The meaning(s) of the Prefix Verb – “anstehen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome back the series that we all thought was over but it it’s not: Prefix Verbs Explained.
Whoop whoooooooop.
Today on the menu



And look… I don’t really wanna do it, you don’t really wanna do it. But we’re gonna. Just like Thomas and Maria the other day when they decided to try…
cleaning behind the stove.
Yes, it was on the agenda for a long time. And if you were expecting something lewd – well, we’ll get lewd in the article. Literally :)

So, most of you probably know that stehen means to stand. But what’s more helpful for us is to think of it as the result of stellen.
Because anstehen is the direct result of  anstellen.
Now, anstellen actually has about 37  distinct meaning and we’ve talked about all of those 246 meanings in the series “Anstellen – the Meanings” (link below) but luckily for us here, only one matters:  the one about waiting in line.
Sich anstellen is can refer to the act of joining the end of a line/queue and anstehen is the result of that, the state of being in line.

As you can see in  the last example, it’s also used in a metaphorical sense, but that sounds quite formal and it’s more something for the newspapers.
Now, waiting in line is definitely part of life, so anstehen is a useful word. But the noun der Anstand might be even better. Does it have something to do with waiting in line? Well, kind of. Jumping the line would be a clear indication for a lack of Anstand. But it doesn’t mean that you have a lack of standing in line. It means you have a lack of decency. Because that’s what Anstand is. This social decency, that respects conventions and etiquette.
What does that have to do with standing, you wonder? Well, this meaning makes a lot of sense once you know that the German uses stehen  in the context of clothes suiting us. Hold on, here’s an example:

Good, decent behavior certainly suits us well, too, and that’s probably how the meaning came about.
Anstand itself is usually used in contexts where people complain that it’s missing, but there are some really nice compounds with it.

But the one you REALLY need to remember is the adjective anständig. Because that has broadened its meaning a bit and includes a more general idea of good, proper.

And with an un- before it it can mean un-decent. Or lewd, naughty. 

Did anyone think chocolate? I didn’t … just curious.
Anyways, we’re really close to too much information here, but Prefix Verb veterans among you will know that there’s one more thing we need to talk about… the r-version. Which in case of anstehen is actually a dr-version.


You see, the r-version has a notion of motion, and combining that with a verb that is 110% stationary, like stehen, just doesn’t make any sense.
Dranstehen however does make sense, because the dr-version always has a stationary vibe.
Taken literally, dranstehen would be something like “stand at something”. However, in practice it’s only used for the stehen in the sense of to say.
Wait what?!?! Stehen means to say?
Well, yes, German uses stehen in the context of stuff being written someone. You’d say “in der Email steht” (the email says)  or “auf dem Zettel steht” (the note says) or “an der Tafel steht“. And the last one brings us right to the meaning of dranstehen. You’d use that if the board is already established in the conversation.

Some people might actually claim that dranstehen doesn’t even exist and should be dran stehen instead, because it comes from stehen an. Which is a very good, logical reasoning. Except… it doesn’t FEEL right.
Now some people probably scream in agony like “Emanuel, feeling is not a criteria If everybody did as they feel, language would be a mess.”
And I hear that BUT there are areas in language where you have to kind of loosen up the rules a bit to do the language justice. Dran stehen as two words would mean that there’s an emphasis on stehen as if that were relevant by itself. When I talk, dranstehen feels like one unit, just like rausgehen feels like one. And no one would argue that we write that as two words.
Not even Maria. And she argues a LOOOOOOT! I bet she’d even argue that we’re done for today.
So let’s wrap up quick, before she finds out :).
This was our look at the prefix verb anstehen and the two things you should take away are the verb itself, which means waiting in line, and the adjective anständig, which can mean proper, decent.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

… *door opens…
Emanuel, you gotta mention the verb beanstanden….”
“Oh… Maria… really good idea, but it’s too late. We already finished.” 

for members :)

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Intervene Immerly

wunderbar wie immer, E. In English we’d say “I waited to eat…” instead of “I waited with eating….” But your version is as always cuter.


‘More cute’, please.


Another great word, thanks Emanuel.

So now with the lewd ice cream. First off, I want some (in the right company of course). As for giving the ice cream seller my order, think I’d go for “dirty” (if you fancy something weird or skanky) or “naughty” (if you’d rather something a bit more extravagant and calorific). Actually there’s loads of words you could use to convey “anything but vanilla”, but probably not “lewd”. As far as I know (and I’ve checked) “lewd” is quite narrow in meaning, limited to describing carnal desires only. If someone asked me for a lewd ice cream I’d probably have to ask my wife’s permission first.


