The meaning of “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
has two clear meanings – equal and right away.
And the first one is right in line with where the word came from…

“gleich” as “equal”

The origin of gleich is the Germanic… uhm… word 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. And while like still expresses similarity, gleich is more strict – it expresses equality, and translates to same, equal  or equally.
Here’s a couple of examples, from math and humanity :)

  • 2 + 2 = 4 – Zwei plus Zwei ist gleich 4.
  • 2 plus 2 equals 4.
  • Alle Menschen sind gleich.
  • All humans are equal.

There is also a real word for the verb to equal in German but at least in math we say “is equal“.
Now, if  gleich in sense of same is used as an adjective before a noun, then of course it gets all the corresponding endings. So there’s gleiche, gleichem, gleiches and so on.
And if you’re not sure yet which ending to put… I have a quick hack for you: add an ‘e’. This will automatically get about 40 % correct and, what’s even more important is that you’ll have the right rhythm. You see… gleich is just one syllable, gleich-e is two. This change is huge and saying one syllable instead of two will smash to bits any effort to not sound like a complete beginner.
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.

  • Ich habe das gleiche Fahrrad wie du.
  • I have the same bike as you.
  • Ich nehme den gleichen Wein wie letzte Woche.
  • I’ll have the same wine as last week.
  • All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
  • Alle Tiere sind gleich, aber manche sind gleicher.
  • Thomas und Maria sind fast gleich groß.
  • Thomas and Maria are almost equally tall.

Why is there no ending on gleich in the last example, you wonder?
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 :)

Of course gleich is also the translation for THE same. Then it is das Gleiche, der Gleiche, die Gleiche, dem Gleichen etc, beacause… you know… the Cayszuss – that hostile alien race that learners have to deal with.

“Captain, the Cases are about to over-complicate our warp-sentence.”
“Raise shields and pick them up at random one at a time!”
“Great plan Captain.”

  •  “Maria hat eine neue Hose.”
    “Ja ich weiß, ich habe die Gleiche.”
  • “Maria has a new pair of pants”
    “Yes I know, I have the same.”

  • “Ich nehme ein Steak mit Kartoffeln.”
    “Ich nehme das Gleiche
  • “I’ll have the steak with potatos.”
    “I’ll have the same.”

Now, besides gleich German also has selbe as a translation for same. So there is das selbe, dem selben and so on. And on paper, there actually is a difference. Specifically, das selbe refers to the exact item, while das gleiche refers to an item of the same type.

  • Ich benutze die gleiche Zahnbürste wie du.
  • I use the same toothbrush as you.
    (the same type)
  • Ich benutze die selbe Zahnbürste wie du.
  • I use the same toothbrush as you.
    (the same one… like, literally)

But honestly… at least I don’t really feel this difference and in daily life I use the two interchangeably. Sometimes people pretend like it matters, but trust me… they perfectly understand what you mean.

Cool, so now that we know the first meaning of gleich, it’s time for… the second one :). And that is about time.

“gleich” as “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.

  • “Hör auf zu spielen und mach Hausaufgaben.”
    “Ja, mach ich gleich.”
  • “Stop playing and start doing homework.”
    “Yeah I’ll do it in a second.”

The German Fortnite kid meant gleich in sense of two 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.

  • “NEIN! Sofort!”
  • “NO! Immediately!”

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.

  • Ich komme gleich.
  • I’ll be there right away.
  • Bis gleich.
  • See you in a bit.

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?

  • Ich ruf dich gleich an, wenn ich nach Hause komme.
  • I will call you right away, when I get home.
  • Gleich nachdem ich die Tür zugemacht hatte, fiel mir auf, dass mein Schlüssel noch in der Wohnung war.
  • Right after I closed the door, I realized that my keys was still in the apartment.

All right.

So these are the two meanings of gleich:  the idea of same and the idea of right away.
Here they are again, back to back.

