»Der Täter« versus »der Schuldige«?
- Which is more commonly used?
- Where would I use Täter and not Schuldiger?
- Where would I use Schuldiger and not Täter?
- Are there other German words similar to these two?
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About parts 1 to 3 of the question
The word "der Täter" is typically used when talking about crime.
Normally this implies that a person can be punished by a court for doing what he or she did.
The word "der Schuldige" is also but less often used in the context of crime. It is more often used when talking about a person who caused an accident or even simply some bad or sad situation.
The word does not neccessarily imply that the person did something illegal.
Especially in the case of "bad or sad situation" the word does not even imply that there are any consequences for the person.
If a girl leaves her boyfriend because of another boy you can say:
Der andere Junge war schuld daran, dass sie ihren Freund verlassen hat.
When saying this in more than one sentence the word "der Schuldige" can also be used here.
About part 4 of the question
Hubert Schölnast already listed many words. I want to give a comment about the word "Verbrecher":
In the language used by lawyers the word "Verbrechen" is exactly defined: As far as I know it is a crime that is so serious that the law says that the courts have to use a punishment of at least one year in prison.
I think most Germans would call a person "Verbrecher" if he or she does very serious crimes such as robbery or murder.
A Schuldiger doesn't necessarily have to be a Täter and a Täter doesn't necessarily have to be the Schuldige.
Der/die Schuldige is a person who is guilty of something. The word does not contain information about whether the person actively did something to become guilty. The word Täter on the other hand (from tun, engl. to do or Tat, engl. deed) implies the person became active and did something, but the person doesn't at the same time have to be guilty of doing something wrong (even though today Täter is mostly used in the context of crimes).
You and me both drive our cars. We come to a crossroads. You have the right of way. I drive into the other road a bit to far. You hit my car. So I could tell my friends:
Today I had a car accident. Someone drove into my car. The Täter was this guy from german.stackexchange.com. But I was the Schuldige, because I stopped too late.
So you are the Täter because you actively hit my car, but I'm the Schuldige, because I didn't give you the right of way.
Whether to use one or the other depends on what you want to say and on context. It's also hard to tell which one is more commonly used, as both are used, but in different contexts. If you think about "lawyer language" you even have to distinguish further: You can not be schuldig until your guilt is proven, and you can not be Täter until it is proven it was really you. Until then, your are the mutmaßliche (alleged) Täter or Tatverdächtiger (suspect).
This word literally means »doer« or »actor« (somebody who does something; somebody who acts).
You use the nouns »die Tat« and »der Täter« almost always with a strong criminal connotation. The cases, where you can use those words in another context are very rare.
But the verb »tun« has not this connotation. You can use it every time when something is done. It's just bad style to use it. It sounds weak. Better use a verb that describes more detailed what you are really doing.
This is the person who is guilty.
Literally: The evil-doer. It has the same meaning as Täter. The noun »das Übel« (»the evil«) that is here merged to »Täter« just makes clear, that the person did something bad. But since »Täter« anyway is used in this sense, it does not change much.
»Übertäter« sounds a little bit old-fashioned.
Literally: The accused. I think you more often use the word »the defendant«, but this puts a different focus on that person. Der Angeklagte is the person who is accused by the authorities to have committed a crime. This does not mean, that this person really has done what the authorities believe. He/she just is under severe suspicion.
This is: The criminal. This is the person who committed a crime. »The crime« itself is »das Verbrechen« in German.
This also is »the criminal«. But there is a difference to »der Verbrecher«. A Verbrecher is a person who committed a certain crime and was convicted for this special crime by a court. But a »Krimineller« is a person, who's way of life is to commit lots of crimes. There is no need that a Krimineller ever has to be convicted for anything to make him/her a »Krimineller«.
The meanings of both words (Verbrecher, Krimineller) overlap.
This is a loanword from English Vocabulary. Originally, the English word »ganster« meant »member of a gang«, but was more often used as synonym for »criminal«. When this word became popular in German (during world was II), it didn't have the meaning »member of a gang«. So also a solely acting criminal was called »Gagster« in German.
Nowadays this word sounds a little bit old-fashioned if you really mean a criminal.
Today you use the word »Gangster« more often in terms of music (Gangster Rapper), with a less criminal connotation, closer to the original meaning (member of a gang).