What, if any, are the differences in the above?

If I want to lock up my house before I go to work would you use one over the other?

Same scenario with locking up your car?

A safe/ Tresor?

As an additional side question, if I were to do up the chain lock at the front door, would you use either of those words for das "Kettenschloß" or something else?


The differences are small. As I see it, "abschliessen" is used primarily with things that have a lock because they are expensive or contain expensive stuff that shouldn't get lost.

Ich schliesse das Auto ab.

Ich schliesse das Gebäude ab.

"Zuschliessen" is more often used with things that are the actual lock or have it built into them, like levers, doors, shutters etc.

Ich schliesse die Tür zu.

Ich schliesse das Bügelschloss zu.

As usual with such subtle distinctions, this is only a preference and not a strict rule.

  • 2
    While Kilian's answer is absolutely correct, I'd like to add an observations. "abschließen" can also be used in the sense of "finish" (a project) or "close" (negotiations) or "sign" (a contract) and is in this sense more versatile. – Stefan Schroeder Mar 11 at 15:40

There is no real difference when using those words to describe locking something. It depends where you are in Germany which form is more likely to be used. Apart from that, the distinctions are very subtle, as Kilian already wrote.

"Zuschließen" would translate more likely to "to lock" while "abschließen" would translate to "to seal".

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