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What is the difference between Verhalten and Benehmen?

  1. Sein Verhalten meinen Eltern gegenüber ist schön.

  2. Mein Benehmen in der Deutschklasse war sehr gut.

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IMHO, schön paßt weder zu Verhalten noch zu Benehmen. Passen würde zum Beispiel einwandfrei, ohne Tadel, respektvoll, angemessen. –  Ingo Jan 3 at 16:55

2 Answers 2

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To me, Benehmen has a focus on personal characteristics and manners. When it comes to humans and pets, the words are used as synonyms. Verhalten can also be used to address characteristics of technical objects:

Das Verhalten des Autos im Gelände ist ausgezeichnet.

Benehmen can’t be used here.

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Good point. We could say that "Benehmen" is "Verhalten" controlled by will. –  Ingo Jan 3 at 16:57

In addition to the answer of @lejonet I'd like to point out that Benehmen is somewhat close to the idea of manners.

Er hat kein Benehmen.

He has no manners.

Also, benehmen bei itself is positive.

Benimm dich!

Behave.

while Verhalten is just a way of behaving.

Verhalte dich!

makes no sense. People would be asking "How?". It's the same as if I were to say:

Behave in some way!

that would have people asking "What way?"

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I've never heard the term "Verhalte dich!", because you always "behave [in some way]" by definition. So you could only ask s.o. to behave differently: "Verhalte dich ruhig!" ~ "Stay Calm!" or "Er verhält sich immer so zurückweisend." ~ "He's always [behaving] so repudiative." –  dog Jan 3 at 7:18
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@dog ... That's what I was trying to convey actually. However, there is a use "Ich muss mich dazu verhalten." without a direct indication how. –  Emanuel Jan 3 at 13:14

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