Use: difference between benutzen and verwenden, nutzen, gebrauchen, anwenden

Last Updated on January 20, 2023

The difference between benutzen and verwenden is even smaller than between benutzen and nutzen, and when gebrauchen is added here, and nützen is suddenly remembered, it will seem difficult to keep in mind all the small differences. Let’s try to go from the inner form.

Negation in German
German synonyms. Receive: erhalten or bekommen, kriegen, beziehen, erlangen
Conjunctions in sentences. Different word order
Schwer or schwierig
Difference between beziehungsweise, respektive, entsprechend
German idioms about lie, nonsense, boasting

Nutzen

The noun Nutzen is an advantage, a benefit, a profit. The word’s root is a relative of genießen. Therefore, the verb nutzen is associated primarily with a positive effect and more often with abstract things.

das kann uns nichts nutzen (won’t be of any use)
ich freue mich, wenn Ihnen das Buch etwas nutzen kann
der Raum wird als Konzertsaal genutzt
den Boden landwirtschaftlich nutzen
sie nutzten die Freiheit, die Vorteile, das Wetter

Let’s deal with nützen right away so that we don’t get it in the way anymore. Everything is simple here. This is a synonym that is gradually being used less and less. Benützen is considered a regional option at all.

What is really often used is the derivative nützlich – useful. And it has no pair without an umlaut.

Difference between benutzen and verwenden

benutzen and verwenden are practically twins. They are almost always interchangeable and have a meaning “to use something for its intended purpose”. But there are sentences where interchangeability doesn’t work very well.

We have already considered the vast polysemantic group wenden. It is based on “rotation, reversal”. That is, verwenden is primarily concrete objects and money. I always imagine a craftsman who turns around a piece or intrument and then use it precisely.

diesen Teppich können wir nicht mehr verwenden
Geld für etw. verwenden

Be- is a prefix associated with touch, processing, in general with close use. The benefit is also not forgotten – verwenden does not have this added value. I’d say benutzen is the most neutral verb we’ve seen today. If in doubt, take benutzen, you can’t go wrong.

der Raum ist lange nicht benutzt worden (verwenden is not good, but nutzen fits)
den Zug benutzen (verwenden is out of place here, unless it’s about using a small toy train and not about a ride)
ich benutze heute den Laptop (I can’t imagine verwenden or nutzen)
das gesparte Geld zu einer Reise benutzen (verwenden is also good and even sounds better)
eine bestimmte wissenschaftliche Methode benutzen (unlikely verwenden)
Toilette benutzen (definitely not verwenden)

The following pattern is visible: if benutzen + object are interchangeable with other verb (Zug benutzen = fahren), then it is impossible to replace it with verwenden.

Also benutzen is definitely needed when it comes to using people for bad purposes.

Gebrauchen

This is the third trilling brother, however, as it happens, somewhat different from the previous two.

Gebrauchen comes from brauchen – to need. What limits its use: you gebrauchen the thing you need.

ein Werkzeug, Instrument gebrauchen
er ist zu nichtst zu gebrauchen (we don’t need it)
sie müssen lernen, ihre Macht zu gebrauchen

Very often the perfect of this verb “used” is used – gebraucht.

gebrauchte Möbel verkaufen

Anwenden

An – attachment, application to something. That is, in our case, the applying. What can be applied? Methodology, medicine, strength, diligence, etc.

ein Heilmittel anwenden
Gewalt anwenden

Other topics about #German synonyms

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