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Both mean "to bend" but are there any differences in usage of these words?

  • I believe that your question would benefit from a little more detail: Where and what did you look up? Did you find anything at all that hints to differences in usage? - Basically: Do you have proof, that this cannot (easily) be looked up in a dictionary? :) – Alexander Kosubek Sep 24 '18 at 11:18
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By way of adding some thoughts to other answers here: I am not sure if the difference between biegen and krümmen can really fully be explained semantically, i.e. by contrastive definitions of meaning. I rather think it is more a question of pragmatics: how words are used by tradition.

As Janka correctly points out you would say

Der Weg krümmte sich.

rather than

*Der Weg bog sich.

If you want to apply the semantical concepts "use biegen when it is on purpose, use krümmen when it is a deformation" you run into problems here. Is it necessarily a deformation that the street bends or makes a turn? Or is it on purpose?

I am afraid, the only safe way for using krümmen and biegen correctly is knowing (from passive and active use) what word is usually used in combination with what other words.

der Auspuffkrümmer

not: der Auspuffbogen - although this part of an automobile is on purpose formed so (exhaust manifold)

Die Banane ist krumm

not: die Banane ist gebogen, although that's how God created it (or whoever)

Das Rohr ist gebogen (on purpose)

Das Rohr ist gekrümmt (on purpose)

Das Rohr ist krumm (deformation; not as it should be)

Although there are some examples where one can argue that the rule "krumm = deformation, gebogen = on purpose) applies, e.g.

Steh nicht so krumm!

Somebody gets reprimanded for his unstraight posture.

Nimm's mir nicht krumm!

Don't be mad at me for this.

Das kriegen wir schon wieder hingebogen.

We will fix it, especially metaphorically (without anything being bent physically).

there is no way for a learner of German to derive the correct expression from a rule. You still have to know from experience what's the usual thing to say.

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Krumm is an adjective meaning bent out of shape. The verb sich krümmen means to bend yourself out of shape.

Der Weg krümmte sich.

Sie krümmte sich vor Lachen.

Very seldomly, it's not used reflexive:

Die Gravitation krümmt die Raumzeit.

Most other times, biegen or verbiegen ist used.

Die Gravitation verbiegt die Raumzeit.

Biegen and verbiegen means applying force so something becomes gebogen (intended shape), verbogen (bent out of shape) or simply krumm.

An deinem Auto ist ja alles verbogen.

Sometimes, the intended shape is somewhat metaphorical:

Er biegt sich die Wahrheit zurecht.


The verb beugen means flexing joints.

Sie beugt die Knie.

Er beugt sich nach unten.

  • In the sentence "Er biegt sich die Wahrheit zurecht." why is zurechtbiegen reflexive in this case? – Satish Vasan Sep 22 '18 at 6:19
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    Because he's betraying himself. Non-reflexive is also possible, but the reflexive one happens to be a common phrase. – Janka Sep 22 '18 at 6:37
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    In my experience, especially in combination with Raumzeit you would always use krümmen, never verbiegen. At least that's my summary after reading a dozen books on that topic over the years. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 22 '18 at 9:35
  • Yes, that's why I included this as one of the rare examples in which someone/something krümmt another thing. It's the preferred phrase. – Janka Sep 22 '18 at 11:58
  • During years of work in astrophysics and some teaching of General Relativity I never heard „verbiegt die Raumzeit“. I don’t consider this idiomatic, at least in professional texts. – Ludi Sep 24 '18 at 6:16

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