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According to my Collins dictionary, both versuchen and probieren mean to try. Are they synonyms?

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4 Answers 4

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To expand on falkb's answer a bit: versuchen is usually followed by a complementary infinitive. It means "try (to do something)."

Ich versuche, Deutsch zu lernen aber ich finde es nicht einfach.

Probieren, on the other hand, is a transitive verb and takes a direct object in the accusative.

Hast du das Steak bei Outback Steakhouse probiert?

Probieren also commonly appears with the separable prefix aus- (to try out).

Nein. Ich habe es noch nicht ausprobiert.

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versuchen is usually related to verbs (to attempt), probieren is more related to things you can see (to probe).

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  • but remember probieren can be used always, but is a bit more colloquial speach
    – äüö
    Jun 10, 2013 at 19:34
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For the record, in Yiddish the meanings are reversed: prubieren (synonym pruven) means to give something a try, as in "lomir (= lass uns) takkeh prubieren", let's give it a try; and versuchen means to try some food, as in "versuchen die suppe".

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Yes they are synonyms.

But there are a few exceptions, for example:

I wanna try these delicious hamburgers. -> Ich möchte gerne diese köstlichen Hamburger probieren.

Here is the tendency to probieren, versuchen doesn't sound very nice here.

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  • Yes, there's a tendency to probieren. But versuchen is also in use for meals and drinks.
    – Em1
    Jun 10, 2013 at 6:48
  • Actually, there are a lot of "exceptions". All the following sentences are wrong, or at least very very odd: "Angeklagt wegen probierten Mordes", "er probierte zu fliehen", "sie hat probiert, den Fluss zu überqueren", "sie probierte sich als Model", "probiert sein etw. zu tun". All examples taken by just reading the Duden.
    – Em1
    Jun 10, 2013 at 6:52
  • For me, "versuchen" is not quite synonymous to "probieren" - I find "probieren" to have a connotation that a failure would not be a (big) problem, while "versuchen" doesn't. Jun 10, 2013 at 8:48
  • @Em1: Another regional/peer group/generation thing ... I would never ever use versuchen in context of food and I tell my students that it is wrong :)
    – Emanuel
    Jun 10, 2013 at 13:09
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    @Em1: touché. Das ist wohl war.
    – Emanuel
    Jun 10, 2013 at 13:31

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