Gemeinsam sind wir stark.

I saw this sentence while doing an exercise, it is translated as

Together, we are strong.

In the English translation, together functions as an adverb. However, gemeinsam, as I found in the dictionary, is an adjective. Of course in German, an adjective can function as an adverb if it comes after an ordinary verb but in this case the verb is sein so that it can’t function as an adverb here. Thus, I don’t know if the meaning is the one of the translation above in which together modifies the clause we are strong, or if a better translation might be:

We are together and we are strong.

3 Answers 3


Most German adjectives can be used as adverbs too. There is nothing like the suffix »-ly« in English that transforms an adjective (like slow) into an adverb (like slowly).

If the adjective/adverb describes a noun, then it is an adjective. If it describes a verb it is an adverb:

Die Schnecke ist langsam.
The snail is slow.

»Langsam« (slow) describes a property of »Schnecke« (snail). And since »Schnecke« is a noun, langsam is an adjective here. You can use an adjective also in this way:

Die langsame Schnecke ist braun.
The slow snail is brown.

Here is is more clear that the word describes the noun.

Die Schnecke kriecht langsam.
The snail crawls slowly.

In this sentence the word »langsam« does not describe how the snail is. It describes the manner of crawling. So »langsam« is describing the verb »kriechen«, and this makes »langsam« an adverb in this sentence.

Lets try a different construction:

Die langsam kriechende Schnecke ist braun.
The slowly crawling snail is brown.

Also here the word langsam describes the verb, not the noun.

Gemeinsam sind wir stark.
Together we are strong.

»Gemeinsam« (together) is not a property of »wir« (we). The word »gemeinsam« describes the manner of being, so it describes the verb (»sein - sind«, »to be - are«). And this is the reason why »gemeinsam« is an adverb.

Maybe ii is clearer when you look at this sentence:

Gemeinsam sein macht uns stark.
Being together makes us strong.

  • Actually I know adj can act as adv from this german.stackexchange.com/questions/15486/… and this german.about.com/od/grammar/a/German-Adverbs.htm but from the answer, it only act as adv (adverbial) when modify the verb, and in this case, it is sein so I normally think that German adj can't act as adv (adverbial) when modify another adj or whole sentence or auxiliary verbs like sein. So basically you can use adj as adverbial to modify not only verb too?
    – aukxn
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 20:45

I had to debate about this question for quite a while until I am finally ready to attempt an answer.

I can tell you from my understanding of both German and English that the sentences mean exactly the same thing. Initially, I also stuck with calling gemeinsam an adjective and wondered why together was not considered one; after all, the English sentence can be reordered to give

We are strong together.

And then it struck me that the premise could be wrong. I am now ready to contest the assumption that gemeinsam functions as an adjective here. Consider:

Wir sind gemeinsam stark (perfectly fine)
Wir sind stark gemeinsam (very weird sounding)

And note that the sentence does not mean

Wir sind gemeinsam und stark (stark und gemeinsam; order not relevant)

Two adjectives next to each other usually don’t work (’*wir sind groß grün’?) but would require an und between them … but und again doesn’t work with gemeinsam and stark.

And finally, using gemeinsam in the attributive sense doesn’t work in the same way.

Unsere gemeinsame Stärke ist …
Der gemeinsame Plan lautet …

Gemeinsam is rather used on the object/concept that belongs to both. In the question’s sentence, it is the strength (in its adjective form) that is owned by the entire party, so gemeinsam can only be an adverb there. (This fits in nicely with the rest; all the other arguments would have reached the conclusion ‘we have an adverb’ had I continued.)

Note that German grammar has a hard time attempting to distinguish between adjective and adverb, as usually both forms are identical in German. Hence why Germans often have problems when deciding whether to add a -ly in English or not.


I think you can see "gemeinsam" as an adverb (Wenn wir gemeinsam handeln, sind wir stark -If we work together we are strong) or as an adjective (Als gemeinsame Gruppe sind wir stark - As a united group we are strong).

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