I am not asking about inflection, but about "dem" being part of "demselben", or so it is suggested by writing it not separated (?), but contracted, "dem" forms prepositon "im".

Is this something exclusive to "derselbe"? Or are there more occurences of an article (?) being "part" of another word but then forming a contraction with the preposition?

And either way, how can it be argued looking at this usage that "dem" does not have to be written separately? Intuitively, seperating it is one of the most common mistakes of Germans. Thinking of "der gleiche" also shows why it could be this way.

2 Answers 2


While im might look like a contraction, it doesn't behave as one: im and in dem are not distributionally equivalent.* For some examples, see this answer or Maria Cieschinger, The Contraction of Preposition and Definite Article in German – Semantic and Pragmatic Constraints, dissertation, university of Osnabrück, 2016, link.

Therefore, in the following pair, the second variant isn't derived from the first; they both exist independently.

in demselben Moment
im selben Moment

As to the spelling of derselbe as one word, that's just a quirk; with both parts inflecting independently, der and selbe stand in precisely the same syntactic relationship as der and gleiche. The spelling could be in imitation of Latin idem.

* The argument is exactly parallel to that for (apparent) contractions in English: can't looks like a contraction of cannot but is an independent word. For instance, can't you see him? cannot be derived from ungrammatical cannot you see him?

  • Thank you for your answer Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 22:28

Beside der-/die-/dasselbe, there's also der-/die-/dasjenige.

Both are demonstrative pronouns as der/die/das itself, dieser/diese/dieses, jener/jene/jenes, solcher/solche/solches.

Other tricky demonstrative pronouns are derlei, dergleichen, selbst, and selber.

  • selbst is a particle. But I thank you for your answer with more similar word. Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 22:26
  • de.wiktionary.org/wiki/selbst — They think it's a demonstrative pronoun.
    – Janka
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 1:30

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