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I've learned that dies- can mean this or that, whereas jen- can also mean that.

When should jen- be used in preference to dies-?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

The demonstrative pronouns dieser/diese/diese and jener/jene/jenes are used as demonstrative articles, as stand alone words or as a substitute for a noun.

dies- refers to something that is spatially or temporally closer.

jene- points to something that is spatially or temporally distant.


Dieser Baum, vor dem ich stehe, ist sehr hoch.

Das Restaurant in diesem Ort ist besser als jenes in Berlin.

Ich bevorzuge dieses Essen gegenüber jenem von gestern.

Diese Frau, mit der ich gerade telefoniert habe, ruft jeden Tag an.

Ich hatte jene Frau, die wir gestern getroffen haben, vorher nicht gekannt.

There are also some derived adverbs:

  • diesseits: on this side
  • jenseits: on the other side

The noun das Diesseits means our world/life, while das Jenseits means "afterlife."

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I also find it worth noting that "jene/-r/-s" sounds rather formal and is rarely used in spoken German. This is not the case with "jenseits". – elena Nov 30 '11 at 14:33
+1 to splattne for the concise answer and to elena for the addition. "Jene/-r/-s" are now so rarely used that in many cases its presence can in some cases serve as an indicator that a text is a translation, where the translator sticks too close to the source. (Incidentally, the same is true for "welche/-r/-s", where "der/die/das" is much more common.) – Mac Nov 30 '11 at 14:50
@Mac, @elena, whether jen- is no longer used in spoken German was actually one of the important points of my question (which I unfortunately failed to emphasize). Thanks for the clarifications! – Matt Fenwick Nov 30 '11 at 17:23
@Matt It's universally understood and still used in more formal circumstances (even in spoken language), maybe kind of like the correct subjunctive in english (I wish I were rich). It all depends on the setting and company you're in. Use (usage?) in written language is no problem at all. – fzwo Nov 30 '11 at 20:48
Note that I relatively often hear jene in colloquial language, both at work and at home. It's not as often as dieses, of course, but because of this, I wouldn't actually say rarely used in spoken German. Rarely used is a word like fürderhin, and I even used that one when writing to one of our customers from Austria... – OregonGhost Dec 1 '11 at 9:16

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