zahlen vs bezahlen

How to Use zahlen and bezahlen in German Sentences

When you study German language, you learn at an early stage that they are synonymous.
That can be correct. But there’s a little difference.

In this article, you will learn the difference between zahlen vs bezahlen and how to use it in a German sentence.

What is zahlen?

zahlento pay

PronounsPresent TensePerfect Tense 
ichzahlehabe gezahlt
duzahlsthast gezahlt
er/sie/eszahlthat gezahl
wirzahlenhaben gezahlt
ihrzahlthabt gezahlt
Siezahlenhaben gezahlt
siezahlenhaben gezahlt

Basically, the word “zahlen” is a general word for “pay”. You can use this when you are using currency or money to pay for something.

For example, when we give money to a person who does something for us, or if we are the boss of a company then we have employees and we have to pay these employees every month.“Der Mann wird für seine Arbeit bezahlt” (The man will pay for his work). We usually use zahlen with an amount of money.

Other examples are: 
Ich habe fast siebzig Euro gezahlt! (I have paid almost 70Euro)
Sie zahlen die Miete. (I pay the rent)
Er zahlt mit der Kreditkarte. (He pays with credit card)

What is bezahlen?

bezahlento pay; to pay for/up; to make-up; to settle

PronounsPresent TensePerfect Tense
ichbezahlehabe bezahlt
dubezahlsthast bezahlt
er/sie/esbezahlthat  bezahlt
wirbezahlenhaben bezahlt
ihrbezahlthabt bezahlt
Siebezahlenhaben bezahlt
siebezahlenhaben bezahlt

On the other hand with bezahlen, it also means “to pay” but is used in different situations.

This verb is used if you are paying money to someone, or when you receive an item or a service and give money in exchange.

So when I buy something I pay for the product. I buy a jacket and at the check-out, I pay for the jacket.“Man bezahlt ein Produkt, eine Ware oder eine Dienstleistung.

Other examples:
Wer bezalht die Rechnung? (Who pays the bill?)
Der Mann hat mich 30Euro bezahlt. (The man paid me 30 Euro)

You can pay money or a high sum.“Man zahlt Geld/eine hohe Summe/einen Preis für etwas.”

When you use the money and the thing you’re buying in one sentence we can use both.

You can say: He paid a lot of money for the painting using either bezahlt or gezahlt. Because the payment can refer to the money or painting.“Er hat viel Geld für das Gemälde bezahlt/gezahlt.In these cases you can use either zahlen or bezahlen – both are correct.

In everyday language zahlen and bezahlen are very frequently used synonymously. For instance, at a restaurant or in a cafe. You say, could I pay please, using zahlen or bezahlen.

Some people also say they want to “zahlen” their coffee.“ (einen Kaffee) zahlen/bezahlen” In everyday language that’s okay.

The only situation where zahlen really doesn’t work is when we pay a person, meaning when we give a person money for something they do.“Der Mann wird für seine Arbeit bezahlt.” (The man will pay for his work.)

Accordingly, I can say I pay the money for rent using zahlen or bezahlen. And I can say I pay my landlord using bezahlen.“Ich bezahle die Miete.”“Ich zahle die Miete”(I pay the rent) or “Ich bezahle meinen Vermieter” (I pay my landlord)

But I cannot say that I pay my landlord and use zahlen here. That would be incorrect.


So, now you learned the difference between zahlen and bezahlen and how you can use it in a German sentence correctly.

Learning German language is really hard and confusing, but with the proper german courses, lessons and exercises, you will learn it in no time.

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