Prefix Verbs Explained- “annehmen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will take a look at the meaning of



Hmmm… a verb that consists of the two parts to take and on. Will logic prevail and the translation be something reasonable like to take on? Or are we in for some wayward meaning like … pfff.. to blow-dry or something. Let’s look at an example and find out.

  • Ew… the milk has taken on the taste of the fridge.
  • Ihhh… die Milch hat den Kühlschrankgeschmack angenommen.
  • Sein Gesicht nimmt einen verschmitzten Ausdruck an.
  • His face takes on a roguish look.

Yeay, go logic, go logic. L to the O to the G o the IC.  Annehmen actually does translate to to take on. Not always though, and if we look closer, we’ll find that to take on is not the best translation. Annehmen has much more of a passive vibe. If you take on a problem for example, that means that you  tackle it, you work to overcome it. Annehmen is more like…

“Hey, here’s a problem. I think it has your name on it.”
“Ugh, fine … I guess it’s mine then. I’ll have it.

I think the core of annehmen as a mix of taking and acceptingnehmen (to take) alone is just the mere action of taking something. Akzeptieren on the other hand is about … well… accepting. You can accept something without taking it.

  • Ich nehme das Bier.
  • I take the beer.
  • Ich akzeptiere das Bier.
  • I accept the beer…. as in
  • I accept the beer for what it is…. I don’t actually take it

Annehmen fuses these two ideas together and the result is what I would  sum up as to take something that has been offered to you…. or simply accepting an offer.

  • Wow… die Kette ist superschön, aber… ich kann das nicht annehmen. Die ist doch viel zu teuer.
  • Wow… the necklace is super pretty, but … I can’t accept it. It’s much too expensive.
  • Ich habe die Einladung angenommen.
  • I have accepted the invitation.

Gifts, invitations and apologies are the most common things that we  annehmen. But the verb isn’t limited to those.

  • Welcher Idiot hat das Paket angenommen? Das ist nicht für uns.
  • Which idiot has accepted the parcel? It is NOT for us.
  • Man muss sein Schicksal annehmen.
  • One has to accept one’s fate.
  • Die Sitzpolster des Sofas aus Kaltschaum nehmen ihre ursprüngliche Form nach dem Aufstehen schnell wieder an.
  • The cold foam/memory foam seats of the sofa resume their original shape quickly after you get up.
    (any better way to phrase that? Natives to the rescue)

The opposite of annehmen, by the way, is ablehnen and that verb makes a lot of sense. Just imagine your partner comes to you like…

“Hey honey, check out how smelly my socks are after I used those …”

My girlfriend then alway… uhm… I mean, one would then go like “EWWWW” and lean away .. lean off , ablehnen. Sure, we don’t decline invitations like that ….

 “Your party?! Ewwww… go away with that.”

… but the idea is the same.
All right.
So… this was pretty easy so far. A little too easy. German prefix verbs are wicked, we all know that. So… I would … *ahem… assume that there is another meaning.
And of course there is…

  • Ich nehme an, dass es noch eine Bedeutung gibt.
  • I assume there is another meaning.

To assume. Seems random at first, but it isn’t that crazy when we think about it. Let’s take a generic sentence with annehmen.

  • Ich nehme etwas an.

Etwas could be for example a present… then that would be the meaning we already know. But what if the etwas was a theory. For example the theory that Thomas and Maria broke up.

  • “Haben Thomas und Maria sich getrennt?”
    “Ja, das nehme ich an.”
  • “Did Thomas and Maria break up?”
    “Yes, that’s what I think.”

We annehmen a theory so we sort of accept it as reality.. at least until we get more information. So the to assume-meaning of annehmen really isn’t too far fetched, oh and by the way…  to assume actually ALSO comes from to take. In Latin, to take was emere and to assume is ad + sub + emere… … I don’t know how that works in detail.
Anyway, so annehmen can mean to assume or to suppose.

  • “Ich nehme mal an, ihr wollt alle gerne eine Kaffeepause, von daher… wir sehen uns in 15 Minuten wieder hier.”
  • “I suppose you all would love a coffee break, so… back here in 15 minutes.”

There are some alternatives like denken (to think ) or glauben (to believe)  which express roughly the same. And I think those are used more often than annehmen  in daily speech, especially in past tense.

  • “Warum hast du mir denn einen Kaffee mitgebracht?”
    “Naja, du hast so offensichtlich gegähnt, als ich in die Küche gegangen bin, dass ich angenommen/gedacht habe, du  willst einen.”
  • “Why did you bring me a coffee?”
    “Well… you were yawning so conspicuously when I went to the kitchen, that I assumed you wanted one.”

The version with annehmen sounds a bit stiff to my ears. But even though it’s not a colloquial superstar annehmen is still a useful and used, particularly when you need to establish a premise or something…

  • Nehmen wir mal an, jemand  bietet dir einen echt gut bezahlten und interessanten Job an… mit der Bedingung, dass du dein Studium abbrichst… was würdest du machen?
  • Let’s assume/Suppose someone offers you a really well payed and interesting job…  the condition being that you quit your studies… what would you do?
  • Mal angenommen, ich komme wirklich noch auf einen “Kaffee” hoch… hättest du denn noch eine extra Zahnbürste?
  • Suppose I actually do come up for a “coffee”… would you have a spare toothbrush?

