I’ve read something about the difference between telefonieren and anrufen.

But is it correct to use telefonieren like anrufen? For example:

  • Ich rufe dich an.
  • *Ich telefoniere dich.

I’ve just found sentences like:

  • Wir telefonieren miteinander.
  • Wir haben gestern über eine Stunde telefoniert.
  • 2
    Please provide resources for your answer, there are different ideas about that as I checked the answers.
    – user508
    Jun 23, 2011 at 12:07

5 Answers 5


Jemanden anrufen is about the activity of picking up the phone and calling a number. Mit jemandem telefonieren is more about the actual conversation that is conducted on the phone (VoIP included).

Anrufen is a very short activity, whereas telefonieren can last for anything from a few seconds to several hours.

Ich habe dich gestern mehrmals angerufen, aber es war immer nur der Anrufbeantworter dran.

In this context, telefonieren would not work, because telefonieren implies that a conversation actually takes place.

Ich wollte mit dir telefonieren, aber es war immer nur der Anrufbeantworter dran.

Again, a conversation has not taken place, so this works. You cannot use anrufen when you describe the duration of the phone call.

Ich habe ihn zehn Minuten lang angerufen.

That means that I’ve tried for 10 minutes to get him on the line, but it sounds awkward. Better:

Ich habe zehn Minuten lang probiert, ihn anzurufen.

And this is also fine:

Ich hab ihn angerufen und zehn Minuten mit ihm gesprochen.

which is the same as

Wir haben zehn Minuten telefoniert.

  • Thanks for your explanation, but my question is more about ""jemanden/jemandem telefonieren" existance,than about "anrufen" and "telefonieren" differences.
    – user508
    Jun 23, 2011 at 7:29
  • 5
    Gigli, you asked "Is it correct to use 'telefonieren' like 'anrufen'?". That is the only question in your narrative. You did NOT ask whether 'jemanden/jemandem telefonieren" is correct, at least, I do not see that in the question. In any case, it is "mit jemandem telefonieren" (Dativobjekt) and "jemanden anrufen"(Akkusativobjekt). At least in Standard German. Apparently the Swiss have variants, but these sound VERY awkward to a non-Swiss person.
    – teylyn
    Jun 23, 2011 at 8:54
  • by "Ich telefoniere dich "** wanted to show the problem. anyway, thanks.
    – user508
    Jun 23, 2011 at 9:10

In addition to Tom Au’s answer:

Ich telefoniere dich

This is grammatically incorrect!

In Switzerland you can use:

Ich telefoniere dir

However, this is rarely if ever used in practice. (It’s a regional thing)

Wir haben gestern über eine Stunde telefoniert.

This could imply, that you have talked about (in the sense of being the topic) an hour (or more likely: a lesson) or just for more than an hour.

A more correct way would be:

Wir haben gestern über eine Stunde lang (miteinander) telefoniert.

  • 3
    Pardon? "*Ich telefoniere dir" is not correct German. If anything, then "Ich telefoniere mit dir" or better: "Ich werde mit dir telefonieren". Also, "Wir haben gestern über eine Stunde [lang] telefoniert." This sentence can change meaning depending on how the words are stressed. "Wir haben gestern über eine STUNDE telefoniert." That will be talking about a lesson. "Wir haben gestern ÜBER eine Stunde telefoniert." That will be a phone call that lasted more than an hour.
    – teylyn
    Jun 23, 2011 at 0:59
  • @teylyn: It simply has a different meaning: You could say: "Ich werde dir heute abend telefonieren." Which means the exact same as "Ich werde dir heute abend anrufen."
    – phant0m
    Jun 23, 2011 at 1:00
  • 4
    Ich werde DICH heute abend anrufen. Not DIR. "Ich werde DIR heute abend telefonieren" is wrong. "Ich werde heute abend MIT DIR telefonieren." would be correct.
    – teylyn
    Jun 23, 2011 at 1:03
  • @teylyn: You have a point here. That's due to me being Swiss ;) Have a look here: blogwiese.ch/archives/584 It's strange though, when I think about the infinitive, I would always think of "jemaden anrufen", i.e. Akkusativ as in "dich anrufen" - my mind works in strange ways, I guess.
    – phant0m
    Jun 23, 2011 at 1:09
  • 1
    So basically a -1 because I mentioned a regional variation? The other points you critisized were do not appear in the answer.
    – phant0m
    Jun 23, 2011 at 1:25

Telefonieren is specifically to (talk over a) "telephone." "Anrufen" is to call someone. The normal implication is via a "telephone." But in theory, it could be through radio, internet, walkie-talkie, or even across a room.

  • If I say "Ich ruf dich an", it's certainly not across a crowded room. There are several meanings to "anrufen", e.g. call a court of law, but in everyday language these would not be very commen.
    – teylyn
    Jun 23, 2011 at 1:07

Telefonieren is not transitive and thus cannot have an object with the accusative.

It can only have a dative object in informal phrases e.g.:

Du telefonierst mir schon zu lange. Gib mir mein Handy zurück. (you are talking too long on the phone in my opinion/for my taste. Return my cell phone to me.)

As others have noted, there is also the slight difference in meaning that you have already done the action of "anrufen" if the other person did not answer their phone, but for "telefonieren" there should actually be communication.

  • 2
    Im Duden habe ich gelesen, dass es in der Schweiz üblich ist, "jemandem zu telefonieren".
    – user508
    Jun 23, 2011 at 11:32

Anrufen is to call by phone and telefonieren is to speak by phone.

  • 2
    Generally, we prefer more thorough answers. You should, in particular, have answered the direct question whether “Ich telefoniere dich” is correct or not.
    – chirlu
    Nov 7, 2015 at 19:55

Your Answer

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