German Prefix Verbs Explained – “auffallen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of Prefix Verbs Explained, this time with a look at the meaning of



Auffallen is kind of pretty common and useful in day to day conversation and it’s one of those verbs that can really  “up your native”.  But it’s kind of below the radar and many learners, beginners as well as advanced, don’t ever notice auffallen. Which is kind of ironic, because noticing is actually what it’s all about.

Auffallen is about the idea of catching someone’s attention or being noticed by someone. Here’s an example.

What does that have to do with falling and auf? Well, you can think of it as falling “on someone’s head” or just “falling open” so someone can see it. So both notions of auf, the on-top-ness and the open-ness kind of make sense here, in the usual twisted prefix verb way.
Actually, auffallen is kind of the external cousin of einfallen. Einfallen means to come (fall) to one’s mind and it’s about ideas and memories. Auffallen is about your perception of the world and the stuff you notice there. The grammar is just as twisted as for einfallen, though. Instead of “I notice something” you say “something falls on/open to me“.
Let’s look at some more examples

Now, auffallen also works without mentioning a specific person who notices something. Then it expresses the general idea of standing out or being immediately visible.

  • “Wow, du hast ja voll den krassen Pickel.”
    “Ach mann, ja. Ich weiß. Aber so groß ist der doch gar nicht.”
    “Nee, stimmt. Aber er fällt schon sehr auf. Weil er halt direkt auf der Stirn ist.”
  • “Wow, you have a hell of a pimple.”
    “Aw, maannn. I know. But come on, it’s not that big.”
    “Nah, true. But it definitely does catch the eye. Because like … it’s like right on the forehead.”
    (probably not the most idiomatic translation, I know)

Now you’re all like “Hmm…  let’s see what the other meanings are.”
But there is no other meaning.
No, no… I’m not joking.  I know it sounds crazy but auffallen really only has this one meaning. Poor auffallen. Like… it’s always been the odd one out. Already in verb kindergarden,  all the other prefix verbs with their multitude of meanings would mock auffallen. “Onesie” they would call it. And then laugh in its face. And they wouldn’t see how useful auffallen really is. Well… we do, auffallen. We do see it. You’re a great verb. And you have a great relate… my god, what am I saying. Autumn gets me all melancholic and whiny.
But seriously, auffallen is a really useful word in daily life.
And so is the related adjective auffällig. Auffällig expresses the idea that something is eye-catching, flashy or striking and because these characteristics kind of come from being different from the norm, and because people have a tendency to get weirded out by stuff that is different than the norm… uh… damn, I forgot the beginning of the sentence. The point was,  auffällig can also express the idea of suspicious and the connection is  “standing out” – “being different” – “being strange” – “being suspicious”.

And of course we also need to mention  unauffällig and I think most of you can guess that this is the opposite. It’s about NOT catching the eye, NOT standing out. The translation depends on context and

Cool. Now let’s discretely move on to the r-version :).


Rauffallen means to fall on top of something and it’s… well… rare. There simply aren’t that many contexts for it and if there is one drauffallen is the more common version, I think.

So,  I really think you won’t ever need this verb.
And because rauffallen is so incredibly useless, let’s instead look at it’s “opposite” runterfallen.  Because there’s something really interesting to learn and if you do it correctly, you’re friends will notice and they’ll be impressed by how native you sound.


Unterfallen itself doesn’t exist. But runterfallen means to fall down; or falling down from a height, to be precise. For falling down in sense of falling over, you’d say hinfallen.

So far so good. Now let’s get to the interesting part. And that has something to do with the phrasing. Take a look at these two examples:

Looks like runterfallen actually also mean to drop. But does it?

  • I drop my cellphone.
  •  Ich falle mein Handy runterWRONG!!!

This is super hyper mega uber wrong. Runterfallen does NOT mean to drop. Not directly, anyway. It means to fall down and the German sentence in the last example means “I fall down my cellphone”. Like… we’re Antman and we’re tumbling down our iPhone or something.
So what’s up with the example about Thomas dropping his cup? Well, the solution is that Thomas is actually NOT the subject. Instead he’s in Dative case. It becomes clear once we use a pronoun.

I used mir, not ich. Literally, this means

  • The cup falls down to me (like… it does that to me, mean cup).

Now, this weird phrasing is actually the standard way to say that you drop something.  And the interesting thing about it is… that you’re not really guilty. Technically, you don’t do anything.

The German version really captures that it wasn’t intentional at all. It sounds almost as if you’re just as much a victim as the owner and the computer itself is to blame. And of course we can also switch around the elements.

  • Mein Computer ist mir runtergefallen.
  • My computer dropped me….

Wait, that doesn’t work in English :). That’s the “cool” thing about cases, that you can move stuff around and it doesn’t change the meaning.
Anyway, here’s the structure in general

If you drop something on purpose, then runterfallen is the wrong word. You’d use fallen lassen then. But for unwanted droppings, the weird structure with the dative is the way to go.

And I think that’s it for today. This was our look at the verb runterfallen  and the twisted grammar you use for dropping something…. wait, no… actually it was our look at the verb auffallen. If you want to try out some examples with any of the words, leave a comment and I’ll correct them if there’s a mistake. If a typo auffallen to you, then let me know. If you enjoyed this, then leave a like. I hope you had fun, and I’ll see you guys next time.