Those two (especially mal angenommen) are quite common in spoken German to introduce hypothetical things. What? Oh, why the mal is there? Well.. it’s optional but it makes it sound less uncasual… uh… I mean casualerer.
All right.
There is also a noun based on annehmen…. die Annahme , and this works for both the meanings we’ve seen.

  • Die Annahme, dass Thomas mal wieder zu spät kommen würde, hat sich als falsch herausgestellt… er kam garnicht.
  • The assumption that Thomas would be coming late yet again turned out to be wrong… he didn’t show up at all.
  • Das sind alles nur Annahmen – keine Fakten.
  • All those are just assumptions – not facts.
  • Sechzig Prozent der Aktionäre stimmten gegen eine Annahme des Übernahmeangebots.
  • Sixty percent of the stock holders voted against accepting (lit.: the acceptance) the take-over bid.
  • Hier keine Annahme von Paketen. Die nächste Paketannahmestation finden sie in der Frankfurter Alle 186.
  • Parcels are not accepted here. The nearest parcel counter is located at Frankfurter Allee 186.

There are two other related words we should mention, that exclusively work with the accepting-annehmen. The first one is annehmbar, which means acceptable or in colloquial contexts also okay.

  • Letzte Woche war es zu heiß, aber diese Woche war es so um die 28°… das war ganz annehmbar.
  • Last week it was too hot, but this week it was around 28°… that was okay/all right/agreeable.

The other word is annehmlich. It is quite close to annehmbar as it also means acceptable, agreeable but I feel like it is a little more positive than annehmbar. Annehmbare tempratures are just okay, annehmliche are nice.
Just like annehmbar, annehmlich isn’t used all that much, but it is the base of one kind of odd German noun.. die Annehmlichkeit. I don’t know… to me it sounds cute and technical at the same time :).
I would translate that as bits of comfort or convenience and you can find it a lot in context of hotels or cars.

  • Das Hotel bietet seinen Gästen viele Annehmlichkeiten wie Sauna, Pool, kostenloses Internet und veganes Essen.
  • The hotel offers many conveniences /amenities like sauna, pool, free internet or vegan food.

And if something doesn’t go as planned… all we need is to add un and we’ve all we need to apologize.

  • Ich entschuldige mich für die Unannehmlichkeiten.
  • I apologize for the inconveniences.

And I think that’s it for today. That was our German Word of the Day annehmen. The literal translation is to take on, but the core idea is probably more like to accept something that is offered to you, be it a present or an invitation… or a theory. And that is where annehmen becomes to assume.
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.

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1 year ago

Would it be correct to say that we should use ‘annehmen’ when we want to use the verb ‘to take’ in a figurative way, while ‘nehmen’ should be used when we mean it in its literal sense? Thanks in advance and keep up the aweeeesome work!

2 years ago

How would you express the idea of emotionally “pushing sb away” in German? If your partner is emotionally shutting down due to stress or for example… they’ve been locked inside for 28 days! and starts rejecting emotional connection you might say “Don’t push me away. I just want to help you.”
I found “ablehnen” here but that’s way too stiff for what I’ve got it mind. “Lehn mich/meine Hilfe nicht ab”…? na.
Any ideas? Cheers

2 years ago
Reply to  daniel

ausschließen. Das is’ es :)

2 years ago

In the sofa example, there’s nothing wrong with using the word “resumes” (its shape), though we probably would put the word “quickly” right before “resumes”. But less formally or more graphically we might say that it “springs back” to its original shape.

5 years ago

A small thing from one of your examples I’ve noticed is ‘Von daher’. I’ve seen this a few times at the end of sentances, quite often with a … after. I can’t quite pinpoint the meaning, although I know it as ‘so’, or ‘as such’. Any idea how else this can be expressed in English? Thanks!

6 years ago

Das Wort ‘assume’ kann auch als “to take on (a particular character, quality, mode of life, etc.); adopt” (laut übersetzt werden. D.h., in den ersten Beispielen kann mann auch auf Englisch ‘assume’ verwenden. Ist das zufällig?
Danke im Voraus.

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Interesting, how two different roots meaning the same, could change their meaning in two different languages in the same way…

7 years ago


7 years ago

One thing that’s not clear to me from this post is the extent to which annehmen and akzeptieren are interchangeable. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard people say that they “akzeptiere” an invitation, but what about a gift or a parcel, where accepting has more to do with taking? And what about accepting an apology, or one’s fate? Can either verb be used, or is one more colloquial than the other?

Also, I’m not clear on the difference between annehmen and vermuten?


Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago

Also, wieder ich mit meinen üblichen Sprachvergleichen. Im Russischen gibts das Wort “prinimat'”, das ähnliche Ausdrucksfunktion ausübt. Es deckt zwar nicht die ganze Vielfalt an Bedeutungen [könnte man hier auch “Bedeutungsvielfalt” schreiben?] des deutschen Wortes ab, aber…

Ich nehme deine Einladung an. – Ja *prinimayu* tvoyo priglasheniye.
Die Couch nimmt allmählich deine Körperform an. – Divan postepenno *prinimayet* formu tvoego tela.

