Wirklich, echt, tatsächlich and eigentlich

I was wondering if someone could please explain the different between wirklich, echt, tatsächlich and eigentlich and the situations in which you may use them. Duo isn't doing a great job of distinguishing the difference between them. Any help would be appreciated!

April 12, 2015


Where they can be different (so I highlight only differences not overlaps):

  • really{intensifier/not illusion} on adjectives and adverbs = wirklich, e.g. wirklich dumm
  • really{pure/genuine/sincere/typical} = echt, e.g. echt Blondine
  • really{actually/fundamentally/at heart} = eigentlich, e.g. Er scheint faul, aber er ist eigentlich sehr fleißig.
  • really{in fact/in deed} = tatsächlich, e.g. Hast du es tatsächlich gemacht?
  • "really/actually" filler = do not translate into German!

The gap "in deed" is deliberate to emphasize the sense of a deed or action.

April 13, 2015
  • Wirklich = Really "-Das ist wirklich eine gute Idee! -NEIN, WIRKLICH?!"
  • Echt = Really/real "Das ist echt toll! Eine echte Meerjungfrau!"
  • Tatsächlich = Actual/actually "-Ich hasse dich! -Tatsächlich?" (in der Tat works too)
  • Eigenlitch = Actually "Wow! Jetzt bin ich eigentlich 21 Jahre alt!"

Some are definitely interchangeable. Sometimes I find myself using wirklich way too much so I swap it out for eigentlich or echt. I don't use tatsächlich too much but it isn't uncommon. You'll get a good sense of them by reading different sentences that use them.

If you're saying "Really?" you could use actually any of them. But each one has like slightly different uses where they'd just sound better. If I'm wrong someone correct me... It's hard to explain because they're so interchangeable. It slightly does change the sound of a sentence like saying actually vs really in English would. For example, "I am actually the president of Uganda" versus "I am really the president of Uganda" -- depends on context.

BTW for tatsächlich it is kinda the same as in der Tat which means like in reality / for real... So you can kinda see how it is used. Like "OMG YOU BOUGHT THOSE NEW SHOES I LOVE? I HATE YOU!" "Wait, for real?" "Nah bruh I'm just kidding I love you man but I just really like the shoes you feel?"

April 13, 2015

"Wow! Jetzt bin ich eigentlich 21 Jahre alt!"

Sorry, this doesn't really work. Compare to this, for example:

  • "-Ich hasse dich! -Tatsächlich / Echt / Wirklich? - Nein, eigentlich nicht." (Still sounds a bit constructed)
  • Ich bin Taxifahrer, aber eigentlich hatte ich Kunstgeschichte studiert.
  • -Du bist doch der Tom, oder? - Eigentlich heiße ich Thomas, aber du kannst mich auch gerne Tom nennen.

See also the Duden, which explains it better than I could.

April 13, 2015

No, like "Wow yay I'm finally actually 21 I can't believe it wtf!" kind of thing idk

It's like new news that I'm 21

April 13, 2015

That's what I thought you meant and that's precisely how "eigentlich" doesn't work in German. JamieJamJams' link looks good on first glance if you haven't read it already. I would use something like "tatsächlich" to translate the "actually" in your sentence: "Wow, jetzt bin ich tatsächlich schon 21! Ich kann's nicht glauben!".

"Eigentlich" pertains to the actual essence of something. If someone wishes you a happy birthday and you point out that, actually, your birthday is tomorrow, then you can use "eigentlich" (or someone wishes you a happy 56th birthday but you're actually or "eigentlich" 57 now). It also carries a connotation that it's a technicality and not that important, but you still want to point it out (i.e. in the example you might still accept the compliments because they were only one day off). Or your boss asks you to do something on short notice and you say that you're "eigentlich" very busy but you'll try to fit it into your schedule (because your boss asked you to so you kind of have to, even though that could delay the other stuff you're busy with). I think in many of those cases you use "eigentlich" to correct a (perceived) assumption or to point something out that is kind of relevant but doesn't actually change things.

April 13, 2015

oic thxu i understandings now :3

April 13, 2015

I think jid1123 has explained it very well, I just wanted to add that I think that when 'eigentlich' is used there is always a twist involved, at least implicitely. For example:

Man kann unsere Software nicht falsch bedienen. = It is not possible to use our software incorrectly.

Eigentlich kann man unsere Software nicht falsch bedienen. = It should not be possible to use our software incorrectly but someone still managed it. / Usually it is not possible but there is actually a way to use the software incorrectly under exceptional circumstances.

Likewise, if you say 'eigentlich bin ich sehr beschäftigt' it means that even though you are busy you will take the anyway. If you ask 'Kannst Du das für mich erledigen?' (can you do that for me) the answer 'ich bin beschäftigt' means 'no', the answer 'eigentlich bin ich beschäftigt' means 'yes' (I will do it anyway).

April 13, 2015

Thanks for this. Will look up the responders tommorow as it ist spät hier.

April 13, 2015

So Wirklich? Echt? are interchangeable like Really? For Real? But Wirklich is an adverb and echt is an adjective.

Echt can also mean "genuine". Ex. Ein echter Man - "a real man". You wouldn't say "ein Wirklicher man" - it's not an adjective

Wirklich can also be used "In Wirklichkeit" That's in Reality. I don't think you would say "In Echtheit" - Maybe you could, but I've never heard it.

February 1, 2017
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