German Prefix Verbs Explained – “ausfallen”

ausfallen-meaningHello everyone,

and welcome to another episode of Prefix Verbs Explained. Today we’ll have a look at the verb that’s probably the favorite word of all students… especially in summer.



Aus can add two notions to a verb: switched-off-ness and outside-ness.  And in combination with fallen, switched-off-ness doesn’t make too much sense. I mean… switching off by falling?

“Honey, can you turn out the light?”
“Sure.” (shoves bed side lamp from the nightstand)
“That was our last one. We gotta get new ones tomorrow.”

What a dumb system that would be. 

So we’re probably dealing with the idea of outside-ness and ausfallen can actually be translated to to fall out.

And if you’re now worried that German has gotten simple and convenient.. calm down. It hasn’t. This super literal ausfallen is pretty much limited to hair and teeth, though, so it’s NOT for random object falling out of your pocket.

This sentence would be understood in sense of your phone falling out of service and that’s because it’s essentially a variation of the main meaning of ausfallen:

to not take place although it was scheduled

Some event or something “falls out”, so it’s not there. The result is the same as the result of to cancel. But ausfallen makes it sound like the event cancelled itself. Instead of “being cancelled” a meeting “falls out”. It’s a pretty handy word, especially because some events just don’t take place without anyone having to had cancelled.

And in context with a phone or other technical devices you depend on, the idea is broadened to falling out of service. You expect your phone to work but it stops.

This technical context is also part of the noun der Ausfall but it’s used for a wide range of contexts where something you expected doesn’t come or happen.

Kreditausfallversicherungen… what a boring, long word. Had this thing had this name, we might not have a had a financial crisis :).

“I have some money to invest. Any ideas?”
“Hell yeah.  Kreditausfallversicherungen!”
“Kredisauserfallichungersen. It’s a German word. They’re the shit.”

“Uh … yeah … uh … do you also have treasury bonds?”

All right.
So this was the bread and butter meaning of ausfallen. But there’s another one, a more fancy one.

This is the ausfallen we know and it’s bad news for the village because the harvest didn’t take place (I think there’s an Aldi there though, so they’ll be okay).

This on the other hand is a reason to party because they had a good harvest.
And if you’re now like “Wait, how can one verb mean two things that are so opposed?” Well, the reason is simply that out is relative and it can be about both… getting out of the scene and getting out into the scene. Here’s an example in English.

  • Go out! (leaving)
  • Come out! (entering)

And ausfallen works in both senses. Something falls out of the scene… like the air condition in trains in summer. Or it can fall out into the scene. Like a good harvest. A very good translation for this second ausfallen is to turn out.

It’s a bit formal and technical sounding and mostly used for things like reviews, financial balance reports, bottom lines, summaries, feedback decisions and tests. So you wouldn’t use it to tell someone how your soup turned out.

If you want to sound posh or impress your teacher, try and use this ausfallen but the one you’ll really need is the other one, the one that’s about stuff not happening.

All right. Now, before we move on, we should quickly mention a couple of uses that are a bit independent of the verb. The ge-form ausgefallen can be used in the sense of extraordinary and the phrase ausfallend werden means to become verbally abusive. I think the idea in both cases is falling out of some kind of norm, if that makes sense.

I think we have a solid grasp on ausfallen now. Time to pimp it up…

Yo dawg, I heard you like r-versions?
So, I put an “r” in your car so you can roll while you drive.

Wow… that made noooo sense.


And rausfallen is a great example for r-versions taking the combination of verb and prefix literally. It simply means to fall out in sense of … well… falling out of something.

And that’s it. Really. I know some of you are waiting for some mind yoga but that’ll ausfallen today because … for a German prefix verb ausfallen is ausgefallen pretty straight forward ;).
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to try out some examples, just leave me a comment.
Or just go out and enjoy the sun. That’s what I’ll do now, and by the way, if you’re in Berlin take a bath in the Spree. It’s AWESOME. Just make sure you don’t go in after a heavy rain because than it’s not that clean. But after a few hot, dry days it’s safe.
Anyway, schöne Woche euch und bis nächstes Mal.

** ausfallen – fact sheet **

– to be cancelled, to not take place though originally expected to happen
– to be (to turn out)… only when there’s an adjective and only for result-like words like decision, summaries, feedback or reviews

spoken past:
form of sein + ausgefallen

related words:
ausgefallen – cancelled, also: unusual, extraordinary (for clothes and style)
der Ausfall – failure, loss, outage, default, also: lunge attack (in fencing)
ausfallend – losing “professionality”, getting personally insulting

ausfallen – stattfinden (for meetings and other planned events)
ausgefallen (sense of special) – langweilig, normal 

for members :)

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Hello! New member here!

