Dasselbe and das Gleiche – Not the same at all Posted by jan on Jun 26, 2013 in Language
A colleague of mine posted this image on our German facebook last week. As it turned out, many people don´t know the difference between “dasselbe” and “das Gleiche”. So we want to give you a little help to understand the meaning of these two phrases.
First of all you can see that “dasselbe” and “das Gleiche” are not the same because “dasselbe” is one word whereas “das Gleiche” is written apart. But what is the meaning respectively the difference?
Let me show an example:
Zwei Jungs können nicht zur gleichen Zeit dasselbe Hemd anziehen, wohl aber das gleiche.
Two guys can cannot wear the same shirt at the same time, but the same.
Der-, die-, dasselbe says, that something is identical. Der, die, das Gleiche says that two things resemble perfectly. That means “dasselbe” exists only one time. In a manner of speaking “das Gleiche” is a copy or a clone.
Some further examples:
Sie fuhren beide das gleiche Auto, hatten aber nicht dasselbe Ziel.
They both drove the same car but they didn´t have the same destination.
Sie benutzten beide die gleiche Zahnbürste, aber niemals dieselbe.
They both used the same tooth brush, but never the same.
Mostly “dasselbe” is used instead of “das Gleiche” by mistake when we talk about identical things that exist in copies: “Dieselbe Hose habe ich auch!” (I´ve got the same trousers!) is wrong. You can only have “die Gleiche” (a similar one).
But there are mistakes the other way around as well. Every once in a while you can read “im gleichen Jahr” (at the same year) or “am gleichen Tag” (at the same day). But there can only be “im selben Jahr” and “am selben Tag” because no day and no year is like another one.
So why is “das Gleiche” written in two words but “dasselbe” as one word? Well, the word “gleich” is an adjective that stands alone and can be “substantivated”. Whereas the word “selbe” is not an adjective but a part of a demonstrative pronoun. It cannot stand alone, it is always bound to a definite article: derselbe, dieselbe, dasselbe, denselben, demselben, im (= in dem) selben Moment, am (= an dem) selben Tag.
Wow, that sounded complicated. For me the easiest mnemonic to remember is the thing with the clones… at least this is something to imagine.
But however: Even the Germans make a lot of mistakes with “dasselbe” and “das Gleiche”. So don´t worry if you make some during a conversation. I´m sure most people won´t even notice! 😉
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