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Is there a difference between anschalten and einschalten?

If I turn on the TV, oven, heat, start the car etc., can either verb be used?

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related:… – Takkat Jan 18 '13 at 10:26
Note that there's a similar pair for the opposite: abschalten and ausschalten – ssc Jan 23 '13 at 19:07
To start a car: ein Auto anlassen (neither anschalten nor einschalten nor einlassen) – Christian Graf Jan 26 '13 at 17:30

Generally both words einschalten and anschalten mean the same thing. Duden defines them as

durch Betätigen eines Schalters in Betrieb setzen

Thus you can ein- and anschalten following things:

  • Licht
  • Fernseher, Radio, Computer
  • Mikrowelle, Ofen
  • Heizung
  • ...

While I would use einschalten rather than anschalten in most cases, Google shows a lot of hits for anschalten though. I assume a regional difference in respect to frequency. Others may elaborate on this thought.

In case of heat, however, I'd use einschalten and anschalten when activating the heat in autumn (i.e. it is not yet working) and anmachen (colloquial version of einschalten, respectively anschalten), aufdrehen or hochdrehen (drehen defines the sort of action/movement you do when turning on a heat) when it's cold and I want the heat to work.

In the end, it's similar to turn on/off and switch on/off in English. You can interchange them quite often as well.

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+1 especially for mentioning anmachen, which I would use for any to turn on I can think of. ... and then of course there is also anstellen. I'd say ___schalten is not used that much, at least not in the Berlin area. – Emanuel Jan 18 '13 at 21:06
I only ever heard _machen in Hessen, mostly from teenagers. I did hear _schlaten a few times though. _machen was even more frequent in cases like reinmachen or hinmachen as well. Seemed a little lazy xD – Ledda Dec 13 '13 at 9:00

The meaning is the same. Einschalten is used way more commonly in written and spoken German. Anschalten is used less, only in spoken German and is the less formal word.

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The ngram on the following four forms shows a superior usage of einschalten and a slight augmentation concerning anschalten since the turn of the millenium

eingeschaltet - blue
angeschaltet - red
einschalten - green
anschalten - orange

enter image description here

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