I am trying to figure out the difference between vorgehen and vorangehen.

From the perspective of word-formation, both denote the sense of "to move forward".

From Langenscheidt Großwörterbuch, vorgehen means

(of people) take steps forward/take measures

and vorangehen means

(von Sache) progress

I am wondering whether this difference in word meaning and usage may be traced back to the difference between the difference between the two prefixes vor- and voran-? If the answer be yes, how to interpret voran- in terms of the combination of vor- and an-?

(the following content is a later addition to the original post) I risk this wild guess that voran|gehen means moving in an expected direction; the notion in an anticipatory direction may be what an denotes and what is absent from vorgehen.
Would any one agree or disagree with my guess?

  • 1
    Are you aware that "vorangehen" has more meanings, besides the one you mentioned? In fact, same is true for vorgehen. – Em1 Apr 27 '16 at 12:36
  • @Em1 : thanks for your attention; yes, there are other designations of the two; yet I'd like to concentrate on the particular senses mentioned in the post; are you suggesting that a wholistic approach would be more appropriate to this question? – Lynnyo May 5 '16 at 2:58
  • Additions to questions after answers have been given are not well received. – Jan May 5 '16 at 12:22
  • @Jan : thanks for your notification; should I post this question anew in order that it get well received? – Lynnyo May 5 '16 at 12:45
  • I don’t think that your addendum is ‘substantial’ enough for a site question. Why not try out the German Language Chat? – Jan May 5 '16 at 19:04

Vorangehen, in the context of personal movement, means to go as the first in line (others follow directly behind).


Ich gehe voran, weil ich als einziger den Weg kenne.

Vorgehen, in the context of personal movement, means to go before the others go (others follow later).


Ich gehe vor und kaufe die Tickets, ihr wartet hier auf den Rest der Gruppe.

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    Wenn ich den Gasmann in den Keller zum Zähler führe, sage ich "ich geh' mal vor'", erwarte aber schon, dass der Gasmann direkt nachkommt... – tofro Apr 27 '16 at 17:41
  • Wie so oft entzieht sich auch hier der alltägliche Sprachgebrauch einer absolut gültigen Definition. Möglicherweise gibt es da auch regionale Unterschiede, ich bin aus Wien. – ammoQ Apr 27 '16 at 20:11
  • Ich denke eher, dass man vorangeht, wenn man gemeinsam mit einer Gruppe unterwegs ist, und vorgeht, wenn man mit jemandem unterwegs ist, mit dem man keine Gruppe bildet. Das wäre nahe an deiner Erklärung, aber nicht genau dasselbe (Weil man von einer Gruppe, mit der ich unterwegs bin, ja erwarten würde, dass die direkt nachkommt). "Wissen" tu ich das aber nicht. – tofro Apr 28 '16 at 19:24

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