What is the difference between erfassen and verstehen? Both mean to comprehend, but in what context is erfassen used?
- Ich verstehe den Satz sehr gut.
- Ich erfasse den Satz sehr gut.
Verstehen is the most general to understand and you basically do that with facts and rules.
Erfassen is shifted toward a grasping something in its complete scope. You could maybe think of it as to fathom. So I think you can erfassen something without really understanding it.
No understanding implied.
Verstehen is the more general term, as illustrated by the following example:
You can fail to understand a spoken sentence because you did not hear it correctly, or because you failed to grasp its meaning; verstehen covers both cases, erfassen just the latter.
It's interesting that the images used in the German and English language are quite close to each other:
In the second case, the correspondence is not perfect, though: First, begreifen is probably even closer etymologically, but I'd translate that as to comprehend. Second, fassen can also mean to catch. Erfassen cannot be used in the sense of
though, but rather
isn't really something a native speaker would say (at least I wouldn't).