How do German software developers tell the difference between a result of zero and NULL? They both translate to the same word..."null". Obviously you can see the difference on the screen.

But what about when another developer asks for the results of a SQL query, and you say "null"? Does the other developer know if you really got a "NULL" result, or "null" rows returned? Just wondering if it leads to any confusion.

  • The subject is always Null, and never null in German. Jan 28, 2012 at 8:09

5 Answers 5


I'm not aware of any German term that clearly differentiates zero and NULL.

Since in software development English is a big influence, it's quite common to use English terms directly, without translating them: "NULL" (pronounced like the english word) in a German sentence would clearly refer to NULL as opposed to zero. Fortunately the German word "null" (for zero) is pronounced quite a bit differently.

If any confusion is possible, then you can even use the English word "zero" to refer to 0 or rephrase the sentence to avoid any reference to zero or null: "Es wurden keine Zeilen zurückgegeben."

  • 6
    +1 for nʌl (s.v. Nullwert).
    – tohuwawohu
    Jan 20, 2012 at 7:02
  • 2
    A web-designer / - programmer I run into this problem pretty often and the answer posted here is exactly what usualy happens: Null is pronounces english and Zero is either pronounces german or - very often - replaced by "keine". In case you're not shure... noone will blame you if you ask to clearify.
    – blindfold
    Jan 20, 2012 at 7:39
  • 6
    Additionally hint: If you want to say NULL, but pronounced it as the german null or you want to be sure, that they understand you correct, then you can add die Zahl Null: Das Ergebnis war null, also die Zahl Null.
    – Em1
    Jan 20, 2012 at 8:41
  • 1
    I also heard people using "nil", meaning NULL, but the English pronounciation is by far the most common way to differantiate.
    – Jules
    Feb 1, 2012 at 11:47
  • In my programming life, "Null" referred to the value zero, while we tended to use "NULL pointer" for NULL references. But in daly life, that is actually not so much of a problem, because 0 = NULL (Over-simplified, but mostly true.)
    – tofro
    Apr 8, 2016 at 9:52

I am a software developer, so I think I can say something about that. At least in the companies I worked for, we used the English word NULL for NULL and the German word Null (Zero) for the number zero. So NULL is just a technical term for us and we don't translate a lot of them.

  • 1
    Agree. At all companies I worked for we always used the English NULL and never had any troubles to distinguish it from the German number zero. :-)
    – Sensei76
    Jan 20, 2012 at 8:51

I'm not a software developer, but I know sometimes "leer" ("empty") can be used as in "empty set". Perhaps someone else can shed more light on the subject.

  • 2
    I don't understand, why you try to answer a qurestion, that you don't understand? 'Leer' is usualy not used to describe NULL - sometimes (hardly ever) "leeres Ergebnis" is used.
    – blindfold
    Jan 20, 2012 at 7:43
  • 3
    I just meant that I'm not a professional developer, not that I haven't written software. I do understand what was asked and the calculations involved. I was just trying to offer an alternative from mathematics, since at the time I saw the post no one had answered yet. I'm still new here and perhaps don't yet understand the line between trying to be helpful and being inappropriate. I should have said nothing, I suppose, rather than risk a down vote. ;-)
    – Kevin
    Jan 20, 2012 at 12:33
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    leerwould most of the time be understood as an empty string, which is fundamentally different from 0 and NULL.
    – Burki
    Apr 8, 2016 at 10:35
  • 1
    Yeah, or as the empty set or an empty list. All of those are distinctly not-null. Apr 8, 2016 at 14:04

As a software developer I can say that in a situation where the context is not clear I will either pronounce the NULL english or say "null Pointer". Otherwise I would go for a german pronounced null.

I would not use "zero" for 0.


Das Ergebnis einer SQL-Abfrage ist entweder Null oder Leer. Statt Leer kann man auch Nichts sagen.

Eine nichtinitialisierte Referenz ist meist mit Null hinreichend präzise beschrieben, weil ein Frame, eine Liste oder ein Mitarbeiter nicht 0 sein kann, also Null im Sinne von nicht initialisiert sein muss.

In Java kann man zwar eindeutig sagen sagen,

"count ist ein int Null"

weil ints nicht null sein können, aber ein Integer, der beides sein kann, macht es schwierig. Ist er 0, so kann man sich mit Zero behelfen, aber wenn er null ist, ist ein gesprochenes Nall das praktischste.

Bei Strings versagt die wörtliche Rede vollkommen, wenn vom Kontext nicht klar wird, dass nur eines gemeint sein kann, denn jede Erklärung könnte ja wörtlich genommen werden, und nicht als Erläuterung. Zudem kann die Zahl als Ziffer oder Wort geschrieben werden.

Bei Listen kommt auch noch Nil dazu, welches ich nur als Nil kenne.

In Scala beispielsweise kennt man auch noch Nothing als universellen Typ, der von jedem Typ erben kann, und den ich auch noch nicht übersetzt gesehen habe.

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