Prefix Verbs Explained – “abhängen”

abhaengen-meaning-dependHello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode Prefix Verbs Explained. Imagine a verb you can use in the following 4 contexts: talking about dependencies, car chases, doing laundry and chillin’ with the crew. Is that too crazy? Well, that depends on the language. For German, verbs like that are bread and butter business :). Ladies and Gentlemen get ready for a look


Ab has two notions that it can add to a verb, separation-ness (we could also call it off-ness) and downward-ness. They can create distinct meanings but in combination with hängen (to hang) they kind of blend together. To hang has both ideas in it anyway. I mean, hanging from the ceiling means not being directly at the ceiling, so there’s the separation and of course you can only hang downward. Well, okay unless you’re in space. There, you can hang allward. Or was it anyward? Oh boy… I think the bs-express just arrived. I really thought I’d lost him.

So anyway, abhängen looks a lot like to hang off.   And if you have some experience with German prefix verbs you’ll know that it’s NOT gonna be the translation. The meanings of prefix verbs just aren’t that literal, usually. But abhängen actually is the literal translation of an English word: to depend. 
The base of depend is the Latin verb pendere, which is also the base of words like suspend, appendix or pendulum. And now guess what the verb meant… drumroll… it meant  to hang. So depend is really the exact same as abhängen… pend (to hang) combined with  de (idea of separation).
And the use of the verbs is really pretty similar. Only that you depend ON while you abhängen VON

  • Das hängt ein bisschen vom Wetter ab.
  • That depends a little on the weather.
  • Das hängt davon ab, wie müde ich bin.
  • That depends on how tired I am.

Abhängen is just as useful and common as depend and the same goes for the related words.

  • Das Trinkgeld ist von der Servicequalität abhängig.
  • The tip is dependent on the quality of service. (literal)
  • Das Kino macht immer eine Pause im Film, völlig unabhängig davon, ob es Sinn macht oder nicht.
  • The cinema always makes a break, no matter/irrespective of whether it makes sense or not.
  • Am 4 Juli feiert die USA Unabhängigkeitstag.
  • On the 4th of July the USA celebrates  Independence Day.

Depend is definitely the most common and most important use of abhängen. But as I mentioned in the beginning, there are 4 meanings in total, so three more to go. Here they are:  to lose in sense of losing a pursuer, to take down laundry and to hang around/chill (with friends).
A really random collection of contexts and yet they all make sense.  I mean, you hang up your laundry so you can also “hang it off”. And as for losing a pursuer…  just think of a trailer. It hangs on your car and follows you everywhere. And when you “abhängen” it, it’ll not be after you anymore.
So, not super logical but I hope you can see the connections.

  • Wir haben den Verfolger abgehängt.
  • We lost the tail.
  • Die Serie hat die Konkurrenz abgehängt.
  • The show/TV-series has clearly outperformed the competition.
  • Maria hängt die Wäsche, die Thomas aufgehängt hat, ab.
  • Maria takes down/unhangs the laundry Thomas had hung up.
  • Nach der Schule hängen wir immer im Park ab.
  • After school we’re always chilling/hanging out in the park.
  • Wo wir abhängen, hängt vom Wetter ab.
  • Where we hang out depends on the weather.

All of them are common in their respective domain but abhängen in sense of hanging out definitely sounds a bit like juvenile slang. So if you tell your kids that you’ll go abhängen with the peeps from the grind.. that won’t come across as authentic as you think.

All right. Now before we get to see the verb that actually does mean “to hang off/down” (yes, the r-version), there’s one little tiny bit of grammar we need to talk about. Abhängen actually has not one but two ge-forms – abgehängt and abgehangen. That is because hängen itself has two ge-forms. Gehängt is used whenever there’s a direct object, so when you hang something. Gehangen is used if you just hang.

  • Ich habe meine Jacke über den Stuhl gehängt.
  • I hung my jacket over the chair.
  • Die Jacke hat über dem Stuhl gehangen.
  • The jacket hung over the chair.

You can use gehangen for gehängt and it’ll sound okay-ish but you cannot use gehängt where you’d need gehangen… that would sound quite wrong.
And it’s the same for abhängen. For laundry and a pursuer you’d use abgehängt because there you have a direct object. For to depend and to hang out you’d use abgehangen.
Oh and that reminds me of something else. Abhängen in sense of to depend is actually one of those verbs that people tend to use the real past with instead of the spoken past. So instead of saying

  • Das hat vom Wetter abgehangen.

you’d say

  • Das hing vom Wetter ab.

The first one is not wrong but the second version is much more idiomatic. Now you’re like “Please Emanuel… are there more verbs like this where we need the real past even in spoken? If so, can you give us a list? Pleeeeaaase.”
But I’m just like “Let’s now get to the r-version of abhängen.”
Awwww… look at all those frowns :)


If you’ve read a few posts here you might be wondering if there’s rabhängen. But for some reason verbs with ab-  always have only a her-version. The effect is the same though. The meaning of herabhängen is the most literal interpretation of the combination of hängen and abhanging off or hanging down.

  • Große Eiszapfen hängen von den Dächern herab.
  • Large icicles are hanging down from the roofs.
  • Manchmal habe ich das Gefühl, Merkel hat herabhängende Mundwinkel.
  • Sometimes I have the feeling that Merkel has a drooping mouth.

It does sounds a little tiny bit formal though. Or let’s say literary. In daily life, people are more likely to use runterhängen in most contexts.

