Created By: BlackDragon on July 23, 2011 Last Edited By: Lythande on June 4, 2015

Can Always Tell Them Apart

He\'s the only one who can tell the identical twins apart.

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Trope
Basically, you have a pair of Always Identical Twins, or even Identical Strangers. Either they always dress alike, or they're fond of pulling the old Twin Switch... either way, nobody's entirely sure who's who at any given time. Except for this guy, who - SOMEHOW - can always tell 'em apart. Generally, it's not due to some sort of Sherlock Scan, but rather an emotional connection to one or both of the twins...

See also Invisible Subtle Difference

Anime and Manga
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, the identical twins, Hikaru and Kaoru, delight in confusing people as to who's who, often turning it into a game (with varying degrees of seriousness). They're usually only distinguished by the way they comb their hair, and they switch that out at random. Even their own mother couldn't tell them apart, and indeed, NOBODY had been able to do so reliably - until Haruhi comes along and proves an inexplicable ability to tell them apart even when they're actively trying to be each other. In her own words, she's able to tell because Hikaru is one degree meaner than Kaoru...
  • In Turn A Gundam, Identical Stranger Queen Diane and Kiel Heim switch places enough times to confuse everyone, imitating each other to such a degree that people targeting Queen Diane basically just shrug and decide that one's as good as the other. However, Harry Ord, the Captain of the Queensguard, becomes able to tell them apart after a short time. Not because of his dedication to the Queen (though he's certainly got that), but because he falls in love with Kiel Heim. When asked, he claims to be able to tell due to them displaying 'different kinds of sadness'.
  • Brock in Pokémon once explained the differences between the Officer Jennies that were providing security for the Indigo League.

Comic Books
  • The Donald Duck comic An Eye for Detail by Don Rosa is completely based on Donald's ability to tell Huey, Dewey and Louie apart.

Film Live Action
  • In Serenity, Fanty and Mingo in the bar seem to like to pretend to be each other, but Malcan apparently tell the difference.
    Mingo: How is it you always know?
    Mal: Fanty's prettier.

Literature
  • Beltira and Belkira in the The Belgariad don't (seem to) try to confuse people, but when identical twins dress alike it happens. Polgara can always tell them apart, while the rest of Aldur's disciples have trouble.
  • In Hellspark by Janet Kagan, Om im tells an anecdote about how he used to be friends with a pair of identical twins and was the only person who could tell them apart. The twins themselves don't appear in the story, but the method by which he told them apart becomes an important plot point.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast, Hilda Burroughs is the only non-family member who can tell identical clones Lapis Lazuli and Lorelei Lee apart.
  • Subverted in Harry Potter, with Fred and George who are described as identical yet everyone can tell them apart.
  • In one Baby Sitters Club book featuring a pair of twins, their mother can always tell them apart even when they are dressed identically. Mallory eventually learns how to do it as well.
  • In Atonement, there are Briony's cousins who are identical twins. Reportedly, only their father can tell them apart, based on their freckles.
  • In The Inn at the Stony Table, the gorgeous twin sisters in their early twenties are unrecognizable. Their father says he can only distinguish them according to their habits — as a toddler, one of them was ashamed to go potty in front of other people, while now one of them hates dill sauce. Their suitors (who are also brothers) are the only people who can tell them apart. This is when their father realizes the matches are worthy to be pursued.

Live-Action TV
  • On Happy Days when Potsie & Ralph start rooming together they were going to go out with a pair of unseen twins who live upstairs. Potsie insists that he wants to date Maisy instead of Daisy. Ralph says it doesn't matter since they're identical, but Potsie insists that Maisy has whiter teeth.
  • On the The Patty Duke Show, Patty's brother Ross could always tell identical cousins Patty and Cathy apart.
  • Kaamelott: When asked by one of his mistresses how he can tell two twins apart (both of whom are also his mistresses) Arthur can't put it into words (possibly because the twins are there, and his male relationship survival instincts kicked in).

Video Games
  • Suikoden V - though Frey and his body double aren't related, the two can easily pass for twins while Roy is disguised as the prince. So much so, that he can even fool Frey's closest friends (including Miakis!) Despite this, Lyon is the only one who can tell them apart; whereas the prince's own aunt, Sialeeds, cannot.

Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • July 23, 2011
    Antigone3
    Beltira and Belkira in the Belgariad don't (seem to) try to confuse people, but when identical twins dress alike it happens. Polgara can always tell them apart, the rest of Aldur's disciples have trouble.
  • July 23, 2011
    JonnyB
    Mal seems to be this in Serenity.
    Mingo: How is it you always know?
    Mal: Fanty's prettier.
  • July 23, 2011
    BlackDragon
    >_> Seems like I need to re-watch Serenity - I don't remember that scene at ALL.
  • July 23, 2011
    JonnyB
    The scene where they went to the bar to meet Fanty and Mingo, the bar where River goes crazy. Apparently Fanty and Mingo like to pretend to be each other, but Mal never fails to tell which is which.
  • July 23, 2011
    randomsurfer
    On Happy Days when Potsie & Ralph start rooming together they were going to go out with a pair of unseen twins who live upstairs. Potsie insists that he wants to date Maisy instead of Daisy. Ralph says it doesn't matter since they're identical, but Potsie insists that Maisy has whiter teeth.
  • July 24, 2011
    AlexIDV
    The Donald Duck comic An Eye for Detail by Don Rosa is completely based on Donald's ability to tell Huey, Dewey and Louie apart.
  • July 24, 2011
    GoldenDarkness
    Brock in Pokemon once explaned the differences between the Officer Jennies that were providing security for the Indigo League.
  • July 24, 2011
    PaulA
    In Hellspark by Janet Kagan, Om im tells an anecdote about how he used to be friends with a pair of identical twins and was the only person who could tell them apart. The twins themselves don't appear in the story, but the method by which he told them apart becomes an important plot point.
  • July 25, 2011
    kentdyson88
    On the The Patty Duke Show, Patty's brother Ross could always tell identical cousins Patty and Cathy apart.
  • July 25, 2011
    peccantis
  • July 25, 2011
    Allronix
    Troper Tale: My sister knew her boyfriend was "the one" when he was presented with baby pictures and was always able to spot which one was his future wife.
  • July 25, 2011
    PaulA
    Contrast Identical Twin ID Tag, which is when there's some distinguishing feature by which anybody can tell the twins apart. (Some of the examples on that page are really this, I think.)
  • July 26, 2011
    Fanra
    In Robert A Heinlein's The Number of the Beast, Hilda Burroughs is the only non-family member who can tell identical clones Lapis Lazuli and Lorelei Lee apart.
  • September 13, 2011
    readergurl6
    Partial manga example from The One, Lele is able to tell to Angus and Eros apart when they pull a Twin Switch. It's not a strait forward example because the twins are not identical so Eros needs color contacts, a hair cut, and different clothes to make the switch. it's also pointed out that the twins have very different body language so they are easier to tell apart

    Subverted with Fred and George from Harry Potter who are described as identical yet everyone can tell them apart
  • September 13, 2011
    MiinU

    Video games

    • Suikoden V - though Frey and his body double aren't related, the two can easily pass for twins while Roy is disguised as the prince. So much so, that he can even fool Frey's closest friends (including Miakis!) Despite this, Lyon is the only one who can tell them apart; whereas the prince's own aunt, Sialeeds, cannot.
  • September 13, 2011
    Zsuzsa
    In one Baby Sitters Club book featuring a pair of twins, their mother can always tell them apart even when they are dressed identically. Mallory eventually learns how to do it as well.
  • August 17, 2013
    XFllo
    BUMP.
  • August 17, 2013
    DAN004
  • August 17, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Um.... Invisible Subtle Difference already exists for twins and non twins.
  • August 18, 2013
    Synchronicity
    I'd say this trope would be more about the person noticing the Invisible Subtle Difference. The fact that they're one of very few people who can says a lot about their dynamic with the twins/identical strangers.
  • August 18, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Then you didn't read the trope; the audience is expected to be unable to tell the difference, and one or more characters can perceive the difference. The page has examples of people who can and cannot determine the difference between two identical objects, be they twins, colours, or sounds.

    The trope does not explain what the "difference" is, it explains which characters can notice them, and which characters cannot.
  • June 3, 2015
    XFllo
    Literature:

    • In Atonement, there are Briony's cousins who are identical twins. Reportedly, only their father can tell them apart, based on their freckles.
    • In The Inn at the Stony Table, the gorgeous twin sisters in their early twenties are unrecognizable. Their father says he can only distinguish them according to their habits — as a toddler, one of them was ashamed to go potty in front of other people, while now one of them hates dill sauce. Their suitors (who are also brothers) are the only people who can tell them apart. This is when their father realizes the matches are worthy to be pursued.
  • June 4, 2015
    Chabal2
    Kaamelott: When asked by one of his mistresses how he can tell two twins apart (both of which are also his mistresses) Arthur can't put it into words (possibly because the twins are there, and his male relationship survival instincts kicked in).
  • June 4, 2015
    Lythande
    Since this is so old, I just added all the examples from the comments.
  • June 4, 2015
    shimaspawn
    All of these are listed on Invisible Subtle Difference, but I feel this could be a valid subtrope.
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