German Prefix Verbs Explained – “anmachen”

anmachen-meaningsHello everyone,

and welcome to another episode of German Prefix Verbs Explained. And wow, is today’s word useful. It can help you when it’s dark, it can help you when you’re single and it can help you if you want to eat a nice, tasty salad. Oh but you need to be careful, because it can also get you in trouble.
Now you’re like… “Wow, that’s broad, even for German prefix verb. What is that mystery verb?”
Well, ladies and gentlemen, get ready for a look at



Machen means to make and to do but… it’s much more than that. People use it in all kinds of contexts even if there are better alternatives. Like … schnell machen instead of sich beeilen (to hurry), sauber machen instead of putzen (to clean) or warm machen instead of erhitzen (to heat up). People really LOOOOVE to machen stuff.
The word an has two main notions:

“at-ness” and “on-ness”

At-ness” is about location and expresses the idea of being right next to something (or moving there) and “on-ness” is about the state of being on as in switched on and these two notions overlap in English as well. Like.. light can be on on and the picture is on the wall.
In case of anmachen, it’s the latter. Anmachen is widely used as to turn on. Now, rule 23 of German says that German always has several words for a word. And that’s the case here, too. For to turn on there are also anstellen, anschalten and einschalten. But all these suck… oh, I mean, all these are not what you’d use for daily life stuff like your stove, your hair dryer or your lights. And your camp fire. And your cigarette. And the radio. And the air condition. And and and… long story short… anmachen is the best choice in daily life. Examples:

  • Mach mal Licht an!
  • Turn on the light!
  • Ich mache ein Feuer an.
  • I light a fire.
  • Ich mache mir eine Zigarette an.
  • I light a cigarette (for myself).
  • Ich habe das Radio angemacht.
  • I turned on the radio.

Now, to turn on is also used for people in sense of … uhm… raising an certain interest in immediate intercourse. Flipping that certain switch that says “mate-mode”. Anmachen has that sense too.

  • Eigentlich hat sie mich den ganzen Abend voll ignoriert, aber irgendwie hat mich das voll angemacht.
  • Technically, she has been ignoring me all night but somehow that really turned me on.

Anmachen is also a common word for hitting on someone, using pick up lines and being all like “Hi.” and “;)”.
So in that sense it is not about actually switching the slip, it’s about just trying to slip it… I mean switch it.

  • Wenn Maria feiern geht aber keinen Bock hat, die ganze Zeit angemacht zu werden, trägt sie einen Fake-Ehering.
  • When Maria goes out to party but she’s not in the mood to be hit on constantly she’ll wear a fake wedding ring.
  • Wer kennt einen guten Anmachspruch?
  • Who knows a good pick up line?
  • So eine billige Anmache funktioniert bei mir nicht.
  • Such cheap a come-on/an advance won’t fly with me.
    (I hope that’s idiomatic)

Now, unlike to turn on, anmachen is not always sexual. It can just talk about general interest too, and it totally depends on context.

  • Maria’s Kleid macht mich an. (very very likely that the dress is hot..)
  • Maria’s dress turns me on.
  • Der Film macht mich nicht an. (can be either)
  • The movie doesn’t turn me on.
  • This movie doesn’t interest me.
  • “Wir gehen Pasta essen. Willst du mitkommen?”
    “Nee, Pasta macht mich irgendwie grad voll nich’ an.”
  • “We’re gonna go eat pasta. Wanne come?”
    “Nah, I really don’t feel like pasta right now.”
  • “Warum hast du Deutsch gemacht und nicht Spanisch?”
    “Keine Ahnung… hat mich irgendwie mehr angemacht.”
  • “Why did you take German and not Spanish?”
    “I don’t know… kind of felt more interesting.

