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Tun vs machen

So if I'm correct, both tun and machen can be used for the word 'do'. Could someone please explain, if any, the difference between the two?

Many thanks.

February 3, 2018



I am sure a native speaker (or someone with more advanced German than I) can give a more precise answer, but basically, "machen" has the sense of "make" and "tun" means more specifically "do". However, there are situations where a German would say "machen" when an English-speaker would say "do" (such as "Was machst du von Beruf?" -- What do you do for a living?).

My general approach is to use "machen" unless it's an fixed expression where I have heard "tun" used before, such as "Was soll ich tun?" ("What should I do?", faced with an existential crisis of some sort), or of course, "Es tut mir leid!" (I'm sorry).


I am native German but it is not that easy to discribe. In a lot of cases there are regional differences in the use of those verbs. Some prefer "machen", as I do, some prefer "tun".

Dont do this! = Tu das nicht! / Mach das nicht!

Do your homework for school!= Mach deine Schularbeiten!

The question about the job someone is: Was machst du beruflich? / Was tust du beruflich? / Was bist du von Beruf? / Was für einen Beruf hast du? ("Was machst du von Beruf?" sounds loosy)

A very often used sentence: "Das macht nichts!" / "Das tut nichts zur Sache!" / "Das spielt keine Rolle!" = Never mind! / That's ok! / No matter!

If you say to a child, it does not have to be affraid of a dog, because it's harmless, I prefer to say: "Der tut dir nichts!" Other people might say "Der macht dir nichts!".

Another example for this: That hurts me! I use to say "Das tut mir weh!", but in Switzerland, where I live for more than 15 years now, the people use to say "Das macht mir weh!"

After all: a lot of lazy Germans (with a lousy German language) use these verbs over and over, allthough better fitting verbs would sound better.

My German teacher used to say "Wir machen uns nicht mehr in die Hosen!" (We do not make a mess in our pants anymore!) and "Tuten tut nur der Zug!" (Only trains do toot!) , when we used "machen" or "tun" to force us for a use of better fitting words.


Ty for the info that was really understandble and considering the fact ur a native speaker I couldnot expect less :)

My apologies if this question is kind of irrelevant to the post but I saw that u could give me some useful information.

Zum vs für Is there a specific rule which one I gotta use when I wanna say" for" Like : Das ist eine gute Idee zum/für anwenden. Which one is correct? And why we say zum Frühstück and zum Geburtstag and never say für at that case?

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