German Prefix Verbs Explained – “abheben”

abheben-prefix-verbHello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of German Prefix Verb Explained. Which used to be Prefix Verb Shorts but now it’s Prefix Verbs Explained. Because … they’re not all that short but they are very explained…. wait, does that even make sense? Meh anyways, today we’ll look at the meaning of

abheben

 

And abheben kicks butt because not only will it make your German take off, it’ll also get you freaking cash! Isn’t that amazing? No,  it is UH-FREAKING-MAY-ZINGS!! I can’t even believe how awesome this verb is. I’m super hyper excited right now. Wait… I think that was actually the coffee talking. But abheben is really cool let’s get right to it, shall we?

The verb heben is related to to heave but while heaving sounds like heavy (yes, it is)  weight, heben is a rather neutral word for  to lift (we’ve talked about that in more detail in the post on aufheben... I’ll add a link below).
Ab has two main notions. One is off-ness in a very broad sense of separation and the other is downward-ness. And when you think about it the ideas of lifting and downward-ness don’t really go together that well, so it’s kind of natural that we’re only dealing with off-ness this time. The most literal translation for abheben is to lift off. And for once the literal translation is also the real translation.

  • Das Flugzeug hebt ab.
  • The plane lifts off.

The more interesting uses are of course the abstract ones, one in particular. Lifting off is about loosing contact with the ground. And this is what often happens to people who get famous, or just a little too much praise. They lose touch with reality, they abheben.

  • Nach dem Erfolg in der Casting-Show ist Maria’s Freundin ein bisschen abgehoben.
  • Ever since her success at the casting show, Maria’s friend has lost touch with reality a bit.
  • Wenn man so einen verdammt erfolgreichen Blog über deutsche Grammatik hat, wie schafft man es, nicht komplett abzuheben?
  • Having a so damn successful blog about German grammar, how do you manage keep your feet on the ground?

That question in the second example… I got asked example recently in the interview for the People magazine.
Meh… maybe it was more like “How do you plan on paying your bills as a ‘famous blogger’ if you’re out of cash by the 15th?” Oh, and maybe it wasn’t People magazine but my girlfriend when I had to borrow money because I couldn’t withdraw any. Yeah… I’m babbling nonsense, I know. But hey speaking of withdrawing money… that’s actually the next important use of abheben. Tadah. If you ever need a cheap transition let me know, I’ll hook you up.
So… Geld abheben means to withdraw money and this use is super important because it’s the ONLY verb for this context. Germans apparently think of their bank account as a pile of cash, and withdrawing some is basically lifting it off the top. And yes, it’s still abheben if there’s more of a pit than a pile ;).

  • I have to get cash (from an ATM)
  • Ich muss noch Geld abheben.
  • Ich heb‘ mal 50 Euro ab. Das sollte für heute Abend reichen.
  • I think I’ll take out 55 Dollars. That should be enough for tonight.

This is maybe the most important use of abheben Another quite common use of abheben is to answer the phone.

  • Ich versuche, Maria anzurufen, aber sie hebt nicht ab. (you wouldn’t even add “phone” here)
  • I’m trying to call Maria but she doesn’t pick up [the phone].

This is obviously from back in the day when answering the phone meant “lifting off” the receiver. Today rangehen is more and more popular but I think abheben will be around for a while still.
There are other things you can abheben, too, for example a lid from a pot or cards from deck but uses like this are pretty rare. Other verbs are simply more idiomatic in many contexts.
All right. Now, there’s one more common use to talk about and that one distinguishes itself from the others by having a self reference. We could also say it abheben itself … because that’s exactly what it is. Sich abheben (von) means to stand out, to distinguish oneself .

  • Langeweile ist, was den zweiten Teil vom ersten abhebt.
  • Boredom is what’s different about part 2 compared to part 1.
  • Der neue Manager versucht sich durch einen weniger autoritären Führungsstil von seinem Vorgänger abzuheben.
  • The new manager tries to distinguish himself from his predecessor by using a less authoritarian style of leadership.
  • Die Suppe hebt sich qualitativ deutlich vom Hauptgericht ab.
  • In terms of quality, the soup really stands out against the main dish.

Literally, the second example reads “The soup lifts itself off… ” which I think isn’t all that far from the actual meaning.
And that’s pretty much it. Well, there’s one more thing…

The r-version of abheben

The verb rabheben means… nothing, because it doesn’t exist. In fact,verbs with ab never have one. “Rabverben” just isn’t idiomatic, is all. Only the long version herab- works, or depending on perspective AND region hinab.
Technically, herabheben and hinabheben do exist and both mean to lift something down from something, but they’re really super rare, partly because heben and downward are kind of opposite ideas and also, or least to me, herabheben sounds a bit fancy. In daily life I much prefer runterheben.

