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eh, ehe, eher and die Ehe

Above you can see two adverbs, a conjunction, and a noun that are close to identical. Can you differentiate between them?


The best translation of the adverb eh is "anyway," but—Achtung!—it can't be used in every situation like its English counterpart. Have a look at this lesson to review the different contexts in which eh and similar words like sowieso and trotzdem are used.


Ich find's eh schade, dass man ihn kaum noch bei uns im Zweiten sieht.

I think it's a shame anyway that you hardly ever see him with us on Zweiten ["Second," a TV channel].

Caption 9, Lerchenberg: Ein Fall für Zwei

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Der war eh potthässlich.

It was really ugly anyway.

Caption 71, Lerchenberg: Du bist, was du isst

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The conjunction ehe means "before." To see it compared to other words with the same meaning, have a look at this lesson. Here are more examples:


„Wir müssen uns ganz schnell davonschleichen“, sagte Frederick leise, „ehe er uns bemerkt.“

"We have to sneak away very quickly," said Frederick quietly, "before he notices us."

Captions 33-34, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Elefant

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Und ehe die beiden sich's versahen, befanden sie sich auf dem Wagen.

And before they both knew it, they found themselves on the truck.

Caption 25, Piggeldy und Frederick Reise nach Schweinebrück

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Next we come to the adverb eher, which has two main meanings. First of all, it can be a synonym for früher ("earlier"):


Könntest du mir morgen den Brief etwas eher schicken?

Could you send the letter to me a bit earlier tomorrow?

Caption 36, Janoschs Traumstunde: Post für den Tiger

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However, eher can also refer to likelihood or preference. The best way to get a sense of this is to look at the diverse translations for eher related to this context:


Die Luftballons sind eher was für die Kleinen.

The balloons are more something for the little ones.

Caption 19, Das Fest: Open-Air in Karlsruhe

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Also ich bin dann eher lieber Nachtmensch.

So then I'm more of a night person.

Caption 13, Angelique Kerber Generali fragt Angelique Kerber: Ist Angie Frühaufsteherin?

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Ich würde dann eher nicht so einen kräftigen Lack nehmen.

I would then rather not select such a bright polish.

Caption 21, Das Beauty-Einmaleins: Fingernägel

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Die großen traditionellen Weihnachtsmärkte findet man eher im Süden Deutschlands.

One is more likely to find the large traditional Christmas markets in the south of Germany.

Caption 6, Weihnachtsmärkte: mit Eva

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Like all German nouns, die Ehe ("the marriage") is capitalized, which makes it easily distinguishable from ehe


Dabei hat die Kanzlerin doch vorher gegen die Ehe für alle gestimmt.

Yet the chancellor previously voted against marriage for all.

Caption 9, heute-show: Die männliche Merkel hat Erinnerungslücken

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Further Learning
You will find many examples of eh and eher on Yabla German, which can help you understand how to integrate these words into your own spoken German. 

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