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In an examination I tried to translate "The train comes immediately" as

Der Zug kommt gleich.

but to my surprise, the right answer was

Der Zug kommt sogleich.

What is the difference between this 2 words? Could you give me a few examples as where each one fits better than the other one?

  • Please do not capitalise German words (e.g. in titles) for reasons other than those of German grammar. – Carsten S Jul 29 '17 at 12:57
  • Related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/24008/… – Carsten S Jul 29 '17 at 12:58
  • Was there any more context in the exam? And was it exactly that English sentence, or is that your translation from a third language? – Carsten S Jul 29 '17 at 13:00
  • No, it was a simple "translate this sentence" exercise. – Enrique Moreno Tent Jul 29 '17 at 13:22
  • I would neither use gleich nor sogleich in this case, my preference would be "Der Zug kommt jeden Moment". – bkausbk Aug 1 '17 at 11:53
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gleich

There is an adjective gleich and also an adverb gleich. The adjective means equal or same. Adjectives can be used as attributes, and in this case they must be declined:

Wir haben die gleichen Schuhe an.
We wear the same shoes.

Die Preise sind gleich geblieben.
The prices have remained the same.

The adverb gleich means soon or immediately (temporal), but also close to or next to (local). Adverbs can not be used as attributes, and the can not be declined.

Der Baum wächst gleich neben dem Haus.
The tree grows next to the house.

Der Zug kommt gleich.
The train is coming soon.

So your 1st sentence is a absolutely correct and typical example of the usage of the temporal adverb gleich.


sogleich

This word is also a temporal adverb, and it's meaning is very close to the meaning of the temporal adverb gleich. The only difference: Sogleich means soon after (something else). But this difference is really just a nuance, and in most cases you can think of gleich (the temporal adverb) and sogleich as synonyms.

So this is an absolutely correct example of the usage of sogleich:

Der Zug kommt sogleich.
The train is coming soon.


You can see the difference between gleich and sogleich better in another example:

Walter war gerade dabei, seine Schuhe anzuziehen. Er hatte vor, sogleich aufzubrechen, und aufs Feld zu gehen, um den Mais zu ernten.

Walter was just about to wear his shoes. He was about to leave at once, and to go to the field to harvest the corn.

Walter wants to leave immediately after he finished putting on his shoes. One action is putting on the shoes. The action, that comes immediately after (with no break, and with no other action in between) is leaving the house. And because one thing happens immediately after the other thing, you better use sogleich (but gleich would be ok too).

Kind: »Müssen wir noch lange warten?«
Mutter: »Nein, der Zug kommt gleich. Nur noch fünf Minuten. Aber wenn du schnell bist, kannst du inzwischen noch aufs Klo gehen.«

Child: »Do we have to wait a long time?«
Mother: »No, the train is coming soon. Only five minutes left. But if you are fast, you can go to the toilet in the meantime.«

The train is coming in 5 minutes, which is soon. But there still is room for other actions (going to the toilet) before the train arrives.

There is another difference between gleich and sogleich: Sogleich has a more educated and finer, but sometimes also arrogant, connotation.

  • 2
    This is a wonderful explanation. Thank you so much. Even though I have the feeling that the correction of my exercise was not proper. But at least I think I grasp now better what it means. – Enrique Moreno Tent Jul 29 '17 at 13:22
  • In OP's sentence "Der Zug kommt sogleich.", there is not event that the arrival of the train could immediately follow. Is it then equal to "gleich" or is it more imminent as compared to "gleich". The latter (more imminent) is what it sounds to me but maybe I have been using the word wrongly. – problemofficer Jul 29 '17 at 16:16
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Home of »sogleich« is literature, especially belles-lettres. You will hardly find it in spoken language where you should use »gleich« or »sofort« instead.

Was immer ich auf Erden tue, wird im Himmel sogleich gutgeheißen.
(Whatever I do on earth will be approved at once in heaven.)

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