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I am trying to organize my knowledge about the various translations of the English verbs "close", and find out which German word is most suitable for typical usages.

  • When closing something like a door, one may use eine Tür schließen or eine Tür zumachen (is there any difference?). I've also encountered eine Tür verschließen, which is translated the same according to wiktionary. Google translate also adds eine Tür abschließen, but I believe this is more like locking or sealing a door?
  • When closing something like a deal, one may use einen Deal schließen, but I have not encountered einen Deal zumachen or einen Deal verschließen at all. I have encountered, however, the form einen Deal abschließen - does it mean the same thing?
  • When closing something like a financial gap, one may use die finanzielle Lücke schließen, but verschließen, abschließen and zumachen won't work here.
  • I couldn't find the appropriate term for closing a file.

I guess I can keep going with that list, but that won't be productive; I am wondering whether some thumb rules exist, such that will ease wording (other than "always use schließen"), or some fine-tuining of the definitions of those similar verbs.

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Maybe you should open up more than one question for it ;)

However:

(eine Tür) verschließen can be used for both: closing a door or locking a door, whereas (eine Tür) schließen just means closing.

(eine Tür) zumachen and (eine Tür) schließen are pretty much the same, but zumachen is not the best German -- Not sure whether you can say that in English, but it's a bit like to make a door closed.

In case of deal, in most cases the prefix ab is used. So "einen Vertrag (ab)schließen` with slightly different meaning in terms of the view at the contract. Without the prefix, it's more like partners -- with the prefix it's more like customer-realtionship.

When closing a finacial gap, you could also say zumachen -- but remeber, it's bad German and should be used -- but surely you will read/hear it some time ;) So keeping at verb schließen, in this case use it without a prefix. There are a lot of other, sometimes symbolic, terms for this. E.g. a couple of days I've seen eine finanzielle Lücke füllen which implies something like somebody is using a lorry to fill the gap up.

Closing a file again without any prefix in most cases. Could be translated as einen Fall/eine Akte schließen (well, abschließen would be also fine here with minimal differences most Germans would even recognize) but it's eine Datei schließen.

I hope I didn't confuse you even more ;) Well... a try to create a rule of the thumb: If you look or if you finish something, it's abschließen. If you just close something, maybe like a jar of jam, it's either verschließen or just schließen.

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There's also "mit etwas abschließen", which matches your rule of thumb for finish something. I'm not sure though whether abschließen in this sense and in the sense of locking a door are actually of the same origin (schließen vs. Schluss). –  OregonGhost Feb 19 at 19:15
    
Yepp about the abschlißen thing. Not sure about the origin, but doubt that they differ in this case. –  frlan Feb 19 at 19:37
    
"abschließen" has many meanings: "einen Vertrag abschließen" is completly different from "ein Auto abschließen" and this again with "mit dem Leben abschließen" –  Ingo Feb 20 at 0:57
    
That's a good explanation, thanks. –  Bach Feb 20 at 17:22
    
(eine Tür) verschließen / eine verschlossene Tür does imply that the door will be / is locked and die Tür zumachen is pretty common –  embert Feb 22 at 18:51
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In Yiddish we have "verhacken türen und fenster" which means the doors and windows are bolted and shuttered, as though in anticipation of a pogrom. I don't know if the verb is used that way in any other dialect. Otherwise zumachen or vermachen are probably the preferred terms if you're talking about closing a door, with schliessen being an alternative.

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vermachen in German is in most cases translatable to bequeath -- at least if I can trust my dictionary ;) It's about giving somebody something, after e.g. somebody died. –  frlan Feb 21 at 15:23
    
yeah, the prefixes don't always take you in exactly the same direction. For "bequeath", we have "abschreiben", which also works for any transfer of ownership. Oddly enough, if the bailiff comes to confiscate your merchandise, that is also "abschreiben". –  Marty Green Feb 21 at 18:20
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