I'm still confused about the difference between ändern and verändern. I have read something about ändern only being used with small changes and verändern when something changes totally. But where exactly is the line between those?
And how does this work when we talk about a person being changed instead of a thing?

5 Answers 5


Persons as objects of change:

Ändern is used in the sense of changing someone's defining personality traits (which is often seen as hopeless):

• Er ist ein Dickkopf – ich kann ihn nicht ändern. – He's a pighead, I can't change him.

• Der kleine Junge ist streitsüchtig. Ich hoffe, dass er sich noch ändert. – The boy is always looking for a fight. I hope he'll change.

• Früher war ich immer betrunken. Aber jetzt habe ich mich geändert. – Before, I was always drunk. But now I have changed.

Verändern would be used in the context of changing a person's entire life and/or occupational condition:

• Ich möchte mich (beruflich) verändern. – I want to do something else. (This can refer to a change of position or industry.)

Typically in a Perfekt construction:

• Er hat sich verändert. Er ist nicht mehr so, wie er früher war. – He has changed. He's not the same anymore.

• Du hast dich seit damals gar nicht verändert. – You haven't changed a bit since that time.

• Du hast mich verändert. – You have changed me. (You've been this important to my life.)

• Im Laufe der Jahre habe ich mich vollkommen verändert. – Through the years, I have totally changed.

  • 1
    Is then the correct verb is "sich verändern"? Or does verändern can stand on its own?
    – Amol Gawai
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 11:36
  • 1
    'Verändern' is also used without 'sich', as it is not a real reflexive verb. (e.g.: Wir verändern die Reihenfolge der Zahlen.—We alter the sequence of the numbers). The reflexive pronoun is only used when the sentence's subject itself is the object of the verb 'verändern'.
    – TehMacDawg
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 7:13
  • 1
    Jemand, der früher immer betrunken war, aber jetzt nicht mehr, hat sich in meinen Augen verändert. Auch unten: "Er hat sich verändert (usw.)" - ob "Er hat sich geändert (usw.)" nicht auch funktioniert wird gar nicht geprüft. Soll das ein Vergleich sein? Confirmationbias. Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 0:26
  • So if I haven't seen a person in a few years and he/she changed a single personality trait (e.g. from selfish to altruistic or from irresponsible to responsible), I can't say "Er hat sich verändert" ? Commented Jun 4 at 16:08

The difference between these words lies in intention, specifics, duration and size of change:


Intentional, specific, instantaneous, huge change or replacement:

  • In den Jahren habe ich mich (bewusst) geändert. - intentional
  • (Genau) Das ändert alles! - specific
  • Ändere es (die Anzahl)! - specific
  • Die Temperatur ändert sich (jetzt). - instantaneous
  • Wir haben die Farben (komplett) geändert. - huge
  • Er änderte die Basis (auf eine Alternative). - replacement


Unconscious, unspecific, process, small change:

  • In den Jahren habe ich mich (ohne es zu bemerken) verändert. (unintentional)
  • Das verändert (irgendwie) alles. - unspecific
  • Verändere es (irgendwas)! - unspecific.
  • Die Temperatur verändert sich (seit letztem Jahr). - continuous
  • Wir haben die Farbe (leicht) verändert. - small
  • Counter-example: "Du hast dich verändert" can be intentional and a big change. Commented Jun 4 at 14:25

The word “ändern” refers to "changing" something by adding something different or leading someone in a new direction. In essence, you are changing the "mix," rather than the underlying object. This is sometimes referred to as "retail" change.

On the other hand “verändern” has the connotation of changing something by replacing what's already there. In the context of a person, you are "re-making" or replacing him, rather than "leading in a new direction." That is sometimes referred to as "wholesale" change.

  • "Wieso fahren wir jetzt schneller?" "Wir haben die Richtung verändert". "Können Sie die Hose ändern; unten etwas kürzen?" Welcher Mix? Im Kontext der Person wird also jemand getötet und neu gemacht? Alles Humbug! Unhinterfragte Ad-hoc-Ideen, nicht mal gute. Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 0:30
  • @userunknown: If you alter a Hose, it's still the same piece of cloth, hence andern." If you replace a person, that's "verandern." "Remaking" him or her would be an intermediate case, but probably closer to "verandern."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 9:55
  • This is a wrong answer. "Du hast dich irgendwie verändert" - clearly nothing was replaced here.
    – user33771
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 6:47
  • @svenmeier: Du hast dich irgendwie verandert," you have "changed" by replacing a behavior or an attribute with a new one. It does not have to be a physical change.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 14:28

Generally, ändern refers to something being changed or altered. Verändern refers to something being transformed or transmuted. Eg In der katholischen Kirche werden das Brot und der Wein in den Körper und das Blut Christi verändert, aber in der evangelischen Kirche ändern sich das Brot und der Wein symbolisch in den Körper und das Blut Christi.

  • Willkommen! :-)
    – peterh
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 15:21

You have understood it correctly. There is no defined line between those two words. Where you use one, you usually can use the other. It's more of a point of what you want to embrace.

Ändern: quite neutral. it/he/she/whatever "changed".

Verändern: if you want to say that something really changed, or put attention on the change if that is your point.

Abändern: to put attention that it is now different from before. I think this is not used for people.

  • 1
    The words are not interchangeable. There is a significant difference between “er hat sich verändert” and “er hat sich geändert” when talking about a person, such as a teenager. The former typically means “his appearance changed” while the latter means “his attitude/behavior changed”. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 23:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.