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, womany 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

  • “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.

for members :)

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Danke Emanuel für diesen Artikel. Betreffend deine Frage: “bei wenig Licht” = “in low light”. Auch sagt man besser für “über die Haut aufnehmen”: “absorb through/via the skin”. “Over” passt in diesem Sinn nicht.


English speaker to the rescue: wenig Licht = dim light.

John Medway
John Medway

“Maria is making an internship in the emergency room.” – ich sagte “doing an internship”, nicht “making an internship”. Fraglos habe ich viel über “machen” und “tun” zu lernen.


Low light, of you’re talking about taking pictures :)


Vielleicht erinnere ich mich das Falsch aber hat Aufnahme nicht eine Bedeutung wie “exception” und wenn so, ist diese wort mit die andere Beispiele verwandt? Danke : )


Du denkst bestimmt an “Ausnahme”. :)


Oh das habe ich! Danke : )


As with everything there are seemingly billions of ways to say something, but “in low lighting” sounds most natural to me in a photographic context. Great lesson and good discussions too!


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.

There’s an english word, ‘Glimpse’, that’s perfect for this meaning.


es aufnehmen mit

No English word, but the phrase “is a match for” or “is no match for” is essentially the same thing.

Maria is a match for any man.
Your soup is good, but it is no match for mine.
Even though my dog is small, it is a match for bears.

I think the logic is that the two things match each other, as in a pair.

Personally, I play a lot of video games (Street Fighter!), so when I hear this phrase, I think of something that demands my full effort. Two things are so similar that the outcome is uncertain for both sides, and the only way to find a winner is through competition. In that sense, “you’re no match for me” sounds like “one of us has much more skill than the other. One of us will be bored, the other will think it’s unfair,” and “you are a match for me” sounds like “our skills are equal enough that we will both feel we were tested.”


I think “is a match for” works well with the Maria-vodka and soup examples, but it doesn’t seem quite active enough for the dog one.

There’s really not an idiom that fits exactly with all of these. “Hold one’s own against” is pretty good:

– Maria can hold her own against any man.
– Your soup can’t hold its own against mine.
– My dog can hold its own against bears.

“Take on” is really fine for the sort of active, “challenging” meaning. “Take it up with” has a different meaning in English, though. I’m trying to think how to describe it – it’s mostly about presenting a complaint to somebody, and it tends to be used when you’re trying to deflect that process away from yourself.

– If you don’t like how I’m doing my job, you can take it up with my supervisor.
– I don’t know why your pay hasn’t been getting deposited on time – you’ll have to take that up with the payroll department.

Benjamin Geer

“Der Hipster nimmt sein Rennrad immer mit in die Wohnung rauf.” This sounds like a mixture of “mitnehmen” and “raufnehmen”. What’s the infinitive? “Raufmitnehmen”?

Dave M.
Dave M.

The difference between making an activity and doing an activity could be down to American versus British English. I have heard British kids make a test or exam, American kids take one…

Also, in the sentence Die Kamera macht sogar bei wenig Licht noch gute Aufnahmen. Is there a tone of “suprisingly” here? Like the speaker was not expecting it to work well but it does?


Hello, that’s my first post on your blog. I really like the explanation but what I’m missing is the difference between the word “annehmen” which is somewhat similar. Could you explain a bit more? Thanks!


I’ve read it and (also after your comment) it makes much more sense :)


Der Hund hat wieder auf den Boden gepinkelt. Wir brauchen mal einen Aufnehmer.


Hello, I just came across “entgegennehmen” which seems to be very similar to “aufnehmen”… at least according to Leo. Could you explain a bit the difference? thanks!


Super Post. Ist aber eher B, oder?

Alan Evangelista
Alan Evangelista

Very good post, as always. Thanks!

You mentioned that “aufnehmen” is not used in general as “pick up”. In Duden, the meaning 1a of “aufnehmen” is exactly that one, of physically picking up a object:

I suppose you meant “aufnehmen” is not the *most usual* translation of “pick up”. What would that be? aufheben?