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I'm still confused about the difference between ändern and verändern. I have read something about ändern only being used with small changes and verändern when something changes totally. But where exactly is the line between those?
And how does this work when we talk about a person being changed instead of a thing?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Persons as objects of change:

Ändern is used in the sense of changing someone's defining personality traits (which is often seen as hopeless):

• Er ist ein Dickkopf – ich kann ihn nicht ändern. – He's a pighead, I can't change him.

• Der kleine Junge ist streitsüchtig. Ich hoffe, dass er sich noch ändert. – The boy is always looking for a fight. I hope he'll change.

• Früher war ich immer betrunken. Aber jetzt habe ich mich geändert. – Before, I was always drunk. But now I have changed.

Verändern would be used in the context of changing a person's entire life and/or occupational condition:

• Ich möchte mich (beruflich) verändern. – I want to do something else. (This can refer to a change of position or industry.)

Typically in a Perfekt construction:

• Er hat sich verändert. Er ist nicht mehr so, wie er früher war. – He has changed. He's not the same anymore.

• Du hast dich seit damals gar nicht verändert. – You haven't changed a bit since that time.

• Du hast mich verändert. – You have changed me. (You've been this important to my life.)

• Im Laufe der Jahre habe ich mich vollkommen verändert. – Through the years, I have totally changed.

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Is then the correct verb is "sich verändern"? Or does verändern can stand on its own? – Amol Gawai Apr 22 '14 at 11:36
'Verändern' is also used without 'sich', as it is not a real reflexive verb. (e.g.: Wir verändern die Reihenfolge der Zahlen.—We alter the sequence of the numbers). The reflexive pronoun is only used when the sentence's subject itself is the object of the verb 'verändern'. – TehMacDawg Jul 26 '15 at 7:13

You have unterstood it correctly. There is no defined line between those two words. When you can use one, you usually can also use the other. It's more a point of what you want to embrace.

Ändern: quite neutral. it/he/she/whatever "changed".

Verändern: if you want to say that something really changed, or put attention on the change if that is your point.

Abändern: to put attetion that it is now different from before. I think this is not used for people.

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The word “ändern” refers to "changing" something by adding something different or leading someone in a new direction. In essence, you are changing the "mix," rather than the underlying object. This is sometimes referred to as "retail" change.

On the other hand “verändern” has the connotation of changing something by replacing what's already there. In the context of a person, you are "re-making" him, rather than "leading in a new direction." That is sometimes referred to as "wholesale" change.

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