I've read this dialog:

"Komm bitte mal rüber. Du sollst aber GLEICH kommen!" "Ja, ich komme gleich." Nichts passiert. "Wo bleibst du? Ich habe doch gesagt, du sollst gleich kommen." "Ja, ich habe doch aber gesagt, ich komme gleich!"

I begin to understand there's a difference but, please, could you explain it to me?


2 Answers 2


Duden defines gleich as

in relativ kurzer Zeit, sofort, [sehr] bald,

which can be translated as very soon or right away.

The interpretation of gleich can actually vary between immediately and after whatever is happening is finished.

You can find both in your example.

Du sollst aber GLEICH kommen.

You're supposed to come immediately.

Ja, ich komme gleich.

Yes, I'll come when I'm done / in 5 minutes.

For the after whatever is happening is finished meaning, imagine the following:

A teenager is playing a computer game.

Teenager's mom: "Mach jetzt bitte Deine Hausaufgaben!"

Teenager: "Ja, gleich."

Teenager finishes his game and forgets about his homework.

  • it's funny, there's one word for very soon and right away, a good reason for misunderstanding
    – R2D2
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 19:27
  • 1
    Gleich: Bavarian meaning: Immediatly, Hochdeutsch: very soon.
    – bot47
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 20:55
  • @MaxRied I don't know about Bavarian, but in High German it can definitely mean either of the two, not just "very soon".
    – elena
    Commented May 15, 2014 at 14:20
  • @elena Thank you your grammatical corrections :-) (I will remove this comment in some minutes)
    – peterh
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 9:17

There is no difference in the meaning of gleich in your example (at least I see none).

gleich is "immediately" in this case. So the dialogue is something like the following example - in braces the thoughts of the speaker:

  • Please come immediately. (I need your help NOW!)
  • Ok, I come immediately (after I finished my actual work)
  • [nothing happens...]
  • Where are you - I said you should come immediately (NOW, in this second).
  • I said I come immediately. (when I finished my work, thats in two minutes)

There are just different interpretation what immediate is in this case.

  • I agree. Here, the first person should change his wording from "gleich" to "jetzt" oder "sofort" to emphasize the urgency.
    – PMF
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 7:20
  • The adverb of immediate is required in this case, as gleich is also used as adverb here. I edited accordingly. If you disagree, you can roll back in revisions
    – Vogel612
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 7:48
  • 3
    @PMF: You've put you finger on the problem. "Gleich" isn't enough to unambiguously indicate urgency or "immediateness". It means both "immediately" and "in 5 minutes", which is exactly what th OP is asking about.
    – elena
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 7:49
  • I agree with @knut: let's assume that the example dialog is between 2 colleagues (i.e. persons of equal rank). Person 1 knows that using SOFORT could be embarrassing or impolite, so he uses "gleich" instead. But he gives it a high emphasis (hence the all-capital spelling) to make clear that in fact he means "SOFORT".The difference would be clearer if we cuold hear it. The addressed person normally would understand the true meaning is "SOFORT", but as he obviously isn't so keen in following suit he pretends having overheard the spoken emphasis. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 16:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.