essen vs. fressen

All I know is that my German teacher told us 'people essen, and animals fressen. Both words mean 'to eat' if you don't get it.

Isn't there some other, subtle difference between these two words?
 
  • spinetta

    Member
    Italian
    I don't know if there are subtler differences, as far as I know your teacher's explanation summed up everything.

    You use fressen for human beings when someone is gorging or eating in a less than human manner -but this tooo boils down to that human-animal differentiation.
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Sometimes where German uses fressen instead of essen, in English you would say eat up instead of just eat...

    ...which, admittedly, could translate back into German as aufessen and auffressen, so hmm...
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    "To eat up" is "aufessen" as far as I understand. "Aufessen" is no insult. My mother said: "Du musst aufessen!" or "Du musst deinen Teller leer essen!"
    This might be wrong in long terms because of the weight but is no insult.

    "Auffressen" is coarse (insulting) in this context when applied to human beings. No mother ever would say to her child: "Du musst deinen Teller leerfressen." or "Du musst auffressen!"

    "Fressen" - when applied to human beings is mostly an insult.

    "Du frisst wie ein Schwein!" - here you have the direct comparison to an animal. It means you are not eating normally but the meal lands partly on the table and on your skirt. You may eat too fast and too much but mostly this is related to the behavior during eating. This is very insulting.

    Du isst nicht - du frisst!
    This is also an insult but related to the high amount and sometimes to the high speed of eating.

    There is one fixed idiom I know, where it is no insult, but neither it is "educated" speaking:

    "Wann gibt's endlich was zu fressen?" - coll. and not to be used if you are not really very hungry.
    It means: "I'm hungry. When the hell will I get my meal?" (I did not translate the style here.)

    Another idiom is a hint to a child:

    "Friss nicht, iss anständig!"
    "Do not eat like an animal, eat like an educated human being."

    "Seinen Kummer in sich hineinfressen" - here "fressen" is appropriate and not coarse. To suffer sorrows and tell nobody. (Can I say so in English?)

    There was a change in usage during the last 100 years.

    Grimms "Deutsches Wörterbuch" http://germazope.uni-trier.de/Projects/WBB/woerterbuecher/dwb/... states:
    fressen ist aufessen, verzehren, ganz verschlingen, vorare, devorare, während essen häufig den partitivbegrif hat und davon essen ausdrückt, also oft den gen.(Genuss) der sache erfordert (gramm. 4, 649), fressen fast nur den acc. da nun die thiere das ihnen hingeworfne futter, die ihnen zu theil gewordne speise verschlingen und verzehren, so bezieht sich auf sie die stärkere, rohere vorstellung des fressens.
    Note: Grimm used an old spelling. He states "Fressen" is to eat up, to consume, to engorge. "Essen" requires enjoyment, while "fressen" was just the mechanical part.

    das thier friszt, der mensch iszt, und erst wenn er thierisch einschlingt, wird ihm auch fressen beigelegt, Nebucadnezar, wild geworden, frasz gras wie ochsen. Dan. 5, 21. begreiflich erfährt dieser sprachgebrauch viele ausnahmen und oft heiszt es von thieren, besonders kleinen, zierlichen, dasz sie essen, wie umgekehrt fressen von menschen gilt im sinne des verzehrens, aufzehrens.
    Already in this time Grimm states the usage "Der Mensch isst, das Tier frisst."

    But he also states a lot of exceptions.
    Sometimes "essen" is also used for animals - especially if they are small and cute, (I would say like pets).

    ---

    "Fressen" is also used in some other contexts, "(sich einfressen" "Der Fluss frisst sich in den Boden ein.")
    "Zerfressen" "die Oberfläche ist ganz zerfressen."
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    This isn't really a subtlety, but some Germans use "fressen" to insult or tease someone - basically saying they eat like an animal. Just thought it would be good to note.
    Absolutely right. Using "fressen" with reference to a human is a severe insult. As Hutschi noted, there are cases where “fressen” is not insulting. But you have to be careful because an only slightly misplaced used will be offensive.
     

    verbivoracious

    New Member
    English, USA
    Is there a similar difference in verbs for the act of drinking? For example, would a person drinking water and an animal drinking water use the same verb?
     
