# How to say “respectively” in German when listing (enumerating) things

In English and many other languages I could say something like this:

Tom and Jack play football and baseball respectively.

That means that Tom plays football and Jack plays baseball.

How can I say this in German? What is the equivalent of "respectively"?

• What did your dictionary suggest? – Carsten S Sep 23 at 13:18
• recht and passend, but I don't think, that these are correct, because I could not find any sentence with these used in the context I am looking for here. – matvs Sep 23 at 13:22
• @matvs would you please edit your post and add were you've looked it up and what you've found? – Arsak Sep 23 at 14:20
• I would add that if 'respectively' is used to mean 'each' then this would be expressed by 'je' in German. – 1Darco1 Sep 24 at 9:17
• "Tom spielt Fußball und Jack spielt Baseball". :D – Eric Duminil Sep 24 at 18:14

This is expressed with the conjunction beziehungsweise (often abbreviated bzw.) in the meaning und im andern Fall (in the other case).

Admittedly, the structure of a German sentence containing beziehungsweise is different from the structure of an English sentence containing and ... respectively. Rather than translating word by word, one replaces the conjunction and by the conjunction beziehungsweise. The adverb respectively is dropped, because it is already implicit in the conjunction beziehungsweise. For example, the sentence

Tom and Jack play football and baseball, respectively.

is translated to

Tom und Jack spielen Fußball beziehungsweise Baseball.

meaning that Tom plays football and Jack plays baseball.

• @HenningKockerbeck That's right. But isn't the English "respectively" also a bit bureaucratic? I have never heared somebody using it in causal speech, or in an everyday situation. I think both beziehungsweise and respectively are expressions to emphasize the separateness of notions, and such kind of over-precision is not usual nor necessary in everyday communication. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 23 at 20:04
• This answer is not correct as it doesn't work with an ambiguous object. As duden mentions it works on things that can clearly not be true for both subjects like ihre Tochter und ihr Sohn sind sechs beziehungsweise acht Jahre alt (her daughter and son are six and eight respectively). But this answers example could as well mean that Tom AND Jack play soccer AND baseball. I'm a native speaker. – steros Sep 23 at 23:18
• @HenningKockerbeck I disagree with you here. I see "bzw" used much more informally, and with a much less precise meaning, than "respectively". When you see "respectively" in English, it's generally written either (a) by someone thinking very precisely, like a lawyer or mathematician, or (b) by someone mistranslating from German. – Michael Kay Sep 23 at 23:31
• @steros: "But this answers example could as well mean that Tom AND Jack play soccer AND baseball." - how do you come to that conclusion? IMHO, it cannot mean that precisely because of the "beziehungsweise". Were the example just "Tom und Jack spielen Fußball und Baseball.", it would indeed be ambiguous the way you describe. – O. R. Mapper Sep 24 at 4:54
• bezuehungsweise ist sicher kein und/oder. "Tom und Jack spielen Fußball beziehungsweise Baseball." heißt entweder "Tom spielt Fußball und Jack spielt Baseball." oder, theoretisch, "Tom und Jack spielen beide entweder Fußball oder Baseball, je nach Umständen." – ths Sep 24 at 20:41

Ich pflichte Björn Friedrich bei, dass

Tom und Jack spielen Fußball beziehungsweise Baseball.

die vorherrschende Form ist, derartiges auf Deutsch auszudrücken, möchte aber ergänzen, dass

Tom und Jack spielen Fußball, respektive Baseball.

auch nicht ganz ungebräuchlich ist, aber im Straßenjargon ist es sehr selten.

• Die Frage ist ein Duplikat und nicht das erste. Ich sah einst die Empfehlung "X bzw. Y spielen A bzw B" zu schreiben. Das leuchtet ein, der Reim ist Fett, wie die Beginner einst sagten. Sagen würden das wenige, ich hab es mir zwar angewöhnt, denke eher "Tom spielt Fußball, Jack Basketball" – vectory Sep 24 at 3:36
• Kommt mir altmodisch vor, vor Allem wenn ich da meinen Opa höre, der "reschpektive" gesagt hat... – ths Sep 24 at 20:42
• @ths: Zwar kommt es mir auch vor, als hätte ich es vor 10-20 Jahren häufiger gehört (und benutzt) als heute, aber dennoch fällt es mir schwer, etwas was erst 30 Jahre her ist als altmodisch zu bezeichnen - k.A. wie alt Du bist. Altmodisch ist für mich 50er und früher. Ich selbst bin vielleicht alt, aber doch nicht altmodisch. :) – user unknown Sep 24 at 21:00

Baseline

While respectively typically translates to beziehungsweise, respektive or jeweils, neither seems optimal in your example. As @steros has pointed out in a comment, the translation ...

Tom und Jack spielen Fußball, respektive / beziehungsweise Baseball.

... suffers from a subject ambiguity that produces a reading in which both boys would play both sports. Pragmatics might filter this reading in the given example (for 'beziehungsweise' would suggest that both sports were related in some way, possibly to the extent that the latter were a specialization of the former, so since the relationship here is tenuous, the translation would probably work as intended). However, the preferred reading is much less pronounced if the sentence comes with very disparate leisure activities:

Tom und Jack spielen Fußball beziehungsweise Schach.
[Tom and Jack play football and chess, respectively.]

Note that the problem does not arise in a context that implies an ordering, as in

Tom und Jack wurden Dritter beziehungsweise Vierter.
[Tom and Jack ranked third and fourth, respectively.]

as different ranks cannot be held simultaneously.

