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  • Writer's pictureSarah

The Difference Between "Funktionieren" and "Arbeiten" in German

When learning a new language, especially a complex one like German, it's common to come across words that may seem similar but have distinct meanings. Two such words in German are "funktionieren" and "arbeiten." While both words can be translated to "work" or "function" in English, they are used in different contexts and carry different nuances. In this blog, we'll explore the differences between these two words and how to use them correctly.


The word "funktionieren" primarily means "to function" or "to work" in the sense of something operating or performing as expected. It is commonly used for objects, machines, systems, or even plans. When you want to describe that something is working correctly or efficiently, "funktionieren" is the word to use.

  • Die Uhr funktioniert einwandfrei. (The watch works perfectly.)

  • Unser Team muss gut funktionieren, um das Projekt abzuschließen. (Our team needs to work well together to complete the project.)


On the other hand, "arbeiten" translates to "to work" or "to labour." This verb is typically used when referring to human actions or efforts. It signifies the act of engaging in labour or employment, either mentally or physically. It can also apply to working on tasks, projects, or jobs.

  • Ich arbeite von neun bis fünf. (I work from nine to five.)

  • Er arbeitet an einem wichtigen Bericht. (He is working on an important report.)

In summary, "funktionieren" emphasises the idea of something working correctly or efficiently, while "arbeiten" relates to human work or labour. Using these words accurately is essential for effective communication in German. So, whether you're describing a well-functioning machine or your work schedule, choose the right verb to convey your message clearly.

Read more blogs!

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Are Germans Really Punctual? Exploring German Punctuality: Fact or Fiction?

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