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I saw these two words in my vocabulary book but I don't know how to translate and distinguish them. The book is a Fle vocabulary book and entirely written in french so there are no translations.

I tried to translate them myself but I can't see the difference between these two words. In German they can be both translated with ausstreuen, zerstreuen and in English with to scatter and to spread out. Is there a difference in how you use them?

There are the following examples with the two words:

Malheureusement, les tableaux sont éparpillés dans le monde entier.

Les informations sont disséminées dans les archives.

Au moment de Pâques on disséminé/éparpillé des œufs en chocolat dans les jardins.

  • On peut ajouter dispersé – mouviciel Jul 24 '18 at 9:53
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The two words are very close. I can find examples were one is much more used than the other (like disséminer with indices), but it's hard to find some kind of "rule of thumb" as to which one to choose.

To me, éparpiller is more associated with a messy, involuntary scatter, while disséminer can be more voluntary, like carefully hiding clues here and there, for example.

Éparpiller is also slightly negative, like it's not the goal, the "things" were supposed to stay grouped. Whereas disséminer fits more when it's a "good thing" that the things are spread everywhere. It's in accordance with the voluntary vs involuntary thing.

It's not a strong "rule" though, take it with a grain of salt. But it fits in most examples.

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