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Subordinating conjunctions always seem to raise the most questions for me, specifically in the differences between obwohl and obgleich. The text I am using in my studies states that they both mean "although," but when should I use one over the other? My text is not very clear on this and I'd like some sort of clarification to improve my German usage in the long-run.

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Swiss people also use "obschon" which is even more confusing to people who aren't familiar with the word. – splattne Jun 14 '11 at 15:50
@splattne: Actually, I'd be more familiar with obschon than obzwar ;) – OregonGhost Jun 14 '11 at 15:53
@splattne: the only person I've ever actually heard using "obschon" is Gunkl. – Joachim Sauer Jul 20 '11 at 6:32
up vote 9 down vote accepted

For your active knowledge, just forget about "obgleich"; just use "obwohl" all the time – the basic meaning is the same. I actually don't know if I ever used "obgleich" in the spoken language (and I'm a native speaker).

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@thei: I took me some time, but then I got it - you mean "aloud" when you write "allowed". And yes, poetry is the exception (besides talking about the word "obgleich" :-)). – Hendrik Vogt Jun 14 '11 at 20:38
@Hendrik I am quite sure that I never used "obgleich" in speech or writing except when reading aloud some poetry. (What error? :)) – Phira Jun 14 '11 at 20:42
Build your vocab, I say. It's better to have a thesaurus (abridged, natch) in your head than having to fetch one from the bookshelf. Granted, I don't think I ever used "obgleich", but I'm pretty sure I have used synonyms of "obwohl" sometimes (rarely, sure, but all the same) – Jürgen A. Erhard Jun 15 '11 at 1:44
@jae: I'm not sure what your point it. "Obgleich" is of course one of the synonyms of "obwohl" in the thesaurus in my head, and I'm not advising the OP to wipe the word from their passive knowledge. I guess I just don't get what you're writing :-) – Hendrik Vogt Jun 15 '11 at 5:46
I spoke with my professor and she echoed pretty much the same thing. She said that I would likely never hear "obgleich," but that if I wanted to ever use it, by all means do so. She is also a nerd when it comes to not frequently used German words and often encourages learning words that we wouldn't often hear. – Sorcerer Blob Jun 16 '11 at 19:07

Both words are very similar in meaning, though obgleich may sound slightly more archaic to some. Obwohl seems to be younger. However, lists these as meaning the same, while there are several other similar words that have an elevated connotation, like obzwar, wenngleich, obschon and wiewohl.

I think you hear obwohl more in everyday language, while obgleich is more used in written language.

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Ngram Viewer says you're right:… – splattne Jun 14 '11 at 15:52
@splattne: I didn't bother looking this time. Obgleich is in the Grimm, obwohl isn't. Interesting though that NGrams shows that obwohl was already used in the end of the 18th century / beginning of 19th century... By the way, I added obzwar to the NGram, which is definitely less used. – OregonGhost Jun 14 '11 at 15:57
I assume by "Grimm" you are referring to the fairy tales? If so, that definitely puts the archaic nature of obgleich into better perspective. – Sorcerer Blob Jun 16 '11 at 19:08
@Sorcerer Blob: I'm referring to the DWB, Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, or just Grimmsches Wörterbuch or Grimm for short, which is by far the largest etymological work on the German language. Even though the brothers didn't finish it (it was actually only finished 1961), it's basically the same time as the fairy tales though. – OregonGhost Jun 16 '11 at 19:32

"Obgleich" is a more archaic and poetic version of the word. You won't hear it used outside of poems these days.

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