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Der Restaurantkritiker hat meinen Kuchen geschmeckt.

The Food critic tasted my cake.

Can I use probieren or testen in this context? What is the difference between testen, probieren and schmecken?

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4  
A good option would be: "Der Restaurantkritiker hat meinen Kuchen gekostet" –  Chris May 6 '14 at 11:59
    
@Chris so I payed my cake to buy the restaurant critic? –  Jan Jul 27 at 14:53
    
@Jan What do you mean? There is a related passage in your answer that is equally unclear. –  Matthias Jul 27 at 21:23
    
@Matthias »Das hat einen Euro gekostet« → »das hat einen Kuchen gekostet« → »das hat meinen Kuchen gekostet«. Analogous if somebody costs something. –  Jan Aug 16 at 10:36

5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The verb you want for to test, in the context of food, is probieren.

  • Testen does mean to test, in the sense of test drive of e. g. a car. It is more “active” than probieren.
  • Probieren means to test in the sense of taste test.
  • Schmecken just means to taste. An English synonym might be to savor.
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Actually, you probably should use "probieren". The sentence you provided is not really proper German. You probably meant:

Der Restaurantkritiker hat meinen Kuchen probiert.

I say "probably" just in case you meant "Dem Restaurantkritiker hat mein Kuchen geschmeckt."

For reference:

  • "testen": Try out. Not typically used in the context of food, but e.g. with cars.
  • "probieren": Taste; try food to figure out if you like it or not.
  • "schmecken": Not typically used to mean try, but meaning "to like food". "Mir schmeckt's." = I like that.
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Why is the food critic in the dative case? –  DerPolyglott33 May 6 '14 at 3:25
    
It is not. The food critic is the subject. "The cake" is the akkusativ object, because you ask: "Wen oder was hat der Restaurantkritiker probiert?" –  Stefan Schroeder May 6 '14 at 3:45
    
Danke sehr für die Erklärung. –  DerPolyglott33 May 6 '14 at 4:21
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@DerPolyglott33 In the Dem Restaurantkritiker hat mein Kuchen geschmeckt it is actually a dative case. You need to re-order the sentence to make clear why: Mein Kuchen (subject) hat dem Restaurantkritiker (dative object) geschmeckt. –  Thorsten Dittmar May 6 '14 at 9:37
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@karoshi No. The English verb "to taste" can be translated as schmecken if something tastes like something ("The steak tastes yummy"/"Das Steak schmeckt lecker", "The cake tastes like vanilla"/"Der Kuchen schmeckt nach Vanille") or if a person notices a certain taste in a food ("I can taste that there's red whine in the gravy"/"Ich kann schmecken, dass Rotwein in der Soße ist") or if a person likes food ("Es hat ihm gut geschmeckt"). However, you can not translate it that way to say that a person tries some food ("He tasted my cake"/"Er probierte meinen Kuchen"). –  Thorsten Dittmar May 6 '14 at 13:25

In fact you could use all three verbs in this sentence, but only "probieren" gives the meaning of your English phrase.

Testen means "to test" (no surprise, since this is the origin of this word according to the Duden) or "to try out". You can apply it on things, but not on actions. In some cases it can be used as a synonym to "probieren", but in general the focus is more on evaluating / measuring / checking whether the thing meets certain quality criteria. It is related to analysis and examination, and it sounds more objective than "probieren".

Der Restaurantkritiker hat meinen Kuchen getestet.

would be a valid, but unusual German sentence. I think many people would wonder whether the critic took a sample of the cake and sent it to a laboratory for some chemical analysis. However, you could say

Der Restaurantkritiker hat das Lokal getestet. (The critic tested the restaurant.)

which would imply other actions beside tasting the food (e.g. judging how clean it was).

Probieren can be applied on both things and actions.

Regarding things it is probably most often used with foods (meaning "to taste" then), but it is not restricted to foods. (The Duden e.g. lists "ein Medikament probieren", and you could also say "ein neues Shampoo probieren" oder "ein anderes Werkzeug probieren" - "try to do it with another tool".)

