Is there a significant difference between jetzt, gleich, gerade and eben? What subtleties should you pay attention to when using these words? In what cases is each of them applied and when it is impossible to replace one with another? Look for answers in the article!

When we speak, we rarely think about why we used this or that word, we, as it were, by inertia, pronounce the most suitable option at a certain moment of speech. But one has only to try to figure out why this particular word was said, and not any other, as we cannot find an explanation in a stupor. This also applies to the four German words jetzt, gleich, gerade and eben, which can sometimes play a cruel joke on you!

To begin with, it should be noted that these words are not as simple as they seem: they are both adverbs, adjectives and modal particles – it all depends on the situation, method and time of use. Let’s figure it out together!

Gleich and jetzt: is there a difference?

At first glance, it is difficult to understand how these words differ (in addition to their spelling), because they are both used as if in the same situations, namely, when we want to indicate that something is about to happen or now.

But in fact, the difference between them is significant!
In short:

  • gleich is a promise,
  • jetzt – statement of fact.

Gleich will always be translated in the future tense, and jetzt in the present. If you remember this, then it is easy to use these words correctly.

How to of use

From the above, it is clear that there is certainly a difference between these words, but here it is also important to pay attention to the subtleties of using gleich and jetzt.

And the subtlety is that jetzt is literally right now, at the moment when it is pronounced, and gleich is in the near future.

For example, when you are asked to wash the dishes and you answer: gleich (now), then you do not wash it yet, but soon you will certainly do it. And if it says: Ich spüle jetzt das Geschirr, it means that the person is already in the process of washing the dishes.

jetzt = now and gleich = at once.

Sometimes the word gleich is also used in an ironic sense, then it means that I will never do it.

For example, they someone says to me: “Go do it”, and I answer, sighing and adding an interjection: Ah, gleich… So I am not going to do this at all.

Unfortunately, you can only understand that it’s sarcasm only by it’s intonation.

Also gleich means “the same“. For example, diese zwei Tassen sind gleich these two cups are the same. But this is a another story for this word…

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Let’s analyze interesting examples

To practice the correct use of these two “tricky” words, we propose you to analyze some examples:

  • gleich:
    • Kommst du jetzt? – Gleich! – Are you going? – Now!
    • Das werden wir gleich haben! – We’ll do it now!
    • Mach bitte die Tür zu! – Gleich. – Please close the door! – Now!
  • jetzt:
    • Er geht jetzt fort. – He’s leaving (right now).
    • Jetzt ist es aber genug! – Well, now that’s enough!
    • Bist du jetzt zufrieden? – Are you satisfied now?
    • Jetzt habe ich endlich meine Hausaufgabe durch. – Now I have finally completed my homework.

Eben and gerade

Eben translates as “now” or “just now”, and is also used to mean, “exactly”. It is used in the present and past tense.

  • Er war eben noch hier. – He was just here (in the past tense).
  • Er tritt eben ein. – He is just entering (in the present tense).

Eben is used in many cases. For example, when you want to emphasize that in a given situation it is impossible to change anything:

  • So ist das eben im Leben! – This is how it happens in life! (This is how it happens in life)

If we want to express ourselves in the imperative mood, the word eben can replace the particle “mal“:

  • Hör eben dieses Lied! – Listen to this song!
  • Fahren Sie eben mit dem Taxi, so geht schneller! – Take a taxi, it will be faster!

Eben is also used to mean “that’s it” (as a synonym for genau – exactly):

  • Wir gehen lieber am Samstag ins Schwimmbad. – Eben! (Genau!) – We’d better go to the pool on Saturday. – That’s it!

Or with negation:

  • Er hat dich doch danach gefragt, oder? – Eben nicht! – He asked you about it (or what?) – Just (not at all)!
  • Dieses Haus ist nicht eben billig. – This house is not (at all) cheap.

The synonym of the word eben is gerade.

  • Gerade translates as “now”, “at that moment”, “just now”, “then”.

In general, the adverb “gerade” has several translations.

  • Er war gerade im Kino. – He has just been to the cinema (but not there).
  • Er ist gerade (= jetzt) ​​im Kino. – He’s in the cinema now.
  • Diese Frau ist gerade (= gerade eben) weggegangen. – This lady just left (a minute ago).

Also, the word gerade can refer to a specific moment in the past and mean “then” or “at that moment” (at that time), for example, in such constructions:

  • Die Kinder waren gerade im Zoo. – Children at that moment (then) were in the zoo.

This means that the interlocutor has previously told you the exact date of the event, or will tell you it immediately after this phrase.

It’s interesting that in German there is also a double variation of adverbs – gerade eben (just a minute ago).

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