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  1. Sie zieht den Mantel und die Handschuhe aus.
  2. Er legt den Mantel ab.

What is the difference between these two words?

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1  
Please take a look at this post in the meta. Hope that helps. –  c.p. May 27 at 21:01

5 Answers 5

"Ausziehen" und "ablegen" belong to different registers. While "ausziehen" is the everyday word for the act in concern, "ablegen" is antiquated or lofty language. Apart from that, "ablegen" rather refers to "surplus-clothing", so to say, clothes which you wear outside but not inside. Especially a coat.

In old German movies (or dubbed old American movies), for example, you may hear someone say "Möchten sie nicht ablegen?", when somebody else enters his/her house. Apart from literally being an invitation to get rid of the coat it is also a set phrase of welcoming hospitality.

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Especially, You can use "Möchten Sie vielleicht ablegen?" without reference to anything specific (coat, hat, ...) whereas you should please not welcome your guests with "Möchten Sie sich vielleicht ausziehen?" ;) –  Hagen von Eitzen May 29 at 16:42
    
@HagenvonEitzen: This reminds me of (coll.) "Hängt euch auf!", an imperative with two very different meanings. –  Raphael Jun 2 at 19:54

Well, "ablegen" is something like "lay down" whereas "ausziehen" is like "pull off".

Regarding "Mantel", "ablegen" sounds more formal (but you can say both). However, it would be unusual to use "ablegen" with "Handschuhe". That would suggest that the person is not wearing the gloves anymore and is laying them down.

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Ausziehen ist "to take off"; "pull off" has other meanings and is not used with clothes. –  Robert May 27 at 21:30
    
Yes, but I was thinking of "to pull off shoes" (and not in the sense of getting away with something). –  Dave May 27 at 22:08
    
I'm afraid but saying "Handschuhe ablegen" can mean "to take them off and putting aside". –  Em1 May 28 at 6:54
  1. Sie zieht den Mantel und die Handschuhe aus.
  2. Er legt den Mantel ab.

Ausziehen --> move out of something

Ablegen --> dispose of someting, put something down

Generally you "ablegen" einen Mantel but you generally don't "ablegen" Handschuhe.

Since in the first sentence she is getting rid of two items at once the whole process is called ausziehen. In English: Taking off ones clothes.

So the difference is:

a) Multiple clothes to take off: ausziehen
b) Mantel or Jacket to get out of: ablegen

Since few people these days actually wear coats the use of ablegen in this context has declined.

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"Ausziehen" here¹ means either

  • the act of removing (almost) all clothing ("sich/jmdn. ausziehen") or
  • removing some (specified) item that (rule of thumb) "goes around" your body or a part of it ("etwas ausziehen").

Some examples:

  • "Zieh deine Jacke aus!"
  • "Zieh dich aus, Schnucki!"

Examples of things you don't use "ausziehen" with: glasses, hats, jewelry, weapons, etc -- items that are more apparel than clothing. Here you use "ablegen" or "abziehen"; "abnehmen" can be used as a synonym of "abziehen".

Some examples:

  • "Zieh deine Brille ab!"
  • "Leg deine Kette ab!"²
  • "Nimm/Setz schon den Hut ab!"
  • "Er legte seine Dienstwaffe ab, bevor er in die Kirche ging."

Some words are definitely used with both varians, e.g. "Mütze".


  1. Beware other meanings: "(mit jmdm.|gegen jmdn.) ausziehen" means "to move out (with|against) sb.", used e.g. when describing (middle-age) warfare.
  2. Iconic: "Bitte legen Sie alle Metallgegenstände ab!"
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You use "zieht aus" for stuff that the person is wearing. So if he did not pull it on before he can not "zieht es aus".

You use "legt ab" for stuff that you are carrying. To the "Mantel" has probably been over his arm before he ihn abgelegt hat. You can also use "legt ab" for boxes, parcels, bags and the like.

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I disagree. "Ablegen" does very well mean stuff that you are not carrying but wearing. With the coat being over the arm you are totally off-track. And where did you ever hear "Möchten sie nicht ihre Tasche ablegen?", "Möchten sie nicht ihre Tortenschachtel ablegen?" or "Möchten sie nicht ablegen" refering to one of these? The right word here would be "abstellen". –  zwiebel May 29 at 16:51
    
So you don't think I could say "Die Bücher können Sie dort ablegen." ? On the other hand you could say "Er zieht das Schwert aus der Scheide." And if I have my coat over my arm I would not understand if I was asked "Möchten Sie Ihren Anzug ausziehen?". On that Question I would probably answer that I already did that. And that whoever asks should be able to see that. If asked "Wollen Sie Ihren Anzug hier ablegen?" on the Other hand I would understand what I have been asked. –  Lars Pötter May 29 at 22:11
    
Of course you can say that. I think the point is, that "ablegen" has, apart from the obvious meaning of "putting something down", a specialized meaning related to "ausziehen". This specialized meaning is not very present in the language since it is, as I pointed out in my answer, lofty or antiquated language. It is this meaning, that is being evoked, when you ask somebody "Möchten sie nicht ablegen" and it does refer to stuff, that the person is wearing. And it is this meaning (in this example now tied to the situation of formally welcoming someone) that sounds awkward regarding things carried –  zwiebel May 30 at 10:55

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