All right. So anmachen can be about sparking interest,be it sexual or general. But that’s still not all. The verb is not always positive…. anmachen can also mean something like to aggravate, to tease, to goad… it’s hard to translate. Basically, the idea is flipping someone’s angry-switch by using insults or being disrespectful. This “looking for trouble”-anmachen is especially common among teenagers but it’s not specific teenage slang …

  • Ja, ich habe vergessen neuen Kaffee zu kochen, aber das ist kein Grund mich dumm anzumachen.
  • Yes, I did forget to make new coffee but that is no reason to come at me like that.
  • Vorhin im Biomarkt hat mich so eine junge Mutter dumm angemacht, weil mein Sohn eine normale Cola hatte.
  • Earlier in the organic supermarket one of these young mothers gave me an earful/flamed me/started bitching at me because my son had a regular coke.
  • “Warum machst du mich so an?”
    “Weil du meine Freundin anmachst.
  • “Why are you in my face like that?” (Is that idiomatic in that context? Help please
    ”Cause you’re hitting on my girl friend.”

based on the idea of “on-ness.” Now, are there any others? Well, I would use anmachen with the notion of “at-ness” in sense of putting a picture up on the wall or hanging a lamp on the ceiling. But a few of my friends disagreed and said they’d use aufhängen so… maybe not.
There’s one meaning though everybody agrees on and … get ready for some random here. In a kitchen context anmachen means

to add spices, herbs and stuff like oil or vinegar to raw food like meet,
cheese or (most importantly) salad

Why? Pfff.. good question. Kitchen vocab is kind of crazy and twisted anyway. Maybe it’s because once you’ve added vinegar and oil and salt the salad is “on”. Like… really tasty. I don’t really know. Anyway… here are two examples

  • Avocados – mit Pfeffer, Salz und Öl angemacht echt lecker.
  • Avocados – “marinated” with salt, pepper and oil it’s really tasty.
  • Als Hauptgericht gab es Hänchenspieße vom Angus-Rind, dazu Feldsalat angemacht mit Olivenessig, Chiasamenschaum und Gold. Klingt zunächst gut, macht aber nicht wirklich Sinn.
  • As main course they served chicken skewers from Angus beef, and as a side lamb’s lettuce with olive vinegar, foam of Chia seed and gold. Sounds good at first but doesn’t really make sense.

Unless you’re really into cooking this meaning of anmachen is probably utterly useless for you but I wanted to mention it anyway. And it got us into the kitchen which is where we usually meet… the r-version.


Like all r-versions, ranmachen is based on the local notion of the prefix, in this case the at-ness, and it roughly means “to make something so that it’s at/on something else”. And the main meaning is adding spices and other ingredients to food.

  • “Boah, die Soße ist echt hammerlecker. Was ist dein Geheimnis?”
    “Ich hab’ ein bisschen Schokolade rangemacht.”
  • “Wow, this sauce is really friggin’ tasty. What’s your secret?”
    “I added a bit of chocolate.”
  • Wenn du einen leichten, sommerlichen Kartoffelsalat willst, dann einfach statt Majonese Jogurt ranmachen.
  • If you want a light, summer-y potato salad – just use yogurt instead of mayo.

Besides this, there is also a use with a self reference… sich ranmachen. And this has a very very familiar meaning.

  • Thomas hat sich auf der Party an Melanie rangemacht.
  • Thomas “made himself next to” Melanie at the party (lit.)
  • Thomas hit on Melanie at the party.

Shocking, I know.
But yeah, this exactly the same as anmachen… just from a different side. While anmachen was about trying to light one’s passion, sich ranmachen is about getting closer, trying to move to first base. Ranmachen doesn’t sound very elegant though and it’s usually more of a turn off.
And speaking of turning off… you can turn off your internet in a second because we’re done here and there’s nothing else on. Absolutely nothing.
This was our look at the meanings of anmachen and as we’ve seen the bulk of it is based on the broad idea of “setting in motion”. 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 if you like outtakes… here’s one the most disgusting burps ever. Happened while recording and it really took me off guard :)


** anmachen – fact sheet **

– to turn on (all kinds of devices as well as human lust but also fire, interest and anger)
– to add spices and herbs to raw food
– to put on (for pictures and other stuff you hang on walls)

spoken past:
– form of “haben” + angemacht

related words:
die Anmache (no idea… please help)
der Anmachspruch – the pick up line

– ausmachen (for devices),
– abturnen (for lust)
– abmachen (for pictures)

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1 year ago

so… you could say “anmachen” is for dressing a salad and undressing a person.

