https://www.duolingo.com/bakpao

What is the difference between "untersuchen" and "ermitteln"?

It seems that both of them can mean "to investigate, to determine, to look into". In what context are they used differently?

July 10, 2014

8 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/tobasi1

Perhaps some examples may help you:

Der Arzt untersucht den Patienten. (ermittelt not possible)

Es wurde untersucht, welches der häufigste Vorname in Deutschland ist. Es wurde ermittelt, dass der häufigste Vorname Ben ist.

Die Polizei untersucht die Angelegenheit. Die Polizei ermittelt in der Angelegenheit. (both sentences have a very similar meaning)

July 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/bakpao

Thanks! So they are indeed very similar but not the same, it seems that untersuchen is more general than ermitteln.

July 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila

The main difference is that while both are transitive verbs, the direct objects have different functions. The same distinction exists in English. E.g., if you examine or research (untersuchen) the circumstances of a crime, you may be able to determine or identify (ermitteln) the perpetrator. The reason that untersuchen is more general is that it is in principle open-ended, whereas ermitteln usually means that you have a specific goal in mind. Similar distinctions between verbs that stress the action and verbs that stress the result exist in many other cases, e.g. speak/talk vs. say/tell.

Btw, you can say "der Arzt ermittelt den Patienten". But it means that the doctor identifies or localises the patient in the sense of finding out who or where they are.

July 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/bakpao

Thanks, I think I understand it better. If it is more general, use "untersuchen". If there is a specific objective, use "Ermitteln".

July 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/kangaroopouch

"untersuchen" can't be "to determine" and apart from police investigations I think ermitteln can only be "to determine"

July 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/bakpao

I used dict.cc and it says that "to determine" may be applied to untersuchen: http://www.dict.cc/?s=untersuchen

July 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila

It's always possible to miss some specific context, but my impression is that dict.cc is just plain wrong on this. In general I would recommend using dict.leo.org instead, as it appears more reliable to me.

July 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/Cameron_Powell

AFAIK, "ermitteln" has the connotation that some foul play or wrongdoing has taken place. In German newspaper articles, for example, the investigation into NSA wiretapping is described using "ermitteln." The other verb is "investigate" in the sense of research or critique.

July 11, 2014
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