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扰乱 harass; disturb; create confusion; cause havoc with; mess up; perturb

捣乱 to disturb; to look for trouble; to stir up a row; to bother sb intentionally

  • see jukuu for when to use which, "汉语水平考试词典" (动)[义2]故意制造(贬)(harass;disturb):你可别~鬼!|别在这里瞎~鼓! 捣乱 [动宾](离合词)[义2](1)制造混乱;进行破坏(create a disturbance):对那些故意~的球迷要提高警惕。(2)故意找别人麻烦(make trouble):这孩子总是跟我~,不让我安心看书|你在这儿捣什么乱! 扰乱 (动)[后补(形容词"乱"当作"扰"的补语)]干扰,打扰,使之混乱或不安(harass;disturb):你别胡说八道~我的意思|一连串的盗窃案件已经~了本市的治安局面。 – user6065 Jul 21 '17 at 1:47
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  • in 扰乱 carries the meaning of 'to disturb'; 'to disrupt'

  • in 捣乱 carries the meaning of 'to smash; to crush'

扰乱(to disturb; to disrupt) is usually in non-physical, non-violent forms

When you talk with your classmate during class, you are disrupting (扰乱) the normal flow of the class

when you look over someone's shoulder while he write, you are disrupting (扰乱) his concentration.

~

捣乱 (to create a disturbance) is often in physical, violent forms

When you go smashing up a bar, it is an act of 捣乱 (to create a disturbance)

When you trashing someone's house, it is also an act of 捣乱 (to create a disturbance)

Of course your teacher may consider you and your classmate's disrupting action as 捣乱, in a metaphorically sense.

On the other hand, when the police arrest you for smashing up a bar, you cannot say you are merely disrupting (扰乱) its business. It is more serious than just getting drunk and talked loud.

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扰乱 is followed by a noun, to elaborate what you are disturbing,

where as 捣乱 doesn't have to be.

e.g.

小明, 别捣乱。Xiao Ming, Stop messing around.

you can't say

小明, 别扰乱。Xiao Ming, Stop disturbing...., because stop disturbing...what?

So you have to follow it by a noun.

别扰乱别人上课。Stop disturbing the class.

别扰乱我的生活。Stop disturbing my life.

I think this is the biggest difference.

Apart from this, in everyday speaking, 捣乱 is a less serious term, it is usually used when nothing serious happens, i hear this term usually in classes where a teacher asks a student to simply stop messing around or between friends where you just want him to stop playing around when you want to concentrate on something.

Where if you use 扰乱, it means it is a bit more serious, used when the teacher really wants you to stop disturbing the class or you really means he/she is disturbing you on something.

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