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When somebody agrees with a point made in conversation they often say "genau" or "stimmt" (often preceeded by "ja").

So what is the difference? Is one slang and the other standard? Or is one regional?

(I usually spend my time in Germany in Bavaria or Berlin but my friends in Berlin often moved there from some other region so I get it all mixed up in my head.)

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  • 23
    You can even say "ja, stimmt genau".
    – user12889
    Jun 9 '11 at 5:26
  • 7
    Yes, that's exactly correct. Oh look, it works in English, too. Jun 9 '11 at 7:22
  • 18
    I sometimes teach foreigners the word "genau" and tell them that's all they need to participate in a conversation with a German...
    – Jan
    Jun 9 '11 at 7:26
  • @Jan: xD Yeah that will work well with a lot of people... good idea! :)
    – ladybug
    Jun 9 '11 at 8:13
  • 2
    @user12889: Ja genau, stimmt! Mar 22 '13 at 22:52

11 Answers 11

24

I personally use both words randomly to agree with what others say. Neither of these is rude or slang. In my opinion they can be used in a formal (business) discussion without any concerns.

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  • 1
    +1 Treffend bemerkt (just anaother related way to express my approval with the answer from Markus)
    – bernd_k
    Jun 9 '11 at 5:36
  • 4
    Nevertheless I think "stimmt" is more "you convinced me" while "genau" is "This is exactly what I thought all the time."
    – Ingo
    Sep 8 '11 at 15:13
  • 1
    @Ingo: It depends on the context. If a waiter or a call center employee re-reads your orders to make sure the correct products are delivered, "stimmt" and "genau" can be used entirely interchangeably to confirm the correctness. Jul 22 '15 at 7:16
18

Both words are standard German, but I think "genau" is used more often in small talk. As Jan says in his comment, if you're on the receiving end of a discission, it is quite sufficient to say "genau" at the appropriate points. To me, "stimmt" would sound less natural in this context (but that might indeed be a regional thing). For me, "stimmt" is connected with a little more thinking: If I agree without having to think, I say "genau" (or "ja, genau"), if I hesitate before agreeing, I say a little more thoughful "stimmt" (or "ja, stimmt").

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  • I don't know if there's a regional difference, but for me it is genau the other way around. People here use "genau" to mean "exactly", while "stimmt" means any kind of affirmation, up to "still listening".
    – Zane
    Apr 3 '14 at 14:41
13

Actually it’s simple for speakers of English, because there are simple, yet precise translations available:

  • genau = exactly/precisely
  • stimmt = correct/true

The use cases in German may differ from the English language, but the meaning is very clear. Neither of them is an abbreviation of the other or a combination of both, as some comments state.

Something is either correct or not correct (for example “not entirely correct”). The expression stimmt genau does not mean, that something is even more correct than correct, because that’s not possible.

People use more than only one of the two in order to express their personal degree of approval (hopefully not to express a “degree of correctness”), or simply to answer in more than one word. In German short answers are common and we often have to learn, that simply saying no or yes often does not sound very friendly, although those can be correct answers.

Which of the two to use when? – I think it’s a matter of personal preference. I seem to use genau more often than stimmt.

There is also the lesser used exakt, which translates to exactly, if that’s better for you to memorize.

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"Ja, genau" (Yes, exactly) is an abbreviated form of the expression "Ja, stimmt genau" (Yes, [your statement is] exactly corrent), which is a variant of "Ja, stimmt" (Yes, [your statement is] correct).

In other words: "Ja, genau" is an elliptical construction.

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  • I'm not convinced. I use "Genau" as an emphasis of "Ja", i.e. strong affirmation.
    – Zane
    Apr 3 '14 at 14:44
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Stimmt is relaxed, casual. If, for example, you were made aware of something that had slipped your mind and you were reminded, you would say "Stimmt." as a 'Oh yeah, true, I had forgotten about that.' or 'Of course, yes, it had slipped my mind' type of expression.

A: Don't forget to take the package to the post office!

