash? Oh.. uh… that’s just the name of my bike. I didn’t mean to say that. Try to ignore it, okay?

Anyways, now let’s look at an example where anders doesn’t work.

  • Talking and doing are two different things.

This one is not as clear as the one with the bike but still context strongly suggests that we need verschieden. The goal of the sentence is very likely a comparison of talking and doing. So we are comparing two items of one set. Technically, we could say andere but then everybody would be like “Different than what? Sleeping?”. Andere would bundle them up and compare them to something external while verschieden looks for difference between them.

verschieden vs unterschiedlich

Verschieden is the ge-form of the verscheiden but that is super rare and has nothing to do with differences anymore. Unterschiedlich is based on the noun der Unterschied. Der Unterschied means difference and it’s based on the verb (sich) unterscheiden, which means to differentiate, to be different. But they’re definitely akin. If one doesn’t work, nor will the other and as a matter of fact, on a superficial level, on a level of meaning, the two are interchangeable.

The difference between the two is not the meaning but the “feel”.
For one thing, the words vibe kind of mirrors their sound. I know this might sound stupid but bear with me please. Verschieden sounds rather straight forward, orderly and direct. At least compared to unterschiedlich, which is all over the place. U, A, sch, I, d, l, ch. The tongue has to move around a lot here. Like a butterfly. Yeah, that’s a nice image… verschieden is the flight of a bee, unterschiedlich is a butterfly. Both are erratic but the latter is a lot more chaotic. And that’s kind of the vibe of the words.

This sounds like a bunch of idea, that are somewhat different from each other.

This sounds a little more like the result of brain-storming – or at least a little tiny bit more random.

The second one sounds like a more eclectic collection to me. I don’t know… maybe that’s just me though and other German speakers don’t feel that.
Anyways… there’s another difference between the verschieden and unterschiedlich.
In the example with the Baltic Sea weather we’ve seen that both words can carry the idea of divers(e). like… I have a bunch of diverse items in the group.
But sometimes we have groups within a group… uhm… yeah… I don’t know what that’s supposed to say either. Quick, we need an example:

The thing is… we have two people so within the group, there are two subgroups. The ideas Thomas and the ideas of Maria. And that means there are two possible ways of comparisons. We can compare the ideas in general and we can compare his idea with her ideas.

  • Thomas and Maria have a bunch of different ideas for the project.
  • Thomas and Maria have different ideas for the project.

Unterschiedlich leans toward the second while verschieden could express either.
But this is really more of a nuance and it rarely comes to bear.

Here, the context leaves little doubt that we’re comparing his ideas to her ideas and they’re different.
So, bottom line…  unterschiedlich and verschieden are not exactly the same but the differences are small and rarely affect the meaning so you shouldn’t worry about it too much.
What really matters is that you understand the difference between verschieden and unterschiedlich on the one hand and anders on the other. Anders compares to something external, something that is often not part of the sentence. The schied-words look at the elements inside a group and try to discern them, make out differences between them.
Here’s a somewhat more practical rule of thumb

Use ander- if the different in your sentence could be extended to a
“different than something” 

Use verschieden-/unterschiedlich- if you can replace different with divers(e) without completely altering the meaning.

And that’s it for today. I’ve prepared a little quiz for you so you can try out what you’ve learned. If you want you can post your translation in the comments and I’ll correct it. But you can also just try to figure out which word to use. And of course if anything is unclear just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

(solutions are in the audio)

  1. The shirt is nice but I need a different size.
  2. The vibe Berlin is very different than in München.
  3. The weather in Berlin varies a lot.
  4. “Verschieden” and “anders” have different meanings.
  5. That looks very different to when I first saw it.
  6. Maria and I, we have different ideas of what a clean kitchen is.
  7. Oh, in that case it’s something different.

  8. Live your style. Be different.
  9. At that bar they have 20 different beers.
  10. I don’t understand why you have to have three different phones.

for members :)

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Brian Wilson

das hemd is schon aber ich brauche eine andere Grosse
Das Gefuhl in Berlin ist ganz anders als in Munchen
Das Wetter in Berlin ist ganz unterschiedlich
Vershieden un anders haben ganz unterschiedlich Bedeutungen
Das sieht ganz verschieden aus als wenn ich es zuert gesehen habe.
Maria und ich haben andere Ideen von eine saubere Kuche
Oh dann ist das etwas anders
Leb dein Stil. Sei etwas anders
In jenem Bar haben sie zwantzig verschiedene Biere
Ich verstehe nich warum du hast drie verschiedene Telefonen.

You’re right
The weather in the Baltic is not ‘different’ – that doesn’t work. But ‘something else’ would work.
By the way – diverse has an e at the end.

Let me know which of these are wrong.

Cheers and keep up the good work. Very interesting stuff.

Brian from Scotland

Brian Wilson

apologies for the lack of umlaute
and for misspellign ‘drei’

Steven Yue
Steven Yue

Awesome … thank you. This is very clear to me. Another thing ‘divers’ in English is written as ‘diverse’ (with an ‘e’)

Rohelohe

A small correction:
Divers = die Taucher
Diverse = verschieden

And thank you for yet another wonderful post! :)

Matt
Matt

You missed the -e in diverse!

Robin A.
Robin A.

Lol, it was rather funny the first time I read about the ‘schied’ family of words. Etymology can be amusing sometimes.

sharlafield
sharlafield

Your posts are always so informative and humourously written. I love to read them. Just a small correction: diverse is spelled with an e on the end. Thank you for explaining when to use these words. It is not even a subject I would have known to ask about for clarification. It is one of the reasons your blog is such a goldmine for learning German.

