Kann jemand den Unterschied zwischen den beiden kurz erklären?
Sagt man

Das Auto dreht.


Das Auto dreht sich.

Gibt es einen Unterschied?

  • Ein Windrad dreht sich; man wendet Pfannkuchen.
    – Raphael
    Jun 10, 2014 at 7:58
  • @Raphael: Meinst Du damit, dass sich das Windrad als ganzes in den Wind dreht, oder dass sich das Rad des Windrads dreht? Nov 29, 2018 at 23:52
  • @userunknown Beides kann gemeint sein. Im Alltag wird man wohl Letzteres annehmen, auch wenn das grammatikalisch weiter weg ist.
    – Raphael
    Nov 30, 2018 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


Drehen means to turn, to rotate, to revolve. Umdrehen means to turn around, also to reverse or to flip something.

Does the car simply make a U-turn?

Das Auto wendet.

Is it skidding and the driver has lost control?

Das Auto dreht sich (um die eigene Achse).

  • 2
    Und "Das Auto dreht um"? Hat das dieselbe Bedeutung als "Das Auto wendet"?
    – user7551
    Jun 10, 2014 at 6:23
  • 3
    Yes, although the register is slightly lower, i.e. more colloquial. "Umdrehen" can also be used in a more general manner when it means to return, to abort, much like umkehren.
    – Ingmar
    Jun 10, 2014 at 7:23
  • 2
    "Hat das die selbe Bedeutung wie ...", nicht als. Jun 11, 2014 at 6:34
  • In some regions (such as southern Hesse where I come from) "drehen" is simply used as a synomym for "wenden".
    – RHa
    Nov 29, 2018 at 10:37

"drehen" is just a generic "to rotate something". Note that in German you cannot just "drehen". You always need something you're rotating, either something else or yourself.

Ich drehe den Knopf/mich.

"Umdrehen", is more specific. The "um" pretty much implies a 180° rotation so "umdrehen" is "to turn around". It can mean that you turn your head to look behind you, it can mean that you turn your hand upside down or it can mean that you have to go back home because you forgot your plane ticket on the desk.
In contrast to "drehen" "umdrehen" can be used alone.

Ich drehe um.

Ich drehe mich um.

Ich drehe mein Buch um.

  • 1
    Actually, you can use drehen on its own, although it's a bit of a specialist case. What does a Dreher (lathe operator) do all day? That's right: drehen.
    – Ingmar
    Jun 10, 2014 at 9:16
  • @Ingmar... what is a Dreher ? :)
    – Emanuel
    Jun 10, 2014 at 9:17
  • I think the modern term is Zerspanungsmechaniker. (Can't make this stuff up.) Either way, the procedure is called Turning in English, I think: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turning
    – Ingmar
    Jun 10, 2014 at 9:19
  • you nailed it ... what's the difference between "ich drehe um" and "ich drehe mich um"
    – user7551
    Jun 10, 2014 at 9:49
  • @user7551... "Ich drehe um" would be for traveling, "Ich drehe mich um" is either turning around your head or your whole body.
    – Emanuel
    Jun 10, 2014 at 10:26

"drehen" = at any arbitrary angle (in any which direction) "umdrehen" = at exactly 180° (flipped side)

Sie drehte die Spielkarte auf dem Tisch. - She rotated the playing card on the table. Sie drehte die Spielkarte auf dem Tisch um. - She flipped the playing card on the table over.

  • That applies that the following is correct."Das Kind dreht sich vom Bauch auf den Rücken um". However I am pretty sure that I have heard/found the versions without "um", although it's exactly 180°
    – user7551
    Jun 10, 2014 at 23:26
  • Das "exactly" würde ich streichen. Bei Spielkarten mag das funktionieren, weil deren Statik dafür sorgt - bei einem Apfel den man umdreht, um einem anderen das Wurmloch zu zeigen, genügen auch 160° oder 210°. Nov 29, 2018 at 23:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.