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I would like to know which of the two verbs is used to tell someone that you're serious about not being touched. If he touches you the second time, something's going to happen to him. Someone told me that anfassen sounds stronger than berühren. Is it true?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Anfassen is to touch with your hands without being overly gentle.

Berühren is to touch (with something) without gaining a hold in a very somewhat gentle manner.

The English phrase

Don't touch me!

would be translated using "anfassen" unless you have a good reason to use the other verb.

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In that situation you would say:

Fass mich nicht an!

Berühren is very unspecific - you can touch something or someone with every body part. While anfassen you can only something with your hands. Moreover, anfassen presupposes some willful objective, some goal that is to be reached by using the hands. You can't, for instance, say:

Ich faßte ihn versehentlich an.

While

Ich berührte (versehentlich) ihre Schulter mit meiner Hand.

is okay. Without "versehentlich" it is at least open, whether it was a wilfull act or not. Even if wilfull, berühren is not appropriate to describe some forceful or violent activity. As @Em1 correctly points out, berühren is good for tender, not very intense, and not long lasting, touches, at least when it is about living beings.

In physics, it's a bit different:

Als das abstürzende Flugzeug den Boden berührte, zerbrach es und explodierte hernach.

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It should be noted that you can actually say Ich habe versehentlich ihr Bein angefasst (obwohl ich eigentlich ihren Arm anfassen wollte. So you can accidentially anfassen something, but only if you willfully tried to anfassen something else. –  Thorsten Dittmar Jan 13 at 15:28
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@ThorstenDittmar Sure. Interestingly Ich habe versehentlich ihn angefaßt. you express just this. What a difference it makes when one switches two words! –  Ingo Jan 13 at 15:51
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I'd like to point out, that although the direct translation of

Don't touch me!

is

Fass mich nicht an!

this cannot be generalized in the meaning of the OP. berühren is generally possible as well.

Example:

Wenn du mich noch einmal berührst, dann töte ich dich!

I guess the reason is psychosounding.

  • berühren sounds rather soft and thus doesn't suit the harshness of a short, negated imperative: Berühr mich nicht! in harsh voice just doesn't work.

  • anfassen sounds stronger, especially in this case because of the splitting which puts Fass … at the beginning of the sentence.

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