Very often, nouns are compared to and/or measured with other nouns. Whether a noun should be measured or compared is dependent on the type of noun; countable or uncountable – irrespective of it being English or German. What then do I mean by countable and uncountable nouns? Walk with me slowly as I show you 😊.

Content in this post
1. What countable and uncountable nouns are
2. How to measure nouns with Genitiv
3. How to compare similar nouns with positive/negative and “wie”, “so… wie” etc.
4. How to compare dissimilar nouns with comparative adjectives and “als”
5. How to make comparison with Adverbs
6. How to make unreal comparison (irreale Vergleiche) with “als ob”

Countable nouns are those nouns that can be easily counted while uncountable nouns are those that can not be counted. Nouns such as animals, plates, spoons cups, people, bottles etc. can always be counted no matter their number. These nouns don’t necessarily require any measurement but can as well be measured just for easier grouping.

All uncountable nouns such as sand, rice, water, salt, sugar, oil etc. are always measured while countable nouns are compared. That is to say that they rely on other nouns for their measurement. There are three types of comparison of nouns in German, namely;

  • Similar Comparison/ Measurement
  • Dissimilar Comparison/ Measurement
  • Unreal Comparison/ Measurement (irreale Vergleiche)

Similar nouns can further be measured based on whether the nouns are countable or uncountable. What then is similar comparison and measurement of nouns?

Similar Comparison & Measurement Of Countable Nouns

Similar comparison of countable nouns involves comparing two nouns/pronouns to show the similarity between them. It can be done in two ways;

  • With the use of the interrogative pronoun “wie
  • With the use of certain adverbs

How to measure similar countable nouns with the interrogative pronoun “wie”

The interrogative pronoun “wie” is used with a positive or negative form of an adjective to compare between two nouns or pronouns with similar attributes. When used in this way, it forms a “Nebensatz”. This means that it is used to form a kind of subordinate clause which may or may not have a verb. If the “comparer” decides to use a verb, then the verb must be placed at the end of the sentence.

Sometimes, certain other factors like so, genauso and ebenso are used with “wie” to even place more emphasis on the adjective which must be placed in between. For example, see the table below.

Comparing factor in GermanTranslation in English Exemplary usage
wielikeklug wie
so … wieas/so … as/likeso klug wie
ebenso … wieeven as/ just as … asebenso klug wie
genauso … wiejust so … likegenauso klug wie
Comparison of countable similar nouns

#Note that: When used as an interrogative pronoun, a question-word or a subordinate conjunction, “wie” is translated in English as either “how” or “when” depending on the context. But when used as a factor for comparison, it takes the meaning of “like” or “as” as illustrated in the sentences below.

Comparison without a verbComparison with a verb
1. Hans ist groß wie ich.
(Hans is tall like me)
Hans ist groß wie ich bin.
(Hans is tall like i am)
2. Du bist genauso stark wie dein Papa.
(you are just so strong like your father)
Du bist genauso stark wie dein Papa ist.
(you are just so strong like your father is)
3. Er ist so nett wie seine Mutter.
(he is as nice as his mother/ he is so nice like his mother)
Er ist so nett wie seine Mutter ist.
(he is as nice as his mother is/ he is so nice like his mother is)
4. Ich bin genauso glücklich wie du.
(I am just as happy as you)
Ich bin genauso glücklich wie du bist.
(I am just as happy as you are)
Sentences with wie comparison

#Note that: The difference between “wie” when used as a subordinate conjunction and as a comparison factor is that a comma is used with the former while it is omitted with the latter.

How to measure similar countable nouns with comparative adverbs

Originally, adverbs are used to qualify or modify a verb but certain adverbs in German can not play this role. They are rather used for measurement of nouns. Examples of such adverbs are;

circaapproximatelyDu bist circa 168cm groß.
(you are approximately 168cm groß)
etwaabout/ nearly (People)Meier ist etwa so groß wie Anna.
(Meier is about as tall as Anna)
fastalmostDu bist fast so groß wie ich.
(you are almost as tall as me)
überover/ more thanEr ist über 30 Jahre alt.
(He is more than 30 years old)
ungefährabout/ around (Things)Sara ist ungefähr 175cm groß.
(Sara is about 175cm tall)

Similar Comparison: How to measure uncountable nouns with Genitiv

The Genitiv form is used to measure uncountable or abstract nouns such as rice, water etc. It involves using a certain noun as a measure for diverse uncountable nouns. For instance, a bottle which is a countable noun can be used as the basis for measurement of liquids such as wine, water, oil, beer etc. See the list of measuring nouns in German below.

