Sollen vs. MüssenWhat's the difference?

Discover the difference between 'sollen' and 'müssen' in German. These two words might seem similar, but understanding when to use 'should' versus 'must' can make your language journey smoother.

Quickly grasp sollen and müssen! Sollen means "should," like advice. Müssen means "must," showing stronger obligation. It's like "should" vs. "must" in English.

Learning German can be both fun and challenging, especially when it comes to similar words like sollen and 'müssen.' Let's take a closer look at these two words and their differences in a simple way.

What's The Difference Between sollen and müssen in German?


The word sollen is used in German to express "should" or "ought to" in English. It's like giving advice or suggesting what someone is expected to do. Imagine your friend tells you, "Du sollst deine Hausaufgaben machen" (You should do your homework). It's like a gentle recommendation.

For example: "Du sollst mehr Gemüse essen, es ist gesund." (You should eat more vegetables, they are healthy.)


On the other hand, müssen means "must" or "have to" in English. It indicates a stronger obligation or necessity. If something is important or required, you use müssen. Imagine your teacher says, "Du musst für die Prüfung lernen" (You must study for the exam). It's more like a clear instruction.

For example: "Du musst pünktlich zum Unterricht kommen." (You must come to class on time.)

Example Sentences

Du solltest deine Großeltern öfter anrufen.

You should call your grandparents more often.
Er sollte eine Pause machen und sich entspannen.

He should take a break and relax.
Wir sollten heute Abend früh ins Bett gehen.

We should go to bed early tonight.
Ich muss diesen Bericht vor der Deadline fertigstellen.

I must finish this report before the deadline.
Sie muss morgen früh an der Besprechung teilnehmen.

She must attend the meeting tomorrow morning.
Sie müssen für die bevorstehende Prüfung lernen.

They must study for the upcoming exam.


The main difference is the degree of obligation. Sollen suggests something is recommended or advised, while müssen conveys a stronger necessity or requirement. It's like comparing "should" to "must" in English.

In summary, remember:

  • sollen: Expresses "should" or gentle advice.
  • müssen: Conveys "must" or stronger obligation.

Understanding the difference between sollen and müssen will help you communicate more accurately and navigate various situations in German.


What does 'sollen' mean in German?
'Sollen' means 'should' or 'ought to' in English. It's used to give advice or suggest expectations.
How is 'sollen' different from 'müssen'?
'Sollen' suggests something is recommended, like 'should', while 'müssen' implies a stronger obligation, like 'must'.
Can 'sollen' be used for stronger obligations?
No, 'sollen' is for milder suggestions. 'Müssen' is used for things you have to do.
When should I use 'müssen'?
Use 'müssen' when something is necessary or required. It's like saying 'must' or 'have to'.
Can 'müssen' also express recommendations?
No, 'müssen' indicates stronger obligations. Use 'sollen' for advice or suggestions.

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