Many German learners want to know what "to clean" is. The verb "to clean" in German is putzen. However putzen is something very specific in German--it may not be what you think!
For Germans, putzen is the actual process of cleaning, and nothing else. Americans think of cleaning as vacuuming, putting away books that might be laying about, doing the laundry, and any other amount of things. However putzen does not indicate that things are being picked up. This is something different entirely.
Most Germans keep things picked up all the time, they are German after all. (Although I have seen some notable exceptions to this!) To pick up around the house or to clean off the table is aufräumen.
Because Germans are very specific about verbs and their uses, it's important to keep this in mind when you use the verbs aufräumen and putzen. Here is a short list for each of these verbs to help you know when to apply it:
- picking up clothes
- clearing off a table
- organizing papers on a desk
- organizing your desk
- vacuuming and washing the floors
- cleaning the bathroom
- washing windows
- polishing shoes (!)
- washing fruit
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