What is the Difference – “antworten vs. beantworten”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And today it is time for a short What is the Difference Special. And our, very legitimate question today is:

Pils or Lager? – What the heck is the difference… after all?

Let’s answer … this question.
The difference is not so big. Pils and Lager both were born out of the desire to make beer more long-lasting and hops are a great way to keep the nasty bacteria and mold in check. So both Pils and Lager contain a lot of hops and are hence rather bitter.
So this was our What is the Difference special… aaaaaand, we actually have a lot of time left. Tell you what, I have a spontaneous idea… why don’t we talk a bit about the difference between antworten and beantworten.… 

Both words, antworten and beantworten mean to answer. The difference lies in the dark forests of grammar…

Antworten can not be done with a thing. You cannot take a question and antworten es. But you can do it to someone.

  • Ich antworte dir.
  • I answer you.

I answer … I answer you… but I don’t answer the question… grammatically that is. If you want to answer it, you need a preposition to assist. Auf to the rescue.

  • Ich antworte dir auf die Frage.
  • I answer you your question (sounds weirds, I know).

So technically this is more like

  • I respond to your question to you (sounds weird,I know).

Beantworten on the contrary is done with the question. You pose it, I take it and answer the hell out of it till it will never raise its voice again … get it? Get it?… raise voice… like… at the end of a question…

  • Ich beantworte die Frage.
  • I answer the question.

If you want to include to whom you answer that question, you use the case 3 once again.

  • Ich beantworte dir die Frage.
  • I answer you the question.

So… from a grammatical standpoint antworten is actually to respond.

  • Where were you last night? Answer/ respond!
  • Wo warst du letzte Nacht? Antworte!
  • Wo warst du letzte Nacht? Beantworte!    is wrong
  • Wo warst du letzte Nacht? Beantworte mir das!
    would be correct but a bit more complicated than necessary… and NO. That does NOT mean that it is good German :)

So… you can just antworten but you always have to beantworten something. Here is an example for a situation in which beantworten is preferable:

  • Kannst du mir beantworten, wieso du immer zu spät kommst?
  • Can you answer me, why you’re always late?

The same expressed with antworten requires you to use one of the infamous da-words.

  • Kannst du mir darauf antworten, warum du immer zu spät kommst?

Why the darauf-stuff? Because if you want to use antworten and the question itself as object you need auf. That is news to you? Well … then you didn’t pay attention earlier ;).
No need to feel bad though… also me myself, I have something I haven’t payed yet… my beer(s).
So I’ll do that now and then head home, because… and here comes a REAL surprise… I have had NO INTERNET at home since last Wednesday and it is awesome…. so Zen.

Alright… sorry, if I was a little stupid but I have been working the whole weekend in the bar so I hope I am excused.
Questions or suggestions? Leave me a comment…. hope you liked it and see you next time.


Test yourself on "antworten" and "beantworten".

1 / 4

Which of the following statements  is false?

2 / 4

Which of the following is the best translation for this statement:
Where were you last night? Answer/ respond!”

3 / 4

Which of the following are grammatically correct? (multiple answers)

4 / 4

Which of the following is a grammatically correct translations for “I’ll answer you that.”?

Your score is

The average score is 59%