When I speak or write in German and need to say something with either no one/nobody or everyone/everybody I always translate it to niemand- or alle- respectively, but I spent 4 weeks in Germany this summer (I also sort of noticed it before the trip). What I noticed is that in German people tend to use keiner and jeder sometimes in place of niemand- or alle-.

Jeder in Deutschland wird das verstehen

Jeder von euch...

Keiner würde das sagen

Keiner achtete auf ihn.

I would have probably not thought to use keiner or jeder in this sentences. What is the difference between keiner/jeder and niemand/alle? I have a feeling like the difference is as simple as everyone vs everybody or no one vs nobody in English.

  • 2
    Basically it is that simple. There might be a subtle difference (rather kind of emphasis) in some contexts , if at all. Regarding "jeder" also see another question here.
    – Em1
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 7:39
  • "alle" is plural and the better translation is "all people/all of you) depending on context. "Jeder" is singular.
    – Emanuel
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 9:39

5 Answers 5


There are two subtle differences:

  • alle vs. jeder: alle is referring to the set as a whole. jeder is referring to every member of the set. In most cases, this is equivalent, but not always:

    Jeder muss ein Boot bauen, um von der Insel zu flüchten. -> Everybody has to have his own boat.
    Alle müssen ein Boot bauen, um von der Insel zu flüchten. -> There only need to be one boat (the whole group fits in).

    It also differs in the feeling of being addressed. With jeder, everybody is addressed as an individual. With alle, one might get the feel of being able to let the others of the group do the job.

  • keiner vs. niemand: If you refer to no one at all without specifying a group then keiner is clear enough and niemand is preferable. Alternatively, you can use gar keiner. If you have specified a group, then both are equivalent.

  • 8
    Das ist die Krux des amerikanischen Traums: Jeder kann reich werden, aber eben nicht alle. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 20:32

Keiner/Niemand and Jeder/Alle are often used synonymously.
Although there is a little difference: Keiner/Jeder are used for a specific group/selection (e.g. your family), while Niemand/Alle imply a more general statement.

  • "Keiner würde das sagen" -> no one I know would say that, but there might be someone who would
  • or "Jeder würde das sagen" -> everyone I know would say that, but there might be someone who wouldn't.

  • "Niemand würde das sagen" -> nobody (e.g. in this world) would say that

  • or "Alle würden das sagen" -> everybody (e.g. in this world) would say that

As a native speaker I would say though that these differences are very marginal.

  • 1
    I don't see any difference between "Niemand/Keiner würde das sagen" (and not for Jeder/Alle as well, for that matter). In both cases you equally indicate that most people would or wouldn't say it.
    – Em1
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 12:10
  • Which doesn't mean that there is none. As you can see here canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/InflectionRules/FRegeln-P/… Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 12:36
  • Die Indefinitpronomen jeder, jeglicher und jedweder werden als Artikelwörter vor einem Nomen oder als Stellvertreter eines Nomens verwendet. Sie bezeichnen alle Elemente einer Menge, Gruppe usw. Im Gegensatz zu alle beziehen sie sich nicht auf eine Gesamtheit, sondern auf individuelle Einzelelemente Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 12:38
  • 1
    I see your point. So, if you say "alle" you integrate all objects into one group and refer to the group, while if you say "jeder" you collect all objects and refer to each object separately. The difference would be the same as "each" and "every" in English. Fair Enough. That said, the outcome is still the same and from that perspective there's no difference. And if there's a "black sheep" in the group, "jeder" and "alle" are equally failing. There it doesn't matter if you were applying to the objects as a whole or separately.
    – Em1
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 12:44
  • You're right, maybe we should stress that the differences, especially in everyday speech, are irrelevant. It's just because, I saw that the thread opener wants to study German philology, that I tried to distinguish Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 13:06

In harsh words: There's only a barely discernible difference. In general, it doesn't matter which word you use, you equally refer to any, all, every and each object of the group (whatever the group is).

While I was sure that there's no difference at all, Toscho just posted an example where "alle" may convey a different meaning than "jeder". While "Jeder muss ein Boot bauen" is unambiguous, "Alle müssen ein Boot bauen" has two possible interpretations (The one he mentioned and the same as using "jeder").

So, there's indeed a difference. The point is that if you say "alle" you integrate all object into one group and refer to the group. The context will clarify if the group 'works' together or not.
If you say "jeder" you collect all object and refer to each object separately.

This is a similar difference as "each" and "every" in English. In most cases, the outcome is the same, disregarding your word-choice.

Finally, in my comment to your question I mentioned some possible differences in emphasis. Upon further reflection I don't go along with that anymore. If you want to stress 'each and every', you repeat the words.

Jeder, aber auch wirklich jeder...
Alle, und damit meine ich alle...
Niemand, absolut niemand...
Keiner, wirklich keiner...

Side note:
Some people claim that keiner is use with a specific group while niemand is associated with a larger, unspecific 'everything'. Not sure why they claim that, but I realised that kein can be used as an adjective. For example: Kein Mensch, Kein Schwein.

If you have "Kein Mensch" in mind and you're going to replace it with an indefinite pronoun, you might tend to take keiner. Furthermore, this might be the reason that some people think that keiner is related to a specific group while niemand is less specific.
This, however, is just a guess. Rather far-fetched. There's no reason against choosing niemand instead.


There is a large overlap, but "niemand" is somewhat broader than "keiner". Keiner usually means that there is a certain group and means "nobody (of that group)". This group can be quite large (a family, all employees of a company, all citizens of a country, even) and sometimes is only hinted at. Niemand, on the other hand, means nobody (at all). A few examples:

Keiner der Passanten blieb stehen. Keiner der Mitschüler kannte ihn. Niemand hilft mir. Niemand darf diesen Raum betreten.

  • 1
    "Keiner/Niemand hilft mir", "Keiner/Niemand blieb stehen", "Keiner/Niemand kennt ihn", "Keiner/Niemand darf diesen Raum betreten", "Keiner/Niemand (aus) der Gruppe"... No difference at all.
    – Em1
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 12:13
  • Did you read the part where I mentioned the "large overlap"? It's often used interchangeably, but if you want to make a distinction between those words, this is it.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 14:22
  • And there's my point: this is not the distinction, if any exists. The do not overlap largely but fully. There's none broader over the other.
    – Em1
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 14:42
  • You're obviously entitled to your opinion, but I do not quite feel the same way. Make of that what you will.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 14:49

keiner      ==> no one
jeder        ==> everyone
niemand  ==> nobody
alle          ==> everybody


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