What is the difference between those two words? Are they interchangeable?
Could you please provide some examples of their usage?

  • 3
    Did you look them up in a dictionary (monolingual and/or bilingual). They do have a small overlap but other than this they are easy to distinguish.
    – Em1
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 15:00
  • Yes, but in the bilingual I've used, I could not find the difference. And I'm not expert enough, yet, to use proficiently a monolingual :(
    – Carlo
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 15:48
  • Simply look at "antun" @ dict.leo.org/?lang=de
    – äüö
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 6:36

4 Answers 4


Here is from my perception:

antun (more precisely jemandem etwas antun)

  • formally to describe that someone was hurt (usually when directed at the victim) – connotation of dismay likely

    • Wer hat ihnen das angetan?
    • Wer würde jemandem so etwas antun?
    • Wir taten ihnen Unaussprechliches an.
  • somewhat often but rather informally used

    • to describe something that is cumbersome or annoying:
      • Das Buch will ich mir nicht antun.
    • to express perceived injustice with connotation of disbelieve
      • Wie konntest du mir das nur antun?


  • very similar to the English to do for ambiguously describing an action
    • Was wollen wir jetzt tun?
    • Das solltest du nicht tun.
  • but also similarly versatile and complex when used in phrases (too many for me to post here)

However, I cannot think of a scenario where they would be directly interchangeable.

  • +10 if I could. --- "I cannot think of a scenario where they would be interchangeable." -> duden.de/rechtschreibung/antun#Bedeutung1a This is the only thing where they are quite close. To my ear it sounds somewhat stilted though. --- "somewhat often but rather informally used" -> this is the figurative use of your previous point
    – Em1
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 16:20
  • 1
    @Em1 Interchangability: I am a native speaker and I have never used antun in a positive way. I went with "Kann ich dir etwas Gutes tun?" instead. But I guess one can interchange the ironic version of antun with tun in this case.
    – zsawyer
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 16:46
  • 2
    Note the pun with "Man kann sich einen Schlips antun" ;)
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 17:34
  • "Was kann ich Dir antun?" does not imply something bad, but I am not sure if that is only jokingly used or a remnant of older more general usage.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 20:38

I want to add one thing that is not mentioned in the other answer.

As @Matthaeus is indicating, antun can also be used in a positive way. This usually happens in the following idioms:

es jemandem angetan haben
von etw./jdm. angetan sein

This means that you're really excited by something or someone.

Das süße Mädel da drüber hat es mir angetan.
Die Heavy-Metal Musik hat es mir voll angetan.
Ich war von der Idee sehr angetan.

  • Great addition! ... but always use the past form there from "antun" ---> "angetan"... So never say it in present form like "Die Musik tut es mir an" or even in the future form. In this case of "antun" you can only use the past form.
    – user2238
    Commented Jun 29, 2013 at 0:06

'Tun' is a nowadays rather uncommon word for 'To do' (notice the similarity?), sometimes also 'to put'; in some cases it has been replaced by "machen", but is still used a lot in following cases:

  1. merged with other verbs as copula (antun, leidtun...)
  2. when someone executes an aforementioned action, especially if there is an adverb as 'modifier' of that action, e.g. ('er tut es gern', 'er tut es oft', 'er tut es freiwillig')
  3. Some phrases have it. Like: 'man tut, was man kann' or 'es mit etwas zu tun haben'.

Actually, it has many meanings, just like the English verb 'to do'.

'Antun', however, has very few uses that i know of. It can be used when the action is directed at someone or something. It can be a good or a bad action, but it is more commonly used with the latter. 'Das tut mir nichts an!' ('This (action) does not affect me/harm me') 'Er hat mir böses angetan!' ('He did bad things to me!')

  • Regarding tun/machen I am not sure if there are regional differences.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 20:39
  • Do you have a reference for that "tun" is uncommon nowadays? To me, the difference is similar to the English "do" vs. "make" (where "do" is more commonly used however because of the do-support form)
    – Gerhard
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 21:36
  • @CarstenSchultz Yes, sure. In my dialect (Südtirolerisch, which is part of the southern Bavarian dialects) "tun" or "tian" as we pronounce it, is used in nearly all cases where standard German would use "machen", which is almost nonexistent here. There may be other dialects too, which make a more frequent use of "tun" than Hochdeutsch (i would guess, e.g. Alamannic dialects), but i can't say for sure.
    – Matthaeus
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 22:27
  • @Gerhard i do not have a source, unfortunately. I learned it in school, though. Also, if you get to read some poems of Middle High German (or even later ages), you'll notice right away that there are more "tuon" than in modern texts, often for verbs that wouldn't need an auxiliary nowadays. "das euch der fröwlin smäh tüt misseuallen" zit. Otto von Wolkenstein, would be approximately translated as "das euch der Freulein Schmäh missfällt". You can clearly see the difference between the konjugated verb "missfällt" and the construction "tut missfallen".
    – Matthaeus
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 22:51
  • Without being an expert in the field: the form you describe seems to be analogous to the "do-support form" mentioned earlier - where "do" is an auxiliary, but not a full verb ("to do"). Could it be, that this form simply has become less common? I guess nowadays only children use it any longer... But I guess it is a matter of preference on whether to count this as the "real" verb or not...
    – Gerhard
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 23:08

In his song "Amerika" (1984), Herbert Grönemeyer plays with the constructive/destructive nature of the verb "tun": "Amerika, du hast viel für uns getan/Amerika, tu uns das nicht an." America, you did a lot for us; America, don't "undo" us; or "don't harm" us; or don't "do us in"; or, in more recent slang: "don't do us."

  • Welcome to German.SE. How does that answer the question? I miss any notion of the differences. Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 6:59
  • Thanks for your word of welcome. Which question? The point of my post was to provide an example of the flexibility of antun as noted in the last paragraph of the post by Matthaeus above. It is precisely the ambiguity of antun that Grönemeyer exploits in his song.
    – Theo Trost
    Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 17:39
  • Well, from the structure of StackExchange you posted an answer - to the question of Carlo. Because the structure means: 1 question and as much answers as are useful. SE differs from "normal" forums that there is no ongoing discussion - only question & answer. Hm, well, yeah, the help section seems a bit "broad and unspecific" on that topic: german.stackexchange.com/help/answering or german.stackexchange.com/help/stackexchange does not really point that out. thanks for that hint^^ Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 6:08

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