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I am wondering about the difference between the verbs schaden, schädigen and beschädigen. In which conditions would we use these verbs? Below I have some examples. I dont know whether they are true.

  • Rauchen schadet dir.
  • Rauchen beschädigt dich.

    • Das schadet der Natur.
    • Das beschädigt die Natur.
  • Sein Verhalten schadet unserer Freundschaft.

  • Sein Verhalten beschädigt unsere Freundschaft.
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    Did you do any research about finding concrete examples, and can ypu tell what you don't understand about the differences specifically? – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 27 at 18:28
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    Now that you added examples: what do you understand? where do you get lost? Where do you think your understanding seems odd? – Shegit Brahm Oct 29 at 9:28
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    Voting reopen because the question cannot be simply answered by a dictionary, even though showing no explicit research effort in OP, which may have still taken place. – Dan Nov 2 at 13:54
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schaden = schädlich, nachteilig sein, eine Beeinträchtigung, einen Nachteil, Verlust darstellen; Schaden zufügen (Duden)

"Schaden" is the most general one and it means to have a disadvantage or negative effect. It can be used for objects and persons.

schädigen = bei jemandem/etwas einen Schaden hervorrufen (Duden)

"Schädigen" is often used if its not a physical damage (scatching the object/person), but more a general damage to a state or situation, e.g. "jemanden finanziell schädigen" (=ruining oneone financially) or "jemandes Ruf schädigen" (=ruining a reputation)

beschädigen = Schaden an etwas verursachen; schadhaft machen (Duden)

You can only "beschädigen" something not somebody, e.g. "fremdes Eigentum beschädigen" (=damage someones posession)


In regard of your examples:

Rauchen schadet dir.

Yes, that's correct.

Rauchen beschädigt dich.

No, you wouldn't say that as "beschädigen" refers to objects.

Das schadet der Natur.

Yes, that's correct.

Das beschädigt die Natur.

Reading this sentence, I wonder "who does it damage nature". As the damage is less specific I would say "Das schadet der Natur".

Sein Verhalten schadet unserer Freundschaft.

Yes, that's correct.

Sein Verhalten beschädigt unsere Freundschaft.

Yes, that's correct. However, as a native , I prefer schadet (I can't give an explanation why).

  • A grammatic derivation instead of intuitive judgement from usage would be worthwhile, whether v. schaden was a backformation from the noun to explain a "most general" meaning, or an inherited verb form from the verbal root, with an extended -ig form for a narrower sense. That is, I wondered before whether -ig implied continuity, persistence, recurrence (after ständig). Also cp schädlich, not *schädig?! – vectory Nov 8 at 10:31
  • Also, I tend to disagree with your last remark. Cp Schwerbeschädigter "(severly) disabled person", vs behindert "handicapped, disabled; hindered" – vectory Nov 8 at 10:38
  • @vectory, someone can be "Schwerbeschädigt", but you cannot say: "Ich beschädigte ihn schwer." I would say, the legal term "Schwerbeschädigter" refers to to the person's body, not the person. – Iris Nov 8 at 10:44
  • Feel free to write an answer about the grammatic derivation or ask a new question. I just answered the question. – Iris Nov 8 at 10:46

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