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In the song Vor Gericht by Alligatoah is this lyric:

"Gewalt ist zum Zerstören nicht erforderlich" (Violence is not necessary to cause destruction"

My two questions about this sentence relate to the use of erforderlich vs. notwendig:

  • Are they completely interchangeable here (austauchen)? If not why?

  • Which is more common in everyday German conversation? I ask this one because some German bands sometimes use exotic or archaic word forms to make an interesting point or for rhyming purposes.

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Literally, erforderlich translates to required, and notwendig translates to necessary.

Interchangeability

In most cases, they are fully interchangeable.

erforderlich might bear some associations, that the object is "required by someone", or rather the requirement is "imposed by someone", while notwendig could imply a more objective necessity. This is due to the fact, that the stem of erforderlich is the stem of the verb fordern which translates to demand, ask for, call for, require, hence erforderlich could ring a bell of a social interaction. Thus, using erforderlich might frame the message in a more personal way.

But the nuance is very small, and it is not even a necessary association - the verb erfordern means to necessitate, to require, to need, which is closer to an objective frame, than the mere stem fordern. You can easily say sentences like

Die Situation erforderte schnelles Handeln (The situation needed quick action.)

where there is no person involved requiring anything, but erfordern expresses some rather objective necessity.

Use and interchangeability of erforderlich and notwendig are very analogous to their English translations, I'd say.

Style and Tone

From my experience I would say that notwendig, or even nötig is more common and more colloquial, and erforderlich is more bureaucratic and formal.

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