Difference between beziehungsweise, respektive, entsprechend

Last Updated on June 29, 2022

This topic is about words with meaning “respectively” and “accordingly” – difference between beziehungsweise, respektive, entsprechend.

It was difficult, to out how to translate “respectively” in a sentence like “you can get to Niesen und Stockhorn with a train – stations Mülenen and Erlenbach, respectively.” Dictionaries usually pay much attention the meaning of “accordingly, in accordance with something”

For all topics about synonyms see #german_synonyms
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Here we have a few synonymous words. All of them are used in written, usually business speech. This is what is called Papierdeutsch. In colloquial speech, the speaker will prefer a different construction.

All prepositions are used with Dat. Most can appear both before and after the word to which they refer. Preferred use before or after depends on the region.

gemäß + Dat.

gemäß Paragraph 15 der Straßenverkehrsordnung
er hat der Anordnung gemäß gehandelt

more often in a pair “in accordance with the law”, in accordance with instruction

laut + Dat.

laut unserem Schreiben vom 01.01.2000
laut ärztlichem Gutachten

more often in the meaning of “according to how someone said, reported”

zufolge + Dat. (placed after)

dem Vertrag zufolge
Eigenen Angaben zufolge hatte das Komitee 80000 Mitglieder.

more often a source of information (according to rumors, reports, information)

nach + Dat.

meiner Meinung nach
nach allem Anschein wird es gelingen
nach dem Gefühl
nach Leistung bezahlen
nach Maß anfertigen
nach dem Gesetz richten

of all these prepositions nach has the most chances to appear in conversation, although it still remains in the category of formal language – for argumentation in disputes, for example.

entsprechend + Dat.

er wollte sich entschuldigen und schrieb einen entsprechenden Brief

er war Schauspieler und hatte eine entsprechende Ausbildung

für die Exkursion waren die Schüler entsprechend ausgerüstet

It is often used in legal language as “in accordance with paragraph … of the law …,” and there is a dispute among lawyers whether the indication of this preposition for the exact use of the law or by analogy.

But in ordinary speech it is often not only “accordingly something”, but also “appropriate, suitable”, especially when used as an adjective.


er meinte, ich solle mich noch schonen, und ich habe dementsprechend gehandelt
(dem replaces er meinte, ich solle mich noch schonen. He thought so and I behave according to his opinion)

we name corresponding thing in the first part of the sentence, and in the second we refer to it, then dementschrechend (entsprechend dem) is used – “corresponding to this”


And here, in fact, my difficulties began. The point is that this meaning should have been expressed by the word beziehungsweise (bzw.). This word, as follows from its internal form, should indicate a connection, a relationship (Bezug) between one and the other. However, this meaning of the relation of something to something was distinct until the 20th century, but in the 20th century the meaning of “or”, “or rather” came to the fore.

You can find articles in which the authors write that it is wrong, replace the conjunctions or / and with this beziehungsweise.

But, despite all the guardians of the purity of the language, our desire here does not mean too much. Language develops according to its own laws, and in this case beziehungsweise goes in a completely different direction. And if you scroll through the examples from the corpus of the German language, then the meaning “respectively” will be found with great difficulty in one or two examples.

Die Besucher bzw. Besucherinnen werden gebeten, sich an der Rezeption zu melden
(replace and)

Fast alle tragen helle Popelinejacken, helle Leinenhosen, hellbeige Hemden und sahnefarbene Schuhe beziehungsweise Sandalen.
(replace or)

»Er würde wohl sehr gern mit mir – beziehungsweise mit uns – etwas enger zusammenleben«, meint sie.
(meaning “more precisely”, “or rather”)

The synonym is the word respektive. It would seem that everything should be clear, the English analogue is respectively. But no. And here beziehungsweise pulls towards the meaning “or“. However the sought structures are still occasionally found.

In dictionaries, too, the meaning of “or” is firmly fixed. Our meaning can be found in one example under the meaning “und im anderen Falle” (and in other cases). What does this, excuse me, mean? Is this the meaning (very odd) or does it mean that “we are not able to formulate the desired meaning, so we write “and other””? Last example is under this meaning in the dictionary DWDS.

du kannst den Ort mit der Bahn respektive mit dem Autobus erreichen

Aber nicht mit konfessionellem Religions- respektive Ethikunterricht wie im Westen.

In den Geschäftsjahren 1994/95 und 1995/96 trug der Bereich Halbleiter mit rund 800 respektive 600 Millionen Mark mehr zum Ergebnis

die Zehn‑ und Zwanzigeuroscheine sind rot respektive blau (=respectively)

Perhaps the fact is that the German language already has complex syntactic constructions, with its own fixed word order. Therefore, the additional construction simply does not fit into this language, unlike other more flexible languages.

For all topics about synonyms see #german_synonyms

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2 thoughts on “Difference between beziehungsweise, respektive, entsprechend”

  1. * Meiner Meinung nach, würde es besser sich, “beziehungsweise” (Bzw.) als “or, in case it may be” vorzustellen.

    Der Inhalt hat mir gut gefallen, Glückwunsch!

    • Ich habe das Gefühl, dass “bzw.” jetzt zu oft verwendet wird, fast wie ein modales Wort, seine Bedeutung ist sehr verschwommen. In vielen Fällen wird es überhaupt nicht erforderlich im Satz.


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