Word of the Day – “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.