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to create
(Not too common and it sounds fairly epic. Ge-form is "geschaffen" and the real past form is "schuf".)
to get done, to pull off
(Extremely common in daily life for all kinds of achievements and challenges. Even if they're as small as being on time. Also common for finishing your food.)
to bring
(A variation of the theme of "successfully do". Used colloquially for bringing somewhat heavy objects somewhere.)
to work
(Rare. Does not take a direct object. Usually used in contexts where people say WHERE they work or WHAT they work.)
to tire, to wear out
(ONLY for people, not for material. )

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The meaning of "schaffen"

A thorough look at the meaning of "schaffen", its various important uses in everyday German and a bunch of really cool related words.


schaffen, geschafft, erschaffen, sich verschaffen, abschaffen, anschaffen, das Geschäft, die Wirtschaft, beschäftigt, die Freundschaft

Word Family tap to show/hide

The original idea of this root was:

splitting, cutting with sharp tool

On the English side, we have family members like shave, shape and scab and possibly also scoop, though the source I am using mentions two conflicting origins for scoop.

In German,the two most important relatives are schaffen and schöpfen. Schaffen probably comes from the angle of  giving shape, carving and evolved into the broader sense of creating and then also took on the idea of succeeding, completing a creation.
Schöpfen originally meant scooping liquids by using a carved out bowl, but very early on, due to sounding similar to schaffen, people started using it also in the sense of creating.

Besides those, also the verb schaben belongs to this family, which is about scraping, rasping over a surface.

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2 months ago

I saw in Duden that “an etwas zu schaffen machen” can be dativ or accusative. Do you have an opinion on which case you’d use it with?

2 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ok then I’ll stick with Dativ, thanks!

2 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel


3 months ago

question 1.
can I rely on a simplified mnenomic below from which i can trigger the detailed meanings?
a] schaffen schufen to create
b]schaffen schafften to manage

question 2
in the dictionary, definitons are numbered 1. 2…. and so on. Is this listing in order usage/importance or somewhat random.
I ask because for schaffen the list has as 1. ‘not too common’ and 2. as ‘extremely common’ ?
Thanks for your help and a happy enjoyable and prosperous new year 2023 for you and yours.

2 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Regarding reply 2. thanks so much that will really help me, because those i still have difficulty with i can re-order without feeling i’m interfering … Cheers :)

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