German synonyms. Receive: erhalten or bekommen, kriegen, beziehen, erlangen

Last Updated on March 1, 2023

In this thread, synonyms with the meaning “receive” are in the center. These are the words erhalten or bekommen and also kriegen, beziehen and erlangen. In addition, let’s take a look at enthalten – the word that is always confused with erhalten.

Let’s start with the simplest.

SS or ß in German
Use: difference between benutzen and verwenden, nutzen, gebrauchen, anwenden
Negation in German
Difference between merken and bemerken and other words for memory and notice
Conjunctions in sentences. Different word order


This word is used in colloquial speech.

Quite often it has a connotation of “grab”, “obtain”, “get” (= get prey), that is, it has some kind of aggressive meaning. And this is no accident, because the word comes from the word Krieg (war) – I fought, quarreled and got what I wanted. However, no less often this additional meaning is no longer heard.

Geld, Prozente, Zinsen kriegen

einen Brief, eine Erlaubnis, eine Nachricht kriegen

er kann niemals genug kriegen

Arbeit kriegen

Strafe kriegen

endlich kriegen wir etwas Warmes in den Magen

er hat Fieber, einen Herzanfall gekriegt


The most neutral word that can be used in all cases. For any doubts, choose bekommen and you can’t go wrong. Be-kommen also has a clear internal form – “it came to me”.

Geld, ein Geschenk bekommen

Besuch, Gäste bekommen

einen Mann, ein Kind bekommen

Einblick, Kenntnis bekommen

sein Leben hat einen neuen Sinn bekommen

etwas zu essen bekommen

eine Krankheit bekommen

Angst, einen Schreck, eine Gänsehaut, Lust, Mut bekommen


One of the meanings of this word is to receive on a regular basis. The word is often used when talking about money and benefits.

ein hohes Gehalt, gute Einkünfte beziehen

seinen Lohn, eine Sozialhilfe, Rente, Pension beziehen


This word is close to kriegen in its older meaning, but at the same time it is high and not colloquial. The word comes from lang, remember also verlangen (to demand, pull your long arms for smth) – and, accordingly, reach for erlangen

die Doktorwürde erlangen

einen Vorteil erlangen

der Künstler erlangte Weltberühmtheit

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This word refers to a higher style. The inner form is no less clear – er-halten (I hold it because I gave it). Unlike bekommen (came), erhalten means “hold”, so some combinations are impossible for it, for example with Angst – fear may come, but you can not hold it.

Geld, ein Geschenk erhalten – the same meaning, but different style

einen Brief, Bescheid, Gruß erhalten

eine Antwort, Nachricht erhalten

einen Begriff, eine Vorstellung, einen Eindruck von etw. erhalten

einen Verweis ins Klassenbuch erhalten

The word also has a meaning, where “I hold” becomes a priority – in the sense I keep:
die Vitamine in den Speisen erhalten.

It is because of this second meaning that we confuse it with enthalten – to contain:
diese Mappe enthält das vollständige Manuskript.

To be less confused, let’s try to remember that er– prefix implies a goal or a win.

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