Is there a formal syntactic name as well as description for the construction "je...desto"? I read that it can be described as "relating two comparatives". I see it as establishing a relationship, or a correlation: B is a dependent function of A. If you eat more, you gain more weight. So amount of weight has become a dependent function on amount of eating.

So does this have a very formal syntactic name, not only a comparison of A to B (this car is bigger than that car), but rather of establishing sort of a comparative function between two values?

2 Answers 2


Most German grammars have decided to not give the comparative in constructs like

je ..., desto ...


umso ..., umso ..., je ..., umso


je, ... je (archaic)

a special term, but rather sort conjunctions used to build such constructs into a special class, the Proportionale Konjunktionen (proportional conjunctions).

This makes sense, as the comparative in such constructs is perfectly regular, rather these specific conjunctions ask for a pair of comparatives to give a certain proportion.

The proportional conjunctions most often lead into a special sort of Nebensatz, the Komparativsatz, so you could probably use the term proportionaler Komparativsatz or, simpler, Proportionalsatz for this specific class of subclause.

  • Neben "proportional" ist mir für das Verhältnis noch "lineares Wachstum" eingefallen - damit gibt es nichts? Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 8:47
  • @userunknown Proportional und linear sind aber zwei verschiedene Paar Schuhe. Nur wenn x ∝ y sind x und y linear. Vergleiche x ∝ y^2, x proportional zu y^2 oder "x geht wie y^2". Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 8:50
  • This is supported by the Plattdeutsche Grammatik, see here and here Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 8:52

Perhaps it doesn't need a name since there is only one in German. But a similar construction exists in English, except English doesn't have a special word, just "the" placed in front of comparatives. (For example: "The more we get together, the happier we'll be.") I think the name of this and similar constructions in German, English, and probably other languages is either "parallel comparative" or "double comparative". Unfortunately, while "double comparative" seems to be the more commonly used term, it's also used to describe expressions like "more better", which are used in some non-standard forms of English. (See this Yale site.) To me the real test is whether you can look up the term in Wikipedia, but I didn't find either of these terms or any other term under which the construction is described. So while I agree that while the construction should have grammatical name, I wasn't able to find one that really satisfactory. Wiktionary also suggests "comparative correlative" and "conditional comparative", but again, neither of these is listed in Wikipedia. Since this isn't a feature specific to German, perhaps the Linguistics Stack Exchange would be a better place to ask.

But if you want to categorize the words "je ... desto", together they form what would be called a two-part conjunction. Unlike other conjunctions, it doesn't require actual clauses, but can be used with bare comparatives, so using it often results in a sentence with no verb. Assuming verbs are used, the one in the "je" clause goes at the end, so it's technically a subordinating conjunction. At least it's described as one in this Herr Antrim video.

  • Note "there is only one..." is not quite true, it's at least two or three such constructs.
    – tofro
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 9:02

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