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Quick Answer

The difference between "bestimmt" & "auf jeden Fall" is that "bestimmt" expresses a very high likelihood for something, whereas "auf jeden Fall" is used when you are 100% certain. "Bestimmt" is also often used when you want to express hope.

Questions about the difference between certainly(ganz) bestimmt & for sureauf jeden Fall come up surprisingly often with German learners.

The reason for this confusion is that you often hear people use these two expressions in very similar contexts and with very similar meanings:

🧑🏻‍🦱Peter
Kommt Martin morgen auf die Party?
👩🏽‍🦱Asma
Martin kommt for sureauf jeden Fall! Ich habe gestern mit ihm gesprochen.
🧑🏻‍🦱Peter
Und Erik?
👩🏽‍🦱Asma
Ich habe Erik länger nicht gesehen, aber der kommt probablybestimmt auch.

Can you spot, how these two expressions mean different things here? Let's try to put this into words.

What exactly is the difference between "bestimmt" & "auf jeden Fall"?

So what exactly is the difference? In everyday usage, it often seems like there is no substantial difference in meaning. However, using "bestimmt" implies that you are a little less sure about what you are saying - even though you are heavily rooting for one option. You are quite hopeful - but not 100%.

Use bestimmt to express hope

It's often use when you want to express that you are hopeful about something:

Die Prüfung morgen früh wirst du ganz bestimmt super schaffen!

There is an element of hope in here, similar to saying: "You will ace the exam tomorrow, that I'm sure of!" or "Fingers crossed! 🤞"

However, you could also use "bestimmt" to express your lack of hope:

Ich habe noch 2 Tage Zeit um das Buch auswendig zu lernen. Das schaffe ich bestimmt nicht!

You are 98% sure that you are not going to succeed in memorizing this book for the day of the exam. But you're not giving up just yet: You could be wrong.

Use "bestimmt" to guess

Use "auf jeden Fall" to confirm / agree

Similar Phrases (List)

German English
bestimmt certainly, probably
auf jeden Fall absolutely / ~ for sure
mit Sicherheit certainly / with (absolute) certainty
in jedem Fall in any case
definitiv definitely

Summary

We have looked at the differences between "bestimmt" & "auf jeden Fall". In the beginning, this difference can be tricky for learners, as it sounds often like native speakers use both phrases interchangably.

But once you know that "bestimmt" implies a little less certainty than "auf jeden Fall", everything should make a lot more sense.