and welcome to our German Word of the Day.
And today, we’ll actually talk about two words because it is WITH-day.
That’s short for “What is the Hifference”-Day, and it should totally be WITD-Day, but who the heck is supposed to pronounce that.
Anyway, the words we’ll look at are
antworten and beantworten.…
They both mean to answer but there’s a really important hifferen… I mean difference. And that lurks in the dark forest of grammar…
Let’s take a quick look at English first.
- I’ll answer the question.
- I’ll answer you.
Those sentences look like they have the same structure, but from a German perspective, they do not. Because only the second one can be translated with antworten.
The reason why it doesn’t work for the first one is that antworten can NOT take a direct object. You cannot antworten a question. If you want to do that, you assistance of everyone’s favorite word type: prepositions*. (*figurative speech, might not actually be everyone’s favorite word type)
In this case, you need auf.
- Ich antworte die Frage… WRONG
- Ich antworte auf die Frage… correct
In the second example, on the other hand, we have the person we’re answering, and German treats that as an indirect object – so it is in Dative case. Which makes sense, because the person is the “receiver” of the answer and “receiving” the grand theme of Dative.
So this is a proper sentence:
- Ich antworte dir.
And if we want to, we can combine it with the auf-part.
- Ich antworte dir auf die Frage.
- I answer you (on) your question (sounds weirds, I know).
Now, beantworten on the contrary can take a direct object. In fact, it MUST HAVE a direct object.
And that’s actually a quite typical feature of the be-prefix, because it often changes verbs from either taking no object, or taking one with a preposition, to one that needs a direct object.
So if you want to answer a question… beantworten is like “Lemmi go boss, I was borne for this shit.” and it gets the job done.
- I answer the question.
- Ich antworte die Frage… WRONG
- Ich beantworte die Frage…. RIGHT!
And oh, it also works if instead of a direct object we have a side sentence that fill the role of a direct object.
- Kannst du mir beantworten, [wieso du immer zu spät kommst]?
- Can you answer/tell me, [why you’re always late]?
So in essence, the question we’re answering MUST be there in some form, either as the word Frage or a pronoun or a sentence.
And what about the person? Well, that works exactly the same as for antworten, so we can just plug it in in everyone’s favorite case: Dative*. (*figurative speech, might not actually be everyone’s favorite case)
- Ich beantworte dir die Frage.
- I answer you the question.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that beantworten MUST the question in there in some form.
So suppose you want to start some good old fashioned relationship drama and you want to ask your partner this in German:
- Where were you last night? Answer me!!
… which verb would you use, antworten or beantworten?
Exactly, you’d use antworten. Because beantworten would need a direct object.
- Wo warst du letzte Nacht? Beantworte! … WRONG
- Wo warst du letzte Nacht? Antworte!
Okay, technically we could make beantworten work, too…
- Wo warst du letzte Nacht? Beantworte das!
But the version with antworten is definitely more dramatic :).
Cool, so that’s basically it now.
The main difference between antworten and beantworten is the way the connect the thing they’re answering.
- eine Frage beantworten
- auf eine Frage antworten
And now it’s time for you to train a bit with the little quizz I have prepared, and I will pay my beers now and go home. I actually wrote this in a bar, because I have no internet at home since last Wednesday and it’s awesome.
Thank God, it’s still a couple or so years till Covid.
No beers in bars and no internet at home… that would suck. If you read this before 2020 and you’re confused… don’t worry. You’ll understand.
Anyway, have fun with the quiz and if you have any questions or suggestions, just let me know in the comments.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.
0 of 4 Questions completed Questions: You have already completed the quiz before. Hence you can not start it again. Quiz is loading… You must sign in or sign up to start the quiz. You must first complete the following: 0 of 4 Questions answered correctly Time has elapsed You have reached 0 of 0 point(s), (0) Earned Point(s): 0 of 0, (0) Which of the following statements is false? Which of the following is the best translation for this statement: Which of the following are grammatically correct? (multiple answers) Which of the following is a grammatically CORRECT translations for: “I’ll answer you that.”?
