In my book I have come across both the verbs "aufschreiben" and "mitschreiben". A simple google translate tells that both of the verbs mean "To write down".

My question is/are: -

  • When to use which verb?
  • How will I know which verb to use if they both mean the same?
  • Any specific difference between them?

Can you also please give examples in form of a sentence for better understanding of their usage.

  • 5
    Google Translate is the wrong way to look up words. It only offers one possible translation and that may be wrong, not even depending on context. An alternative is dict.cc Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 9:25

2 Answers 2



  • record by writing or also write down e.g. your observations, your thoughts
  • write down e.g. I wrote down the cell phone number


  • listen to something and write it down at the same time e.g. take down the lecture
  • the last example should be not conjoined, right, specificly to mark the difference??
    – vectory
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 17:48
  • "prescribe sth" is "etwas verschreiben**" so this example is wrong "take part in a written test" is "einen Test schreiben" You can say "einen Test mitschreiben", but this more likely means you manage to participate in a test (there where some obstacles to overcome)
    – Masatwwo
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 21:41
  • @masatwwo - thanks for the hints - edited my answer. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 5:33

Although not an exact translation, cp. En. "to write up" (summarize, notice; list).

The connotatiin in auf "on" completely subsumes that and leaves nothing but the denotional sense, "onto [paper]; [to write] down", at first sight, although the usage is still very much within the realm of drafting a record.

Mitschreiben is used chiefly in the denotional sense, too, i.e. "along, in synchrony"; cp. eg. mit fahren, mitkommen. The etymologic connection to Greek meta might imply something more, and Lat. mit- "to send" (cf. message) might be informative on top of that, however long forgotten if that were the case, not evident from usage at all. Compare nonetheless Mitteilung to that effect; not here: vermitteln (cf. middle, mediate); probably not here: mitgeben, cp. Mitgift "dowry" opposite of "brideprice" (again there's a Greek comparison, viz. "to pay", iirc). Since auf can mean "on top of", a sense like "add to [a listing, chrinical, etc.]" also comes to mind, e.g. in police lingo: to write somebody a notice for a misdemeanor, but colloquially paraphrased when a particular listing is concerned, e.g. dazuschreiben.

At that it's notable that writing used to be a special craft with idiosyncratic terminology.

However it came to be today the main difference is that Mitschrift requires a lecture or other non-written source to copy from.

Whereas aufschreiben may be creative, perhaps spontanious, and so generally applicable that it is not specialized enough to have a corresponding result noun. There's only a superficial comparison in Aufschrift(cp. Überschrift, Untertitel, Inschrift). One might contrast Abschrift, that has very narrow usage in law denoting legal copy of a writ, next to ausfertigung with a similar sense but different legal requirements (ex perfection?).. Another connotation of aufschreiben (of debts, guilts) can be contrasted with abschreiben "to write off" (cp. streichen "to strike, erase from a list", refl. sich ein-/ausschreiben in university "im-/exmatrikulate"). Whereas the connotation of originality can be contrasted with another sense of abschreiben, that is "to write off of, cheat by copying, immitate".

Compare by the way: English copy-editing (a genre of advertising text, very descriptive)? Auftrag "task, mission" also " coating, layer on-top"? Annonce "(ad) copy" versus announce? Apostal, apocryphe, apo-, post (lol what?), En. off, irregular Ger. uff "up, on" from *op, cp. hör auf "stop" (listen up; leave it), contrast weg "away, off", note auf-g'- (*i.e. pastpart. aufgeschrieben)? fax, from facsimile, fac- "do" + simil(ar), suppletive present tense of fio, future "to be(come)", cf. (last) will? cp. of-ficial???

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