And that’s it for today. This was our look at the meanings of abhängen and if you can only remember one thing… remember that it means to depend.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.


Oh and yes… we’ll do that stuff about the past. For the meantime, you can find an incomplete list I compiled here

**abhängen – fact sheet **


  1. to depend (von etwas abhängen)
  2. to lose a pursuer
  3. to hang out/around (slang)
  4. to take down laundry

spoken past:
(1+3): form of haben + abgehangen
(2+4): form of haben + abgehängt

written past stem
hing ab (common in sense of to depend)

related words:
abhängig (dependant, addicted)
drogenabhängig – addicted to drugs
unabhängig (independent)
wetterunabhängig – independent of what the weather is
der Abhang – the slope, drop off
abgehangen (hung/well-hung … for meat only)



4.7 6 votes
Article Rating

Newsletter for free?!

Sign up to my epic newsletter and get notified whenever I post something new :)
(roughly once per week)

No Spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Your Thoughts and Questions

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 months ago

Hi –

All these words seem to overlap but are there any rules of thumb for using them? I feel like verlassen and angewiesen are more about “relying” on someone and ankommen und abhängen are more about a condition being met or not being met

sich auf jdn./etw. verlassen

auf etw angewiesen sein

ankommen auf

abhängen von

Thank you

1 year ago

Vielen Dank, dass Sie diesen Artkel geschrieben haben. Sollte einer Ihrer Beispielsaetze ein Praefix mit dem Wort “haengen” haben:

Ich habe meine Jacke ueber den Stuhl aufgehaengt

In Ihrem Beispiel haben Sie die Vorsilbe “auf” nicht verwendet:

Ich habe meine Jacke ueber den Stuhl gehaengt

Bedeutet der Akt des “Haengens” von etwas nicht “aufhaengen”?

3 years ago

We can use “hangs” in English to mean “depend” , but its vibe is more of “something important critically depends”. Everything might hang on whether Ronaldo is fit, but whether you wear a jacket probably wouldn’t be said to hang on how the weather looks.

The sense of losing pursuers is perhaps better matched to “shake off”, which has that same sense of consigning something downwards…

In German you hang laundry up and then you hang it down. In English we cut a tree down and then we cut it up… (We can have silly prefixes too! )

3 years ago

Oh my God! I just realized. In russian we translate this word as “зависеть”, where “висеть” is translated as hängen. Just another thing that these languages have in common.

3 years ago

Die Jacke hat über dem Stuhl gehangen.
Hat oder ist , emanuel??

6 years ago

Thanks for another great post. I have a question regarding the “spoken past” (and the link; i could not comment there due to lack of reputations).

Is the written past also the way to go, when describing a continuous fact? For example, with English past continuous.
It somehow feels better to me when I want to mention a small incident during a longer past incidence. And, the spoken past sounds like the action is finished (even in past).

I met Sam last year, when I was traveling to London.
Ich habe letztes Jahr Sam getroffen, als ich nach London flug.
Ich habe letztes Jahr Sam getroffen, als ich nach London geflogen bin.

To me, the first one sounds like I met Sam on the way to London and with the second one after arriving in London.

With the verbs ‘stehen’ and ‘legen”, this also works! When something is steh-ing or leg-ing by themselves, its probably a continuous thing. When I do it myself, I steh or leg and I stop there. So, its kind of finished action.

Please correct me if I am wrong. I just wanted to get my logic approved (which is of course derived from my English logic)!


6 years ago

welches Verb benutzt man, wenn man die folgenden Tippfehler macht?

6 years ago

“For meat only”… das heißt, nur für Würste? Oder….

6 years ago

Great article. One question about different words for depend. Could you explain the difference between abhangen and ankommen auf, in the sense of depend? I hear Das kommt darauf an often and understand it to mean, that depends.



6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks, that was really helpful. I’ll take a look at the ankommen article.
I meant also to ask about sich verlassen auf – which I take to mean to depend on, like to depend or rely on someone.

Thanks again,

6 years ago

Hello. I really enjoy reading these explanations about German.
I was wondering if you could explain the difference between wählen and auswählen.
Thank you.e

6 years ago

Eine andere Frage: kannst du mir (uns allen) ein paar Seiten über Präfixe auf DEUTSCH empfehlen? Danke!! (Eine kleine Korrektur: *übersetzen). Und noch eine Frage (!!!): welches Verb benutzt man, wenn man die folgenden Tippfehler macht?

‘überstzen’ – “Oops, ich habe einen Buchstaben vergessen”.
‘übersezten’ – “Ich habe einen (zwei?) Buchstaben vertauscht”
‘übersetzten’ – “Ich habe einen Buchstaben (… ?)”

6 years ago

Hallo! You always comment about the notions that the prefix adds to the verb. Where can I see a list of that, with all the prefixes with the notion(s) they usually bring, z.B. “ab – separation-ness/downward-ness”. Vielen Dank!

Es ist SO schwierig auf Deutsch zu schreiben, nachdem man gerade einen Text auf Englisch gelesen hat!!! Deswegen habe ich mit einer Frage auf Englisch angefangen… Und ich wusste auch nicht, wie man “to add notion” ins Deutsche übersetzten könnte.

6 years ago

Appendix vermifomis is the little, finger like part of the large intestine, that “hangs” on a bigger segment called caecum.
Appendix vermiformis ist der kleine, fingerartige Teil des Dickdarms, der von einem großeren Segment namens caecum herabhängt.