Word of the Day – “gleich”

Hello everyone,these boys are gleich

and welcome to our German word of the day. This time we are going to look at the meaning of:

gleich

 

If you have spent time in Germany, gleich is a word you have probably heard and read a lot. Fortunately it is not one of those weird words that seem to mean nothing and everything at the same time, like doch or mal.
Gleich
means only two things. But let’s start at the beginning…

The origin of gleich is the  Germanic ḣa-lîka. Yeah… no idea how to pronounce that :). This Germanic word meant something along the lines of having a similar or matching body, and it is also the origin of the English word like. Both these words do have the idea similarity in them but it’s more alive in gleich as its first meaning is  same, equal  or equally.
The first 2 examples are brought do you by: math and humanity… what a combination.

There is also a word for to equal German but for math we say “is equal”.  Anyway, gleich in sense of same is used as an adjective and gets all the corresponding endings. If you’re not sure yet which ending to put… that is no problem as long as you put at least an ‘e’. This will automatically get about 40 % correct and, what’s even more important, the rhythm will be correct. Gleich is just one syllable, gleich-e is 2. This change is huge and saying one syllable instead of 2 will smash to bits any effort to not sound like a complete beginner. So keep in mind for any adjective you use :

ADD AN E!

I’ll add a link to the article on adjective endings below if you want to know more.
Let’s look  at some more examples for the same-gleich.

Why is there no ending on gleich in the last example? That’s because gleich is referring to tall there; so it is an adverb (the things that end in -ly in English or -ment in French) and those never get endings in German. Don’t you love them already :)
The comparative form more same or more equal doesn’t really make sense but George Orwell gave us a wonderful phrase to translate.

Gleich is also used for THE same. Then it is das Gleiche, der Gleiche, die Gleiche, dem Gleichen etc, you know… the cases… sounds like a hostile alien race in Star Trek. “Captain, the Cases are about to over-complicate our warp-sentence.” “Raise shields and pick them at random one at a time!” “Great plan captain.”

There is also the word das Selbe in German and I guess there is actually a difference but I do not feel any, and the mighty Internet, or as some like to call it, the omniscient landfill did not help me out… so whenever someone gets all smart ass on you explaining why it is das Selbe instead of das Gleiche and how funny it was what you said, just tell him:

In this case gleich is the same as egal so the sentence basically means “I don’t care.” And you shouldn’t because finding differences between das Gleiche and das Selbe is really splitting hairs.
Cool, now let’s get to the second meaning of gleich and that is related to time.

gleich now

Gleich is a very common word for shortly or right away. It is not as soon as immediately but certainly sooner than… later.  I’d say gleich can reach like half an hour or so into the future but not more. But okay.. time is relative, after all.

The German kid meant gleich in sense of 2 hours by the way – cause time is REALLY relative when you play computer – and just used it to make it sound as if the homework were to be dealt with any time soon. But mom is experienced and can read between the lines plus she knows the perfect counter to gleich.

Damn. She is being serious.
So… gleich means shortly or right away and it is SUPER common in daily life. Here are two of the most commonly used phrases.

Now, besides being used in relation to right now,  gleich can also be used with a referenced point in time in past or future. What do I mean by that?

All right.

So these are the two meanings of gleich – the idea of same and the idea of right away. And if you think about it, the temporal gleich kind of ties in with the sae-gleich. How so? Well, it’s referring to the same time as now…. well, sort of.
Anyway, here are 2 sentences – one for each gleich. They’re really almost gleich but the context makes it clear which meaning it is.

  • Thomas and Maria go equally fast.
  • Thomas and Maria will go to the movies shortly.

To wrap this all up, here are some words that originate from gleich, to build your vocab. The verb gleichen means to resemble, the words ausgleichen means to compensate or to balance and vergleichen means to compare. The ge-stem is -glichen by the way. As for nouns we have die Gleichung which is an equation and die Gleichheit which is equality. Oh an important one is gleichfalls. It means ‘the same to you’.

I feel like I have forgotten some important ones but I will just add them later. If you have questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.

further reading:

German Adjective Endings 1

 

Test yourself :). 

How much do you remember from the article?

 

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Test yourself on "gleich".

What are the two meanings of gleich? (pick two)

What does the phrase “Das ist mir gleich” mean?

What can the sentence “Thomas und Maria laufen gleich langsam” mean? (more than one answer possible)

What’s the German word for equation?

What’s the German word for inequality?

What’s the German word for to compare?

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sabrina
sabrina

In my first German lesson Heike and Hanz were meeting for an ice cream. It was “Gliech um die Ecke”, which was translated to “Right around the corner.” Is this correct?

