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.

  • Thomas denkt, dass ihm langsam die Haare ausfallen.
  • Thomas thinks that his hair is starting 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.

  • Mein Handy ist ausgefallen.

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.

  • Wegen Hitze fällt die Schule heute aus.
  • Because of the heat, school is cancelled today.
  • Der Sommer fällt dieses Jahr wohl aus.
    (common headline when there’s a rainy summer with no end in sight)
  • Looks like summer is cancelled this year.
  • “Na, wie war der Deutschkurs”
    “Gar nicht. Ist ausgefallen.”
  • “And? How was the German course?”
    “It wasn’t. It was 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.

  • Leider ist in diesem Zug die Klimaanlage ausgefallen. Wir bitten um ihr Verständnis.
  • Unfortunately, the air condition in this train isn’t working. We ask for your understanding.

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.

  • Der Stromausfall hat drei Tage gedauert.
  • The blackout/power outage lasted for three days.
  • Thomas arbeitet jetzt halbtags, aber er hat Probleme mit dem Verdienstausfall.
  • Thomas is working part time now but he is having trouble with the loss of earnings.
  • Kreditausfallversicherungen waren einer der Hauptauslöser der Finanzkrise.
  • Credit default swaps (CDS) were one of the main causes for the financial crisis.

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.

  • Die Ernte ist ausgefallen.

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).

  • Die Ernte ist gut ausgefallen.

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.

  • Das Feedback ist größtenteils positiv ausgefallen.
  • The feedback was mostly positive.

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.

  • Das Urteil über den Film ist überwiegend negativ ausgefallennewspaper language

  • Fast alle fanden den Film scheiße… discussion board language

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.

  • Maria hat einen ausgefallenen Musikgeschmack.
  • Maria has an extraordinary/unusual taste of music.
  • Der Manager wird beim Meeting ausfallend.
  • The manager loses it at the meeting (in the sense of he’s starting to insult people… is there a better translation for it? Danke!)

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.

  • Meine Tasche war offen und mein Handy ist rausgefallen.
  • My purse was open and my phone dropped out.
  • Marias Dekoltee war so tief… da ist beinahe alles rausgefallen.
  • Maria’s cleavage was so low, that ‘things’ almost fell out.
  • Ich muss zum Zahnarzt. Mir ist gestern eine Füllung rausgefallen.
  • I have to go to the dentist. I lost a filling/inlay yesterday.

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

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24 days ago

Super und danke!
A little correction: one example in the post, “Wegen Hiltz” should be “Wegen die Hiltz”.

2 months ago

Grüße Emanuel

Würde die Übersetzung von “ausfallen” in diesem Satz der Vorstellung von “to turn out” entsprechen? Etwa so, how the budget „turns out“?

Weil in den USA jeder Bundesstaat individuell entscheidet, wie hoch sein Budget für Bildung ausfällt.

Könnten ausfallen und herausstellen in einigen Fällen austauschbar sein?


5 years ago

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…

5 years ago

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.

5 years ago

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

5 years ago

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!

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

what about subjunctive? do we have to use it here? “da wäre alles beinahe rausgefallen”

“person is in fact NOT gestorben”-

5 years ago

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.”)

5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Hey have a question, I’ve read somewhere that the modal verben should not be used with zu, but take a look at this example “er hatte beschlossen, nicht den ganzen Kreis mit einem Mal finden zu wollen” and alot of other examples where zu is used with modal verbs could you please explain this to me?

5 years ago

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.

5 years ago

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?!

Aamir Saleem
5 years ago

Cool and Awesome. Thanks for this article

5 years ago

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 :)

5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Aso, sehr hilfreich, danke!

5 years ago

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.

5 years ago

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 :)

5 years ago

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.

5 years ago

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

5 years ago

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”


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.”

5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yes, a meeting can fall through. Anything that’s planned but ends up not happening.

5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I would add, though, that at least to me “fall through” sounds more like a failed attempt than I think “ausfallen” does. Like, we WANTED to have a meeting, but it fell through. You wouldn’t use it for any situation where the cancellation is seen as positive (again, at least I wouldn’t). It’s not necessarily something super serious or anything, but at least in that way it’s got a little bit of a conceptual connection to “durchfallen” as well.