essen vs fressen

Hi The eighth lessen in German-English course you discuss the following:

"Unlike English, German has two similar but different verbs for to eat: essen and fressen. The latter is the standard way of expressing that an animal is eating something. Be careful not to use fressen to refer to humans – this would be a serious insult. Assuming you care about politeness, we will not accept your solutions if you use fressen with human subjects.

The most common way to express that a human being is eating something is the verb essen. It is not wrong to use it for animals as well, so we will accept both solutions. But we strongly recommend you accustom yourself to the distinction between essen and fressen.

Fortunately, both verbs are conjugated very similarly:

essen fressen (for animals) ich esse ich fresse du isst du frisst er/sie/es isst er/sie/es frisst wir essen wir fressen ihr esst ihr fresst sie/Sie essen sie/Sie fressen"

If ESSEN must be only used for animals, why don't you have only two persons that is to say third person singular and third person plural? Animals do not speak like us and these are us who talk about animals. Animal do not have I, he/she/et, we and you. We can just refer to It eats and they eat. Best Regards Mohsen Nourani Vatani

August 9, 2016


There are many words, which are usually used only in the third person, but since the conjugation of verbs follow certain rules there are also the forms for the other persons. Another example is "regnen". You can say "Ich regne" (I rain) even if it does not make much sense. One use case of "Ich fresse" couid be (fairy) tales where animals speak. Another example are films like "Pets", where a dog could say "Ich fresse". Furthermore you can say "Du frisst wie ein Schwein" (you eat like a pig) to a person, who has no manners and eats his pasta only using his hands and not a fork or spoon.

August 9, 2016


Furhermore there are people who use a more vulgar language and regularly say "fressen" instead of "essen" (or if you are pretty angry: "Ich fresse wie es mir passt!" - though, not very nice behaviour).

You will even hear the word "Fraß" (for bad food) in this video (with the great Kinski :D).

August 9, 2016

Can't we say: "Ich esse wie es mir passt!". The same meaning without being vulgar.

August 10, 2016

Of course, but maybe your rage would be less recognizable :)

I'd honestly recommend every German learner to use "essen" when you talk about humans. You can't go wrong with that.

August 11, 2016

Fair enough. Thanks.

August 10, 2016
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Additionally, there ARE people who talk to their pets, addressing them in the "du"-form. Some might even teach their parrots to say "ich fresse Körner"...

August 9, 2016

The reason why 'essen' and 'fressen' are conjugated similarly is: it's the same root. 'fressen' was derived from prefix 'ver-' + 'essen'

August 9, 2016

Other than essen and fressen, are there any other verbs that are customarily changed when it is an animal versus a human?

May 9, 2017

I'm curious how this works in fictional contexts, for example, children's literature where animals frequently speak like humans. Would the animals use essen in this case?

Also, are there any other verbs that have different forms for animals?

August 31, 2018

I would also like to know this too.

April 3, 2019

I should thank you. Your description was full & clear.

June 14, 2017

Difference between esse and essen

October 23, 2018

Thanks for that, it has annoyed me trying to figure that out. I'm glad you detailed the insult implied for incorrect usage too. Saves any embarrassment.

April 3, 2019

This answer was just the thing I was looking for. Thanks!!

September 8, 2019
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