Is there a standard way to translate phrases like "a _ used for _".

Example: I'm trying to define 'Ohr' in German as "organ used for hearing". Based on what I've read, I've come up with a few possibilities, but I'm not sure which to prefer:

  1. Organ für Gehör benutzt

  2. Organ für das Gehör benutzt

  3. Organ zum Gehör benutzt

  4. Organ benutzt zu hören

Are any of the above correct "_ used for _" translations? Also, does a construction like that sound weird in German?


2 Answers 2


Wiktionary, for example, defines the ear as

Anatomie: Sinnesorgan zur Wahrnehmung von akustischen Signalen (Gehör)

This actually is already a good way to translated used for into German: zu + Substantiv.

Organ used for hearing, thus, could be translated as Organ zum Hören.

If you'd like to go with the verb benutzen, you should add the implicit "which is" into the English sentence: An organ which is used for hearing.

Ein Organ, das zum Wahrnehmen von akustischen Signalen benutzt wird.
Ein Organ, das zum Hören benutzt wird.

This sentence now follows the English phrasing most closely but it sounds less good than the other one.

Note, that "Wahrnehmen von akustischen Signalen" is the formal way of saying "Hören"

  • 2
    Incidentally, I wouldn’t use benutzen here at all. Perhaps dienen: ein Organ, das zum Hören dient.
    – chirlu
    Oct 27, 2013 at 18:37
  • @chirlu I was about adding a note on this but didn't for not being relevant to this question. I think you don't use benutzen because you do not actively make an intentional use of the object. It just works for being a way how human beings are able to hear. You cannot really influence it. But this is rather an apart.
    – Em1
    Oct 27, 2013 at 18:54
  • @Em1: considering the other question: german.stackexchange.com/questions/8411/… "benutzt" may indeed be the word the OP struggles with.
    – Takkat
    Oct 27, 2013 at 18:55
  • @Takkat Yep. Among many others: german.stackexchange.com/questions/8410/…
    – Voriki
    Oct 27, 2013 at 19:30

Your versions are good starting points.

  1. Generally, you should use Hören instead of Gehör as aim of benutzen. Reason: Gehör refers to the sense as an abstract ability of the human body and not to the concrete happening Hören. In the German understanding, this abstract ability cannot be the result or aim of a usage (benutzen). So the possibilities here are
  1. das Gehör benutzen
  2. benutzen um zu hören
  3. zum Hören benutzen
  1. In definitions, the usage of relative clauses is prefered to infinitive or participal clauses. The usage of inifinitive and participal clauses is rather poetic.

  2. So, you can make the sentences better:

  1. Organ des Gehörs (shortcut)
  2. Organ, das zum Hören benutzt wird (most usual form)
  3. Organ zum Hören benutzt (rather poetic)
  4. Organ zum Hören (simplified form)
  5. Organ benutzt zum Hören (even more poetic)
  • Man kann ein Hörgerät zum Hören "benutzen", aber beim Ohr würde ich "benutzen" nicht benutzen.
    – Takkat
    Oct 27, 2013 at 19:10
  • Das ist Standardsprech in Naturwissenschaften.
    – Toscho
    Oct 27, 2013 at 19:32

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