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What is the difference between sparen and einsparen?

Consider the sentence below:

Die britische Regierung muss 2014 weitere 30 Milliarden Euro einsparen, sagt Finanzminister George Osborne. Er bereitet sein Land auf schmerzhafte Kürzungen vor allem im Sozialbereich vor. (Welt.de)

Are they synonymous?

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With a bit sarcasm: sparen means you'll have something later, einsparen in your sentence means you have not as much debt as if you didn't. –  Ingo Jan 6 at 19:39
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

When it comes to your private savings it is all about sparen. This can mean to spend less or to put something aside. Einsparen means in this context to cut expenses (e.g. of a government or city). There is a subtle hint on the consequences (close libraries, fire people …) in einsparen.

However, sparen and einsparen are often used synonymously when it comes to cuts in public spending:

Die Regierung muss 10 Milliarden Euro sparen.

Die Regierung muss 10 Milliarden Euro einsparen.

Etwas einzusparen can also be the result of other measures like an investment, e.g.:

Mit den Automaten können wir 200 Mitarbeiter einsparen.

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"Einsparen" is almost only used when talking about cutting expenses. "Sparen" on the other hand means to save something for later, i.e. by bringing it to the bank. The second also does not usually harm anybody directly:

Wir können eine Million einsparen, wenn wir 50 Leute entlassen.

"Sparen" would be wrong here (or very sarcastic).

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No, not exactly synonymous. You say "einsparen" if you reduce the costs of something (like in the given example), where you say "sparen" if you save the money you already have.

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Sparen is often used in the meaning of "cutting expenses" as well: Wir werden Filialen schließen müssen, das Unternehmen muss sparen! –  lejonet Jan 6 at 20:37
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