What is the difference between Abendbrot and Abendessen?
Some ideas appearing on the internet
- time of the day
- regional difference
- simple vs. whole meal
Can you clarify this? For a foreigner this can be very confusing.
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Although the word Abendbrot (literally: "evening bread") is suggesting that actually bread is being eaten, Abendessen and Abendbrot do not differ in what they are referring to, as far as I know - with both notions referring to the meal at the end of the day, "dinner". (Where I come from - Saxony, a region, where Abendbrot is the standard term - Abendbrot would actually also refer to a non-bread-dinner.)
The Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache ("Atlas of German Every-day Language") shows a strong regional difference:
This supports the thesis, that the difference is actually a difference of regionalisms, not one of the referred thing itself.
I agree with the other answer that the meaning is the same and that there are regional differences.
I come from Berlin, a region where "Abendbrot" is the preferred term. To me, "Abendessen" sounds more formal or elevated.
There are also differences in possible combinations with a verb:
I would use the combination of "essen" and "Abendbrot" ("Abendbrot essen" = "to have dinner") in a sentence, but with "Abendessen" I would choose a different verb to avoid the duplication of "essen", even with inflected forms of "essen".
All this might be different in other regions.