In German,

  • das gleiche refers to

We both read the same (das gleiche) book (everyone has its own, but they look exactly the same)

  • while das selbe refers to

We both read the same book (one book, e.g. sharing, borrowing your book from / lending your book to your friend, the same object)

Does this differentiation exist in Spanish in contrast to English? I only found lo mismo, which is translated as das selbe/gleiche in my dictionary. Are there other adjectives that differ between the same object/same kind of object? Or what is the shortest way in Spanish to express this connotation?

  • 1
    I'm not sure if it's really a duplicate, so I'm not VtCing, but I asked a similar question that may be of interest to you: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/412/…
    – Flimzy
    Nov 30, 2011 at 17:04
  • 2
    Very interesting question. I think there is no difference in Spanish but I hope to be wrong =).
    – dusan
    Nov 30, 2011 at 17:15
  • 1
    @Flimzy thanks fot the link, preview didn't show this question. But it doesn't seem to answer my question, as igual according to the answer has more the meaning of "similar, but different in specific characterics" and lo mismo has to be interpreted by context and can mean same thing/kind of thing? In my question, the distinction is identical, but still different objects and what adjectives to use to express this difference in meaning lo mismo has more the meaning of same/gleiche in my opinion.
    – Hauser
    Nov 30, 2011 at 17:19

3 Answers 3


As others have stated "leímos el libro" is always ambiguous. However you could use "leímos el mismo ejemplar del libro" or "leímos la misma copia del libro" if you want to express what das selbe means.


There is no such distinction in the Spanish language, where to achieve the difference in concept present in German (gleich / selbst) you must use other means:

  • Dealing with books you can state de difference between libro (the phisical copy) and obra (what is actually read at last):

Leímos el mismo libro.  →  (possible ambiguity)
Leímos la misma obra.  →  (a bit more clear)


If I understand correctly the differentiation, das gleiche would refer to things that belong to the same genre, or that are equal in some respect, while das selbe points to true identity (same individual). I don't think there is a word, not even a well stablished expression, to convey this (important) nuance in Spanish: "el mismo" (determinate) (or "lo mismo" - undeterminate) is used both for identity or for equality. The adjective "idéntico" doesn't help, either; it doesn't implies individual identity (rather on the contrary, I'd say: it normally emphasizes a great similarity.. between two different individuals). So, the expression

Ella y yo leímos el mismo libro.

is hopelessly ambiguous. If I'd want to clarify that I'm not meaning just the same novel, but the same book, materially speaking... I'd say so:

Ella y yo leímos el mismo libro, materialmente hablando.

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