Aoin D

Here goes…

Das Hemd ist nett, aber brauche ich eine andere Größe
Die Stimmung in Berlin ist unterschiedlich als in München
Das Wetter in Berlin ist sehr unterschiedlich
“Verschieden” und “anders” haben verschiedenen Bedeutungen
Das sieht sehr anders aus, als wann ich es erste sah
Maria und ich, haben wir verschiedenen Ideen über was eine saubere Küche macht
Ach, in diesem Fall ist es irgendwas anders
Lebe deinen Stil. Sei unterschiedlich.
An der Bar gibt es zwanzig verschiedenen Biere.
Ich verstehe es nicht, warum du drei verschiedenen Telefone hast.

Deon
Deon

10. Ich verstehe gar nicht warum du nicht das Leben ohne drei verschiedene Handys schaffen kannst.

L'anglais sprechen
L'anglais sprechen

Thank you once again for an informative and amusing post.

Let me jump in first and tell you that I’m sure you mean to write “diverse” rather than “divers”… I genuinely thought for a second you were talking about comparing things when people go underwater in the deep sea or something…

wiztroubjest
wiztroubjest

That’s also an alternative British spelling of diverse.

wiztroubjest
wiztroubjest

Maybe not British….but, it’s in the dictionary.

Simon
Simon

“The weather at the Baltic Sea is very divers/varies a lot. ”

Du hast recht : hier kann man “diverse” mit “different” nicht austauschen. Das wort “different” würde wie “anders” sein. Aber man schreibt das Wort “diverse” mit einem “e” auf Englisch. :-)

Danke fur den Artikel !

wiztroubjest
wiztroubjest

I would also often make the mistake of using ‘ander-‘ instead of ‘weiter-‘. (‘Ich hole ein anderes Bier.’ stattdessen ‘Ich hole ein weiteres Bier.’) So, ‘other/different’ instead of ‘other/further’. I was corrected a few times, and I think I’ve got it now, but I’d always lump those four “verschieden-, unterschiedlich-, ander-, and weiter-” in the same group of different/other.

Wesley
Wesley

Can you explain the rules to which connector (Fuge) to use to make compound nouns?
Also any news on when can I purchase your ultimate guide on German prefix verbs?

Paolo
Paolo

Wegen “Oh, das ist verschieden/unterschiedlich.”
kann man auch sagen “Jeden Tag ist anders?”
Oder würde es anders bedeuten?

As an adverb, anders seems to be the normal choice to me, or is it?

z.B: man kann nicht Äpfel mt Birnen vergleichen, weil sie ganz anders sind.
Aber man kann zwei verschiedene Typen von Birnen vergleichen.
Und sie könnten ganz anders schmecken.

alokgarg47

Awesome Post. Thanks! I try translating :-)

The shirt is nice but I need a different size.
Das Hemd ist sehr nett, aber ich brauche eine andere Größe.

The vibe Berlin is very different than in München.
Die Stimmung in Berlin ist sehr unterschiedlich als wie in München.

The weather in Berlin varies a lot.
Das Berlines Wetter ist sehr unterschiedlich.

“Verschieden” and “anders” have different meanings.
Verschieden und anders haben unterschiedliche Bedeutung.

That looks very different to when I first saw it.
Das sieht sehr anders aus, als ich einst gesehen habe.

Maria and I, we have different ideas of what a clean kitchen is.
Maria und ich, wir haben verschiedene Ideen von was eine saubere Küche ist.

Oh, in that case it’s something different.
Oh! In diesem Fall, ist es etwas anders.

Live your style. Be different.
Leb deinen Stil. Sei anders.

At that bar they have 20 different beers.
In jenem Bar haben Sie 20 verschiedene Biere.

I don’t understand why you have to have three different phones.
Ich verstehe nicht, warum du drei unterschiedliche Handys haben musste.

Ano Menschkind Königin
Ano Menschkind Königin

Ich mache die Aufgabe später, ich habe was dir zu erzählen. Heute in der Bibliothek fand ich 1 Ärzte CD (ich ❤ denen) & die neue Praktikantin war ganz begeistert darum. Die & ich hatten ein freundliches Gespräch. Was das bedeutet, ist dass ich ENDLICH hier Nicht-Arschlöcher (dass MUSS 1 Wort werden! XD ) & es hatte mir viel Spaß gebracht. Vielen Dank, meine frühere Meinungen & Gefühlen zu schätzen & verstehen.

Doch ja, ich schaffe die Ausgabe bald!

Bill Kammermeier
Bill Kammermeier

Google Image Search for “divers”:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&authuser=0&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1396&bih=752&q=divers&oq=divers&gs_l=img.3..0l10.1456.2079.0.2205.6.5.0.1.1.0.105.417.4j1.5.0….0…1ac.1.64.img..0.6.422.4C91s70qShs

Anne Formanek

Thanks for the homework assignment! That was fun. If you don’t mind grading, I would love to see how I did.
Der Hemd ist nett, aber ich brauche eine andere Size?
Das Berlin Vibe unterscheidet sich viel von das Muenchenes
Berlin Wetter is sehr verschieden.
Die Bedeutungen von Verschieden und anders sind unterschiedlich.
Das sieht anders aus als wann ich es erst gesehen habe.
Maria und ich haben verschiedene Ideen um was eine reinige Kueche entsteht.
Ach, in diesem Fall ist es anders.
Leb dein Stil. Sei anders!
In diesem Lokal gibt es 20 vershiedene Biere
Ich verstehe nicht warum Sie drei untershiedliche Telefonen haben mussen

Anonymous
Anonymous

Sorry one question on your bike sentence.. i don’t really get why it would be anders there. It sort of makes me feel like you’re saying your bike is that one or anoher one as opposed to this one (?). Wouldn’t you use vershieden (or i guess unterschiedlich too) to express that it is different from other bikes (ie is different within the general bike group) ?

thank you for your posts!