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Verbs like "handeln", "reden", "sprechen", "erzählen" etc. can use the preposition "von" and "über" in an interchangeable way. I couldn't imagine an example, in which those two prepositions in a sentence with the above mentioned verbs lead to two different interpretations.

However I found this to be not completely correct and thus would like to discuss my understanding of German with others. Thus any constructive comment or answer is welcome.

I am inclined to proclaim, there is no difference at all. However, going by own feeling for language I ascribe "von" being more objective, creating distance between the speaker and the topic, potentially sounding more abstract, while "über" being more subjective, creating closeness between speaker the topic, sounding like he is somehow involved, affected by the matter.

An example like "Der Bericht handelt von..." contra "Der Bericht handelt über..." should make my point apparent. I find it clear that the former belongs more to a formal language, while the latter is rather narrative.

The question for me now, is, whether von generalize that point to the verbs mentioned in the beginning + possibly more verbs of that category.

Another two examples: "Der Politiker spricht von Menschenrechten." versus "Der Politiker spricht über Menschenrechte."

"Die Zeitung spricht von den Opfern" versus "Die Zeitung spricht über die Opfern."

marked as duplicate by Kilian Foth, Hubert Schölnast, IQV, user unknown, Matthias Apr 5 '17 at 7:55

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  • Interesting question. I agree that the meaning is almost identical, I am not sure that I would sign your "feelings" though. Taking the example, "Der Politiker spricht von/über Menschenrechte(n)", to me the version with "über" sounds more like a fairly detailed speech on the topic of human rights. The version with "von" on the other hand could also mean that the politician just mentions the word "Menschenrechte" in his speech without going into any detail. – user1583209 Apr 3 '17 at 18:28

Depending on context, there may be quite a difference

Der Politiker spricht über die Opfer

is just this, whereas

Der Politiker spricht von Opfern

may imply (depending on context, as I said) an expression of opinion by the author that the politician may be stating things in a distorted way, as in:

Der Politiker spricht von Opfern, wo die Frage der Schuld noch völlig ungeklärt ist.

"Der Bericht handelt über" is simply not standard German. You may hear this in some of the southern provinces in oral communication, but a newspaper editor (i.e. someone who is professionally trained in the correct use of standard German) would correct this to "Der Bericht handelt von..."

Different verbs have just different prepositions that go with them in certain contexts. Sometimes you can use "von" and "über" interchangeably, but not always.

Good sentences are

Der Mann erzählt vom Mond

("über den" would be awkward)

Die Zeitung berichtet von dem Erdbeben

Die Zeitung berichtet über das Erdbeben

(Here, the "von" sentence would be used more to say that the newspaper reported the event at all, whereas "über das" somehow implies that the report is detailed. But this may be a personal understanding of mine.)

Die Belegschaft redet vom Wetter

Die Belegschaft redet über das Wetter

(Again both are possible, the second perhaps having a slight tendency of transporting a meaning like "in detail")


Short answer

handelt von --> YES handelt über --> NO

Long answer:

  1. The verbs are not equivalent.

    • handeln --> action --> acting
    • reden --> talking
    • sprechen --> using language
    • erzählen --> narrate
  2. von and über are not equivalent either

von --> from --> source --> clear where it is coming from

über --> about/above --> just general talk about something

  1. Since neither 1 nor 2 are equivalent any combination of the two cannot be equivalent either.

  2. Examples:

Erzählung/Bericht von einem Geschehen das ich so gehört habe.


Erzählung/Bericht über eine Gegebenheit die ich selbst erlebt habe.**


Rede über die allgemeine Situation.


Es ist die Rede von bestimmten Sachen.


Sie Sprechen von Gehaltskürzungen.


Ich möchte mit dir Sprechen über die Gehaltskürzungen.


Der Film handelt von einem Hauptdarsteller und mehreren Nebendarstellern.

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