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Irgendwas, irgendetwas or etwas?

I'm a bit confused about the German words for "something". As I understand it in Duolingo, the word for "something" is "irgendwas". But, in one of the questions, "she says something", the correct answer was using "see spricht irgendetwas". I know that "etwas" on its own also means "something". On the translator app on my MacBook, it says that the phrase "she says something" is "sie sagt etwas", so two of the words in this short phrase are different.

May I please be enlightened?

December 1, 2017

1 Comment


"Irgendwas" is the short form of "irgendetwas". In spoken language you would be more likely to say and hear "irgendwas", but in formal written language it would be better to use "irgendetwas".

"Etwas" and "irgendetwas" (or "irgendwas") are very similar, but not exactly the same. It depends a bit on the context. Both can be translated with "something". The word "irgendwas" puts more emphasis on the fact, that it can just be anything though.

In your example:

"Sie sagt etwas" = "She says something."

"Sie sagt irgendwas" = "She says something" (in the sense of "She says something, but it doesn't matter what exactly, it could be anything")

Maybe it gets clearer this way:

"Sag etwas!" = "Say something!" (e.g. when you are in an argument with someone and demand a response to an accusation or something. You want them to say something, but it should not just be anything, but something that fits the conversation)

"Sag irgendwas!" = "Say something, just anything!" (e.g. when you are testing a new microphone. It doesn't matter what it is that you are saying.)

I hope this makes it a bit clearer.

(By the way, in the same way that "irgendetwas" can be shortened to "irgendwas", "etwas" can be shortened to "was".)

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