I haven't found a concise/clear-cut explanation regarding the difference between those verbs. The dictionary is again less helpful whenever involving the subtle difference in meaning. The answers in the Internet are either sparse, in specific situations, or written in german (not suitable for beginners).


Here is my limited understanding so far:

  • umsteigen: change vehicles, e.g. train, car, in the sense that we move from one to another. It may be a little related with "austeigen" and "einsteigen". Is that correct?
  • verändern vs. ändern: thanks to this answer, applied at the changing of a person, "ändern" means changing the person's traits; "verändern" means changing the person's appearance/life conditions. But what about objects?
  • umtauschen, wechseln: only about money? But I saw the sentence "Du möchtest die Kaffeemaschine umtauschen. Sie funktioniert nicht." Shall I replace it with any of the other verbs?
  • I gather from the German Wiktionary that 1) umsteigen does mean to change vehicles, 2) verändern means change in form or properties, while ändern is generic change, 3) umtaushen and wechseln both seem to mean swap or replace. I'm a learner too but you can get this far by putting the German definitions through Google translate. Concise and clear distinctions are a bit much to expect I think, try giving a concise and clear explanation of the difference between 'change' and 'alter'. – RDBury Aug 20 '20 at 13:21
  • Which dictionary have you consulted and not found an answer to your question? Even the free Wiktionary has a relatively comprehensive explanation of the meaning and usage of each of these words and hence also the differences in meaning. – jarnbjo Aug 20 '20 at 20:29
  • @jarnbjo: as far as I understand linguee.com is considered as consulted dictionary. Assumingly more, this one is linked. – Shegit Brahm Aug 21 '20 at 6:46
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    I'd say this question needs more focus. While I can figurativly use all of these verbs to describe the same situation - I usually would never do. As a beginner I would understand when you ask for difference in the pairs (umsteigen/wechseln), (verändern/ändern), (umtauschen/wechseln), (ändern/umtauschen). These pairs have in the general meaning provided a close relationship to be interchangeable. Being arrogant I would say: when you start to be able to read german-german dictionaries, you might be at the point to understand figurativly meaning & usage. Until now I suggest to focus at the pairs. – Shegit Brahm Aug 21 '20 at 7:18
  • @ShegitBrahm If so, the solution to the problem is perhaps to realize that linguee.com is not a dictionary, but just a tool offering translation assistance? Even often a good assistance, but it is not a dictionary. – jarnbjo Aug 21 '20 at 8:52


This can mean to change a train or bus.

Ich fahre mit dem Zug von Wien nach München und muss in Salzburg umsteigen.
I am taking the train from Vienna to Munich and have to change trains in Salzburg.

But figuratively it can mean any major change:

Ich habe lange Chemie studiert, bin dann aber auf Physik umgestiegen.
I studied chemistry for a long time, but then switched to physics.

Ich habe jahrelang den Browser von Microsoft verwendet, bin dann aber auf Firefox umgestiegen.
I used Microsoft's browser for years, but then switched to Firefox.

verändern, ändern

Both verbs mean the same: to change something, to turn something into something else.

Ich möchte meine Ernährungsgewohnheiten ändern.
I want to change my eating habits.

Walter ändert seinen Plan.
Walter changes his plan.

Irene verändert die Einstellungen am Gerät.
Irene changes the settings on the device.

Die Krise verändert den Autohandel.
The crisis is changing the auto trade.


This has two meanings:

  1. You have received something and you don't like it. So you go back to where you've got it from and exchange it.

    Ich möchte diesen Hut umtauschen, den ich vorgestern bei Ihnen gekauft habe. I nehme stattdessen eine Kappe.
    I want to exchange this hat that I bought from you the day before yesterday. I'll take a cap instead.

  2. to exchange money

    Mir sind vom Urlaub 300 Pfund übrig geblieben, die möchte ich in Euro umtauschen.
    I have 300 pounds left over from my vacation, which I would like to exchange for euros.


This also can mean to exchange money:

Mir sind vom Urlaub 300 Pfund übrig geblieben, die möchte ich in Euro wechseln.
I have 300 pounds left over from my vacation, which I would like to exchange for euros.

But it can't be used to exchange something you bought before and dislike now. But instead it can be used if someone or something changes a property or something that belongs to it:

Das Chameleon wechselt seine Farbe.
The chameleon changes its color.

Julia wechselt ihre Handtasche.
Julia changes her handbag.

Additional information

Julia wechselt ihre Handtasche.
Julia changes her handbag.

This means, that Julia did use one handbag before and a different one after she changed them. But all the time she is owner of both of them. Ownership didn't change, just usage.

Julia tauscht ihre Handtasche um.
Julia exchanges her handbag.

This means that she is the owner of a handbag, and she brought it back to the shop. There she gave it back to the salesperson and received a new one. So here the ownership changed.

Julia (ver)ändert ihre Handtasche.
Julia changes her handbag.

Julia keeps the same hangbag as before, but she changed the look of it. Maybe she added a sticker, or she cut off a tassel.

You can not use umsteigen here, because umsteigen is nothing that you can do with something else. It always describes something that happens to the subject itself.

  • 1
    Geld wechseln wäre für mich zuerst Scheine in Münzen und vice versa (bzw. "kleinmachen"). Geldwechsler als Beruf sind hingegen üblicherweise Währungstauscher. – Shegit Brahm Aug 21 '20 at 7:42
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    You write "You can not use umsteigen here, ..." However, "Julia steig auf eine neue Handtasche um." sounds to me like a perfectly valid sentence. – jarnbjo Aug 21 '20 at 8:58
  • Um genauer zu formulieren, ob man Scheine in Münzen oder eine Währung in die andere wechselt, kann für den Währungsumtausch das Verb "einwechseln" verwendet werden. Dann ändert sich jedoch die Präposition, z.B.: Ich wechsle x Euro (gegen Forint) ein. (vgl. Ich tausche x Euro (gegen Forint) ein. - Im allgemeinen Sprachgebrauch wird diese etwas umständliche Formulierung mit "einwechseln" jedoch nur selten verwendet, gebräuchlicher ist dann "eintauschen". Außer bei Sport-Kommentatoren, da werden Spieler manchmal ins Spiel "eingewechselt". – TylwythTag-VIE Aug 21 '20 at 10:43
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    @jarnbjo: To me it it sounds wrong. – Hubert Schölnast Aug 21 '20 at 15:42

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