bestimmt, sicher, gewiss

I was hoping you could explain the difference between bestimmt, sicher and gewiss. I was studying about expressing probability with future tenses using wohl and I was wondering what the difference between all these words meant?. Vielen Dank!

(originally asked by Lisa at

One comment on “bestimmt, sicher, gewiss

  1. So
    in sentences that express your expectations about the future all three words you mentioned mean pretty much the same.
    Gewiss is a little out of date and I don’t think many people use it in spoken German nowadays. Anyway

    Es regnet bestimmt/sicher/gewiss bald.

    Here all 3 express that your are quite certain without being able to guarantee it.

    So the overlap between the words is large but each of them comes from a totally different background. Sicher means certain and sure, bestimmt comes from something like determined (as in “we have deteremined”) and gewiss comes from to know (wissen). Let’s look at some differences in use with a focus on sicher and bestimmt.

    Bist du sicher? Ja, ja ich bin sicher.

    Are you sure? Yeah, I’m sure.

    Here you can’t use either of the 2 others because here we are not talking about assumptions but rather about a measure … kind of. And also bestimmt and gewiss are only adverbs while sicher is an adjective here.

    Also, if the words are used as a one word answer there actually is a difference between sicher and bestimmt.

    Kommt Thomas zu meiner Party? Bestimmt./ sicher.
    Will Thomas come to my party? Probably./sure.

    Here, bestimmt is an assumption, while sicher is a statement based on knowledge. So if the person says bestimt, he or she assumes that Thomas will come, while if the person says sicher, he or she knows that Thomas will come. So sicher is a bit more certain than bestimmt maybe. However, adding something to these one word answers changes everything.

    Sicher/ bestimmt kommt er.

    With the right intonation, this sicher can sounds just like bestimmt … so not a bit more certain.

    Oh and what both words have in common is that they have consoling potential and are often used that way.

    Wird meine Katze wieder gesund? Ganz sicher!

    I hope this helps a bit, although it was not that structured or comprehensive :)

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