German synonyms. Difference between verschieden and unterschiedlich, anders

Last Updated on October 8, 2022

This is such a classic problematic synonymous series in different languages: the words “different” and “other”. In the German version it is mainly about difference between verschieden and unterschiedlich, anders.

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Let’s start with the forms so there is less confusion.

verschieden, unterschiedlich, ungleich, fremd, andersartig – are adjectives, change endings

unterscheiden – verb

Verschiedenheit, Unterschied, Unterschiedenheit, Unterschiedlichkeit, Anderssein – nouns

ander – pronoun (attributive pronoun or pronoun adjective – as you like), changes the endings

anders – adverb, does not change

verschieden oder unterschiedlich / difference between verschieden and unterschiedlich

Ander

Let’s start with the simplest.

Anderother. The detailing, what the difference between one thing and another is, is not important or is clear from the context.

anderer Meinung sein

unter anderen Umständen

das ist ganz etwas anderes

Another meaning is one of a series (among others, one by one)

eins nach dem anderen

unter anderem

Ander is part of other words: andererseits, anderenfalls – so as not to get confused in spelling, note that this is a Genetiv. Accordingly, Seite (feminine) – anderer, Fall (masculine) – anderen

Andersartig is used when they want to emphasize that the subject is not just another, but the unexpectedness of this other, novelty.

einer völlig andersartigen Kultur

ganz andersartiges, lautes Finale

Anders

“In a different way”,
besides anders sein – to be different.

anders denken

Ich habe es mir ganz anders vorgestellt

ich bin ganz anders

es geht nicht anders

Fremd

This word can hardly be confused with others, but it is partly in the same row – not just “different”, but at the same time “alien, inappropriate.”

eine fremde Atmosphäre

misch dich nicht immer in fremde Angelegenheiten


Verschieden and unterschiedlich

Unlike ander, these two words involve the comparison of two or more objects; nouns are often plural.

Unterschiedlich has a stronger meaning of “distinguish”. It is this word that has both the verb unterscheiden (to differ) and the noun Unterschied (difference). The root “scheiden” implies that we divide (scheiden – “cut”), classify further and further among objects (unter).

Therefore, if it is important for us to emphasize that something is different, then we use unterschiedlich.

Verschieden assumes variety (ver is a prefix of the change, verwandeln for example).

An example with fingerprints is often used:

  • verschiedene Fingerabdrücke means thumb, little finger, forefinger, your own finger, other people’s fingers and so on,
  • unterschiedliche Fingerabdrücke say that they were left by more than one person.

If we mean variety, then only verschieden is suitable. In the sense of “difference”, both words can be used if we do not want to emphasize this difference. In cases of contrast and accentuated difference, it is better to use unterschiedlich.

Häuser von unterschiedlicher Größe
(they differed in height (and you drew them the same) and this is important, not a variety of houses with different heights)

die Farben sind unterschiedlich
(their difference is important, not diversity)

unterschiedliche Meinungen
(we disagree with each other)

verschiedene Teilnehmer meldeten sich zu Worte
(there were several)

Waren verschiedener Herkunft
(from different countries, no matter which one,
and if sehr unterschiedliche Länder, then it is perceived as an emphasis on the difference of cultures or level of development)

der Größe nach, nach Farbe und Form verschieden sein (diverse)

wir sind verschiedener Meinung über diese Sache
(we have different ideas, we do not emphasize our disagreement)

Other topics about German synonyms – #synonyms

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