Used on actions it means "to try (yourself) doing it", e.g. "probieren, nur noch Deutsch zu reden". It is then a synonym to "versuchen".

"Probieren" always means "to gain experience". It is more subjective than "testen", the focus is on how you like the thing or action. However, there are cases where there is little to no difference to "testen", e.g. "Ich werde mal das neue Shampoo testen." - it can be clear from the context that you are not about writing a review for a health magazine.

When it is about foods you could also use "kosten", which is quite similar, but has IMHO a slightly more optimistic sound. When you use "kosten" you expect to enjoy the food, while "probieren" is a bit more sceptic approach.

Schmecken can be used to express that something tastes good ("es schmeckt gut") and that you like it ("mir schmeckt es"), but also to describe the action of sensing the food on your tongue, whether it is sweet or salty or sour and so on. That is what

Der Restaurantkritiker hat meinen Kuchen geschmeckt.

would mean: it would describe the moment where the critic had a bit of the cake in his mouth, sensing all the ingredients and finally thinking "oh, what a delicious cake" ;-)

You won't hear "schmecken" used this way very frequently. It appears in poetry, often in a metaphoric sense: "den Wind / das Meer / die Freiheit ... schmecken".

(So watch out for cases: "Dem Restaurantkritiker hat mein Kuchen geschmeckt." would be "The critic liked my cake", as it has already been pointed out in the comments.)

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Upvoted, because this is the only answer that correctly points out that "testen" can very well be used with respect to food, in which case it refers to analyzing the composition in a lab, or trying whether some chemical reaction occurs, rather than using one's tastebuds to determine the taste. –  O. R. Mapper Jul 20 at 22:16
    
It is unnerving that this excellent answer to a question with 470 views, which solely bothered with these subtle differences, has received a mere 2 likes! –  Ludi Jul 21 at 17:04
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Thank you, @Ludi and O.R.Mapper! It is a pleasure to see that you value my 2 cents. It should be noted that the question had already been around for a while when I wrote my answer, so the answer surely had much less than 470 views. Apart from that it is my experience that writing answers on a sunday night always bears the risk that they are pushed back by many new answers on monday morning. –  Matthias Jul 21 at 21:23

Der Restaurantkritiker hat meinen Kuchen geschmeckt.

A few have pointed out that this does not mean that the critic taste tested your cake; neither does it mean that he enjoyed it (dem Kritiker […] mein Kuchen) nor that the cake ate the critic (der Kritiker […] meinem Kuchen). However, I chuckled when I read it, assuming that it meant he tasted your cake in something that wasn’t your cake.

If you want to emphasise the tasting, proper options would be:

  • Der Kritiker hat meinen Kuchen probiert.

    Easily the best option.

  • Der Kritiker hat von meinem Kuchen gekostet.

    Beware with hat meinen Kuchen gekostet, as it can be misheard as costed my cake.

  • Der Kritiker hat meinen Kuchen getestet.

    Works, but is a bad word for this. You would usually test cars, restaurants, hypotheses but not food. Probably because probieren exists.

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This is pretty old but after reading the sentence in question I became curious. I have not studied German but I lived there a few years and carry on conversations regularly with my German mother-in-law. I have huge gaps in my knowledge such as gender of nouns, but the sentence

Der Restaurantkritiker hat meinen Kuchen geschmeckt.

sounds to me as

The restaurant critic tasted good to my cake.

I often hear my mother-in-law say "Das Eis hat mir geschmeckt." or simply "Das hat mir geschmeckt.", which I have always taken to mean that it tasted good to her and she enjoyed it.

Dict.cc supports my experiences.

In Stefan Schroeder's answer this is commented on in the comments, but I think it is important to point out that the OP's sentence probably does not make any real sense.

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1  
The misinterpretation is wrong, because in that case, the sentence would have to be "Der Restaurantkritiker hat meinem Kuchen geschmeckt." The word "mir" in the example sentences is in dative case, and so must "meinem Kuchen" be to understand the sentence as the cake liking how the critic tasted. –  O. R. Mapper Jul 20 at 22:15

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