Is there a difference in meaning or can both expressions be used interchangeably?

I also wonder about the strong difference of meaning between bereiten (prepare) and reiten (ride). How is it possible?

2 Answers 2


To the first question: The words are close relatives, but don't exactly mean the same.

Ich bereite das Essen vor.

means I'm preparing the meal (in advance).

Ich bereite das Essen (zu).

means I'm cooking it right now. "Vorbereiten" means "to prepare something in advance" or "to prepare for something", while "(zu)bereiten" can often be simply replaced with "to do something". The later isn't always possible:

Ich bereite mich auf die Prüfung vor.

This cannot be said without "vor".

Edit: See comments below. Note also the difference between

Ich bereite das Essen vor


Ich bereite mich auf das Essen vor

The first means i'm cooking, the second means getting ready for the meal (i.e. outside the house).

  • Sometimes, it can mean the same: Ich bereite das Bett. and Ich bereite das Bett vor. (In the context of preparing for the night) are equivalent.
    – Toscho
    Feb 23, 2014 at 17:09
  • I thought that "prepare sb. for sth." was "jemanden auf/für etwas vorbereiten". Shouldn't I say "Ich bereite mich auf das Essen vor" instead of "Ich bereite das Essen vor"? Mar 18, 2019 at 23:32
  • @AlanEvangelista: No, you would not normally say that, at least not for preparing lunch. "Ich bereite mich auf das Essen vor" would mean that I'm preparing to get ready for a meal, i.e. when I want to go out for a big dinner (I'm not preparing any food in that case, but rather put on my finest clothes, etc.). The translation as "jemanden auf/für etwas vorbereiten" is correct, but you're not preparing yourself for the meal usually, but rather the food.
    – PMF
    Mar 19, 2019 at 13:57
  • @PMF I agree with your last comment, but in the answer you said "Ich bereite das Essen vor." means "I'm preparing for the meal" ( = I'm preparing myself for the meal). As you mentioned, that sentence only makes sense if you are having a meal with someone important, possible outside home. Maybe you intended another translation to English (eg prepare the meal in advance)? Mar 20, 2019 at 20:47
  • Somehow, I'm missing a mention here that while "vorbereiten" and "zubereiten" are very common nowadays, "bereiten" on its own sounds really, really old-fashioned. Don't use it. Mar 22, 2019 at 18:42

Regarding the second question, that's coincidence. Actually bereiten derives from bereit, it's not the prefix be- added to reiten.

Etymologically reiten, and bereiten are related but today their meaning is different.

  • Ich habe den Eindruck, im Wort "zureiten" ist der Zusammenhang teilweise noch erkennbar.
    – PMF
    Feb 23, 2014 at 15:04

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