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.

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 ona problem for example, that means that you tackle it, you work to overcomeit. 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.

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.

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

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…

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.

Etwascould 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.

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

The other word is annehmlich. It is quite close to annehmbaras it also means acceptable, agreeable but I feel like it is a little more positive than annehmbar. Annehmbare tempratures are just okay, annehmlicheare 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 comfortor convenience and you can find it a lot in context of hotels or cars.

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

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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