** auffallen – fact sheet **

auffallen – stand out, catch the eye, be noticable
mir, dir, ihm… auffallen (an )- I, you, he…  notice(s) something (about)

fiel auf
form of sein + aufgefallen

related words:
auffällig – flashy, in the face, conspicuous, suspicious

auffallend – remarkably
verhaltensauffällig – exhibiting abnormal behavior
unauffällig – sneaky, inconspicuously, low key, understated, not flashy

for members :)

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Im auffälligen Beispiel fehlt ein S – “Diese_ Beispiel…”

Kleine Englischkorrektur: Nicht “discrete(ly)” sondern “discreet(ly)” heißt “unauffällig.” Auch extrem viele Muttersprachler verwechseln die zwei Wörter. Ersteres bedeutet “einzeln” oder “eigenständig.”

Woodenly literal German translations never stop being funny to me:

– My phone is me downfallen D:

John Doe
John Doe

“Endlich locker lassen – 5 Tipps wie sie beim Meeting unauffällig pupsen”

Lol! Gibt’s eigentlich ein Link dafür? Du hast bestimmt meine Neugier geweckt :)

hazem shamma
hazem shamma

Danke das war ganz nützlich, ich möchte dass Sie über die demonstrativ Pronomen sprechen, ich kann nicht den Unterschied zwischen der, die, das, dieser, diese,…. jener….das dort….und dieser dort beherrschen.


There is a difference? I mean stylistical, yes. “dies” is higher tone and “jene” is outdated, but else they all mean the same. Gernders and case have to fit of course.




I’m Abed, I’m a new member here and I couldn’t pay for myself to be here, I would like to thank whoever generously payrf extra on their membership so I can be here.



The only time, I would actually use “rauffallen” without “d” is in the context of climbing staircases. “Sie ist die Treppe raufgefallen.” means that she tried to climb the stairs, stumbled and ended up laying on the stairs with her head or arms notably higher than her feet before she stumbled, hence she fell up the stairs.




I second that!


You forgot frappant!

Ano Menschkind Königin
Ano Menschkind Königin

Hey Emanuel, ich möchte dir ja danken für alles. Könnten wir bitte den Subjunktiv schnell lernen? Ich habe noch Verwirrungen dabei. Und noch-

am Anfang wollte ich gern nach Schland einziehen, aber ich muss mal sagen dass die ganze Flüchtling Krise mich richtig verängstigt. Ich will nicht, dass ich wegen jemandem schnell sterbe, egal ob entweder Ausländer oder Neonazi (ein Freund von mir wurde wegen eines gekämpft). Sag mir das ehrlich, würde ich wirklich da geschützt & geholfen wird? Nicht wegen meines Ausländersein bestraft würde?

Ich weiß nicht wie es bei euch geht, aber das ist eine wahre Angst für mich. Sie mögen mich (deutschen) hier schon nicht, was für eine Versicherung habe ich dass ich da ok sei? Meine deutsche ABF sagen dass ich da nicht nur ok, sondern beliebt wegen meiner Hautfarbe würde, aber ich glaube das nicht. Ich will die Wahrheit lieber von dir wissen.

Richard Buchli
Richard Buchli

I noticed in the last sentence, “Ich habe meine Brille fallen lassen”, that lassen isn’t conjugate to “glasses”. Why? Wouldnt that be Partizip II?

Richard Buchli
Richard Buchli

Sorry for autocorrect errors…


Hi everyone, I’m new to this website but just wanted to thank all and any of you that paid a little extra so that people like myself can use this wonderful resource. Honestly, my teachers have no idea why my German is improving so much. Thank you!!



Maybe off-topic, but mir ist was eingefallen. Have you ever written something about the different ways to say “to put” like the formal “legen/stellen” or the coloquial “hintun” with its variations like “darauf-/weg-/rein-/raustun”?
And all other verbs to describe positioning something to something/somewhere (platzieren?) or describing where something is (liegen/stehen) but coloquially oriented.

I can remember aus- and einlegen/stellen

But would be a good idea to put all of them in one article. I think is a common issue for Ausländer to get this

Maus On Arcturus

Kann man sagen, ‘Das fällt so ganz auf!’ Ist die Bedeutung ähnlich wie ‘offensichtlich’ oder nur ‘bemerkbar?’ Danke im voraus!


So we were doing an exercise yesterday with the verbs/Phrase: ‘Den Beschluss treffen’ and ‘bedauern’

In there we used something like:

Richter Dollinger hat die Entscheidung getroffen, Anna das Kind erziehen zu lassen. (gleichzeitig)


Richter Dollinger bedauert nicht, das Kind nach dem Test Anna erziehengelassen zu haben (vorzeitig)

so this is one instance where I think I had to use gelassen…
I dunno if it passes as an example where lassen is used in its Partizip II, but I thought I would add it to the discussion anyway. :)


Ok, am I correct in assuming that I could say, “Ich bin letzten Donnerstag den Stuhl runtergefallen.” (Last Thursday I fell off a chair. Totally sober, thank-you, but the back fell off and I flew, in real cartoon-character style.) – Or is it only, “Ich bin letzten Donnerstag, von einemn Stuhl gefallen.”


“Ist dir an mir was aufgefallen?”

I’ve never seen this construction before. Can anyone explain the “ist dir” translation and use to me? It seems like “is you” which doesn’t make sense..