I’m new here, so I don’t know where the lewd ice cream thread started… but I’d say sinful or decadent if a dessert is extra rich. In relation to vanilla, maybe “sexy” instead of lewd. aber ich bin Rentnerin und meine Sprache ist nicht cool. und Vanille ist sexy, wenn das Eis super ist.


found the vanilla reference…

Anne Knight
Anne Knight

I would say : “I wanted something more exciting than vanilla ice cream“ . Also, “I stopped eating while she went to the bathroom, out of courtesy to her. “
Love your articles. My brain Needs this kind of explanatory text.


So if you’re standing in line, and it doesn’t seem to be advancing, what’s the most idiomatic way to say “the line’s not moving”?


Hi there! Ich finde es sehr interessant, dass auf Englisch wurden wir oft so sagen: ‘as stated in my email/letter/on this sign’ – as in, the stating part of a statement.
State sounds a lot like steht!
It’s a bit more formal than just saying stuff, but it’s true that people would also use ‘say’ for things written down – it says here… etc.
I just thought it was interesting aural connection, oder? :-)
First time comment – have loved the blog for ages, thank you Emmanuel.


Hello, I just found your site when searching for the difference between stark and Kraft. I’m thrilled you include etymology! I will be starting with the Essentials… but first, you requested corrections. On the “Online Course” page, 2nd paragraph, you say “And I promise you… you’ll find a lot of stuff here that is NOT part in any textbook.” That is a tiny mistake… I’m American, so I can’t speak for Brits, but I think you should change the “in” to “of”. Another option would be, change “part” to “found”.

When I first found your blog, I wasn’t sure if your native language was English or German! So my compliments, and my thanks.

I’ve only scanned this entry on anstehen, as it’s too advanced for me but I’d like to try: Diese Internetseite steht mir gut. es ist sehr anständig von Ihnen, es frei zu posten. Danke sehr.


Looks like a typo. In changing fonts, maybe the computer swallowed the r? “When I talk, danstehen feels like one unit, just like rausgehen feels like one.” As I said, I’m a beginner (I use Google Translator to help me find somewhere to start) but I worked my way through the article. I’m sure your readers know that it should be dranstehen, right? I feel like I’m surfing big waves…


Moin Emanuel,

One clue in identifying a native New Yorker is to listen to whether he or she says “on line” when most folks would say “in line.”

“I’ve been standing on line for the bus for hours,” – people been tawking like this, way before the internet.

Sorry I missed the recent get together in Neukölln – sounded like fun – will there be another?


Interesting comments about the vanilla ice-cream – I must really have my mind in the gutter because the first thing that came into my head was “vanilla” as a euphemism for ritual, perfunctory, boring, missionary position sex on a Friday night with the lights off. Ugh. Would rather go without. Something more “lewd” is, in my opinion, an acceptable way to insinuate the desire to have more sensual relations than the Perfunctory Friday Night F***. This is not the first time I’ve seen “vanilla ice-cream” used this way. Perhaps it says more about me than about the language, but whaddu I know?


Other than questions, you can shuffle the answers as well. Randomize both questions and answers. Choosing the only answer shuffle option will shuffle answers but the questions will come in the same order to all students. A time limit is another option to minimize cheating. This restricts the quantity of time a student enjoys for each question. The time could vary as per the complexity of the question. It is to be kept in mind that giving excess time will enable students to consult each other. They may also share answers. You can allow multiple attempts on the same question or once only


Mini – Convo

Einhorn 1: Gestand Ich für Diese Rühstung drei JAHRE, Und Sie weigern sich, sie zu mir zu verkaufen
Einhorn 2: Ja. Ich folge den anständigen Marketingtechniken. Sie sind (ganz) unanständig
Einhorn 1: …Ja..Ich Weiß…Es stehe auf meinem Kopf dran


Einhorn 1 : I waited two years for this armor and you refuse to sell it to me
Einhorn 2 : Ja. Ibfollow proper marketing techniques. You are (quite) indecent.
Einhorn 1 : of course…. I know…it is on my head

B) what is the difference of dranstehen and stehen auf in sense of “written”


Waited should be “stood in line”