Merk auch mal, wie ähnlich das Stammwort aussieht: an-nehm-en, an-nimm-t – pri-nim-at’, pri-nim-ayet
Ich frag mich also, ob hier eine tiefe Beziehung besteht :D

Fin Famos
Fin Famos
7 years ago

and also, “gar nicht” wird gar nicht zusammengeschrieben ;)

7 years ago

Bezüglich Sitzpolster man könnte sagen: The cold foam couch cushions quickly retake their original shapes after you stand up. :)

Scott Wood
Scott Wood
7 years ago

“The cold foam seats of the sofa resume their original shape quickly after you get up.”

While Googling suggests “cold foam” works in English as a technical term, it’s not something you’d likely hear while furniture shopping. More typical would be “memory foam”.

“The next parcel counter is located at Frankfurter Allee 186.”

This would be more natural as “the nearest parcel counter”, or “the closest”, unless you’re saying it’s the next one that will be encountered (e.g. by travelling in one’s current direction).

7 years ago

Thanks again for another very useful post! Don’t think I knew about the assume meaning, which is a word I wanted to know but all I knew was ausgehen davon, which always seemed a bit awkward. How would you compare usage of ausgehen davon with annehmen in its “assume” meaning?

7 years ago

Die Annahme, dass Thomas mal wieder zu spät kommen würde, hat sich als falsch herausgestellt… er kam garnicht.
The assumption that Thomas would be coming late yet again turned out to be wrong… I didn’t show up at all.

It should be “he” instead of “I” ;)

7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

hahahahaha :D

7 years ago

Wie gewöhnlich eines gutes Artikel. Nur eine frage:
Was ist die unterschied zwischen zusagen & Annehmen? Kann man beides auf jeden fall benutzen?
Danke im Voraus

7 years ago

bitte bitte. Könntest du mal einen Artikel über ‘lassen’ schreiben? Ich sehe es vielmals aber verstehe manchmal gar nicht, wieso es benutzt worden ist.

7 years ago

Würdest du sagen, dass “Annehmen” vielleicht eine gute Alternative zu “I guess” sein könnte?
z.B. “das nehme ich an” statt “I guess so”
Das sage ich oft, aber ich weiß dass Deutsch wirklich kein gutes Wort für “guess” hat… Mindestens in diesem Fall

7 years ago

Thanks again for a helpful article – as ever.

Does annehmen also cover angenehme as in that Deutsche Bahn classic “wir wünschen ihnen eine angenehme reise”?

If so, is there much of a difference between angenehme and annehmbar?

7 years ago

I take it that you’ve never seen this kind of sentence before in English? They seem very similar.

7 years ago

Hey Emanuel, what I wanted to say isn’t specific to the article, (although as usual it was great) but I was thinking today a while ago I briefly discussed with you about how English speakers subconsciously choose the present perfect over the preterite. I remember saying that generally, yes, we always choose the present perfect when it’s required and never make an error. However recently, since talking about that, I’ve noticed more and more 1 or 2 recurring situations where it’s not correctly used but it’s not particularly wrong either. Although, this is generally in conversation.

Say, for example, you’re asking someone if they’ve done something yet. You could say one of two things here:

– Have you done it (yet)?
– Did you do it?

They both have a different nuance but they’re both acceptable in the context. However the second one can’t have the adverb ‘yet’ as part of the sentence, as that would require the present perfect construction. The issue here is that ‘yet’ tends to be tacked on to the end of the sentence as an afterthought, and as the speaker didn’t have that in mind when they had begun the sentence sometimes the following will occur in a variety of contexts:

– Did you do it, yet?

To me that sounds somewhat wrong but not painfully wrong. A bit like ‘Mai diesen Jahres’ wrong and not ‘Ich habe gegangen’ wrong.
Other adverbs like ‘already’, I’ve noticed, get caught up in this phenomenon. For example:

– I already rode my bike today.

This sounds even less wrong to me, but I’m certain a trained eye would go all grammar nazi on it.
As a side-effect, a lot of people are not aware of the past participle form of a lot of verbs today.

– I’ve drank 5 litres this weekend!!
– If you shrunk yourself to the size of a mouse….
– Mum, he’s bit me 5 times already!
– Have you chose your character yet?
– David’s forgot everything.

Those are all fairly cringe-worthy to me but I’ve definitely heard them. In fact I heard a fairly literate friend of mine say ‘swimmed’ the other day without realising, although most people quickly noticed. I think the ‘ed’ past is becoming so common that’s is taking over in English, however I feel like in German there are enough Starke Verben that that’s not happening just yet. In fact I’ve heard that people say ‘Ich frug’ for example, although where or why I don’t know.

Anyway, slightly off topic now but that was what was on my mind today.

7 years ago

Hi, ich habe seit einem Jahr angefangen, Deutsch zu lernen. Ich lese deine Posts regelmassig. Vielen Dank.

Ich möchte wissen, ob angenehm zu dieser Familie gehört. Vielen Dank im Voraus.