B: Oh, ja stimmt. Danke.

Genau is really very different in the usage.

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  • 5
    Well, do you mind giving us some details about what is different with genau?
    – Em1
    Mar 22 '13 at 10:51
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The word "stimmt" can be used for two purposes:

  • As an expression that something is true: "Ist 1 + 1 2? Das stimmt!"
  • to give a waiter a tip "Waiter: Das macht dann 14.99€. You: "15€, dass stimmt schon."

"Stimmt" is casual. The main usage is the first use case. The less casual translation for "stimmt" is "korrekt", but "korrekt" can be only be used to say that something is correct.

The word genau can be simply translated to "exact".

Source: I'm a German ;-)

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Both "genau" and "stimmt" have the meaning of "I agree." But the connotations are slightly different.

"Genau" can be translated into English as "Check" (the box).

"Stimmt" (which can mean "vote") is more like, "Yes! That's right." (It just dawned on me.) or "I get it!"

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I would use "genau" when the other person gets a point I tried to make and "stimmt" when I agree to a statement I haven't thought about previously.

"Er konnte es nicht tun, weil er ihn ja eigentlich liebt." - "Weil er Lukes Vater ist." - "Genau!"

vs.

"Man sollte alles einmal probieren. Du weißt ja schließlich nicht, wieviel Zeit du hast." - "Stimmt."

I'd compare it to the (slight) difference between "exactly" and "right".

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I always thought of stimmt in reference to adding numbers. So if somebody is making an argument, it also can add up logically and a person might say stimmt. Genau means exactly.

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I somewhat agree with Zelphir his answer. I want to add some explanation about "Richtig" even though OP didn't ask for it, it's another word used in similar contexts.

  • genau: exactly, precisely

  • stimmt: correct / con

  • richtig: true

Note that both exactly and precisely also have their alternative translation:

  • exactly: exakt
  • precisly: präzise

The difference between stimmt/richtig and correct/true seems to be the same in english as in german. Richtig and true have a specific opposite word

  • richtig: falsch

  • true: false

Where as correct doesn't have a completely different word but a denial of not being correct

  • correct: not correct / incorrect
  • stimmt: stimmt nicht

Both in german and english the richtig/true combination seems to imply that there was more of a choice to begin with. Where as stimmt/correct seems to be more of a value judgement of a particular thing without implying that there might be an alternative choice (even though their might be).

For more context, there is a sentence "da stimm ich dir zu" which means "i agree with you". So "stimmt" has also contains a little bit of the words "agreed" and "concurred", though these two words also have their own translation again in german. The words don't map (in the way people talk to each other) entirely 1 to 1 in english that's why it has to be understood in terms of other words which also don't map exactly 1 to 1. One example of this is that "correct" might make you sound like an "expect judge" in english while "richtig" is much more casual in the german language.

This is just my opinion and interpretation, i'm not a german scholar so take it as you will :)

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I asked the question because in my “judgement” the meaning of these German words are based on about 80 years of hearing it used. I never heard my parents say genau so I also never used genau to imply correct. When it comes to the German military I think genau or stimmt are both off limits. The affirmative answer is, I think, always jawohl perhaps followed by general so and so! Why the army needs wohl in addition to ja is probably simple usage. In civilian life both ja and jawohl will do although jawohl is a bit stilted I think.

To my earns genau = the pedantic aspect we think is natural to German behaviour. While we have the word precisely I have never heard anyone using it to affirm an agreement. Precisely in English usage comes into play when doing say chemistry tests. So, the conclusion might be to stick to everyone’s common usage and not burden such usage with too much precision.

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  • That said, after having read this post I can only affirm that in everyday German both "genau" and "stimmt" are used to express agreement. Is your knowledge of German Military based on experience or Hollywood movies?
    – Stephie
    Feb 2 '16 at 12:38
  • Which question do you mean in your first sentence? You aren’t the OP …
    – chirlu
    Feb 2 '16 at 13:38

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