I know that the latter is a substantivated adjective, but I can't really seem to get the difference in meaning. To me, both indicate the German language. Yes, "das Deutsche" is used "im Allgemeinen", but how is "das Deutsch" less general?

Also it looks like in certain expressions it's customary to use "das Deutsche", as in

ins Deutsche übersetzen

Would "ins Deutsch übersetzen" instead be really wrong?

  • It isn't limited to das Deutsche, you also say das Englische, das Japanische when referring to a language. And it isn't limited to languages either but a feature of all nouns made from adjectives.
    – Janka
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 23:43

7 Answers 7


I think that they describe two different things:

  1. "das Deutsche" is the german language itself as in

    Das Deutsche hat seine Feinheiten und Tücken.

    or as you said:

    etwas ins Deutsche übersetzen

  2. "das Deutsch" is a person's knowledge of the german language.

    Mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut.

Thus, the expression "ins Deutsch übersetzen" would be wrong.

  • 9
    Note, the first sentence can also be: "Deutsch hat seine Feinheiten und Tücken".
    – Em1
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 10:58
  • Damn! You had me there. Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 18:03
  • 1
    The example @Em1 gave is not just an exception. There are many others. I think this shows that the distinction made in this answer does not capture the full picture.
    – Emil
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 10:46

The answer is in the dictionary and I'll admit that I had to look it up myself.

Das Deutsch is (1) the German language as pertaining to an individual or specific groups, or (2) the German language per se, or (3) German language as a subject matter in school; das Deutsche is the German language per se, equivalent to Deutsch as per meaning (2).

Clear as mud... But there's answer to one of your questions; it follows from the definition that das Deutsch is less general then das Deutsche.

Er spricht Deutsch.

He speaks German. No 'e', because of the reference to a single person.

Dienstags habe ich Deutsch.

I have a German class on Tuesdays. This one isn't ambiguous.

Er übersetzt ins Deutsche.

He translates into German. With an 'e', because it's the language in general.

  • 5
    Well, then I'm confused by "wie heißt <etwas> auf Deutsch?" Looks like it should be "auf Deutsche"...I guess it's just one of those idiomatic things that one should just learn.
    – persson
    Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 18:58
  • You got me there. Either there is an idiomatic component involved, or additional grammatical rules apply. Does anybody else know?
    – divby0
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 12:50
  • 3
    Deutsche is always with article, hence * auf Deutsche is not possible. You can ask „Wie heißt das im Deutschen?“
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 20:48
  • Warum nicht "auf dem Deutschen"?
    – ALÖ
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 12:30
  • Und ich glaube, "Deutsche" kommt nicht immer mit dem Artikel: "Ich habe viele Deutsche kennengelernt".
    – ALÖ
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 12:32


First let's have a look at general adjective nominalisation rules - something similar happens with colours:

a) Das Blau des Himmels ist heute wieder wunderschön.

Ich spiele begeistert Roulette, meistens setze ich auf Rot.


b) Ich habe mir viele Autos angeschaut, am Schluß habe ich mich ins Blaue hinein für das Blaue hier entschieden.

Ich habe mich in den Finger geschnitten, ich glaube das Rote, was da rauskommt, ist Blut

Case a) has a noun "das Blau"/ "Rot" that denotes nothing but the state of being of that colour, it's a nominalized and generalized attribute describing exclusively the state of being blue, ignoring any other aspects.

The a) nominalisation is only possible for some specific types of adjectives: colours, languages, and some selected other ones like "Fett, Recht, Tief, Hoch, Dunkel, Heil, Leid und Wild".

Case b) has similar nouns, the only difference being that whatever we're talking about has (can have) many more characteristics than just being of that colour - we're making it clear that we know and accept there's many more aspects of the thing.

The b) nominalisation is a general mechanism in German an can be applied to basically any adjective.

Applied to Language

Now let's transform that into languages:

a) Mein Deutsch ist wesentlich besser geworden.

b) Das Deutsche in uns kommt immer dann zum Vorschein, wenn wir im Urlaub ein Handtuch und eine Liege zur Verfügung haben.

