Frucht and Obst

What is the difference between the use of these two words meaning "fruit"?

August 11, 2015


In addition to what has already been said, Obst is generally fruit intended for eating, while Frucht is a much more wide-ranging botanical term. The fruit of the carob tree may technically be a fruit, but since it's a hard thing in a pod that cannot be consumed without processing, it's not Obst. Same for the coffee cherry. This also includes any kind of tree nut - these are Früchte, botanically speaking, but not Obst. Obst is an apple, raspberries, bananas. Tomatoes are also a Frucht, as are (bell) peppers, but they are not Obst - chiefly because they aren't sweet and regarded as "vegetables" rather than fruit.

So, while any kind of Obst can be referred to as a Frucht, the reverse is not true.

(Rhubarb (der Rhabarber), however, which is a leaf stalk and, hence, most definitely a vegetable in the botanical sense, and NOT a fruit, is regarded as Obst.)

And then there are also expressions, which use the word Frucht/Früchte in the same way as English does, e.g. die Früchte deiner Arbeit (the fruits of your labours), die Frucht deines Leibes (fruit of your (Mary's!) womb), etc.

This fruity topic has caused me a major headache in Spanish. Here are the ins and outs for interested Spanish learners:

August 11, 2015

The botanical fruits can be sorted in:

  • Fruits(=Obst) are often: sweety, soure, and fresh, they contain water.
  • Vegetables(=Gemüse) are often cooked before you eat them. They are normally not soure.
  • nuts(=Nüsse) ,
  • berries(=Beeren)
  • other botanical fruits, like Kaffeekirschen=coffee cerries;
August 11, 2015

And just to complicate things, the word Obst is not normally used in Switzerland. I discovered this when offering some fruit to a friend of my daughter. She gave me a strange look when I said Obst, but then respond with an "oh that is what you meant" expression when I switched to Frucht.

August 12, 2015

The Swiss like to do things their own way ;-)

August 12, 2015

"Obst" is a collective.

So if you wanted to say that there is some fruit in a bowl, you could say "Es ist Obst in der Schale".

So it corresponds to the uncountable use of English "fruit" (some fruit, a lot of fruit).

"Frucht", on the other hand, is countable - eine Frucht, viele Früchte.

It corresponds to the countable use of English "fruit" (one fruit, many fruit).

When you offer somebody some fruit, you usually use "Obst" ("Möchtest du etwas Obst?").

When you are more specific, you usually use "Frucht" ("Äpfel sind Früchte" / "Ein Apfel ist eine Frucht"), though "Äpfel sind Obst" is also possible.

August 11, 2015
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