Schwer or schwierig?

Schwer and schwierig don't always have the same meaning.

Schwierig means “difficult” and is the opposite of einfach (easy).

Der Test war schwierig.

The test was difficult.

Englisch lernen finde ich schwierig

I find learning English difficult.

Mit Kindern ist das Reisen schwierig.

Traveling with kids is difficult.

Schwer can have different meanings, depending on the context:

  • Weight (=“heavy“)

Mein Koffer ist schwer.

My suitcase is heavy.

  • Extent or scope (=“severe, serious“)

Es war ein schweres Erdbeben. 

It was a severe earthquake.

Sie ist schwer verletzt. 

She is seriously injured.

  • Certain expressions

Es fällt mir schwer, mich an die Kultur zu gewöhnen.

I find it difficult to get used to the culture.

Das ist eine schwere Mahlzeit.

This is a heavy meal.

Note: schwer can often be used to mean schwierig in informal language, in contexts such as:

Er ist schwierig zu verstehen. → Er ist schwer zu verstehen.

It is difficult/hard to understand.

Die Prüfung war schwierig. → Die Prüfung war schwer.

The test was difficult/hard.

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