Is there some sort of bigger difference between the two? I tried reading some example sentences, but couldn't distinguish between them. The level of politeness perhaps?

2 Answers 2


「[間違]{まちが}える」 and 「[誤]{あやま}る」 are interchangeable much of the time as far as meaning goes, but that does not mean we use the two equally often.

Native speakers learn to actively use 「間違える」 years before they learn to use 「誤る」. So, even into their adult life, they use 「間違える」 much more often in informal conversation and writing.

「誤る」, therefore, sounds less informal and conversational. It is more often used in writing than in speaking.

When saying "Oops! Made a mistake!" without thinkning, nearly everyone would say 「間違えた!」 or 「間違えちゃった!」. I could not imagine a native speaker saying 「誤った!」 or「誤っちゃった!」 in that situation. That would be very, very rare.

Exception: When are they not interchangeable for meaning?

When expressing something like "to take the wrong path", it can be tricky.

「[道]{みち}を誤る」 would mean "To take the wrong path (and become delinquent, anti-social, etc.)"

「道を間違える」 would mean "to take the wrong street".


I usually think of it as...

間違える > To make a mistake

誤る > To make an error / to err

You can also say things like...

間違いなどがあれば、 > If there are mistakes,

誤りがあれば、 > If there are errors / typos,

A more polite email might use 誤る but it wouldn't be particularly out of place to use 間違い in either case (informal or polite).

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