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The exact meaning of "zusagen"

I'm writing a letter in German, and I'm having trouble translating the following phrase: "Person X told me that you agreed to help." Intuitively, I wrote: "du hast zugesagt zu helfen." But then I checked the exact definition of "zusagen", just in case, and found out that sometimes it can also mean "to promise", "to assure" (which I've never picked up from context; always thought it meant just "to agree"). The thing is, I'm not trying to manipulate this person into helping me, so "you promised to help" or "you assured person X you would help" would sound really inappropriate. Is it still okay to use "zusagen", or is there a better option?

Thank you.

August 4, 2017



Hi there, "promised" and "agreed" are very close in this context. At least in German. If someone does "zusagen" he agreed to do it (help) and that could be interpreted as a promise as well. But isn't it the same in English. I mean if you agreed to do something, you kind of promised to do it, right?

To make it short; you did a very good job! "Person X hat mir mitgeteilt, dass du zugesagt hast zu helfen." It's just perfect for what you want to achieve! You could add. "Vielen Dank dafür schon mal im Voraus!"

P.S.: "Du hast zugesagt..." is ok for persons that you know or that are very "young". You should say: "Sie haben zugesagt..." if the person is someone you don't know. ;)


Thank you very much for your detailed answer!


At first, I would use the more formal "Sie" instead of "Du", at least unless you know the other person well enough. "Person x teilte mir mit, dass Sie eventuell bereit wären zu helfen (... that you might be willing to help)". Eventuell in German is not like the English "eventually". It is more like a form of "maybe". As yo found out yourself, "zusagen" or "zustimmen" are more like a promise.


Person x teilte mir mit, dass Sie eventuell bereit wären zu helfen ..that is actually even better! But as mentioned it is very very polite! If you know the person you don't need to be overly polite. ;) On the other hand... nothing wrong in politeness.


Thank you for your help! (As for du vs. Sie, it was a conscious choice to use du here.)

  • 1315

Andreas, das war sehr hilfreich! Many nuances can only be learned from a native speaker.


Mein Vorschlag (suggestion): Person X hat gesagt, Sie würden (or du würdest) mir helfen, (wenn ich Sie darum bitte). Das wäre super.

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