The positive (comparison)

(The positive degree of German adjectives)

Table of contents – positive

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Using the positive
  2. Using ‘als’ and ‘wie’
  3. Further explanations and exercises

How is the positive used?

The positive, also called the first degree of comparison (German name: Positiv or Grundstufe), is used to express equality of multiple things. Its form consists of ‘so’ and ‘wie’ and the particular adjective between these words. Specifically, the following usage is possible:

  1. Generally, the comparison is made using ‘so’ and ‘wie’ together with the adjective appearing in between:
    • „Der zweite Teil des Films ist so interessant wie der erste.“ (The second part of the film is as interesting as the first.)
    • „Eine Rose ist so schön wie eine Tulpe.“ (A rose is as beautiful as a tulip.)
    • „Um rechtzeitig fertig zu werden, müssen wir so schnell wie möglich arbeiten.“ (To finish in time, we have to work as fast as possible.)
      • In this statement, the word ‘schnell’ (fast) is still an adjective, but it appears in adverbial function (see more examples of adverbially used adjectives for details).
  2. In some cases, however, ‘so’ can be omitted, and only ‘wie’ (like/as) is utilized:
    • „Ich bin hungrig wie ein Löwe.“ (I’m hungry like a lion.)
    • Reich wie ein König, aber kein Trinkgeld geben.“ (Rich as a king but no tip.)
  3. Furthermore, it is possible to employ the following word combinations in place of ‘so’. Again, the adjective is always in the middle:
    • gleichwie:
      • „Die Fahrt mit dem Auto dauert gleich lange wie mit dem Zug.“ (Travelling by car takes the same time as by train.)
    • genausowie:
      • „Peter ist genauso groß wie sein Bruder.“ (Peter is as tall as his brother.)
    • ebensowie:
      • „Die Nachspeise schmeckt ebenso gut wie das Hauptgericht.“ (The dessert tastes just as good as the main course.)

When are ‘als’ and ‘wie’ used?

In colloquial language, the comparative words ‘als’ and ‘wie’ are often misused (according to standard grammar rules). Basically, ‘wie’ expresses equality while ‘als’ conveys difference. The following example sentences illustrate this in detail:

  • Use of ‘wie’ to show sameness:
    • „Der Himmel ist so blau wie gestern.“ (The sky is as blue as yesterday.)
    • „Das Handy kostet so viel wie mein Computer.“ (The mobile phone costs as much as my computer.)
  • Use of ‘als’ to communicate difference (colloquially, ‘wie’ is frequent here):
    • „Meine Schwester ist größer als ich.“ (My sister is taller than me.)
      • Not: „… größer wie ich.“
    • „Der zweite Teil war besser als der erste.“ (The second part was better than the first.)
      • Not: „… besser wie der erste.“

Further explanations related to the ‘Positive in comparison’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘The positive in the comparison of German adjectives’ and may be helpful too: