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What's the difference between anfahren and überfahren? Both mean to run over. Is anfahren used in formal registers?

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please reconsider which answer is correct. The one currently marked is incomplete to say the least –  Emanuel Dec 27 '13 at 10:57

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted
  1. anfahren 2,4*: drive into something
  2. überfahren 6,3*: to drive over somebody (causing injury/death) or something (red light)

* = Million results using Google

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This is wrong !! please look at thekeyofgb's answer –  Andri Dec 27 '13 at 9:43
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@RienNeVaPlus... that "running into" was pretty essential to answering the question. Now it is better. –  Emanuel Dec 27 '13 at 20:07
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Anfahren has much more meanings than you listed above. So either way, you give all of these meanings and add also the second meaning that überfahren has or (and that's what I suggest) you remove "start something, to drive towards a destination or having a target" as this is not of interest when comparing the similar meaning in a particular context. –  Em1 Dec 27 '13 at 23:00
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Thanks for all your hints @Em1, I'm still learning! :) Also, I'm unable to top thekeyofgbes answer, so I decided to leave mine as short and easy to read as possible. I absolutely agree with him getting the checkmark! –  RienNeVaPlus Dec 28 '13 at 0:59

Ich meine, dass "anfahren" eher run into bedeutet als run over. "überfahren" bedeutet hingegen run over.

Laut Polizeibericht hat er an der Kreuzung den Fußgänger angefahren == According to the police report, he ran into the pedestrian at the crossing

Laut Polizeibericht hat er an der Kreuzung den Fußgänger überfahren == According to the police report he ran over the pedestrian at the crossing.

Note: anfahren can also mean "to start" (like car), jump down somebody's throat (heftig anreden), or to move/drive towards something (die Endposition anfahren). Überfahren can also mean to miss something when you're driving and drive past it (=die Ampel überfahren)

Note II: You may have noticed from my examples but anfahren and *überfahren" are not the same type of verbs. Anfahren is separable while überfahren is inseparable.

Die Straßenbahn fuhr an.

Ich versuchte anzufahren, aber der Motor streikte.

Er fuhr die Kurve falsch an.


Er überfährt uns!

Ich habe heute aus Versehen eine Katze überfahren.

Sie überfuhren das Stoppschild, Herr Meyers!

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Not that to run into someone also means jemandem begegnen, but anfahren never means that, it always means what thekeyofgb wrote. –  Robert Dec 27 '13 at 21:41

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