How Germans say "to reach"

The English word “to reach” can have several different meanings, to which there are several different German equivalents:

– “erreichen”: This word can be used to describe physically reaching something, like a destination or the cookie jar on the shelf. It can also be used in the sense of reaching someone on the phone, and to describe accomplishing something (i.e. reach a goal).

– “reichen”: This word is used to describe holding something for someone to take, or to physically offer or serve a guest. This word can also be used for the meaning of “to extend”, “stretch” or “sprawl” when describing the expanse of a physical location or object.

– “gelangen”: This word is a bit formal and used most commonly in writing, and it means to reach a goal, a conclusion, a destination, or a desired condition.

– “erzielen”: Here, the meaning is narrow and restricted to arriving at success or agreement.


– “Wir haben das Ziel erreicht.” – “We’ve reached the goal/destination.”
– “Ich kann es nicht erreichen. Meine Arme sind zu kurz.” – “I can’t reach it. My arms are too short.”
– “Kannst du mir den Spargel reichen?” – essentially “Could you pass the asparagus (to me)?”
– “Er hat mir die Hand gereicht.” – “He reached out his hand (to me).”
– “Wir werden zu einer Entscheidung gelangen.” – “We will reach a decision.”
– “Wir haben den Erfolg erzielt.” – “We’ve arrived at success.”

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