Früh is the base form, "early", and früher is the comparative, "earlier". But both DeepL and Google translate "My boss is letting me leave early today," as Mein Chef lässt mich heute früher gehen. Is Mein Chef lässt mich heute früh gehen, incorrect, unidiomatic, or are the machine translations wrong? I'm tempted to ask Früher als was? I did check the usual resources: DWDS, Wiktionary (en and de), dict.cc, Leo, but didn't find an explanation.

  • I suspect this is a duplicate of this question.
    – guidot
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 15:32
  • @guidot - You could be right, but none of the answers was accepted and they all seem to conflict with each other. English also uses unbalanced comparatives, but perhaps German uses them differently and in a way that I don't understand. The example in the other question is Arbeitest du lange?, not Arbeitest du langer? and DeepL doesn't seem to mind the first version. Why does Gehst du später? use a comparison but Arbeitest du spät? not use one.
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 16:13
  • 3
    I asked a similar question recently and got some helpful replies... also look at the link in the comments, which took me to a general discussion of the "absolute comparative": german.stackexchange.com/questions/65888/…
    – cruthers
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 19:19
  • @RDBury: You are right, the number of upvotes was not impressive either. I'm still convinced , that früher in this context is mostly understood as "earlier than you are supposed to stay in office", while früh could mean rather early, e.g. somewhat after lunch and therefore früher despite being a comparative represents a later point in time than früh. Heute früh is a phrase frequently used with the meaning today in the morning, so it is ambiguous.
    – guidot
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 19:35
  • @cruthers - Yes, that's helpful. It's interesting that, at least in English, a comparative can either weaken (as in "an older gentleman") or strengthen (as in "we work harder") the description. I thought I understood comparisons in general when I posted the question, in English anyway; apparently I was wrong about that.
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


"Jemanden früher gehen lassen" is indeed an idiomatic expression in German language.

It is implied that the time you leave is earlier than the time you were supposed to leave.

You usually work till 5pm? - Ok but today you are leaving earlier...

  • So I gather Mein Chef lässt mich heute später kommen, would also work. Are there other adjectives where this occurs? For example it seems you can say Der Himmel ist dunkel, rather than Der Himmel ist dunkler (als gewöhnlich). I'm having a hard time with the philosophy here. When you use almost any adjective it's relative to what's expected or usual. If I say Der Wein ist rot, it doesn't mean the wine looks like blood or red paint, it means that it's redder than other types of wine.
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 15:28
  • Yes, this also applies to "später". But your other examples don't work: you need an explicit comparison there...
    – Tode
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 16:38
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    Just reminds me that I got told off quite recently for daring to answer a question in English. Bit weird this.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 9:49
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    Don't know who told you off because of this... The policy here is: If the question is asked in English, then the answer is written in English too. If the question is asked in German, then the answer should be German too... quite easy, isn't it? I remember a case recently where the question was asked in German but it was asked to reply in English which I unfortunately didn't read... But this was an exception from the "normal" rules...
    – Tode
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 12:00

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