I’m confused about the difference in usage between stimmen, abstimmen, and wählen. Which one means to vote? Are you voting for or against something or a person? Is abstimmen only for a referendum?

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    Are you voting for or against something or a person? – Can you please edit your question to clarify what you mean by this? Right now, this sentence does not seem to ask a question about the German language. (Note that I do not consider the question closeworthy despite this. It is still a valid question without that sentence.)
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 4, 2016 at 8:49
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    Are you voting for or against something or a person? Yes. Dec 4, 2016 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


Don't worry, native German speakers mix up these terms, too.

Voting for or against a proposal is called abstimmen.

Alle Anwesenden stimmten ab.

All attendees casted a ballot.

The verb stimmen is used to denote the individual yes/no decision.

Fast alle stimmten für den Antrag.

Almost all voted for the proposal.

Ich habe dagegen gestimmt.

I voted against (the proposal).

When you cast your vote from a selection, it is called wählen.

Wen kann man denn heutzutage überhaupt noch wählen?

So who you can vote for at all, nowadays?

BUT people often like to think of a Wahl as a yes/no decision, too.

Diese Wahl war eine Abstimmung für oder gegen Merkel.

This election was a vote for or against Merkel.

Die Menschen haben für eine Fortsetzung der jetzigen Koalition gestimmt.

People have voted for the continuation of the current coalition.

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    Not only Germans mix it up. Also German native speaker from other countries like Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy (South Tyrol), France (Lothringen), Luxemburg, Belgium and some other countries mix it up. There is another thing that Germans often mix up: They mix up »Germans« and »German native speaker«. Dec 4, 2016 at 9:07
  • For the sake of completeness (and because the OP seems to have asked for it with regard to abstimmen): all three verbs in question can be used (with different meanings) outside the context of an election or a referendum.
    – Matthias
    Dec 4, 2016 at 11:11
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    @Hubert Schölnast: corrected it.
    – Janka
    Dec 4, 2016 at 13:22
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    @Hubert Schölnast: Or they don't presuppose that other German native speakers make the same mistakes Germans do.
    – adhominem
    Dec 5, 2016 at 12:10

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