SingularPluralExemplary Measurement
ein Becher (big)
(a cup)
zwei Becher
(two cups)
ein Becher Joghurt
(a cup of yoghurt)
eine Dose
(a tin)
zwei Dosen
(two tins)
eine Dose Tomatensoße
(a tin of tomato sauce)
eine Flasche
(a bottle)
zwei Flaschen
(two bottles)
eine Flasche Rotwein
(a bottle of red wine)
ein Glas
(a glass)
zwei Gläser
(two glasses)
ein Glas Wasser
(a glass of water)
ein Kasten
(a box)
zwei Kasten
(two boxes)
ein Kasten Schmuck
(a box of jewelry)
ein Kilo
(a kilo)
zwei Kilos
ein Kilo Puten
(a Kilo of turkey)
eine Kiste
(a crate)
zwei Kisten
(two crates)
eine Kiste Bier
(a crate of beer)
ein Liter
(a liter)
zwei Liter
(two liters)
ein Liter Öl
(a liter of oil)
ein Löffel
(a spoon)
zwei Löffel
(two spoons)
ein Löffel Salz
(a spoon of salt)
eine Packung
(a packet)
zwei Packungen
(two packets)
eine Packung Zigarette
(a packet of cigarette)
eine Scheibe
(a slice)
zwei Scheiben
(two slices)
eine Scheibe Brot
(a slice of bread)
ein Stück
(a piece)
zwei Stücke
(two pieces)
ein Stück Pizza
(a piece of pizza)
eine Tasse (small)
(a cup)
zwei Tassen
(two cups)
eine Tasse Tee
(a cup of tea)
ein Teller
(a plate)
zwei Teller
(two plates)
ein Teller Reis
(a plate of rice)
German Measurement Nouns

Note that measurement nouns with Genitiv in English uses the preposition “of” whereas in Deutsch, the nouns are just placed side by side each other.

The singular forms of these measurement nouns can be of any grammatical case (Nominativ, Akkusativ, Dativ and Genitiv), article (depending on the influencing factors) and can equally take an adjective. See the examples below.

Also, the plural form can be more than two items i.e it can sometimes be drei Dosen, vier Gläser etc. The examples given above are just for illustration.

1. Eine Flasche Wein wird gebrochen.
(A bottle of wine has been broken)
2. Wir haben drei Stücke Kuchen gegessen.
(We have eaten three pieces of cake)
3. Wer hat diesen Teller Reis bestellt?
(Who ordered this plate of rice?)
4. Ich hätte gern die Scheibe Käse.
(I would like to have the slice of cheese)
5. Bitte gib Hans ein Glas Bier.
(Please give Hans a glass of beer)
6. Ich möchte gerne ein kleines Stück Kuchen.
(I would like (prefer) a little piece of cake)
Sentences with Genitiv measurement

How to compare dissimilar nouns

Dissimilar comparison of nouns involves comparing one noun/pronoun to another in a way that shows the superiority or inferiority of one over the other. This is done using the comparative form of an adjective together with the conjunction “als”.

In English, als could either be translated to as or when but as a factor for dissimilar comparison, it is best translated as than. Just like similar comparison with “wie”, dissimilar comparison with “als“ can either be used with or without a verb, doesn’t require a comma like when used as a subordinate conjunction. For example;

Comparison without a verbComparison with a verb
1. Hans ist großer als ich.
(Hans is taller than me)
Hans ist großer als ich bin.
(Hans is taller than i am)
2. Du bist stärker als dein Papa.
(you are stronger than your father)
Du bist stärker als dein Papa ist.
(you are stronger than your father is)
Sentences with als comparison

Irreale Vergleiche (unreal comparison)

Unreal comparison is one where the state of a person is assumed or guessed usually by another person. This is done with the modal subordinate conjunctionals ob” and the Konjunktiv II of the verb. As a subordinate conjunction, als ob forms a “Nebensatz” by placing the conjugated verb in the Konjunktiv II at the end of the sentence.

Literally, als ob means as if in English but when used as a factor for comparison, it takes the meaning of “like”. For example;

1. Mein Chef sieht aus, als ob er müde wäre.
(My boss looks like he would be tired)
2. Warum scheint es, als ob du krank wärst?
(Why does it appear like you would be sick?)
3. Unsere Kollegin tut so, als ob das nicht ihr Problem sein könnte.
(Our colleague does like that could not be her problem)
Irreale Vergleichssätze mit als ob

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