Die Polizei untersucht den Zwischenfall.

This is an example of how / where German seems to make more distinctions between words than English. We have “incident” and “accident” but German has Zwischenfall, Vorfall, and Unfall.

Is “Zwischenfall” less “bad” than “Unfall” but more “bad” than “Vorfall”? Or are there some other distinctions that I’m missing here?

Unfall is always something physical, Zwischen-/Vorfall are not necessarily physical. There is no strong difference between those two, Zwischenfall however implies that it didn’t interrupt ‘ongoing proceedings’.

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