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What Is The Difference Between Brauchen and Müssen in German?

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

The two German verbs "brauchen" and "müssen" are widely considered to have the same meaning, but that's actually incorrect. Not only do their meanings differ in one important respect, they are also used differently from a grammatical perspective. In this blog post, I will explain both- the meanings of the two verbs and how they are being used.

As a modal verb, müssen goes with main verb in the infinitive form at the end of the sentence. It translates as both "to need do" and "to have to". I wrote a blog post explaining the difference müssen and must. So you might want to check it out. Brauchen, on the other hand, goes with a noun in the accusative case and translates as "to need". So brauchen merely shares one of its meanings with müssen and is normally confined to nouns rather than verbs.

As a result of their shared meaning ("need"), many ideas can be expressed by using either brauchen or müssen.

Ich brauche deine Hilfe.

(I need your help)

Du musst mir helfen.

(You need to help me)

Sie braucht mehr Zeit.

(She needs more time)

Sie muss mehr Zeit haben.

(She needs to have more time)

However, not everything can be communicated with both verbs, especially when the müssen translates as "to have to".

Sie müssen anhalten!

(You have to stop)

There is only one situation, in which brauchen can be used with zu+infinitive of a verb and that is in a negation.

Ich brauche Ihnen nicht zu helfen.

(I don’t need to help you)

Ich brauche dich nicht daran zu erinnern, dass du Hausaufgaben machen solltest.

(I don’t need to remind you that you should do your homework)

On our German language blog "Auf Deutsch, bitte!", you will find the answers to your questions concerning German grammar- from how to structure sentences in German to how to use German articles. So check out our other posts now.


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