    Allow me to put two more cents in this thread.
    There are some idiomatic connotations of fressen:

    - jemanden zum Fressen gern haben = to like someone very, very, very much

    - jemanden gefressen haben = to not like someone at all
     

    Toadie

    Senior Member
    English
    I can't help but ponder the situation when you could use 'fressen' as an insult... Dinner party conversation gone wrong? I guess it's as they say; keep your friends close and your enemies closer!

    Really, though, when would someone ever use this as an insult?


    @Bahiano: Very, very, very much indeed...
     

    Igel

    Member
    German - Germany
    Not everyone would necessarily use "fressen" for the act of eating in an animal. Different words are generally used for human animals and other animals in order to reflect the difference in status. People who care about the status of animals in society and want to abolish human domination of animals will use "essen" also when speaking about animals. Others might apply it only to their pets.

    There's another word to refer to eating, "futtern". Used for animals it doesn't sound as harsh as "fressen", and it can be used for humans as well in a humorous way.
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    Not everyone would necessarily use "fressen" for the act of eating in an animal. Different words are generally used for human animals and other animals in order to reflect the difference in status. People who care about the status of animals in society and want to abolish human domination of animals will use "essen" also when speaking about animals. Others might apply it only to their pets.

    There's another word to refer to eating, "futtern". Used for animals it doesn't sound as harsh as "fressen", and it can be used for humans as well in a humorous way.
    Can you give any sources? I never heard this outside of satirical texts, fairy tales or similar texts.
    It is interesting.
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    It is interesting. I just saw the movie "Himelskibet" from 1918. The earth people ate flesh and the Mars people fruits.
    They considered killing a beast as murder.

    In such a society, I suppose, "essen" and "fressen" have no difference.

    Another thing to consider: The human being - animal contrast between "essen" and "fressen" has undergone language changes. As far as I remember, I read an essay that "fressen" was not used pejorative for human in earlier times.
     

    Kumpel

    Senior Member
    British English
    The problem is that only those who know that in English a 'frogeater' is a French would appreciate the pun...
    When I first read it, I thought it odd that both the English and the Germans call the French frog-eaters. From what you're saying, the Germans don't do this. But I hope it still gets my point across...
     

    TheHof123

    New Member
    English
    I can't help but ponder the situation when you could use 'fressen' as an insult... Dinner party conversation gone wrong? I guess it's as they say; keep your friends close and your enemies closer!

    Really, though, when would someone ever use this as an insult?


    @Bahiano: Very, very, very much indeed...
    It's a device mainly used by the British, called Self-Deprecation. It is basically where you would say something like:

    'Oh, I'm a pig!' as you help yourself to lots of food.

    It's sort of like you're insulting yourself, but it's sort of comical too. However, in most other countries, self-deprecation is seen as a terrible thing, such as in France, if you were to say 'Oh I'm a pig!' in a restaurant in France, everyone would stare at you, shocked.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I think of fressen as to devour. To swallow or eat up voraciously - also greedily and/or rapidly.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    That goes beyond the uses of "fressen" that I've seen. Can someone confirm one way or the other? Thanks.
    Yes, I can confirm that. The German "fressen" has no connotation of "to hunt". Only "jagen" has a connotation and implied meaning of "to seek prey (for the purpose of feeding)" when it is used in the right context, similar to the English counterpart "to hunt".
     

    DustyStar

    New Member
    English - England
    Ich mag dieses deutsche Wort 'fressen' sehr. Ich möchte es in die englische Sprache vorstellen, da wir im Englischen den gleichen Unterschied nicht erkennen. Ich würde es auch dann gerne scherzend sagen, wenn ein Freund/eine Freundin von mir oder auch ich selbst ganz wie eine Bestie (fr)isst :D
     
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    DustyStar

    New Member
    English - England
    Schon existiert: #23 - devour; feed (Kajjo - oben) und 'feed on.'
    I don't quite think so. While those expressions might be more closely associated with animals that the verb 'to eat' (although of course we use 'to eat' for animals too), I don't think there is the same distinction as there is in German. It's true they take on an animalistic tone, but I think they are more acceptably applied to humans.
     

    DustyStar

    New Member
    English - England
    I don't quite think so. While those expressions might be more closely associated with animals that the verb 'to eat' (although of course we use 'to eat' for animals too), I don't think there is the same distinction as there is in German. It's true they take on an animalistic tone, but I think they are more acceptably applied to humans.