  • Thomas und Maria gehen gleich schnell.
  • Thomas und Maria gehen gleich ins Kino.
  • Thomas and Maria go equally fast.
  • Thomas and Maria will go to the movies shortly.

They’re really almost gleich but the context makes it clear which meaning it is.
Some of you might be wondering, if we can tie the meanings together somehow? Well, we could say that the timegleich is referring to the same time as now. But it’s definitely some mind yoga, and maybe it makes more sense to just see them as two completely separate ideas.

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’.

  • “Einen schönen Tag noch.”
    Gleichfalls
  • “Have a good one.”
    “And you./You too. ”

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?

 

4.6 12 votes
Article Rating

Newsletter for free?!

Sign up to my epic newsletter and get notified whenever I post something new :)
(roughly once per week)

No Spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Your Thoughts and Questions

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
81 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Hanna
Hanna
1 year ago

Hi – one quick question – do you see any difference between ausgleichen and begleichen?

Kredite können gewährt oder Schulden beglichen/ausgeglichen werden.

Many thanks

Martin
Martin
1 year ago

Hey
Es faellt mir schwer, diesen Satz herunterzubrechen:

Die sind es gleichen

Oberflaechlich betrachtet scheint er so einfach zu sein. Ich bin mir nicht sicher, welche Funktion das helfende Verb hat?

Gibt es einen Unterschied zu diesem Satz?:

Die sind gleich

Danke

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago

What does “gleich” express in these examples?

Am Samstag fanden dort gleich zwei Verhandlungen statt …

Traurig, dass das in so kurzer Zeit gleich zwei mal passiert.

I keep wanting to think it seems similar to “sogar” in a way. Could it be paraphrased as “nicht nur einmal, sondern zweimal”?

Annasc
Annasc
3 years ago

I just LOVE the design of the test in this page. Hope you will use it everywhere!

billyd
billyd
3 years ago

Great article!!
I have a question regarding the articles when using gleich as a noun. You mention give die Gleiche, das Gleiche, der Gleiche, dem Gleiche. Is the nomitive die Gleiche? I am not sure that I understand when it would change to das Gleiche.

John Gleichman
John Gleichman
3 years ago

Good evening Emanuel,

Your format and method of teaching is commendable. I was just scrolling through the comments, and I’ve learned much just by following the thread–splendid job! I was just starting to research my family name, Gleichman, which I am pretty sure was once spelled ‘Gleichmann.’ My question is which form of ‘gleich’ would my family name have been referencing? And are there many people in Germany named ‘Gleichmann? Please reply at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,
John

Mohamed Amine Adouni
Mohamed Amine Adouni
3 years ago

Hallo!
“Gleich daneben finden Sie die Praxis des Betriebsarzts”
What does “gleich” means in this sentence????!!!!!

A.Imtinan
A.Imtinan
3 years ago

Hey man. U must be busy. Please look into my last post. It would be very helpful. Thnx

A.Imtinan
A.Imtinan
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I guessed so. Please look into it when u get free. Look into the immediate preceding post.

A.Imtinan
A.Imtinan
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thnx a bunch man. And keep up the incredible work. (Y)

A.Imtinan
A.Imtinan
4 years ago

Hey Emmanuel, could u please translate the following “In dinner I eat the same as in lunch”

A.Imtinan
A.Imtinan
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thnx a bunch!
Few points to discuss.

1-“gleiche” here is noun right?
2-a friend of mine translated the same(not same strictly. It was “I eat the same in dinner as in lunch” but nevermind) but used “als wie” instead of “wie”. Is that correct?
3-When I was translating I thought I would use “so……wie” since we’re comparing sorta two entities. When I wrote first it was”Zum Abendessen esse ich so gleiche wie Mittagessen” which I think is wrong and I’d like u to explain y.
4-When I told my buddy to use “so… wie” he translated as u did except this time he replaced “wie” with “so…wie”. Is that correct too?

