10 German words that mean ‘to try’

A newsletter I received this morning had the email heading “Want to try something new?” It reminded me of questions from students about which German verb to use when you want to try something.

So this post is about the diffferent German verbs you can use for the English ‘to try’

I started by putting the sentence ‘Want to try something new?’ into Deepl and got the standard translation ‘Möchten Sie etwas Neues ausprobieren?’. The beauty of Deepl is that you can hover over a word to see alternatives. And there were quite a few:

This is often a problem when you look up a word. Which one do you need for your sentence?

Let’s start with the German verb ‘probieren’ plus a few variations.

probieren, anprobieren, ausprobieren, aufprobieren
All these mean to try something, to sample something, but probieren is the only one to use if you want to try some food or drink.

Here are some examples:

Darf ich mal probieren? May I try (the food)?

Kann ich die Jacke anprobieren? Can I try this jacket?

Ich hab’ mal diesen Hut aufprobiert. I just tried on this hat. Aufprobieren only works when you try something on top of you (like a hat which you put ON your head)

Ich probier’ mal aus, ob ich den Motor reparieren kann. As in ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing but I’ll have a go and see if I can fix the engine’.

Das sieht lecker aus! Das werde ich jetzt alles durchprobieren. As in ‘That looks tasty! I’m going to work my way through this and try it all!’

So viele Schraubenschlüssel! Da muss ich mal herumprobiere, welcher passt! As in ‘So many spanners! I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing here but I’ll do a bit of trial and error until I find the one that fits.’

You could also use these verbs which can all be translated with ‘to try’.

  • versuchen – to try to do something: Ich versuche, Deutsch zu lernen.
  • testen – to test something
  • prüfen – as above, to test/ check something
  • erproben – to put something to the test/ try it out
  • es wagen mit… – to risk it with …
  • sich bemühen – to make an effort

Which one can you use in a sentence?

Just remember:

Probieren geht über Studieren – the proof is in the pudding 😉

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