Tofer
Tofer

I was watching Das Leben der Anderen the other day, and there’s a scene in the beginning when Wiesler is playing a tape for his students of an interrogation he did. He plays the dialogue from the beginning of the interrogation and then fast-forwards about 40 hours and plays some additional dialogue. The man being interrogated repeats the same line of dialogue (which sounds like it has been rehearsed) when asked about his whereabouts on a certain day every time he’s asked. Wiesler asks his students if they notice anything peculiar about his statement now compared to the beginning. One student says something like: “Er sagt das Gleiche wie am Anfang.” Wiesler responds: “Er sagt das SELBE wie am Anfang. Wort für Wort.” (with intonation on Selbe)

Wouldn’t that suggest that das Selbe means EXACTLY the same, while das Gleiche means basically the same, kind of like the difference between twins and identical twins? Sorry, I don’t mean to be splitting hairs! I just thought there was a clear difference between the two. You’re my sensei so if you tell me they’re the same I’ll totally drink the kool aid.

trackback

[…] “equal/ly,” “similar” and “alike.” According to German is Easy, both gleich and the English word “like” come from the same root. The word falls on […]

Ash
Ash

Really great article, very well explained! thanks.

Ash
Ash

p.s.- You have a lil mistake in the first part, in this sentence ‘but fortunately it is not one of those weird words that don’t mean nothing…’

Ash
Ash

Woops nevermind my mistake!

alina
alina

your lessons are simply amazing. i’ve been looking for this kind of approach and i am very happy that your explanations are exactly what i’ve expected :D thanks a lot and i am looking forward for more verbal prefixes! :D

Lucius
Lucius

There is a very good explanation including examples of gleich and selbe in der Spiegel Zweibelfisch
http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/zwiebelfisch/zwiebelfisch-abc-dasselbe-das-gleiche-a-311593.html
Lucius

Sam
Sam

I have a question. I am looking for the German expression for “same here.” To agree with how someone feels or with something they like or have done.

For example:

+Nachdem ich in der Schweiz zwei Jahre lang wohne, finde ich sie, meine Lieblingsland zu sein.
+(Same Here).
-After living in Switzerland for two years, I find it to be my favorite country.
-Same here. (Switzerland is also my favorite country)

+Ich habe den ganze Tag für die Physikprüfung gelernt.
+(Same here).
-I studied all day for the physics exam.
-Same here.

Danke im Voraus :)

Maykel Fonts
Maykel Fonts

What does ‘gleich’ mean here ?

A: Ist der Spargel denn aus Deutschland oder wurde er importiert?
B: Das ist deutscher Spargel. Bayerischer, um genau zu sein.
A: Schön, da nehme ich ein Pfund mit. Oder besser “gleich” zwei.

Kvrdz
Kvrdz

Hallo Emmanuel,
Ich wollte wiessen, ob “Gleich” im Sinne von “just” oder “quickly” verwendet werden Kann? Also, Ich hole mir gleich Tabak. (Wenn du bereits an der Kasse angestanden bist und du willst Tabak oder sowas holen muss).
Danke im Voraus

Kvrdz
Kvrdz

*Ach, *wissen *musst

Kvrdz
Kvrdz

Ach ok, Wie wäre es mit, “Kurz” ? Ich gehe kurz mal Tabak holen?

Kvrdz
Kvrdz

Danke, Ich bin ehrlich dankbar.
Ach, Ich muss immer noch mit der Feinheiten zurechtkommen. Obwohl ich in Deutschland ein wenig mehr als eineinhalb Jahr gewohnt habe.

Kvrdz
Kvrdz

Ich wohne immer noch hier, HH um genau zu sein.

Kvrdz
Kvrdz

Ach,Danke für die Korrektur. Naja lernt man jeden Tag was neues. Aber wieso “erst”. Kann man wahlweise das weglassen? oder geht es um eine Feste Redewendung oder so?

Craig
Craig

EN: You’re all the same to me.
DE: Ihr seid mir alle gleich.

Would this be an appropriate way to say this in German? Or is there a better way to say it?

c*
c*

Always love how German is described and/or explained and this one is really good. So thanks for that! :-) Regarding one of your points made (and some have already talked about this in the comments):

I know you wrote finding differences between das Gleiche and das Selbe is really splitting hairs – but I think it can be explained quite easily:

Whereas das Gleiche refers to something similar das Selbe refers to the identical thing. So for example when Tino has a pair of jeans and you say you have die gleiche Hose, you are saying you have a pair just like his. When you say you have die selbe Hose you would actually be implying the pair you are having is Toni’s. So you are sharing it with him. This goes for any other context but even Germans get it confused every now and then. The subtle difference is used for one joke or another though ;-)

Der Junge

Danke shoen ^^. I swear, your site is #1 for learning German :)

person243
person243

In the context of the time-related “gleich”. I always say that “gleich” is the time you like to wait for a bus. So it can be any time between zero to thirty minutes or longer. But the longer it takes the earier you become and the less “gleich” it gets. I really like your website by the way.