4 years ago

Thanks for having this blog!

5 years ago

For me, the ‘general interest’ version of the anmachen ‘turn on’ translation I would read as ‘Maria’s dress really does it for me’. Or ‘The film didn’t really do it for me.’ Seems to be some connection there with the ‘to do/machen’ translation? I think I would say this in all of the examples you gave.

5 years ago

This is really the best way to teaching a language I enjoy this articles so much

6 years ago

‘So eine billige Anmache funktionert bei mir nicht’ — maybe ‘[Come on], like I’m gonna fall for a [cheap] line like that.’ or just ‘I’m not gonna fall for a [cheap] line like that.’
PS Thanks for a great post!

6 years ago

Ich bin verwirrt über den Unterschied zwischen ‘jemanden anmachen’ (to arouse, turn on) und ‘jemanden anmachen’ (to hit on, flirt with). Geht die erste Bedeutung nur mit Sachen (etwas macht mich an), oder auch mit Personen (jemand macht mich an)? Zum Beispiel,

-Thomas macht Maria an.

Heißt das nur:
-Thomas is hitting on Maria. (… because he wants to go out with her.)

Oder könnte das auch bedeuten:
-Thomas turns Maria on / makes her horny. (… because she thinks he is hot.)

Like, when Austin Powers says, “Am I making you horny, baby?”, would he say in the German version, “Mache ich dich an, Baby?” oder funktioniert das nicht? Thomas hat wohl das Ziel, Maria geil zu machen, aber von der ersten Bedeutung, kann man die Wirkung nicht annehmen. Hängt die Bedeutung von Zusammenhang ab?

6 years ago


6 years ago

So ist ranmachen gleich wie heranmachen? Diese so genannte r-Wörter würde einen tollen Beitrag machen.

Lass mich raus.
Komm rein.
Geh links dann die Treppe runter.
Sie kam die Treppe runter von ertsem Stock.

Manchmal ist es “hin”, manchmal “her”. Es gibt so viele zu wissen über Richtung und Bewegung im Akk.

German living in Melbourne

Love the post, especially that you mentioned ranmachen. I love the word. Der hat sich voll an sie rangemacht, ay!

I happen to have written a blog post on the similar looking sibling and cousins of anmachen, simply because anmachen, aufmachen, ausmachen und zumachen look so intimidating to learners but also to shine some light on the issue (pun intended): If If it’s not ok to post a link here, happy for you to remove it.

Thank you so much for your post, I really enjoyed reading it.

6 years ago

Warum sagen Sie “Eigentlich ist sie den ganzen Abend voll ignoriert” staat “Eigentlich hat sie den ganzen Abend voll ignoriert”? Laut Wiktionary ist das Hilfsverb für “ignorieren”; “sein”.

Vielen Dank für Ihre Artikel.

6 years ago
Reply to  yaribiskuvi

If I may, in the first sentence (ist ignoriert), ignoriert (past part. of ignorieren) is being used as a adjective, describing the pronoun sie. In the second sentence it is used as a verb, changing the meaning of the sentence, since now sie is doing the ignoring, but it doesn’t say who sie is ignoring so it is incomplete.

6 years ago

Sehr gut gemacht! Einer der interessantesten Artikel, den du geschrieben hast. “Anmachen” kommt mir ein sehr praktisches Wort vor.

Idiomatic English:
Why are you in my face like that…alternatives include, “what the hell?” “what’s up with that dude?” “why are you all in my shit?” or simply the always appropriate “dude” which can mean as many things as any good german word by simply varying tone, volume and context. Kind of like hearing “forget about it” from a New Yorker, which can mean anything from, “forget about it, it’s not important,” to “you have pissed me off and now you must die.”

Such cheap advances won’t work with me…usually one hears such retorts to bad pick up lines as, “fuck off loser” “you have to do better than that” “the tramp section is over there” “really?” “not interested” “beat it loser” but maybe the nonverbal communication is the most devastating and effective, like the eyeroll, turning one’s back to the offending party, vomiting, laughing hysterically, going straight to the ladies room or “accidentally” spilling one’s drink on the offending party.