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Which of the following is a grammatically CORRECT translations for:
“I’ll answer you that.”?
Wait, what happens in 2020?!?! ; )
Danke for the well written and humorous lesson!
Ich bedanke mich für die Erklärung!!
i like the way u teach… thanks a lot
Superb info, funny style. Just my cup of tea. Oder Kaffee. Oder Beer.
Einfach alles zusammen, YOLO!
Vielen Dank fuer die schoene und hilfliche Erklaerungen im Artikeln und Commentar!
Ich habe Artikel geschrieben aber der Computer hat das Wort veraendert.
Naja, ganz richtig wäre:
I ran into a sentence on an app: “Er antwortet meinen E-mails nicht”. After reading your wonderful article, I think that sentence should be either “Er antwortet auf meinen E-mails nicht” or “Er beanwortet meinen E-mails nicht”.
I am feeling awesome right now, thank you!
Yup, you’re spot on :)!
Small extra correction… it should be “meine Emails”, but other than that you nailed it!
I learnt the same sentence from this app today too. So “Er antwortet meinen E-mails nicht” is incorrect? “meinen Emails” is dative thought.
What app is that :)?
The sentence is not correct.
Yes, “meinen E-Mails” is a Dative BUT the Dative that goes with “antworten” is for the PERSON you’re giving an answer.
The sentence as it is in the app sounds like the emails are a person asking a question.
It should be either:
Hello, I am wondering if the mic recording feature is only not working for me because I’m not doing it right, or if the function is down maybe? Thanks and certainly no rush/pressure to look into it or answer right away etc.
HI there, I just tried it and it works for me.
What exactly is not working for you? Does the button show up? Does the window open?
In either case, I’ll replace/upgrade that soon with a version that actually grades your sentence with the AI I am using. So it’s going to get much more useful.
Hello. The mic icon does appear and when I click it the window does open yet the recording doesn’t take. I have logged in and out and retried it but to no avail. It’s no trouble, I can just use my phone etc to record myself. Thank you for answering!
I’ll hurry up with the new version of the recorder, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll do a proper trouble shooting :)
Oh cool, wonderful, please, not to hurry at all and thanks so much again for the answer. Trust me I’m not so eager to hear myself (pre-pre-beginner) speak it :D
Really cool article, thank you! Sence of humor is gorgeous)
antworten + Dativ –> we answer a person, who is the indirect object.
Ich antworte dir.
Ich antworte auf die Frage.
beantworten needs a direct object.
Ich beantworte die Frage.
eine Frage beantworten
auf eine Frage antworten
Was that supposed to be a note ;)?
Why does the quiz say the german translation to ”I answer you” is ”ich anworte dich”? Why is it akkusativ? Im so confused.
The question is “which of the options is FALSE.”
And that’s the false option, so it’s NOT proper German.
Awesome und Danke. Clearly I was not fully awake yet!
It’s normal to overlook these little twists. Happens to me too sometimes :).
It’s normal to overlook these little twists. Happens to me too sometimes :).
Also, it’s a good thing you asked because I do make mistakes in my quizzes sometimes.
I liked the fact that you updated this article to 2021. You must try to keep all archived items current. That must take some time.
Having them all be current is impossible, but I do update them occasionally :)
Thanks…tho a lot od English mistakes in explanations
I’m not a native speaker, so maybe that shows here. If there are typos, then my apology!
Wow anonymous! If you’re going to highlight someone else’s mistakes with their English grammar whilst explaining difficult German grammar you’ll want to at least avoid making several of your own.
Thanks German-is-easy for the explanation. I asked my German teacher once; she said it was too hard to explain the difference.
Hahaha, busted :). I didn’t even notice it but yeah… there’s a couple of blunders.
