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.

  • Swiss people also use "obschon" which is even more confusing to people who aren't familiar with the word.
    – splattne
    Jun 14, 2011 at 15:50
  • @splattne: Actually, I'd be more familiar with obschon than obzwar ;) Jun 14, 2011 at 15:53
  • @splattne: the only person I've ever actually heard using "obschon" is Gunkl. Jul 20, 2011 at 6:32

3 Answers 3


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" :-)). Jun 14, 2011 at 20:38
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    @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, 2011 at 20:42
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    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. Jun 16, 2011 at 19:07
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    @Sorcerer: Just be prepared for surprised looks if you use it! Jun 16, 2011 at 20:09
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    @Sorcerer: I'd expect more surprised than strange looks. When I hear "obgleich", I'd expect it to come, e.g., from the mouth of a professor for philosophy or German :-) Jun 17, 2011 at 6:49

Both words are very similar in meaning, though obgleich may sound slightly more archaic to some. Obwohl seems to be younger. However, Canoo.net 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: ngrams.googlelabs.com/…
    – splattne
    Jun 14, 2011 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. Jun 14, 2011 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. Jun 16, 2011 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. Jun 16, 2011 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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