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Eröffnen vs. Öffnen

There are a couple of different verbs that translate as "to open" in German, in particular the two above, which can cause some confusion. When do we use eröffnen and when do we use öffnen?


Consider this: The verb eröffnen can be translated not only as "to open," but also as "to institute,” "to establish," “to inaugurate,” or even "to commence" or "to disclose." You will see eröffnen used in connection with non-physical entities, or anything that could also be described using these other translations, such as a museum or a shop. The reading of a person's will in German is die Testamentseröffnung, and as you see in the third sentence below, the verb eröffnen is even used to describe congressional proceedings.


Zweitausendsechs hat das Museum eröffnet,

The museum opened in two thousand six,

inzwischen stehen hier mehr als hundertfünfzig Flipper.

meanwhile there are more than one hundred fifty pinball machines here.

Captions 6-7, Flipperautomaten - Kunstwerke für flinke Kugeln

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Hallo, ja, guten Tag. Ich möchte gern ein Bankkonto eröffnen.

Hello, yes, good day. I would like to open a bank account.

Caption 12, Eva erklärt - Bankkonten

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Sobald Sie Platz genommen haben, würde ich gerne die unterbrochene Sitzung wieder eröffnen.

As soon as you've taken your seats, I would like to re-open the suspended session.

Captions 1-2, Bundesregierung - Vereidigung der Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel

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The verb öffnen, on the other hand, is used with objects, such as a door, a letter, a bottle, or an umbrella. In everyday spoken German, öffnen is often replaced with aufmachen


Wann wurde die Mauer in Berlin für alle geöffnet?

When was the wall in Berlin opened for all?

Caption 36, Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Einbürgerungstest

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Die Polizei sagt, er solle seinen Kofferraum aufmachen.

The police [officer] says he should open his trunk.

Caption 4, Sabine erzählt Witze - Die Pinguine

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Further Learning
Browse through the many instances of eröffnen, öffnen, and aufmachen that can be found on Yabla German to get more clarity on which verb is used when. You can search not only for the infinitive, but also the conjugated verbs and the participles eröffnet, geöffnet, and aufgemacht.

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