Since we are discussing idiomatic english I thought it best to stay away from word for word translation and go straight for meaning and desired outcome. I have daughters so I have been thinking up such defenses against the dark arts for years.


Tim M
Tim M
6 years ago

I’m not a fluent German speaker, but maybe “come-on” would be a good translation of “Anmache”?

Also, re: “Why you‘re in my face like that?” (again… is that idiomatic in that context? Help please :)

“In my face” seems right/idiomatic for that context, but we wouldn’t normally abbreviate “you’re” in a question (at least not in NZ English). So it would sound much more natural to say “Why are you in my face like that?”

Or you could say “Why are you all up in my grill like that?”, but only if you’re a rapper.

Thanks for the blog by the way. I find it really helpful!

jener andere Typ
jener andere Typ
6 years ago

“Anmache” sounds like “come ons.” Like, “I’d go to bars more if it wasn’t just shitty come ons all night.” I think it might be hyphenated, I don’t really see it in writing much…

This sounds kinda weird: “We’ll go eat pasta. Wanne come?”
I’d probably say “we’re going to” (or gonna, because who has time for whole words?). “We’ll” sounds more stiff and somehow further into the future.

Bill Kammermeier
6 years ago

I have my thoughts on why these are this way, but can you explain why “an” does not separate from “machen” in these two sentences:

Weil du meine Freundin anmachst.
Avocados – mit Pfeffer Salz und Öl angemacht echt lecker.

My theory on the first one is without “Weil” it would be “du machst meine Freundin an”, so when “Weil” forces “machst” to the end you simply removing the space between an and machst to simply things?

And my theory on the second one is because it is simply a phrase and not a full sentence or maybe because angemacht is acting more like an adjective here.

6 years ago

Hey. First off, thanks for the great posts. I’ve been reading them pretty consistently for the past two years and I they’ve been really helpful. Since you asked:
Such cheap advances won’t work with me. –> Such cheap advances won’t work on me.
Why you‘re in my face like that? –> Why are you all up in my face like that?

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Or simply, that wont fly.

6 years ago
Reply to  eknehr

Yeah! I agree with eknehr. It sounds good if you just say “won’t fly”. If you want to use a preposition, “won’t fly with me” is definitely also idiomatic.

6 years ago

So eine billige Anmache funktioniert bei mir nicht:
Such a cheap pick-up line doesn’t work on me.

That’s how it would be said. I think MacFeagel went a little overboard with colloquial-ness.

6 years ago

Your way of explaining the distinction between the prefixes and the r-versions is really really enlightening :)
I also have a couple of questions: I heard you can also say reinmachen in the context of food, for example for the salt. Is there any difference between both words?
And when you use r-version prefix+machen, is it always interchangeable with r-version prefix+tun or how does that work?
Danke schön!

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

How would you compare “ranmachen” and “hinzufügen” in cooking?

6 years ago

Thanks a lot as ever, some suggestions for the translations.

die Anmache:- the pick-up, the chat-up, the chat-up routine (?)

So eine billige Anmache funktioniert bei mir nicht.
– bugger off with your cheesy chat-up routine.
– your crappy chat-ups ain’t gonna work here pal
– etc

Pooh Bär
Pooh Bär
6 years ago

… And you are wieder angemacht. If I get the idea.
Thanks for the summary at the end.

6 years ago

Hey :) Danke für noch einen interessanten und hilfreichen Beitrag! Im Bezug auf “Die Anmache”, ich schlage vor, Du könntest sie als “the move” übersetzen (wenn es einfach der Substantiv von anmachen ist?).

Ich habe mich über “why you’re in my face like that?” nachgedacht… Besser schreibt man “why are you getting up in my face like that?” (“why you’re…” kommt mir irgendwie komisch vor). “What’s your problem?” klingt meiner Meinung nach natürlicher.. Ich überlege mal und vielleicht verfasse ich noch einen Kommentar, wenn ich an besseren Beispielen denke :)

(Wenn Du Probleme oder Fehler drinnen findest, es macht mir gar nicht aus, wenn Du mir Bescheid sagst :))