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  5. Irgendwas vs. Etwas


Irgendwas vs. Etwas

Hello! I've been confused for a while about this. What is the difference between irgendwas and etwas? Is there a difference in formality? If someone could please clear this up for me, I'd really appreciate that.

Thanks in advance! :)

October 11, 2017



First of all, it’s a really good question. Even as a native speaker (not a language teacher, though), I had to think about it. I conclude that people use “irgendwas” when they are either completely clueless as to “what”, or don’t care as to “what”. The trouble for you as a learner is, that you cannot fully relate it to the english use cases of anything vs something. In many cases you would use both “irgendwas” and “etwas” as the equivalent of “something”, but in German you can now differentiate on how clear and determined that “something” actually is. Example: „Something is wrong!“ - now, if you have absolutely no clue as to what is wrong, you could say „Irgendetwas ist falsch!“. However if you have some idea about what could be wrong, you would probably choose to say „Etwas ist falsch!“. Really the difference is a nuance, but nuanced expression can be a very useful thing.


Irgendwas is short for irgendetwas.

Irgend makes it more vague.

Irgendjemand = anyone, jemand = someone

Irgendwo = anywhere, wo = where


Ah, so irgendwas is more loose and careless? That makes sense. Thanks!

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