For the record though, I don’t mind typos being pointed out to me. It makes the site better for everyone reading. But yeah, specifics would be nice.
Oh and wow… your teacher either had no idea or she really didn’t want to talk about it. How can she say that it’s too hard, as if it’s like C2 advanced level grammar. I disapprove :)
On the difference between “antworten” and “beantworten”: (i) I liked the difference you drew: in the former it is someone (a person) that you ‘answer’ (not a thing, i.e., not an object). But subject-object relationships often become interchangeable, do they not, in a world of commodities — in which even living persons have a ‘thing-likeness’ about them. (ii) I would like to say that “beantworten” is more of an elaboration, an explanation, and the like (closer perhaps to “erklaren”). “Antworten” can often be “Ja” oder “Nein” in relation to a question. Thanks for reading this!
I agree about (ii). “beantworten” does tend to be a little on the elaborate side. But I would still put it closer to “antworten” than to “erklären” and in many contexts “beantworten” can refer to really short bits.
– Wie lange wird das dauern.
– Das kann ich nicht beantworten.
as for (i)… I’m not sure what you’re going for :). I don’t think there’s anymore “thing-likeness” to a person than 200 years ago when there was still slavery in many parts or 100 years ago, when people would work 12 hour shifts in factories or die by the millions in stupid wars. “commodifying” people is not an invention of our time (though commodifying people’s opinions, thoughts and people’s outrage IS a new invention)
… “commodifying” people is not an invention of our time (though commodifying people’s opinions, thoughts and people’s outrage IS a new invention)
The statement has a bit too much depth in it. The German philosophizing is real. I just exploded a little bit inside.
Hahaha, I hope it wasn’t with rage :)
Once again you are amazing. Wish you were my teacher.
Well, I kind of am, online here at least :)
Ich habe alles richtig geantwortet!
Super :)!! Du kannst stolz sein!
Ich antworte Maria.
Ich antworte Hans.
Ich antworte dir.
Ich antworte den Eltern. ( Is this sentence correct?)
Yes, 100% perfect! Homework?
I am a retired first grade teacher, and I was just thinking of school type situations where I might use the verb antworten.
So do you antworten an email or beantworten it?
Email is like a question or person. So you’d “beantworten” it. If you want to use “antworten” yu’d need to add “auf”
– Ich beantworte deine Mail.
– Ich antworte auf deine Mail.
Does that help?
Yep! Thanks. Answer vs. reply seems to do the trick pretty well.
A German told me yesterday that “bezahlen” is specific as in your example: “Ich bezahle den Kaffee, er bezahlt den Tee.” Ich möchte zahlen – is used for anything in general. Das macht Sinn, oder?
Not sure I understand the question… what does your friend say is the difference?
As always, thanks again for this site. Could you please explain if there is a difference between zahlen and bezahlen? Also, when is your book coming out? I want a copy ASAP.
“zahlen” and “bezahlen” is super tough because they’re 70% or so synonyms. Only in context of paying someone for a job you’d use “bezahlen”
– Ich zahle dich.
That sounds weird.
But in context of bar and restaurant, “zahlen” and ” bezahlen” are used in equal measure, sometimes by the same speaker in one sentence
– Wir zahlen getrennt, ich bezahle den Kaffee und den Tee.
Hello, I’ve recently discovered your blog and I am completely amazed. I am reading it from beginning to end. Thank you very much for the great effort you make.
Back to the topic, I still have a question. How would you say “to answer the phone”? Could it be “das Telefon beantworten”? My dictionary only says “ans Telefon gehen” or “rangehen”, but I remembered about “der Anrufbeantworter”…
Good question! The dictionaries are right. “Das Telefon beantworten” simply isn’t idiomatic in German, not least because the phone isn’t a question. “Anrufbeantworter” at least answers the call, not the phone :).
“Ans Telefon gehen” is the long version, “rangehen” is what people would use if the phone is ringing and it is clear that it is the phone.