Difference Between “jeder” and “alle”

The difference between “jeder” and “alle” can usually be boiled down to “every” versus “all”. “jeder” means each of the individual items referenced are included, while “alle” refers to the entirety of the group. When trying to say “every other day”, however, Germans usually say “alle zwei Tage”. Differences in translation like these can cause a lot of problems.

To get a worksheet, mp3 file and more about the difference between “alle” and “jeder”, click here.

Alle vs Jeder: What's the Difference?

“jeder” vs “alle” Skit

Dumb Antrim: Ok. I need to say “every two years” or “every other year”. The German word for “every” is “jeder”, which I have to make sure matches with the correct gender and case ending. I’m talking about “two years”, so I use “jede” with an -E at the end. The German word for “two” is “zwei” and “years” in German is “Jahre”. So the phrase I need is “jede zwei Jahre”. (buzzer sound)

Learn how to memorize German noun genders and make sense of the chaos with this post.

Announcer Antrim: Ahh. Unfortunately the correct response is “alle zwei Jahre”.

Dumb Antrim: Then what is “all three years”?

Announcer Antrim: That is also “alle drei Jahre”.

Dumb Antrim: Ok. Then the phrase “all day every day” in German is “Alle Tage jeden Tag”. (buzzer sound)

Announcer Antrim: “All day” in German is “der ganze Tag” or more likely used in the accusative case “den ganzen Tag”, but every day you got right. Congratulations. Half credit!

Dumb Antrim: (Head in hands. Sighs)

Herr Antrim is not perfect.

I have been teaching German for 10 years. First, I learned it in college for 4 years and 3 years in high school before that. I have literally been either teaching or learning German for over half of my life, but there are still things I occasionally mess up. While it seems that this list is getting longer every day, today we are going to focus on one particularly annoying one, because I use it incorrectly a lot more than the other things I commonly get wrong as a non-native German teacher. Today’s topic is the difference between “alle” and “jeder” and some confusing translations that go with them.

How to Say “Every Other Year” in German

As you saw in the opening skit, the main thing that throws me off with these two words is trying to translate the English phrase “every two years” or “every other year”. That’s because in German, we don’t use the word for “every” in those phrases. On the other hand, it can be done if you switch up the phrasing a bit. So what usually happens for me is I will either say “jede zwei Jahre” or “alle zweites Jahr”, which are both mixtures of the actual phrases. Here are a few of these phrases done properly and how to use them in sentences so you can clear up this confusion.

alle zwei Jahre
every two years

Alle zwei Jahre reise ich mit Schülern nach Deutschland.
I travel to Germany with students every two years.

jedes zweite Jahr
every two years (literally – every second year)

Jedes zweite Jahr besuchen uns Schüler aus unserer deutschen Partnerschule in den USA.
Every two years students from our German partner school visit us in the USA.

What is “jedes andere Jahr”?

Both of the phrases I just used can also be translated as “every other year”. This causes more confusion, because “jedes andere Jahr” doesn’t usually get used in German in the way that we usually mean it in English. For example:

jedes andere Jahr
every other year

Wir fliegen im Juni nach Deutschland wie in jedem anderen Jahr.
We are flying to Germany in June like in every other year.

While this example does show an example of how we would use this in English and the German equivalent is the same, the problem comes up in examples like the next one.

alle zwei Jahre
every other year

Es gibt entweder die Fußballweltmeisterschaft oder die Fußballeuropameisterschaft alle zwei Jahre.
There is either the Soccer World Cup or the Soccer Euro Cup every other year.

In this example we have to go back to the phrase “alle zwei Jahre” instead of “jedes andere Jahr”, because we don’t mean “every other year” in comparison to all of the other years that are in the group about which we are speaking, but rather every other year in the sense of even numbered years or odd numbered years.

Other Spans of Time

Similar problems appear with other spans of time. Days, for example, can also be identified as every other or every two, three or four days. For these phrases, we again need to use the word “alle” with a span of time. For example:

alle drei Tage
every three days

Alle drei Tage fahre ich mit dem Rad.
Every three days I ride my bicycle.

alle sieben Tage
every seven days

Alle sieben Tage gibt es einen Montag.
Every seven days there is a Monday.

Learn how to tell time in German with this post.

Be careful, however, as you can say:

Jede Woche gibt es einen Montag.
Every week there is a Monday.

alles sieben Tage vs alle sieben Tage?

Now for the really confusing bit. You can also use the phrase “alle sieben Tage”, which isn’t different at all and now you mean “all seven days” as in “not one of the seven days, but rather all of them”. For example:

alle sieben Tage
all seven days

An allen sieben Tagen der Woche bearbeite ich meine Videos.
I work on my videos all seven days of the week.

An allen drei Tagen arbeite ich.
I work on all three days. (those specific three days, which were mentioned prior to this sentence being said)

Alle drei Tage arbeite ich.
I work every third day. (E.g Monday-Thursday-Sunday)

der Alltag

There is also the noun “der Alltag”, which means “everyday life” or “daily routine”.

der Alltag
everyday life

Herr Antrims Videos sollten ein wichtiger Teil deines Alltags sein.
Herr Antrim’s videos should be an important part of your daily routine.

How to Use “jeder”

Now let’s take a closer look at some times when we would use “jeder”. The most commonly used one is “jeden Tag”, which means “everyday”.

Jeden Tag mische ich die Karten.
Everyday I shuffle the cards.

Confusingly, you can also say “jeden zweiten Tag”, which is “every other day” or “every second day”, which I mentioned before is usually translated as “alle zwei Tage”. So what is the difference between “alle zwei Tage” and “jeden zweiten Tag”? Pretty much nothing. “Alle zwei Tage” gives the impression that every two days is a unit, while “jeden zweiten Tag” makes you count the days to find the next one. It is a very tiny semantic difference, but the real answer is that there isn’t a difference in use.

What is “jener”?

And now for your bonus information of the day: Have you ever heard of “jener”? What in the Wide World of Sports is “jener”? “Jener” is not related to “jeder” or “alle” at all. It is, however, more closely related to “dieser”, as they both mean this or that. “Jener” is used in certain elevated phrases and to distinguish from “dieser”. Usually “jener” is farther away than “dieser”. You might be able to point to “dieser”, but not to “jener”. Maybe the following examples will help.

In jener Nacht schickte die Königin einen Jäger, der Schneewittchen töten sollte.
In that night, the queen sent a hunter that was supposed to kill Snow White.

Er bevorzugt das Essen von heute gegenüber jenem von gestern.
He prefers the food from today as opposed to that of yesterday.

As I mentioned, “jener” is used in elevated speech. That means that it sounds a bit uppity if used in situations where such language is not required. You will be perfectly ok if you never learn to use “jener”, but it is still helpful to know what it means in case you come across it in a book.

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