German Language Blog

Dasselbe and das Gleiche – Not the same at all Posted by 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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About the Author: jan

My name is Jan and I live in the south west of Germany. My profession is being a project manager at a company that creates digital media (first of all internet related things). This is my job since over a decade so I´m quite familiar with the web and its tools. Whereat today almost every school kid does. But that´s one of the main reasons why nowadays there are quasi no more limits in the internet and so it can be used for all imaginable types of things. For example learning languages! And that´s where we are at the moment. I first got in touch with Transparent Language when my family and I used to live in France a couple of years ago. I just had a break from work and by coincidence I produced some cultural videos in French. A few months later the whole blogging thing came up and I was lucky to be a part of it. So now my (second) job is to feed you with information, exercises, vocabulary, grammar and stories about Germany and German language. For being a passionate videographer I´m trying to do this more and more by videos. If you have any wishes or needs of topics that should be treated here, please don´t hesitate to contact me via a comment field. I´m open to your suggestions (as long as they are not too individual) and will try to satisfy your needs.


  1. Allan Mahnke:

    This was quite thought provoking. It always helps to rethink these corners of grammar!

  2. Alejandro Valdivieso:


    My name is Alejandro Valdivieso and i have german nationality but i live in Venezuela. Me and my wife want to go to live to Germany.

    My question is:

    I would like to know if my wife as a Marketing Publicity can find a Job in there.
    I read in the Blog that Jan has a work like that.

    Thank you very much.

    I appreciate your response.

  3. Phil:

    The way that I learned it is gleich means equal. For something to be equal to something else you have to have more than one for comparison.

    So, dasselbe is 1 thing, point in time, etc Gleich is 2 or more that are identical to one another.

  4. Jai Vee:

    Love this enlightments…!!!