Can you please tell me what is the difference between "halten" and "anhalten" in the sense of stopping a vehicle? For example:

Ich habe vor einem Laden gehalten, um Wasser zu kaufen.

Ich habe vor einem Laden angehalten, um Wasser zu kaufen.

Der Bus hält, da etwas Los mit ihm ist.

Der Bus hält an, da etwas Los mit ihm ist.

2 Answers 2


Subtle. One clear difference is that a scheduled stop of the bus would always be "halten": "Der Bus hält am Bahnhof" (= this service includes a stop at the train station). If the bus has to stop for a moment because of the traffic etc, it is typically "anhalten". But in many cases the two verbs could be exchanged, like in your examples, the difference is subtle at best.

Specifically, with cars, "halten" is a technical term in the German traffic rules, like parking but for a shorter duration. In this comparison, I think, "anhalten" always focuses on the transition, from flowing traffic to "come to a halt". "Halten" alone can also be static, in the sense of parking, so it can be used when a car is standing somewhere. (Saying to a driver: "Bitte halte kurz hier vor der Einfahrt, ich bin gleich wieder da")

So, as a tentative summary, "anhalten" seems to have the more specific word meaning (in the sense of come to a halt), while "halten" is more general and allows a number of different readings, -- therefore "halten" is also the one that develops some very specific senses for specific contexts (just because it is otherwise too general...).


In colloquial and ordinary language there is no real difference.

Legally, at least in the Austrian traffic code (§ 2):

  1. Anhalten: das durch die Verkehrslage oder durch sonstige wichtige Umstände erzwungene Zum-Stillstand-Bringen eines Fahrzeuges;
  2. Halten: eine nicht durch die Verkehrslage oder durch sonstige wichtige Umstände erzwungene Fahrtunterbrechung bis zu zehn Minuten oder für die Dauer der Durchführung einer Ladetätigkeit (§ 62);

That is, "anhalten" is when you stop at a red light, a stop sign, in a traffic jam, because your car has broken down, or even because you as a driver feel sick and stop at the side of the road because you are no longer capable of operating the vehicle. (Those are examples I specifically remember learning in driving school.)

"Halten" refers to otherwise stopping the vehicle for a period of up to 10 minutes or for as long as you need to load and unload the vehicle. Anything longer than that is "parken".

But that is legalese; people learn this difference in driving school, but still use these words as synonyms in practice.

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