Machen vs Tun? Can somebody please explain

Hello everyone,

I was wondering what the exact difference is between Machen and Tun.

Could somebody please explain, perhaps with a little example to each?

Thank you.

October 10, 2012


I don't have any examples for you since the "rules" of German have always been a bit over my head, but my dad and I like to argue about the precise meaning of German words to keep ourselves sharp. As far as I'm concerned machen is more like you're making or crating something. Not necessarily something physical, but even something cerebral. Like "Ich mache Hausaufgaben". I'm doing homework. But since I have something when I'm done that I didn't have before, I wouldn't use tun. I'm sure that's not a precise answer, but it's a general idea.

October 10, 2012

The verb "tun" is always used in the following sentence: "Was kann ich für Sie tun?", which means "What can I do for you?/How can I help you?". "Machen" has a closer meaning to the english verb "make".

October 10, 2012

They both have too many idiomatic uses to make broad sweeping statements and you'll probably have to memorize a bunch of them, but I think of machen as more involving creation, power, force, and tun as involving doing, affecting, etc. Some common examples involving each

die Macht (comes from machen) - power

aufmachen - to open

zumachen - to close

Die Tat (from tun) - deed

es tut mir leid - I'm sorry (literally: it does me pity)

es tut mir weh - It hurts/is painful (literally: it does me woe)

Das tut gut - that's good


sich daran machen, etwas zu tun - to go about doing something

Here's a decent discussion of the difference between tun and machen:

It's the entry for "do" in Farrel's "Dictionary of German Synonym's". It should take you to the bottom of pg. 96, and the whole discussion should be there.

Hope all that helps :)

October 10, 2012

Look under at the translations.

January 8, 2018
Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.