Improvement

A better translation would be:

Tom spielt Fußball, respektive Jack Baseball.

which resolves any ambiguity though it still feels a bit odd - you'd rather express the contrast with a conjunction:

Tom spielt Fußball, Jack hingegen Baseball. / Während Tom Fußball spielt, spielt Jack Baseball. [Tom plays football while Jack plays baseball]

Caveat

All grammaticality assessments based on native-speaker intuition, no formal references.

• I'm not sure, but what's wrong with jeweils? Tom und Jack spielen jeweils Fußball und Baseball. Although to be honest, I'd just say "Tom spielt Fußball und Jack spielt Baseball" without any extra complications. – m01 Sep 24 at 18:48
• @m01 The semantics of jeweils include a meaning that partitions time into periods where exactly one of the given alternatives happen, ie. football and baseball being played, respectively ( scnr ;) ), by both boys. There also is the meaning that each of the boys plays football and baseball. To me that is the dominant reading right now, though it might be that I've become biased by considering the issue. – collapsar Sep 24 at 18:58

It is a common mistake when translations attempt to preserve the syntax of the source language. The correct question in the context of translation is not how one might translate the English construction X and Y do A and B respectively into German, but what a native speaker of German would say when they want to convey the same meaning. And what a native speaker of German would say is:

# Tom spielt Fußball, und Jack spielt Baseball.

• do you have any objections to "Tom und Jack spielen Fußball beziehungsweise Baseball"? – Dan Sep 25 at 19:14
• @JohnHennig that’s not the point. The point of the answer is what a native speaker would not say, i.e. “beziehungsweise” or “respektive”. – Holger Sep 26 at 7:42
• Tom spielt Fußball und Jack spielt Baseball is grammatically correct but would be considered poor style due to the doubling of the verb and of the sentence structure. In fact I've rarely run into communication by a native speaker that would not apply elision (whether orally or in writing): Tom spielt Fußball und Jack Baseball. – collapsar Sep 26 at 13:33
• @userunknown Bitte entferne nicht das Komma, es ist hier korrekt (auch wenn es nicht mehr notwendig ist). – Snot Bubble Sep 26 at 19:53
• @userunknown Duden: "Bei gereihten Hauptsätzen, die mit und/oder verbunden sind, darf ein Komma gesetzt werden". Im Duden ist das die Regel Nr. 119, dort 2. Absatz: duden.de/sprachwissen/rechtschreibregeln/komma#D119 Beispiel des Duden: Anna liest die Zeitung[,] und Otto löst ein Kreuzworträtsel. – Snot Bubble Sep 27 at 7:17

The weakness of a sentence like

Tom und Jack spielen Fußball, respektive / beziehungsweise Baseball.

is that it is not clear if it relates to "Tom and Jack respectively", or any other entity mentioned before. "Beziehungsweise" also means in german "more precisely" or "rather". I wouldn't use it in that way.

Although the answers of Björn Friedrich and user unknown are correct in giving good translations of respectively, it is not really common to use this construction to express two relations, especially if it contains potential ambiguity. The natural way to express this situation in German would be to completely let go the concept of respectively and use two connected main clauses.
In German, if you want to prevent the sentence from becoming too long and/or complicated, it is quite common to omit some words or parts of words that are not essential for understanding, so if Tom plays A and Jack plays B you omit the second "plays". Also most of the time "Fußball und Baseball" would be shortened to "Fuß- und Baseball".
So the most idiomatic translation of your sentence into German would be to abandon respectively and say:

Tom spielt Fuß- und Jack Baseball.

Tom und Jack spielen entsprechend Fußball und Baseball

Mein Sohn und meine Tochter sind entsprechend sechs und acht Jahre alt

• I'd say that entsprechend cannot be used to disambiguate subject-object relationships. Rather it refers to a constituent outside the scope of the sentence proper, often establishing a causal relationship. Example: Hamburg ist eine Hochburg des Ballsports. Tom und Jack spielen entsprechend Fußball und Baseball. [Hamburg is a stronghold of ball sports. Tom and Jack play football and baseball accordingly], meaning that Tom and Jack do both sports). – collapsar Sep 25 at 9:18
• Die richtige Lösung ist hier: Tom und Jack spielen beide Fußball und Baseball. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 25 at 15:02
• @ChristianGeiselmann I beg to disagree: To me beide indicates that "both", i.e. each of them, plays football and baseball. That is, "beide" shifts the meaning in the wrong direction. – Peter A. Schneider Sep 25 at 15:42
• @julodnik "Entsprechend" would refer to something said before, like "Meine Jungs mögen Sport viel lieber als Lesen. Tom und Jack spielen entsprechend Fußball und Baseball, während die Mädels Dauerkunden in der Bibliothek sind." – Peter A. Schneider Sep 25 at 15:45

The most common construction using "beziehungsweise" is explained in other answers. If you care for a similar sentence hierarchy to the English version, you can use

Tom und Jack spielen jeweils American Football und Baseball.

As a note aside: where "baseball" rather than "cricket" is a thing, "football" does not mean "soccer" and thus cannot be translated as "Fußball".

• In my book the "jeweils" indicates that each of the two plays both games. – Peter A. Schneider Sep 25 at 15:40
• Like "Die Spieler brauchen jeweils ein Paar Fußballschuhe, Hose und Trikot." The statement applies je Person / per person. Admittedly the example is much less ambiguous as far as the subject matter is concerned ;-). – Peter A. Schneider Sep 25 at 15:52