What is the difference between bauen and erbauen?

I mean, semantically. Or can they be used interchangeably?

  • 1
    "Peter baut eine Kirche" but not "Peter erbaut eine Kirche". "Die Kirche wurde erbaut[=errichtet]" and "Die Kirche wurde gebaut." In all other cases you only use "bauen".
    – Em1
    Jul 24, 2013 at 17:09
  • @Em1 So Die Kirche wurde erbaut means The church was built, and Die Kirche wurde gebaut means The church was built. I may be slow-witted (I don't deny it), but I honestly don't get where the difference lies.
    – indoxica
    Jul 24, 2013 at 17:18
  • Hahaha... Honestly, there's no significant difference between "Die Kirche wurde erbaut" and "Die Kirche wurde gebaut". Imho, the only difference is that erbauen is more about the process while bauen is more about the result.
    – Em1
    Jul 24, 2013 at 17:55
  • And don't forget "(wieder) aufbauen" ;)
    – Em1
    Jul 24, 2013 at 17:56
  • 2
    Spontan würde ich raten, dass erbaut nur für Immobilien benutzt wird, bin mir dessen aber nicht sicher. Lokomotiven, Joints und Software werden gebaut, aber nicht erbaut. Außerdem gibt es noch das Adjektiv(?): Ich bin erbaut von Virginis Lächeln. welches ich auch mit wohlgestimmt, hochgestimmt, aufgemuntert übersetzen würde. Jul 24, 2013 at 21:23

1 Answer 1


No. Erbauen means rather to erect and bauen, to build and I can't think of better examples as those given by @Em1 in the comments.

Rom wurde auch nicht an einem Tag erbaut

Often the prefix er means the prefix "re" in English; however I think that one has to learn each verb separetly (I mean, the verb alone and with prefix), because the meanings of the verbs er+verb are not always guessable. The link above exhibits the pairs

  1. trinken and ertrinken, which mean to drink and to drown=drink repetitively to death
  2. zählen and erzählen, to count and to re-count
  3. kennen and erkennen, to know and recognize.
  • 1
    But Rom wurde auch nicht an einem Tag erbaut means Rome was not built in a day. But you said that erbauen does not mean to build.
    – indoxica
    Jul 24, 2013 at 17:34
  • Well, I guess that for that particular example "build" means the same as "edify". I would say the word erbauen is used for the building big, important things.
    – c.p.
    Jul 24, 2013 at 17:37
  • 3
    Ouuuu.... Well. First I would be very careful about saying that er is often re. It might be true in some cases but erbauen is one example where it's not true. Otherwise it means that Rome had been rebuild ;) Consider Er- words independently; as new words. Different words. Anyway. About edify. I had to look up this word and from OALD, you're wrong. Looking at merriam-webster, you're archaic ;) Erbauen means to edify and to uplift and to establish but this is a different context and has nothing to do with to build. Again, the build-meaning in to edify is archaic.
    – Em1
    Jul 24, 2013 at 17:49
  • 1
    Instead of to edify go with to erect: to build something - The church was erected in 1582.
    – Em1
    Jul 24, 2013 at 18:00

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