The a) nominalisation form will always refer to language, no exceptions possible, while the b) nominalisation may refer to language, but also, like in the above example, to cultural aspects other than the language.

So, strictly speaking, when you translate something "in/nach/auf Deutsch" you're simply changing the language (probably what Google Translate or DeepL do). If you translate "ins Deutsche" you might cover other aspects like cultural background, or even change the whole structure of the text completely for example when translating poems. You could say you can translate a technical text "auf Deutsch", but probably not a poem or song lyrics (because you typically need to consider more aspects there than just the language)

There are many more subtile differences between the two nominalisation types, but the above is the most important one. There's an in-depth essay on the penomenon here, in case you want to dig deeper.

  • Thanks! This is complicated a bit by your two examples. I would read those using an implied noun that is neuter: "das Blaue [Auto]"; "das Rote [Ding]".
    – Mikel
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 15:02
  • @tofro, a counter example to your statement that "Deutsch" always is restricted to the language is "Deutsch sein bedeutet für mich, am Strand immer ein Handtuch dabei zu haben." This clearly relates to culture as much as your b) sentence.
    – kay_D
    Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 23:15
  • 1
    Your example uses deutsch as a standard adjective, not as a noun. Of course this is different.
    – tofro
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 11:55
  • Thank you for your answer and for the PDF link tofro. Very helpful.
    – Mikel
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 13:50

I know it's late but I'm leaving a comment to help myself be clear of this.

Languages, when "nominalisiert", have two forms. One ends with -e and one has no ending. Das Deutsche, Deutsch.

The -e form ONLY comes when used with bestimmte Artikel with no Attribut. So there can only be "das Deutsche". There is NO "Deutsche" or "das gesprochene Deutsche" etc. Ins Deutsche übersetzen = in das Deutsche übersetzen.

The form with no ending is used in every other cases: with Attribut, with unbestimmte Artikel...

So knowing that the case with only bestimmte Artikel applies to the -e form, I don't know if it means that it doesn't apply to the other form as well? If it does then a lot can be explained.

Sorry for my bad English.

Edit: my book says that "the form without ending is used with other Artikel (other than bestimmte Artikel) and Attribut." So I think there is no "das Deutsch" (and sometimes people just use it mistakely)


The reason, as far as I know, is that it is like this:

ins Deutsche übersetzen

is a shortening of the following

in die deutsche Sprache übersetzen

in die becomes ins and deutsche becomes a noun once you shorten deutsche Sprache.

  • 1
    Das Deutsche mag die gleiche Bedeutung haben wie die deutsche Sprache, kann aber nicht einfach als Verkürzung gesehen werden, da die Geschlechter verschieden sind.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 20:43
  • I think "ins" becomes "in das": "ins Deutsche" becomes "in das Deutsche".
    – IQV
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 15:12

Would "ins Deutsch übersetzen" instead be really wrong?

It would.

in eine Sprache übersetzen

  • one translates into a certain language so you need Deutsch + the definite article das
  • das Deutsche: if used with a definite article you have to use the form Deutsche
  • ins is abbreviated from in das

There is no

ins Türkisch / Englisch / Deutsch / Spanisch

but only

ins Türkische / Englische / Deutsche / Spanische

  • 1
    You suggest that together with a definite article you always have to use Deutsche. This would be a nice an simple rule, only it doesn't always apply: e.g. "Das Deutsch, wie es in Östereich gesprochen wird..."
    – Emil
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 10:55

According to http://dict.leo.org, "das Deutsche" means "the German language", as opposed to "Deutsch", which is just "German".

You wouldn't say "I speak the German language", but rather "I speak German". (Ich spreche Deutsch.)

You would, however, say, "I'm translating that into [the] German [language]. (Ich übersetze das ins Deutsche.)

  • I disagree wth Leo here: Andere Nationen sehen beim "typisch Deutschen" zuerst Pünktlichkeit, penible Ingenieurskunst, schnelle Autos und schlechtes Essen
    – tofro
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 8:39

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