A.Imtinan
A.Imtinan
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

For point 3 let me put two sentances for ease of understanding:

1-“Meine Arbeit ist so schwer wie deine Arbeit”-“My work is as hard as your work”

2-“Ich arbeite die gleiche Arbeit wie du abeitest”-“I do the same work as you do”

*Please point out if I’ve made any other mistakes in making the sentences (fyi I’m a beginner learner).

In sentence 1 we’re comparing by adjectives(“schwer” being that) hence using “so…wie”. In sentence 2 we’re doing the same by noun ie “Arbeit” hence using “wie”. Have I got that?

In point 4 I told my friend if there was anyway to use “so…wie” while translating the sentence I gave u to translate at the very start. So he translated it as “Ich esse das gleiche zum abendessen so wie zum mittagessen”. Almost same as yours except he uses “so…wie” instead of “wie”. Is that correct?

lisa.wilson1111
lisa.wilson1111
4 years ago

Looooooove your site. You’re a legend. Your sense of humour is soooo helpful for learning. Vielen vielen dank!

Carson
Carson
4 years ago

Hey Thanks for the article!
Could you explain the two „gleich“s in this short conversation?

A: Das ist ja schön. Jetzt sind alle zusammen. Dann kann ich ‘nen Vorschlag machen.
B: Ich muss Deutsch lernen.
A: Wunderbar, hier geht GLEICH einer in die Luft.
C: Wie ist denn dein Vorschlag?
A: Also: Offensichtlich hat niemand Zeit für Hausarbeit.
D: Niemand?
A: Ja, also zumindest nicht alle GLEICH viel! Ich finde, wir sollten uns einen Saugroboter kaufen, um uns die Arbeit zu sparen.

Thanks in advance!

oniongood
oniongood
5 years ago

Hi, this article is really inspiring! I have a quick question: how will people respond to bis gleich? Thank you!

Magnus75
Magnus75
5 years ago

I’m trying to determine the exact meaning of the lyrics to a song which contain the phrase “küss mich gleich noch mal”. Does this mean “kiss me again right now” or “kiss me again the same way” (“kiss me again like that!” etc.). Or could it be both?

Magnus75
Magnus75
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Vielen Dank!

Ham
Ham
5 years ago

You are the best!!
Many thanks.

Ich kann nicht es ausdrucken, wie ich froh bin, dass ich Ihre Seite gefunden habe.

siddhartha90
6 years ago

Excellent article, very useful.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

great Job

person243
person243
6 years ago

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.

Der Junge
7 years ago

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

c*
c*
7 years ago

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 ;-)

Craig
Craig
7 years ago

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?

Craig
Craig
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yes, that’s me :D

The English version is a somewhat derogatory statement that you can say to people to express a general disinterest in their opinions/feelings/interests. It’s a bit misanthropic and is used if someone contradicts a sweeping generalization you make.

“All these teenagers these days listen to such terrible music like A, B, C…”
“I don’t listen to any of those, how can you say my music taste is terrible?”
“Eh, you teens. You’re all the same to me.”

Craig
Craig
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Interesting. I would say the English translation can mean either of the two German ones, depending on the context and tone. And to make it a little more derogatory, you can specify the “you” you’re referencing. For example, “you people are all the same” has a little more attitude than “you’re all the same” in my opinion. But either way, in the English version, making such a statement implies that you don’t care about people in general. Thanks for the clarification!

schwanzschwanz
schwanzschwanz
7 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

This is a super helpful comment. I was wondering the same thing while reading the article (bzw. the difference between “You’re all equal” and “You’re all the same”). It also highlights a problem I have in German constantly– I never know when to use “mir” and when to use “für mich,” or if they can be interchangeable. Have you ever addressed this in an article, or do you have any tips for understanding the difference?

schwanzschwanz
schwanzschwanz
7 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Oohh, danke schön! Aber ehrlich gesagt bin ich noch verwirrter als vorher, denk ich

schwanzschwanz
schwanzschwanz
7 months ago
Reply to  schwanzschwanz

Oh, my laughing emoji disappeared. I mean it only in good fun :)