German grammar: prefixes

Halli hallo!

Are there any tutors or students around with good tips :bulb: to remember which prefixes to use in German?
I am really struggling remembering words like: ausflug, abflug, aufzuz, anzug, etc.
To me they all look the same! :tired_face:

Or maybe there is an explanation for when to use each of them: “aus-”, “an-”, “ab-”, etc.

Vielen Dank! :pray:


The prefixes have a certain own meaning. “aus” is like “out”, “auf” is like “up”, “an” is like “on” and “ab” is like “away”. I hope, that this tip can help you with the prefixes.


Vielen Dank Brigitte! It does help a lot!!

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But be careful with the reflexiv verbs: “umziehen” vs. “sich umziehen” or “ausziehen” vs. “sich ausziehen”. That can be confusing at times although it’s the same prefix :wink:

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:fearful: What would be the difference between them ?

“umziehen” = to move (to another apartment etc.)
“sich umziehen” = change clothes
The same thing is with “ausziehen”:
“ausziehen” = “to move away”
“sich ausziehen” = “to undress”.
So, be careful… :wink:


Ha ha thanks! I see why I need to be careful :grin:

“Der Teufel steckt im Detail.” - often used proverb

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sich umziehen und sich ausziehen are flexiv verbs, that means the verb is related to the own person. Ich ziehe mich um/ aus.
But umziehen means moving away and ausziehen moving out.


The prefixes are really tricky, but also not impossible! I’ve sometimes heard people compare them to phrasal verbs in English (which are equally as frustrating).

The good thing is, you don’t need to understand what the prefixes mean. Nobody does. Often, the prefixes are prepositions like up, out, down, under, over,… But the best way to go about prefixes is to learn the words as they are.
In English, you don’t think of understand as standing under a bridge. Similarly, don’t learn Ausflug as out-flight, because you’ll probably think of flying away somewhere when your German friend just wants to go to the lake nearby :laughing:

One prefix I think is worth mentioning, that is so elusive and NEVER makes sense, is ver-. I’m a huge fan of it, because it’s so weird. It is very versatile (sorry, pun), it can totally change the meaning of a word. It even implies a meaning of changing something, perhaps doing something wrong. Just to illustrate why you should just learn the words as they are…

laufen = walk/run -> verlaufen = get lost/walk the wrong way
stehen = stand -> verstehen = understand (just as weird in English)
sprechen = speak -> versprechen = misspeak OR promise :woman_shrugging:

I totally digressed there, and I apologise. Main message is, don’t worry about prefixes because they don’t care about you either :sob::laughing: