I came across the following sentence the other day, and my wife who is a native German speaker from Austria insists it is correct. But by the rules I have been taught it is wrong. Can someone explain why wie should be used here instead of als?

Seine Hose ist nicht so bunt wie die Jacke.

The rules I am going by are: wie when comparing things that are the same, and als when different. So my interpretation is that the two items are different in that one is not as colourful as the other.

  • 16
    Can you maybe state the rule by that you consider "als" to be the right word? This way, we might be able to point out why this rule doesn't apply here. Btw., the sentence is (appart from the fact that "Hose" should be written with a capital H) grammatically correct.
    – Dirk
    Aug 21, 2017 at 11:58
  • I’m voting to close as unclear. I agree with Dirk that we need the rules you have been taught to point out why they do not apply here. The general case may be of little use to you. Please edit them in. If the question is put on hold in the meantime, an edit will cause it to automatically enter a reopen queue.
    – Jan
    Aug 21, 2017 at 13:12
  • Related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/2690/…
    – Carsten S
    Aug 21, 2017 at 16:32
  • 1
    The rule is correct, but you have to ignore negations, like in English too: »Tom is as tall as Walter, but not as tall as Lisa. Tom is taller than Lisa, but he is not taller than Walter.« This is wrong: »Tom is not as tall than Lisa.« This all in German: »Tom ist so groß wie Walter, aber nicht so groß wie Lisa. Tom ist größer als Lisa, aber er ist nicht größer als Walter.» Das ist falsch: »Tom ist nicht so groß als Lisa.« Aug 22, 2017 at 6:22

5 Answers 5


Seine Hose ist nicht so bunt wie die Jacke. (no comparative)

Seine Hose ist weniger bunt als die Jacke. (comparative)

Seine Hose ist weniger bunt wie die Jacke. (comparative, dialect)

Seine Hose ist weniger bunt als wie die Jacke. (comparative, dialect)

The difference is whether you use a comparative or not. Non-comparatives require wie. For comparatives, als is Standard German but dialect may also allow wie and even als wie.

  • 9
    Please note that a significant portion of native German speakers get this frequently wrong.
    – TorstenS
    Aug 21, 2017 at 13:23
  • 9
    Weniger ... [als] wie is just plain wrong. Never use it in educated circles, and never in writing.
    – Polygnome
    Aug 21, 2017 at 13:36
  • 3
    Goethe hardly wrote modern German.
    – Polygnome
    Aug 21, 2017 at 15:03
  • 3
    @ChristianGeiselmann good luck explaining the difference between "größer als" and "größer wie" to my fellow Swabians. Even if they fully know the theory, they will likely slip up every now and then. (I never referred to Austrian German, btw. )
    – Stephie
    Aug 21, 2017 at 20:52
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    @ChristianGeiselmann I could name a few high-ranking managers in the automotive industry with a generous six-digit salary and certainly good schooling and social background as living counter-example... And yes I am perfectly able to use the standard German form myself. It's just that with age comes the wisdom (at least that's what I hope it is) that there are more "rights" than I previously thought.
    – Stephie
    Aug 22, 2017 at 12:29

So (adjective wie) is an equivalence. E.g. "So bunt wie."

For the comparative, you would normally use Adjective -er als. E.g. bunter als.

But here, you are establishing a comparative using a negative equivalence. That is, "Nicht so bunt wie."

In this example, you keep the 'equivalence" form (in its negative version) to make your comparison. That's why you use "wie" and not "als."


Rule of thumb:

as/like = wie

than = als


The rule is correct, your interpretation of it is wrong.

You can maybe think of it as setting up the comparing phrase first into a complete sentence and then adding nicht for the negation. Or you might say that the nicht simply has to be ignored when determining whether things are the same or not.

Therefore, since it would be:

Seine Hose ist so bunt wie die Jacke.

It must also be:

Seine Hose ist nicht so bunt wie die Jacke.

Only the addition of the negation adverb has changed in the sentences.


Well, I can't speak to the German rules directly, but I can say that the sentences directly correlate to what they are in English.

His pants are not so colorful like the jacket. (The jacket is colorful, but the pants are not so. Implied comparison, I guess, but not really. Simply stating the colorfulness of each item.) His pants are less colorful than the jacket. (Regardless of the actual state of color of either item, the pants are less than that of the jacket. Direct comparison.) His pants are less colorful like the jacket. (No direct comparison between the subjects, but both items are less colorful than some unmentioned item.)

Just my zwei Cent.

I agree with Janka, obviously.

  • 4
    Wouldn't "His pants are not so colorful like the jacket" be more naturally expressed as "His pants are not as colorful as the jacket?" Aug 21, 2017 at 16:24
  • Yes I suppose it would. My apologies. Aug 23, 2017 at 15:17

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