German Prefix Verbs Explained – “aufnehmen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome back to the never ending story of German Prefix Verbs. Today, we’ll have a look at… what is going on, my voice looks really weird… like a little girl…. … gotta check the mic-settings … uh…   mic  check one two eins zwei.. nah, even worse test testtest test testDaF testicle l teenage mutant ninja testudo … perfect.
I’m just gonna start the recording again… what? … oh, right, I forgot we’re live.
I thought we were recording.
But hey, that actually brings us right to the prefix verb we’ll look at today.



Because recording is one of the contexts it is used for. One of many, many contexts…

Seriously, aufnehmen seems to be quite confusing for many learners. And it’s no wonder either, because the list of translation you get when you look it up online is longer than my toe nail.
MUCH longer!!
But when you look closer you’ll find that aufnehmen is actually pretty coherent because all the many meaning revolve around one core idea:

picking up, taking in something that is out there

Which is also pretty much the literal translation of aufnehmen.
So let’s just go over the various contexts and see how the idea is used.

We already mentioned aufnehmen in sense of to record. Just like in English, where you also say that a mic pics up sound. Only that aufnehmen the standard word. And in fact it’s not limited to audio and video but also works for photos.

  • Thomas nimmt heimlich Marias Duschgesang auf.
  • Thomas secretly records Maria’s shower-singing.
  • Dieses Foto wurde am 6. Februar um 18:03 aufgenommen.
  • This picture was taken on February 6th at 6:03 PM.

By the way, did you know that the word record is related to the word cardio and originally meant something like learn by heart ? I was pretty surprised to find that.
Anyway, from recording something on a tape it’s really not that far to recording something in your brain. Which is also a context where you can find aufnehmen.

  • Maria hat die Nachricht, dass ihr Duschgesang bei Youtube ist, gut aufgenommen.
  • Maria has taken the news that her shower singing is on YouTube well.
  • Kinder nehmen neue Informationen auf wie ein Schwamm.
  • Children absorb/soak up new information like a sponge.
  • Erzähl mir das ein andermal, ich bin grad nicht aufnahmefähig.
  • Tell me some other time, I can’t absorb it/take it in at the moment. (lit.: capable of picking up)

And it makes perfect sense to broaden that idea t for nutrients and other things the body can take in.

  • Neueste Forschungen belegen: Der Körper kann Sprache über die Haut aufnehmen. Eine Deutschcreme ist zur Zeit in Entwickelung.
  • Latest research proves: the body can absorb language over the skin. A German creme is currently in development.

And if it works for an actual body, why not also use it for all kinds of abstract embodiment like countries, corporations or the like.

  • Deutschland hat viele Flüchtlinge aufgenommen.
  • Germany has taken in a large number of refugees.
  • Ich wurde in der WG gut aufgenommen.
  • I was well received/welcomed in the new shared apartment.

Moving in to a new apartment or country is the start of something.  And this notion of starting is also part of the scope of aufnehmen.

  • Die beiden Politiker nehmen die Verhandlungen wieder auf.
  • The two politicians take up negotiations again.
  • Die Aliens versuchen, mit uns Kontakt aufzunehmen.
  • The aliens are trying to get in contact with us.

So… these were the most important contexts of aufnehmen and I hope you could see the basic idea of picking up in all of them.
Now, just to make sure though… aufnehmen is NOT a translation for to pick up. At least not in general. Aufnehmen sounds somewhat slow and sustainable and it doesn’t work for quick pick ups like that girl in that bar the other night… uh… I mean … the waitress … picking up glasses. That’s … what I meant.
Anyways, the noun for aufnehmen is die Aufnahme and it is just as broad as the verb is.

  • Die Aufnahme ist total verrauscht.
  • The recording is full of noise.
  • Die Kamera macht sogar bei wenig Licht noch gute Aufnahmen.
  • The camera takes good pictures even with little light.
    (that doesn’t feel idiomatic to me, native speakers to the rescue :)
  • Nikotin hemmt die Sauerstoffaufnahme.
  • Nicotin inhibits oxygen absorption.
  • Das Chaos heute beim Meeting war nur eine Momentaufnahme. Eigentlich sind wir gut organisiert.
  • The chaos at the meeting today was just a snapshot/impression of the moment. We’re actually pretty organized.
  • Thomas bereitet sich auf die Aufnahmeprüfung vor.
  • Thomas prepares for the entry/admission exam.
  • Maria macht ein Praktikum in der Notaufnahme.
  • Maria is doing an internship in the emergency room.

And boom, there you have it.
That’s aufnehmen in all its breadth and beauty. No mind yoga, everything makes sense. Kind of lame for a prefix verb, right?
Of course, those weren’t all the uses but I’m sure you can figure out any aufnehmen or Aufnahme you’ll see from context.
Well, except this one, maybe.

  • Wenn es um’s Wodka-Trinken geht, kann es Maria mit jedem Mann aufnehmen.

This phrasing, es aufnehmen mit, doesn’t really fit in with the others. The idea is that of taking on, challenging someone or something, being a veritable challenge. English actually has a verbatim translation to take it up with but I’m not sure if they’re really the same. At least, it’s not always a fitting translation.

  • When it comes to drinking vodka, Maria can take on/take it up with any man.
  • Deine Suppe ist gut, aber mit meiner kann sie es nicht aufnehmen.
  • Your soup is good, but it can’t mess with mine.
  • Obwohl mein Hund sehr klein ist, nimmt er es sogar mit Bären auf.
  • Even though my dog is very small, it takes on even bears.

Now, there’s one more thing we need to look at and all the prefix verb veterans know exactly what I’m talking about… the r-version.


There are no surprises here. As usual, the r-version is a super straight forward, location-focused take on the combination of prefix and verb and raufnehmen simply means to take upward or to take on.

  • Der Hipster nimmt sein Rennrad immer mit in die Wohnung rauf.
  • The hipster always takes his racing bike up to his flat.
  • “Herr Fitzsimmons… der letzte Song auf ihrer neuen Platte passt stilistisch überhaupt nicht zu den anderen? Wie kam es dazu?”
    “Sie haben vollkommen Recht. Er ist schlecht. Ich habe ihn dann aber doch mit auf’s Album raufgenommen, weil ich eine Wette verloren habe. Entweder rasieren, oder den Song.”
  • “Mr. Fitzsimmons… the last song on your new record doesn’t fit at all with the others stylistically. How did that come about.”
    “You’re absolutely right. It sucks. I took it onto the album because I lost a bet. It was either shaving or that song.”

Yeah… obviously, I was kind of struggling to find good examples :). Raufnehmen is just not that common.
But the verb aufnehmen itself is super useful and you definitely need to aufnehmen it into your active vocabulary.
And that’s it for today. As always, if you have any questions and suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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