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I read from Langenscheidt Großwörterbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache the following entries for melden and anmelden:

  • melden: sagen oder auf andere Weise mitteilen, dass jemand an etwas teilnehmen will; z.B. einen Sportler für einem Wettkampf melden

  • anmelden: mitteilen, dass jemand an etwas teilnehmen will; z.B. jemanden zu einem Kurs anmelden

I am wondering:

  1. What’s the difference in meaning between the two verbs in the sense of ‘register in advance’? The definitions given in Langenscheidt seem so similar that I cannot decide which one to use when I want to express the idea of register in advance. For example, to register for a public examination: Should it be sich fürs Examen melden or sich fürs Examen anmelden?

  2. With different nouns, different prepositions are used in the examples quoted above; say, für einen Wettkampf while zu einem Kurs; with a noun given, how does one determine which one of für and zu should be used? For example, to render register for an examination: Should I put it as sich fürs Examen anmelden or sich zum Examen anmelden?

2

Anmelden would have the connotation of official registration. As in through sign-up, written registration.

Melden would be like raising a hand, making an announcement, stepping forward. It's the general decision to sign up for something, but may not yet involve the formal process. If it does it could be used synonymously.

You would use

sich für das Examen anmelden

because it needs to be an official registration.

Conversely you would say

sich freiwillig melden

but not

sich freiwillig anmelden

if you’re talking in the context of volunteering and signing up for some voluntary duty.

Summarised, anmelden would have the connotation of doing it in writing, melden to state that you've made the general decision to sign up for something.

Regarding your second question

für das would be used if it is for a specific event or occasion, zum would be for a generic term, such as for service duty, or similar. Thus

Ich melde mich für das Examen

i.e.

I am signing up for the exam

but

Ich melde mich zum Dienst

meaning

I’m reporting for duty

  • 4
    I have a slight problem with this: I disagree that anmelden is used for formal registrations and melden is used for informal ones. Rather, anmelden is about the formal procedure and melden is about the general decision (which makes it the only option if there is no formal procedure). For example, you would say: “Er meldete sich zum Militärdienst” if this is about him volunteering, and say “Er meldete sich zum Militärdienst an”, if this is about him signing some papers, even if both sentences are about the very same event. So it depends on the context and what you want to convey. – Wrzlprmft Apr 30 '16 at 16:16
  • I think that captures it quite well. I'd like to say "that's what I meant". :) I'll edit it. – Marakai Apr 30 '16 at 22:39
  • @Wrzlprmft : Apart from the criterion raised by Marakai ''für would be used if it is for a specific event or occasion, zum would be for a generic term, such as for service duty, or similar.'', I read the following sentence from a reference book ,,Er meldete sich freiwillig für den Dienst im Ausland, doch ließ seine Begeisterung rasch nach.'' Herein ,,Dienst'' is used with ,,für'' instead of ,,zu'' and I am perplexed with this example; I prefer zum Dienst to für den Dienst. What would you think of it? – Lynnyo May 5 '16 at 3:43
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Melden has a far wider scope (beyond advance registration), so in everyday language I'd usually use anmelden for that unless strong precedence in a given context suggests otherwise.

Anmelden has connotations of a formal procedure, of a list being kept somewhere, and of an effect of that registration in the future. Compared to this, the focus of melden is more on communication: conveying relevant information to someone in charge. This applies to the general meanings, like that of raising your hand (to convey that you want to speak) and of reporting an incident after the fact (to convey whatever you know about it).

einen Sportler für einen Wettkampf melden

In this case both alternatives would have been possible. I'll try to put the slight nuances in connotations into words. Reading that example as written I've got a mental image of the trainer walking over to the organizers and letting them know that the athlete in question will be participating. If you had used anmelden instead it would be the trainer writing the name of the athlete onto some whiteboard so that he will be allowed to participate. The former was “he will participate, therefore I should register him”, with the registration as a consequence, while the latter was “I need to register him so that he can participate”, with the registration as a prerequisite. In the former the organizers as recipient of the information are important, in the latter case the whiteboard as a registry is central. Personally I'd have used “anmelden” here.

As I said I'd usually prefer anmelden since the other meanings of melden could lead to possible misinterpretations. I'll give some examples.

Ich möchte Maximilian hier in der Schule anmelden.

would be a parent signing up their child for first grade next year, while

Ich möchte Maximilian hier (in) der Schule melden.

might also be a neighbor of the school handing in a complaint about a problematic child. Melden used for someone other than yourself can easily obtain negative connotations. In these case it's often more about reporting some issue or telling on someone than about registration.

Ich möchte eine größere Überweisung anmelden.

would be a customer informing their bank about a planned large transaction, making sure it will get cleared without causing any issues. On the other hand

Ich möchte eine größere Überweisung melden.

might be an investigator telling their superior about a past transaction of suspicious volume. So here the temporal aspect is again very pronounced.

Ich möchte mich für die Konferenz anmelden.

would be a registration of a participant of some conference while

Ich möchte mich für die Konferenz melden.

could be a student volunteering to help organize the conference without actually participating. (Freiwillig) melden as translation for volunteering shouldn't be confused with the meaning for advance registration, even though volunteers often get registered at some point.

Ich habe mich beim Arzt angemeldet.

means I've made an appointment with my physician, while

Ich habe mich beim Arzt gemeldet.

means I actually had some conversation with him, with melden indicating communication (usually informal), not registration.

Another thing worth noting is that melden in the sense of reporting can be followed by a dative, indicating the recipient of the information. For anmelden you'd use a preposition. So you could have

Ich muss mein Auto der Gemeinde melden.
Ich muss mein Auto bei der Gemeinde anmelden.

  • This is the most appropriate explanation so far. (+1) – Björn Friedrich Jun 18 '17 at 9:20
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"Melden" means to "report." "Anmelden" means to "register."

"Registration" is one form of "reporting." Specifically, it refers to a formal, written reporting that is recorded. So every "anmelden" is also a "melden."

The reverse is not true. "Melden" can include "anmelden" plus many other types of reporting. E.g. oral, informal, non-recorded reporting, etc. For instance, a husband calls home, the wife picks up the phone and reports (meldet), "The children just got home." That would not be an "anmelden."

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