3 useful German prefixes: ein, aus, um

 3 useful German prefixes: ein, aus, um

In today’s post I’d like to tell you about the three prefixes ein-, aus-, and um-.

When added to a verb they change the meaning of that verb. Sometimes the new meanings belong to the same ideas. For example:

  • steigen – to rise, climb     ⇒    einsteigen, aussteigen, umsteigen – get on (a train …), get off, change (transport)
  • bauen – to build    ⇒    einbauen, ausbauen, umbauen – install, extend, convert
  • ziehen – to pull    ⇒    einziehen, ausziehen, umziehen – move in, move out, move
  • laden – to load     ⇒    einladen, ausladen, umladen – load, unload and reload, but ein- and ausladen can also mean invite and uninvite.
  • schalten – to switch    ⇒     einschalten, ausschalten, umschalten – switch on (TV), switch off, switch channels
  • tauschen – to swap    ⇒     eintauschen, austauschen, umtauschen – all three mean to change or swap
  • füllen – to fill    ⇒    einfüllen, ausfüllen, umfüllen – to fill (a container), fill (a form), decant

Whereas other verbs could mean completely different things:

  • fahren – to drive    ⇒    einfahren, ausfahren, umfahren – make or drive in, extend or drive out, bypass or drive around
  • schreiben – to write    ⇒    einschreiben, ausschreiben, umschreiben – inscribe, tender, rewrite
  • stellen – to put    ⇒     einstellen, ausstellen, umstellen – employ, exhibit, rearrange
  • fallen – to fall    ⇒    einfallen, ausfallen, umfallen – invade, fail, fall over
  • arbeiten – to work    ⇒    einarbeiten, ausarbeiten, umarbeiten – incorporate, plan, rework
  • kehren – to sweep    ⇒    einkehren, auskehren, umkehren –  stop by a pub, sweep out, return
  • setzten – to put/place    ⇒    einsetzen, aussetzen, umsetzen – insert, abandon, relocate

Of course, don’t forget that – in true German style – some verbs have several meanings. But we don’t want to make it too complicated, so here is a simplified infographic. Enjoy!

Now all you need to remember is that those verbs are separable verbs and in the present tense the prefix goes to the end of the sentence or clause.

Let’s take ‘einziehen’ to give you some reminders:

  • Ich ziehe am Montag in meine neue Wohnung ein.
  • Gestern bin ich in mein neues Haus eingezogen.
  • Ich möchte endlich in meine neue Wohnung einziehen, aber die alten Mieter sind noch nicht ausgezogen.

Can you think of a really nice sentence with one of those verbs? I’d love to see them  in the comments.

If this post has made you more interested in learning about German verbconjugations in the present tense, have a look at my online course German tenses 1 – the present tense

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