Is there any difference between the following two sentences?

Ich hörte, wie sie Alice’ Probleme besprachen.

Ich hörte, dass sie Alice’ Probleme besprachen.

Is is the simple difference between:

I heard what they said.

I know the fact that they said something, but I don't know exactly what they said.

Or are they simply interchangeable?

Another example (from this answer)

Ich bekam mit, wie sie über Alice sprachen.

Ich bekam mit, dass sie über Alice sprachen.


4 Answers 4


Both can mean that you overheard "them" talking about Alice's problems. However, there are subtle differences in secondary meanings:

Ich hörte, dass sie Alice' Probleme besprechen.

  • could also mean that someone told you that Alice's problems are a topic in a discussion (no further information given).

Ich hörte, wie sie Alice' Probleme besprechen.

  • could also mean that someone told you about the way or manner Alice's problems have been discussed.

Translating into English, "wie" means "how," or "about," and "dass" means that." "Wie" refers to the way you did something, dass only refers to the fact that you did something.

"Wie" invites a followup question, "dass" is self contained, and does not.

The two ideas are similar, but not the same.


Ich hörte, wie sie Alices Probleme besprachen

I'd say this is either

  • "I heard how or in which way they discussed Alice's problems" or
  • "I heard that they discussed Alice's problems"

I think the latter is colloquial or dialect, but from my experience in widespread use.

Thus "Ich hörte, wie sie Alices Probleme besprachen" and "Ich hörte, dass sie Alices Probleme besprachen" will be interchangeable in some situations, but it depends on context.


Ich hörte, wie sie Alice’ Probleme besprachen.

Could be translated to "I heard how Alice..." but in some regions they are the same.

Apart from that "wie" more often implies that you understood what they said but this is not allways applicable. So your second quote is kinda right.

Your last quote could most of the time be that difference, because "mitbekommen" implies that you understood the most of it and while "dass" can only be translated to "that" and "wie" could be translated to "that" or "how" you would assume if someone is using "wie", he really understood what or how they said it.

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