Scheinbar, Anscheinend

  • I got both scheinbar and anscheinend cards this week, so I started looking into the difference between the two. I see people online suggesting that anscheinend implies the appearance is true, while scheinbar the appearance is not really the truth.

    So Anscheinend ist mein Kollege krank means that your coworker is sick for real, but I guess you're reporting second-hand information and don't want to fully commit to saying it's true. So "apparently" or "it would seem that."

    Contrast with something like Die Wüste zieht sich scheinbar endlos is that the desert looks endless but of course we know it's not. Or maybe Scheinbar ist mein Kollege krank. Is this more like "Supposedly my coworker is sick" (but you think he's faking it)?

    I saw Germans arguing over whether it's correct to say scheinbar has started to also mean anscheinend in addition.

    So I guess this long question is: are my sources OK? Is this maybe a regional thing anyway? I ask because it contradicts the card Ich liebe diesen Wein, aber scheinbar verkauft er sich nicht so gut, which I'd guess according to what I read really ought to be anscheinend instead.

    Thoughts, German speakers? Danke!

  • Moderator

    Your sources are correct. "Anscheinend" and "scheinbar" have the distinctive meanings you found. But in everyday use they are not always used correctly. It'd be a matter of debate whether the distinction has dissolved in everyday language use, or whether mixing up those two just makes you look sloppy and imprecise.

  • Also apparently Duden used to have a note that you should be careful not to mix up the two. It seems that the best way to resolve the arguments I saw online is that they kind of mean the same thing now, but that if you don't make the distinction you appear a bit uneducated. Is this true?

    I'm of course familiar with this kind of argument from English and linguistics: prescriptivism (here's how the rules are as set forth by "elites") vs descriptivism (here's how people use it).

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