I guess one useful thing I can add to this post is that the idea of something “not taking place although it was scheduled” has an idiomatic cousin in English, in “to fall through.”


Looks like either you didn’t finish this paragraph or left something on the end you meant to delete:

“All right. Now, before we move on, we should quickly mention a couple of uses that are a bit independent of the verb. Their core definitely is some idea of falling out though. The ge-form ausgefallen can be used in the sense of extraordinary and the phrase ausfallend werden means to become verbally abusive. I think the idea of falling out of some”


Ok. How come its bis nächstes Mal when bis takes dativ? How did that manage to ausfallen like that?!


I realised the fact that ausfallen is used in the sense of ‘cancelling itself’ when i once said “Der Zug wurde ausgefallen”, and was immediately corrected that it should be “Der Zug ist ausgefallen”.
I have a partially related question which I hope makes sense, und zwar, I have been told that “Ich wurde geboren” is correct and “Ich bin geboren” is wrong. I assume it is since gebären is the verb, which someone does to you. Why is it not possible to use the latter as a Zustandspassiv sentence? Or perhaps I am wrong.
Danke im Voraus.


As a retired military guy, “to fall out” or “to fall in” has a completely different immediate meaning for me. I’m sure you’ve seen it in (American only?) movies. When soldiers are just hanging around outside, doing nothing, and the First Sergeant screams, “Fall in!” that means everyone gets quickly into the box-shaped formation and stands at attention. Conversely, after he’s done barking orders and yelling at everyone, the command, “Fall Out!” means soldiers can go back to doing what they normally do, which is stand around and find something to bitch and complain about. So, “fall out!” is always a good and welcome command to the ears of Army soldiers :)


Hi Sir, thank you very much for reading my email and considering a free account for me. Actually I was totally disappointed, because this was not the first time I lost these kinds of resources just as a result of not having international credit cards in my country. I would not forget this generosity of your community and try to make my best effort to use it in a right way.


Hey Emmanuel! Toller Blog-Post, wie immer. Ein paar Vorschläge, wenn du jemals Themen ausgehst: ich würde gern deine Erklärungen von “beziehungsweise” und “bescheid” lesen. Ich habe keine Ahnung, was der Unterschied zwischen “Weißt du?” und “Weißt du bescheid?” ist. Und beziehungsweise scheint sehr oft verwendet zu werden, aber ich hab noch kein Gefühl für seine Bedeutung. Es bedeutet etwas wie “und”, “oder”, “und/oder” und auch “respectiv”? So verwirrend!

Danke :)

Aamir Saleem

Cool and Awesome. Thanks for this article


A very slightly related question…I have been told that a person can use “ausfallen lassen” in terms of skipping something. For example, if you were speaking with a child, “Willst du das Bad ausfallen lassen?” Is that correct?!


Hello everyone! I´m a new member here too.

I have been using this page to understand and differentiate some verbs. My goal is to study in Germany next summer.

Thank you so much for the effort you make on explaining this to us.


Hmmm, I think you mean “Maria’s cleavage was so low.” Like her dress is so low cut that she’d totally fall out if any bouncing went on. Actually the “cleavage” is what you see when the dress’ neckline is low cut, so it doesn’t quite make sense. (You could use “décolletage” or “neckline.”)


Hi, I just joined two days ago and have a question please – staying on Maria’s cleavage :) when does one use “beinahe” as opposed to “fast”
Thanks – this is a cool site!


Ich denke, dass Sie zu viel “t” in “Zahnarzt” gestellt haben.


Als der Schüler mit Sabotage-Gerät in den Elektroraum schlich, war versehentlich sein Rucksack offen, und eine Drahtschere fiel raus. “Mist,” sagte er. “Ich wollte einen Stromausfall veranlassen, damit die Unterricht ausfällt. Da ich jetzt erwischt bin, ist mein Plan schlecht ausgefallen.” Das war eine echte Schade, weil das Wetter ausgefallen gut war, sodass er gerne blaugemacht hätte. Stattdessen musste er im Büro des Schuldirektors sitzen während der ausfallend wurde.


Danke! Ich bin nicht sicher, ob ich den zweiten Punkt verstehe, was Theorie/Praxis angeht. Ich wollte sagen, “my plan turned out badly”. Funktioniert “etw ist gut/schlecht ausgefallen” anders als “sth turned out well/poorly?”

“Mein Plan hat nicht funktioniert” oder “Mein Plan ist gescheitert” wäre ja vielleicht direkter…