Are these two expressions equal synonyms? Is there any difference in the usage/meaning? In the following example they are interchangeable:

Könnt ihr mir bitte behilflich sein?

Könnt ihr mir bitte helfen?

It seems to me that there is no difference but I’m not sure if it works like this also in different sentence structures and contexts.

I’ve already read this and this other topics that cover hilfreich, hilfsbereit, behelfen, verhelfen. There are so many words derived from helfen that I’m no more sure about anything.

2 Answers 2


Both are right but


sounds more like assisting someone and a little bit old fashioned while


is more like really helping someone.

For example:

Könntest du mir beim Deutsch lernen behilflich sein?

could be understood like “Could you give me some advice?” while

Könntest du mir beim Deutsch lernen helfen?

is more like “could you sit down with me and learn vocabulary?”


ist stronger and implies more work than

behilflich sein

  • That's useful. I understand better the difference now (there are equivalent expressions in my language)...but reading @Burki comment I was thinking about this: maybe in a general context they implies the same amount of work, while in a specific one there is the difference you are talking about. Not sure, maybe I can try write an answer myself in order to explain this better
    – Cindie
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 17:09

Maybe it helps to answer your question from the title:

jmd. helfen | behilflich sein

Translated this means:

to help someone | to offer (ones/your) help

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