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I've learned the constructions:

besser als, better than


so gut wie, as good as.

But when I translated the expression "also known as," to be "auch bekannt wie", a native speaker corrected my translation as "auch bekannt als", What is going on?

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Are you referring to persons or things? I think that is handled differently. For things you can use 'auch bekannt unter dem Begriff xxx'. –  bernd_k Oct 2 '11 at 14:11
You can't expect word-by-word translations to work, especially with short particles. Note that already "so gut wie" = "as good as" seems to suggest both "so"="as" and "wie"="as" –  Hagen von Eitzen Apr 8 at 21:12

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The word "als" has different meanings, depending on context:

  • in comparisons, translated as "than."

A ist besser als B - A is better than B.

  • temporal, translated as "while."

Als ich zum Laden ging... - While I was walking to the shop...

  • as a proposition used with the word "bekannt", translated as "as"

Stefani ist bekannt als Lady Gaga - Stefani is known as Lady Gaga.

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Note also that some dialects substitute "wie" for "als" in the comparison, i.e. "A ist besser wie B"; standard German only has "A ist besser als B". –  Felix Pahl Oct 3 '11 at 9:03
Don't do that, though! My dialect (Bavarian) does this, but it is WRONG and HORRIBLE and WRONG. ;) –  Cass Oct 3 '11 at 10:04
Was it always wrong in Bavaria or did it suddenly become wrong after the ascension of Hochdeutsch? Why would Bavaria speech be more horrible than Hanover speech? Or is this something new in Bavaria that just the kids do? –  hippietrail Oct 7 '11 at 11:54
The third meaning should be generalized: It is not specific to usage with the word bekannt, but it simply means something like "in the role of". It is the same interpretation of als as in verkleidet als, bezeichnet als, or simply on its own (e.g. in a statement like "Als Kapitän muss er die Verantwortung übernehmen."). –  O. R. Mapper Apr 8 at 13:20
In some regions e.g. in northern Brandenburg you also hear a dialect version "als wie" in case of comparisons. -> "A ist besser als wie B". Just in case you hear that. It is also HORRIBLE and WRONG but common used. –  Christoph Brückmann Apr 8 at 15:08

Additionally to Cass' answer:

The correct translation to "also known as" would "auch bekannt als", but you can compare a person to someone or something else, using "wie" in that expression:

Er war auch bekannt wie ein bunter Hund.

He was known all over the place.

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What is going on? The English “as” and the German “als” are related, have similar histories and play similar roles. But both modern English and modern German have decided to not let them play certain roles that they would be suited for.

As you noted, German does generally use “wie” for comparisons of alike things. In older German “als” could be used for this. Luther translates “du solt deinen nähesten lieben als dich selbst” (quoted from the entry for “als” in Grimm, I.1). And expressions as “so schnell als möglich” are deemed correct by some, even though consistency would dictate “wie” (which is consequently winning).

On the other hand, English does not like the use of “as” with the comparative. This usage is considered obsolete.

Other roles are happily shared by “as” and “als”. This is my two cents as a non-linguist (als Nichtlinguist).

Indeed, if someone would be described as “so bekannt wie Tina Turner” then that would mean that the person is very famous, if someone was described as “bekannt als Tina Turner” then we would most like be speaking of Anna Mae Bullock. (Of course, English expresses this distinction similarly, it is “as (well-)known as” versus “known as”.)

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  • First case for the comparison, "als" is always following the comparative form of the adj or adv, while "wie" is always the original form.
  • Second case for the "auch bekannt als" or "Als ich zum Laden gehe", it is the second meaning of "als". In English it can be understood as "also known as..." or "when I go to the shop". But this case does not apply to "wie".
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Welcome to German Language SE. Unfortunately, I have trouble understanding what you want to say and I have the feeling that some of your explanitions would only be useful to somebody who already knows how to use certain aspects of the language. Can you please rephrase or elaborate your answer? –  Wrzlprmft Apr 8 at 12:25

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