    The other thing is people are talking about 'fressen' being used as an insult. Yet in its every day use, the distinction between German and English is even more clear if I understand it correctly. If a human is simply eating normally, 'essen' is used, and if an animal is eating normally 'fressen' is used. Please correct me if I am wrong. But I suppose the point is people don't routinely refer to their cats devouring their food unless they are extremely hungry (just as a particularly human could be described in such a way). Usually, in English, you just say your cat is eating its food.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    So, you would want a verb to insult people? :D

    Yes, your cat eats, not "freats" and whereas I appreciate the difference, there seems little point in having a verb to separate human and other animals in drinking and eating, other than having a ability to insult that English has already by comparison or other verbs 'to eat in an objectionable manner.'

    The verbs that I and Kajjo mentioned are all more applicable to animals, although, I realise, not exclusively so.
     
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    DustyStar

    New Member
    English - England
    So, you would want a verb to insult people? :D

    Yes, your cat eats, not "freats" and whereas I appreciate the difference, there seems little point in having a verb to separate human and other animals in drinking and eating, other than having a ability to insult that English has already by comparison or other verbs 'to eat in an objectionable manner.'

    The verbs that I and Kajjo mentioned are all more applicable to animals, although, I realise, not exclusively so.

    Sorry I didn't see the rest of your message initially. Yes I suppose I agree with you, I don't think a different verb for humans and animals eating is that interesting in itself, even if it does represent a novelty for native English speakers. I do just like the word 'fressen', and already use it jokingly with one English friend to talk about ourselves eating as we also like to joke about being a bit beastly :D. Funnily enough we also discussed the idea of the word 'freat' :D
     

    DustyStar

    New Member
    English - England
    Sorry I didn't see the rest of your message initially. Yes I suppose I agree with you, I don't think a different verb for humans and animals eating is that interesting in itself, even if it does represent a novelty for native English speakers. I do just like the word 'fressen', and already use it jokingly with one English friend to talk about ourselves eating as we also like to joke about being a bit beastly :D. Funnily enough we also discussed the idea of the word 'freat' :D

    I suppose the thing is though, German does see a point in differentiating the two words, so we have to respect that, and it's not ultimately about being insulting. The language simply marks a difference between an animal and a human eating.
     

    DustyStar

    New Member
    English - England
    I suppose the thing is though, German does see a point in differentiating the two words, so we have to respect that, and it's not ultimately about being insulting. The language simply marks a difference between an animal and a human eating.

    I suppose we could wonder the same about marking a difference between 'humans' and 'animals' (which is obviously supposed to encompass many non-human beings) in the first place.
     

    Frank78

    Senior Member
    German
    Sorry I didn't see the rest of your message initially. Yes I suppose I agree with you, I don't think a different verb for humans and animals eating is that interesting in itself, even if it does represent a novelty for native English speakers. I do just like the word 'fressen', and already use it jokingly with one English friend to talk about ourselves eating as we also like to joke about being a bit beastly :D. Funnily enough we also discussed the idea of the word 'freat' :D
    The basic distinction is not human vs. animal but eating every bit of food up quickly vs. enjoying your meal in a cultivated manner.

    There is also "to fret" in English which comes from OE "fretan" (to eat up, to devour).
     

    DustyStar

    New Member
    English - England
    The basic distinction is not human vs. animal but eating every bit of food up quickly vs. enjoying your meal in a cultivated manner.

    There is also "to fret" in English which comes from OE "fretan" (to eat up, to devour).
    The basic distinction is not human vs. animal but eating every bit of food up quickly vs. enjoying your meal in a cultivated manner.

    There is also "to fret" in English which comes from OE "fretan" (to eat up, to devour).

    Right ok so it is more akin to English then after all.

    I understand 'to fret' to have a totally different meaning now though, as in to worry excessively. But it makes sense that it is related to 'fressen'. I guess it basically means 'to be eaten up by worry' then?
     

    Frieder

    Senior Member
    I understand 'to fret' to have a totally different meaning now though, as in to worry excessively.
    We have the term "etwas in sich hineinfressen". Literally it means to eat something into yourself. You don't show to anyone what's eating(!) you. You just eat it into yourself, you just swallow it and go on with a smile on your face.
    I guess it basically means 'to be eaten up by worry' then?:tick:
    Apart from that I'd never say "er/sie isst sein Futter" of a cat or a dog. With animals – even with pets, even the most loved ones – it's always fressen. No vilification in that.
     
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