Difference between merken and bemerken and other words for memory and notice

Last Updated on May 15, 2024

The difference between merken and bemerken is at the formal level, in shades of meaning and in other meanings of these words. Additionally, let’s take the words wahrnehmen, erkennen, sich erinnern, einprägen, memorieren.

As you can easily guess, the root of the word comes from Marke – a mark. Hence all the meanings: made a mark – remembered, made a mark – noticed, made a mark (verbal) – that is, made a remark.

German synonyms. öffnen – offen – aufmachen
Difference between steigen, steigern, erhöhen, erheben, zulegen, zunehmen
Giving direction essay in German. Wegbeschreibung
Difference between verschieden, unterschiedlich, anders
German synonyms. Receive: erhalten or bekommen, kriegen, beziehen, erlangen
Schwer or schwierig
Fahrstuhl or Aufzug or Lift
Verbs with prepositions in German. Preposition um and preposition über

Difference between merken and bemerken – formal

merken and bemerken have the general meaning “to notice (be aware through perception)”. The rest of the meanings are different:


– notice
– merken sich (Dat) – memorize


– notice
– make a remark, comment

Let’s start with a very important difference that exists in many verb pairs that differ in the prefix be-:
merken most often behaves like an intransitive verb (has no direct objects in the accusative)
bemerken, on the contrary, transitional

Ich merke, dass meine S-Bahn abgefahren ist.
Ich merke meine S-Bahn

Ich bemerkte ihn.

Ihn – direct object in Akk.

It must be admitted that only one source writes about this, but the dictionaries are modestly silent. However, if you look at the examples in dictionaries, then in fact you will see that this is indeed the case. And if you look at the answers of native speakers to questions about this pair of words, then in those examples when they write “but you can’t say this way”, they are talking about a direct object.
merken has only two the same examples, and they are related to thinking, not perception:

Ich merkte seine Absicht / Unterschied

The direct object appears only in reflexive form, that is, merken sich, but then the meaning also changes to “memorize”.

Difference between merken and bemerken – in meaning

In the general meaning of “notice (be aware through the senses)” merken and bemerken are almost the same, however
merken has stronger additional meaning “understood” – felt, analyzed and understood,
bemerken – stronger is that part of the meaning that speaks of perception by the senses, that is, saw, heard or felt.

in combination with objects, you use bemerken,
in combination with a subordinate clause (dass…) – either of the two, taking into account the minimum difference in meaning.

sie haben offenbar nichts davon gemerkt
sie merkt, dass sie sich geirrt hat (here the meaning of “realized” is especially clear)
er ließ es mich nicht merken, dass er gekränkt war (in this case mich refers to lassen)

ich bemerkte sofort, dass sich etwas verändert hatte
Eine Zeugin hatte dort aufsteigenden Rauch bemerkt.
Das bemerkte er erst, als es schon zu spät war.

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Other synonyms for “memorize”

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), there are practically no options for the meaning “memorize”, I don’t know why in German with its love for synonyms. The main one is precisely merken sich (Dat)

er kann sich keine Adressen, Namen, Zahlen, Witze merken
die Autonummer ist leicht zu merken

sich einprägen

Einprägen – is the process of printing coins. Pressed and formed or printed inscription. In relation to a person, this word is used either in the meaning of “leave an imprint on the character, form a character”, or in the meaning of “imprinted in memory”

seine Worte haben sich mir für immer eingeprägt
sich einen Namen, die Hausnummer einprägen
Es prägt sich in meinem Gedächtnis ein.

Alternative through denial – nicht vergessen

Ich darf es nicht vergessen

learn by heart (usually a speech or a poem by repeating aloud) – memorieren

einen Text laut memorieren

Sich merken and sich erinnern difference

The difference between sich merken and sich erinnern is the same as between memorize and remember/remind.

Put in your head:

Ich muss es mir merken (note that sich is in dative)

After some time has passed, we begin the process of extracting from memory:

Kannst du dich nicht mehr daran erinnern?

Other synonyms for “notice through perception”

Wahrnehmen is closest in this meaning to bemerken, but it is rarely used in it, because in this word the main thing is “to feel, perceive”, that is, the brain participates in this minimally, it is the sense organs that are important, not thinking.

sie kam ins Zimmer, ohne ihn wahrzunehmen

er hatte das Auto zu spät wahrgenommen

ein Geräusch, einen Gegenstand, Geruch wahrnehmen

Erkennen – it is primarily “recognize what you see”, so it can hardly be confused with bemerken

kannst du das Haus dort oben erkennen?

All posts about #German synonyms

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