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I want to say, "I pick the baby up off the floor," but I'm having trouble deciding whether aufheben or aufnehmen is the correct word.

Ich nehme das Baby vom Boden auf

or

Ich hebe das Baby vom Boden auf

or something else entirely?

Can one of these words be used to talk about picking up any object??

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Using "aufheben" sounds like you take the baby from the ground and hold it in your hands, not knowing what to do with it. It can be translated by "to lift something". Aufnehmen is much deeper, for example it can be used to translate "to admit someone to something", to assimilate, to take into your pocket, to record on tape, etc. In a text both could be correct. –  Yves Jun 10 '13 at 14:12
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Both sentences are correct and will be understood.

aufnehmen has a more general meaning (e.g. Das Auto kann 9 Leute aufnehmen.) and seems a little bit misplaced in this context.

aufheben is rather used concerning objects, so one might think, that you objectified the baby.

Better alternative would be hochnehmen:

Ich nehme das Baby vom Boden hoch.

Also possible, but with a connotation of short term, would be hochheben:

Ich hebe das Baby vom Boden hoch (, damit ich den Boden saugen kann).

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You could also leave out the 'hoch' in the last sentence... –  rena Jun 7 '13 at 19:02
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If you pick up something physical off the ground, I think aufheben is the word for it. Aufnehmen is very broad and can mean all kinds of things. One translation is to pick up, but that is more to pick up a discussion at where it left off or other more abstract things. The baby example sounds weird either way. I think that aufnehmen does indeed make it sound less like an object but it is a weird sentence anyway. I think a mom would "heben ihr Baby hoch".

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