What mistakes do Germans make in German? ALS or WIE – which conjunction to use when comparing? Does GEHEN always mean to go and LAUFEN means to run?

Being a native speaker does not mean speaking perfectly and without mistakes. In our article, we will analyze several popular mistakes that Germans themselves make in their speech. Remember them so you can speak correctly!

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Als vs Wie

Most often Germans make mistakes, and some simply don’t know when and what to use in sentences with the conjunctions ALS/WIE (comparison of what/how). Some don’t even bother and say wie in all sentences.

For example – Ich bin größer WIE du (literally: I am taller than AS you). However, in this case it would be correct to say: Ich bin größer ALS du.

WIE would be used for example in the following sentence: Ich bin genauso groß WIE du. – I am as tall as HOW you are.

But many people follow the rule “who cares, they’ll understand me…”. When foreigners make these kinds of mistakes, it’s forgivable, but for native speakers it should be important to speak correctly.

Dasselbe/ das gleiche

The second most common mistake is dasselbe / das gleiche. This mistake can create completely stupid expressions in your speech. If you are in the company of people who know the difference between these words and make the mistake, it is very likely to cause a laugh, because sometimes the meaning does become very comical.

dasselbe ≠ das Gleiche

So, what’s the difference: DASSELBE means physically the same item. For example:

Ich hab immer noch dasselbe Handy. – I still have the same phone.

DAS GLEICHE means “the same”, with regards to its qualities. For example:

Ich hab das gleiche Handy wie meine Schwester. – I have the same phone as my sister.

But many people do not pay attention to this difference and end up with situations such as one person eating ice cream and another person saying, “Ich will dasselbe Eis!” (“I want the same ice cream”). I’m sorry, but that’s my ice cream and I’m not going to share it. Or “Ich hab dasselbe Handy wie du” – if you translate it into English, it’s “You and I share the same phone.” I’m sorry, but the phone is mine and I know for a fact that I don’t share it with anyone.

Word order in a sentence

It seems that everyone who studied German at school was/is absolutely convinced that word order is the most important thing in German. Without it, no native speaker would understand you. I do not know about other schools, but in our country it was so: “wrong” word order was not forgiven and was considered almost the worst mistake. By the way, if you forget those same rules, you can repeat them by reading our article on the place of the verb in a German sentence. It’s true that the word order is important. But it will be considered a mistake only in written & formal speech, in essays, abstracts and so on.

In colloquial speech, however, it often does not matter in what place the verb stands. I realize that I am contradicting myself, because I said a little above that it is wrong to reason like “Oh, they understand me, and that is the main thing”, but in the order of words it really doesn’t matter when we are just talking to friends or family, in other words, in unprepared speech it’s perfectly fine because it’s much easier for the listener to understand your babbling, especially if you say long sentences and put the verb close to the meaning of the sentence rather than at the very end, when the person has already forgotten what you’re even talking about.

Gehen VS laufen

When I was at school, I was completely convinced that to go is always GEHEN, to run is LAUFEN. So when I was in Germany for the first time and heard something like “Ich bin den ganzen Weg zu Fuß gelaufen“, I asked why you ran when you could just walk, and besides, is there any other way to run than zu Fuß? And then the truth was revealed to me that laufen is not only “to run” but also simply “to go”, and in the second sense, the word is used in colloquial speech much more often.

When laufen is used in the sense of “run”, I think it is not necessary to explain. But I would like to give some examples of when this verb is used in the meaning of “to go”:

Wir sind in Frankfurt viel gelaufen. – In Frankfurt we walked a lot.
Von mir aus können wir in die Stadt laufen und nicht mit dem Bus fahren. – I think it is possible to go into town on foot instead of taking the bus.

The meanings of this verb, like all the others, are many, but I wanted to say only this meaning, because it is the one that might cause surprise to someone who has never spoken to native speakers before.

And since I mentioned these verbs, here are two important constructions that are very often used in, again, colloquial speech:

Ich bin heute an ihrem Haus vorbeigelaufen. – I passed by her house today.
Ich bin heute bei ihr vorbeigegangen. – I stopped by her house today (a short visit, that is, the person just dropped in for a short visit).

Good luck with your German learning!

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