  • Der Prinz hebt die Prinzessin vom Pferd herab.
  • The prince lifts the princess down from her horse.
  • Ich hebe meine Katze vom Schreibtisch runter.
  • I lift my cat down from the deyuagjejgjjcgjazg…

Shoo, shoo… get off of here, I gotta finish the piuaziagsdf… no… get d….OOOOUTCH! Be damned beast! Scratch the hand that feeds you and feed you it shall no more.
“Emanuel, could you really let ME starve?! Me, the cutest thing ever.”
What? Who… oh my god, my cat can talk! And it’s stuck up, too!! And I don’t even have a cat!!! Man, I think I REALLY had too much coffee at this point. Time to stop. So, this our look at the verb abheben. Literally, it means to lift off, and the one use you REALLY have to remember is taking out cash.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to try out some examples, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

 

Further reading:    Word of the Day – “aufheben

** abheben – fact sheet **

meanings:
abheben – to lift off, to lose touch with reality, to take out (money),
to answer the phone

sich abheben – to distinguish oneself, to stand out

spoken past:
form of “haben” + abgehoben; also works with “sein” for planes… I think both are correct there

written past:
hob ab, abhob

related words:
abgehoben – out of touch with the real world (in a negative, stuck up sense)

die Abhebung – the withdrawal of money (rare)

 

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Maggie
Maggie
3 months ago

Quiz question #2:

What does abheben NOT mean?

  •  to answer or to pick up the phone
  •  to withdraw money
  •  to lift something off
  •  to stand out, to distinguish oneself

It marked me wrong when I checked off ‘to lift something off’, which you said is rare. The correction said I should’ve checked ‘to stand out, to distinguish oneself’, which you said is a correct use. Is this a mistake or am I confused, which is very possible, since I was woken up too early this morning by the smell of unlit lighter fluid wafting in through the window.

One other question: when I leave a comment, as it stands now I need to come back here to see if it was answered. It would be nice to have a feature where I would be alerted via email. Enjoying your blog. Thanks!!!

Maggie
Maggie
3 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

You’re welcome! And now I see the bell icon for subscribing to the comments. Thanks again for all the effort you take in this very nice learning site!

Andrew Ridley
Andrew Ridley
5 years ago

Yes thank you very much. My mistake was to imagine him tapping a cigar rather than a cigarette hence I thought he was rich and therefore would be able to withdraw money.
I like the left hand picture because I think of the extra drag that a seaplane has to deal with to lift off.

Andrew Ridley
Andrew Ridley
5 years ago

Cannot understand the picture on the Right hand side at top

Angie
Angie
6 years ago

Ha! I’ll let you look that one up ;P

Angie
Angie
6 years ago

“I’m super hyper excited right now. Wait… I think that was actually the coffee talking”. Nah…not coffee. ;))

Angie
Angie
6 years ago

Just because I know you like to refer to old English/Latin/French words…your use of ‘freaking’ in the opening statement is probably American? but not English.
We use ‘frikkin’, which is the toned down version of ‘frigging’,
and originally comes from 1425-75; to move about restlessly, rub; late Middle English friggen to quiver (masturbate), and Frigan to love. I think it was also known in French as just ‘Frig’. We used to use it, to tell our kid’s to stop fidgeting around “stop frigging around”, and to say we were overtired “I’m frigged” …but they have died out.

Angie
Angie
6 years ago
Reply to  Angie

oops *frickin’ not frikkin

Jan
Jan
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Maybe it has to do with friction.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Die Flugzeug?

grace ann
grace ann
6 years ago

Ich mag Ihr Blog. Ich bin hier in Deutschland und werde zu Schule nächste Monat gehen. Meine Deutsch ist noch kaput wegen dies Blog, glaub ich,ich kann verbessern. . Vielen Dank Sir!! :-) :-) :-)

lancehewison2015
6 years ago

Die Fleugzeug? I think you are just trying to keep us on our toes with that typo! ;-)

Paolo
Paolo
6 years ago

Reading your blog is fun and helpful. I am italian though I find this way of explaining fast and great!
p

tohaklim
6 years ago

When I saw the illustration I thought one of the meanings would be “abandoning/leaving behind a habit”.
Great post, as always

Hunny
Hunny
6 years ago

Thanks for another fantastic post…
BTW, when is the book coming?

Vladimir
Vladimir
6 years ago

Hahah you make my Deutschlernen much easier and funnier :) Thanks
To remember this takes no nerves when its this way presented.
Cheers

doch
doch
6 years ago

“Maria’s Freundin”?

doch
doch
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

haha ist mir nicht so interessant. “Marias Freundin” soll es sein!

berlingrabers
6 years ago

Soll es eine Übersetzung von “Langeweile ist, was den zweiten Teil vom dritten abhebt” geben? :)

Man muss auch auf Englisch nicht unbedingt das Telefon als Objekt von “pick up” nennen:

– I’m trying to call Maria, but she’s not picking up.

Diese Reihe von Posts finde ich super hilfreich. Es dauert ja ewig, die ganzen (besonders übertragenen) Bedeutungen von Verben mit Präfixen zu lernen. Vielen Dank!

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Danke! Was ich im Kopf hatte war eher “Isn’t there supposed to be…”, was sich auf Englisch ein bisschen von “Shouldn’t there be” unterscheiden lässt. Ersteres heißt mehr “Es war doch deine Absicht, eine Übersetzung zu geben, oder?” Kann man die Nuance in Deutsch idiomatisch und kurz ausdrücken?