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Confused with some German words with multiple meanings

Duolingo taught me that "spricht" means "speaks", but then later taught me that "redet" also means "speaks". Can anyone tell me what the difference is between the two and when would be the proper time to use each one.

Also. It taught me that "bitte" means "please" and "schon" means "beautiful", but "bitte schon" means "Here you are!" Can someone explain this to me please? Thank you.

December 25, 2017



I am not a native speaker so someone else please correct me if any of this is wrong.

My impression is that sprechen/spricht/sprichst is a pretty direct correspondance with the word "speaks". It's usually best translated as "speak"; occasionally its use is subtly different and it is better translated as "talk" or "say". I think the word "sprechen" is used slightly more broadly than the English word "speaks". For example if you say "Er spricht gern." it would be best translate "He likes to talk.", not "He likes to speak." because in English if you say "He likes to speak." it connotes either formal speaking, or a person liking the process of speech, whereas in German the sentence probably just means that a person talks a lot.

"Reden" I think is a bit closer in meaning to the word "talk", but is also sometimes more naturally translated as "speak", depending on context. When I hear "reden" I think there is a slightly greater connotation of talking WITH another person. So for example, if I wanted to say "I need to talk to him." I would say "Ich muss mit ihm reden.", but it would probably also be fine to say "Ich muss mit ihm sprechen." But if I were by myself, speaking words out loud (such as to practice pronunciation) I would use the word "sprechen" to describe speaking, not the word "reden", because I'm not talking to anyone.

To explain the "Bitte schön" bit..."bitte" does mean please. "Schön" is a much more broad / general word than "beautiful"...it can mean pretty or beautiful, but it can also mean "good, "great", "nice", etc. It's just a general positive word. And it can also be combined with other words to emphasize them, sort of like meaning "very" or "very much" or "a lot".

So "Bitte schön" is sort of like this...it's like saying "Pretty please", like it emphasizes the please. But, unlike "pretty please" which is a sort of cutesy expression that usually only little kids use, "Bitte schön" is commonly used by anyone, including by adults in more formal settings. But...this phrase is also idiomatic...and can be used in a broader array of contexts than just meaning "pretty please"...one of which is "Here you are! (with a kind of please take it/please help yourself connotation)" It can also mean "You're welcome" or "You're very welcome."

This stuff is best picked up in conversational situations. You can't possibly master it just by learning a few associations with a phrase...but the associations can give you a general idea. Then, when you hear Germans actually use it, you'll get a more complete picture of the exact situations in which Germans tend to say this.

If you can't surround yourself with actual Germans, watch some movies or TV shows or videos depicting fairly mundane polite social interactions...you'll definitely hear this and other phrases used a lot!

I hope this helps!


Yes, that's right. Good comment!

Just adding a few minor points:

To say only "He likes to talk.", you'd prefer "Er redet gern." ("Er spricht gern." would sound a bit unnatural in spoken language), but if it's "He likes to talk about trains", you can totally use both "reden" and "sprechen", but "sprechen" would sound formal, it would be perferred in formal writing.

I think the connotation "reden" has is more like "babbling" (not like "talking to other people", because you can "sprechen mit" other people just the same). "Sprechen" could have a tiny connotiation of "holding (professional, structured) speeches". At least it does to me.

A very antiquated phrase (but I'm not sure you couldn't still come across it in some valley of the Alps; it has a bit of a prayer-y connotiation to me, or of a shy 19th-century country girl talking respectfully to someone) would be "Ich bitt(e) dich (recht) schön" = "I ask (= plead, entreat) you (quite (= very)) prettily (= nicely, connotation: devoutly)". In short: "bitte schön" = "I entreat you 'prettily'".

  • 1349

Thanks stepintime for tweaking the answer.

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cazort That was a very good explanation as far as I can see, though German is not my mother-tongue.


for bitte vs schon, the german word for beautiful is actually schön (if you cant write an umlaut on your device, doing an e after the letter that has the umlaut over it is also acceptable (z.B. schoen). schon means already, whereas schoen means beautiful


reden: talk, sprechen> speak. bitte schön> you are welcome, here you are, there you are are English expressions, you have to forget literal translation then

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