Sometimes I have an inclination to compare something to some other time in the past when I took a particular course of action.

For example, if I was talking about referring to a time in the past that I asked a question, I might use a relative clause "Als ich dich zuletzt gefragt habe"

But if I also simultaneously want to express a comparison to that relative clause using "als", I don't see a way of doing that grammatically.

Example sentence: "You were angrier than the last time I asked"

My brain spits out "als als", which seems ungrammatical and I falter until I can reword it.

The only thing I can think of that sounds reasonable would be something like "als damals, als"

Is there a preferred way of handling this situation fluently?

  • 'want to express a comparison to that relative clause using "als"' Why, though? It would be (more) correct to use "wie" for the comparison.
    – user6495
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 12:12
  • @Roland I mix them up frequently. I live in Baden-Württemeberg where the usage is somewhat confused, so in this case a hypercorrection. But assuming I had asked the correct question, the same situation could result. I fixed the question to reflect this. Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 12:49
  • "Du warst wütender als das letzte Mal, als ich dich gefragt habe." (Ignoring issues with tenses that already exist in the English sentence.) Where is there a double "als"?
    – user6495
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 13:03
  • 2
    "Du warst wütender als als ich dich das letzte Mal gefragt habe" -- i might second-guess myself when writing this, but it's definitely a natural spoken sentence.
    – tobi_s
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 23:09
  • @Roland you are getting too caught up on the translation aspect. The english example was only really given to illustrate the situation more clearly, give I was unsure if the form that I think of is grammatical and if anyone would even understand it. I am almost never translating. The situation as it arises naturally in my brain is more or less: I am speaking and my brain spits out the word "als" because I am making a comparison and I say this immediately. Then after that I realize that I want to say a relative clause that already begins with "als". Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 6:24

3 Answers 3


You were angrier than the last time I asked.

Du warst wütender als das letzte Mal, als ich gefragt habe.

The comparison goes first, then the adverbial clause that further explains the comparison.

  • I think in this case that works. And although I can't think of a specific example I am pretty sure I have had situations where there was no logical thing to put in the position you have placed "das letzte Mal". Given the situation that the first instance of the word "als" has already left my lips, and my brain is already in panic mode as to how to end the sentence. Is there any reasonable fill word I can add? Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 6:33
  • @TimSeguine Well, if you speak in a Bavarian dialect, you could replace the comparative als by wie or als wie -- exactly what is considered wrong in standard language. Ich mag ihn lieber als Kunden wie als Kollegen. This will usuall pass as acceptable, just never write it down. Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 10:16
  • 1
    @phipsgabler At home I mostly speak Swabian inspired German which has the same feature. But I have a mental block against it at work where this problem normally comes up. Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 18:21
  • 1
    @TimSeguine "als damals, als" or "als früher, als" would also work.
    – Uwe
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 20:56

First, in colloquial language, feel free to say als als. It may not be beautiful, but it isn't wrong, and often won't even be noticed.

Second, to avoid the ugly repetition, German speakers often employ the trick that in the sense of “than,” als has the synonym denn. So you can for example say:

Herr Sowieso gefällt mir besser als Kunde denn als Kollege.
I like Mr So-and-so better as a customer than as a colleague.

This is a somewhat educated level of speech, but not too much, in my opinion. In written correspondence (e.g. business emails), I would definitely use this construction, or else rephrase the sentence, to avoid als als.

Outside of this usage, denn in this sense normally only occurs in extremely dated language or fixed expressions like Geben ist seliger denn Nehmen. 1) In a number of other senses, it obviously remains a very common word.

I do, however, agree with Janka that when you translate the English example you gave, you should not encounter the als als situation.

1) Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Unfortunately, nowadays even this is often cited as: … als nehmen, thanks to the Protestant busybodies who, despite all evidence to the contrary, believe they speak better German than Martin Luther.

  • You successfully identified the spirit of the question. I only included an English example because I wasn't sure of how to explain the situation without one, so actually translation help like Janka provided while enlightening is actually not the situation I am in when this arises. In the rare cases when I actually am translating, I have enough time usually to think of an alternative sentence. That being said, I am somewhat doubtful that this use of "denn" will find its way into my speech. Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 6:55

Both, "als" and "wie" have their place in comparisons. As a rule of thumb, one uses "als" when using the Komparativ, "wie" when not:

Er ist so groß wie ich.
Er ist nicht so groß wie ich.


Er ist größer als ich.
Er ist größer als ich.

Notice, though, that the usual reasoning with which this is presented, is wrong: in school we learned (I paraphrase here):

"Als" wird nur nach Komparativen und dem Wort "anders" davon abgeleiteten Wörtern verwendet.

Correct is: in these cases one cannot use "wie". "Wie" expresses a comparison, "als" a measurement! This means:

Eine Sache bedeutet soviel wie eine andere.

One thing means as much as another thing, both mean the same (measured against an implied third). I weigh as much as my neighbor - if we both are to be weighed we'd both get the result "X kg", the "kilogramm" as the unit of weight is the implied third.

Eine Sache bedeutet soviel als eine andere.

One thing means as much as the other thing is, it means the other.

Das rote Auto wiegt so viel wie das gelbe.


Das rote Auto wiegt zweimal so viel als das gelbe.


Here is an article (in German and my English is not good enough to faithfully translate the nuances of the authors masterful language) where this is discussed in detail.

  • Your article's first edition dates from 1937, and I was surprised it was so "recent" when I read the paragraph you linked to. In modern German, "bedeutet soviel als eine andere" is at least questionable, and "wiegt zweimal so viel als das ..." is undoubtedly wrong. Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 14:23
  • "in school we learned ..." DAF? Because I don't remember having to learn this in school at all but I might have payed no attention and forgot about it.
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 18:15
  • Wer schon mal eine Balkenwaage gesehen hat weiß, dass man kein Drittes braucht, um 2 Gewichte miteinander zu vergleichen. Die Einheit ist auch bedeutungslos für die Frage welches schwerer wiegt bzw. ob 2 Dinge gleich viel wiegen. Wenn es in Gramm gleich viel ist, ist es auch in Pfund gleich viel. V.a. sehe ich aber die Frage gar nicht adressiert. Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 20:54
  • This seems to answer a different question than was asked. Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 22:29
  • I don't think I asked "What is the difference between als and wie". So why exactly did you decide it was appropriate to answer a question that is only tenuously tangentially related to the one I asked? Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 6:47

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