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Recently I heard the verb bereisen which means to tour, travel. I have been using reisen to mean the same.

Do these two verbs have the exact same meaning? Is there a context in which one verb fits better than the other? What specific meaning is added by the prefix 'be' here?

Please give some examples if they are used in specific context.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Bereisen can only be applied to an area/country. It means that you travelled around in an area for a while.

You could say

In seiner Jugend bereiste er zahlreiche Länder Afrikas.


Sie bereiste Kanada und die USA.

or even

Als Journalist hatte er die Gelegenheit, beinahe die ganze Welt zu bereisen.

But you would not use bereisen for a single trip to one city.

Reisen is a lot more general and does not say anything about the duration of your visit to the destination.

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Above all, "bereisen" needs an accusative object, i.e. a country or region that you are travelling to.

Bereisen describes a much more leisurely way of travelling, where the route becomes the destination. It also has an old-fashioned ring to it. You'll use reisen in most circumstances these days.

Von 1853 bis 1856 bereiste Dr. Livingstone ganz Südafrika.

Wir wollen nächstes Jahr im Februar Laos und Kambodscha auf eigene Faust bereisen.

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"Bereisen" can only be used if your travel tour covers different parts of the country/area you are visiting, whereas "reisen" could also describe a one-stop trip.

It implies that a certain degree of immersion into the travel destination took place. About a person who traveled a lot in his life you can say: "Er ist bereist".

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I'd probably say "weitgereist". "Bereist" as an adjective sounds strange to me. – Ingmar May 26 '14 at 9:10

According to Duden, there are three different meanings to 'reisen'.

'bereisen' can be swapped with 'reisen', but 'reisen' does not always have the same meaning, so you can't always exchange 'reisen' with 'bereisen'. To address your question: They can have the same meaning, but you have to decide based on given context. Edit: If you want to exchange 'bereisen' with 'reisen' you will need to add for example 'durch' to express the same meaning.

For example you can say

Wir reisen um 7:00 Uhr (ab)

meaning we leave at 7:00

In this example reisen means starting a trip, you can't use bereisen here.

You can look here for more examples for each meaning of reisen.

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I don't agree with that answer. Reisen and bereise are not interchangeable, as a rule. – Ingmar May 26 '14 at 9:08
@Ingmar can you give an example where it is not? I couldn't think of any and think it's a bit harsh to get downvoted without proper explanation. I might be wrong and accept being downvoted if I am, but I am here to learn as well. – Pasoe May 26 '14 at 9:32
They are different words. You can't use "bereisen" instead of reisen, as you yourself admitted, but it doesn't work the other way round, either, without rephrasing: "Australien bereisen" means to travel extensively in Australia. You can't simply use "reisen" here, although "herumreisen" might work. – Ingmar May 26 '14 at 9:37
Indeed there is. Australia is a bad example, perhaps, let's take a smaller, land-locked country like Austria. "Er bereiste Österreich" and "Er reiste durch Österreich (nach Italien)" are two different things. – Ingmar May 26 '14 at 9:51
@Pasoe "durch Australien reisen" sounds strange to me, unless you are just passing through (which would be kind of difficult in Australia) – Hulk May 26 '14 at 9:51

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