Prefix Verbs Explained – “ausgeben”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: June 24, 2021

Hello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of German Prefix Verbs Explained. And if usefulness could shine, today’s word would be as bright as the sun. Hmm… I’m not sure if the money I spend for that metaphor-app I bought was worth it.
Hey but speaking of spending money…  today we’ll have a look at the meaning of



Aus can add two notions to a verb:  switched-off-ness and outside-ness. Usually it adds both, but not this time. The idea of switched-off doesn’t really make any sense in combination with geben. Turning something out by giving. Like… you’d have to make donations to your lamp to turn it off. That would be the stupidest light switch ever. So, in case of ausgeben we’re only dealing with the outside-aus. And the big question  is:

Does ausgeben mean to give out, like logic and common sense suggest? Or is there some crazy, stupid twist because … German.

Well… ausgeben actually is about the idea of giving out BUT the tricky thing is that ausgeben only works in a few rather specific contexts. The most important one is shopping! Ausgeben in combination with money is THE German word for to spend.

  • Boah, ich hab’ im Urlaub so viel Geld ausgegeben.
  • Man, I spent so much money while I was on vacation.
  • Ich will nicht 5 Euro für einen Kaffee ausgeben.
  • I don’t want to spend 5 Euro for a coffee.
  • Wieviel Geld gibst du im Monat für Essen aus?
  • How much money do you spend for food per month?

The next context for ausgeben has a lot to do with spending money, too. Ausgeben is the word for paying for someone else’s drink.

  • Ich geb’ dir einen Kaffee aus.
  • I’ll buy/treat you a coffee (as a courtesy).
  • Wer zu spät kommt, muss den anderen ein Bier ausgeben.
  • Whoever comes late has to buy the others a beer.

In fact, this use is so common and widespread that you don’t even need to say what drink you’re buying.

  • Ich geb’ dir einen aus. 
  • I’ll buy you a (few) round(s).

Now, to an extent, this ausgeben also works for food… but only casual, small bill food.

  • Ich geb’ dir einen Döner aus.
  • I’ll treat you to a kebab.
  • Ich geb’ dir einen Hummer an Püree von der Kartoffel mit Zitronen-Butter-Schaum aus.NOPE
  • I’ll treat you to a lobster with purée from the potato with lemon-butter foam.

In the second example the proper word would be einladen, which can also be used for drinks.

  • Ich lad dich ein.
  • Lit.: I’m inviting you 
  • I got this. (in context of bills)

This is what people usually say when the waiter comes with the bill and they want to pay it in full. Ausgeben only feels idiomatic BEFORE you get the drink. Cool. Now, buying a lot of rounds is a good way to pretend to be a rich person. And that brings us right to the third meaning of ausgeben: to pass something or someone off as something.

  • Der Mann gibt sich als Arzt aus.
  • The man passes himself off as a doctor.
  • Maria gibt ihren Bruder bei der Firmenparty als ihren Freund aus, damit sie nicht angebaggert wird.
  • At the company party Maria passes off her brother as her boyfriend so she’s not hit on.
  • Der Manager gibt den Plan des Praktikanten als seine Idee aus.
  • The manager passes off the intern’s plan as his idea.

I think ausgeben has a stronger notion of pretending than to pass off. So you’d only use it if the thing or person is not what you make it seem. All right. Spending money, inviting someone for a drink and passing something or someone off as something – those are the three main uses of ausgeben. You can find it in other, sometimes rather literal contexts here and there. For example, a company issuing stock or a technical device that’s giving out a sound signal. But you’ll definitely get it from context and they are really not that useful.

What is useful is the noun for ausgebendie Ausgabe which basically means “the giving out”.  Really straight forward. The Gepäckausgabe for instance is the place where they “give out” the  luggage (baggage claim/pick up), a Sprachausgabe is the voice output of a computer and a Wochenendausgabe … well… that’s gonna be a place where they give out weekends. Wait, what? That is AWESOME, I gotta go there right … oh… oh that’s not what it means? Sigh, another dream shattered. But seriously… what is a Wochenendausgabe? It is something they give out on weekends. We could say, something they issue on weekends. We could say, the weekend’s issue :). That’s the main meaning of die Ausgabe: issue.

  • Thomas ist auf dem Cover von der nächsten Ausgabe vom People Magazine.
  • Thomas will be on the cover of the next issue of People Magazine.
  • Clinton ist nicht in der Juli-Ausgabe vom Playboy.
  • Clinton is not in the July issue of the Playboy.

Ausgabe is issue in sense of newspapers and magazines (also for non-fiction TV and radio programming). And that brings us right to the her-version of the verb

rausgeben and Herausgeben

Herausgeben is the official word for publishing/editing a newspaper or a book.

  • Thomas’ Opa war mal Herausgeber einer Tageszeitung.
  • Thomas’ grandpa once was the (main) editor/publisher of a daily newspaper.
    (The Herausgeber is not just some random editor in a newsroom. It is THE editor)
  • “Die 10.000.000 besten Katzengedichte” – herausgegeben (hrsg.)  von Kitty Thomas.
  • “The 10.000.000 best cat poems” – published (pub.)  by Kitty Thomas.

But herausgeben can also express the more general idea of releasing something that was being withheld prior.

  • Nachdem 90% aller Studenten in der Prüfung durchgefallen sind, fordern sie nun die Herausgabe der Klausuren.
  • After 90% of all students failed the exam, they are now demanding the release of the exams.
  • Der Politiker fordert von dem Sender die Herausgabe des Videos.
  • The politician demands the TV channel hand over the video.
  • Muss mein Arbeitgeber Informationen über meinen Verdienst an meinen Vermieter (he)rausgeben?
  • Does my employer have to hand out/give out information about my income to my land lord?
  • Man sollte bei Gewinnspielen nicht einfach seine E-Mail (he)rausgeben. Sonst kriegt man sehr wahrscheinlich Spam.
  • You shouldn’t give out your email address for random raffles. Or else you’ll most likely get spam.

Now, this more general herausgeben can be shortened to rausgeben in more mundane, colloquial contexts. That is NOT the case for the sense of editing, publishing. Like… saying so and so is the “Rausgeber” of the New York Times is not colloquial or slangy… it’s just wrong and I don’t think anyone would ever say it. Which means that someone likely did say it at some point… because as Justin Bowie put it: “Never say Never” when it comes to languages. Anyways… there is a use for rausgeben, however, where you’d never hear herausgeben, simply because it would sound super mega stiff. It’s a very common every day meaning that brings us full circle to the first meaning of ausgeben… the spending money. Rausgeben is THE word for giving out (small) change in return to a bill…. and I do not know if there’s an English word for it.

  • Haben Sie es passend? Ich kann nämlich leider nicht rausgeben.
  • Do you have “the exact amount of money it costs in cash”? Because I don’t have change to break your bill.
    (sorry for this very clumsy translation. “es passend haben” and “rausgeben” are super uber common in German but I have no idea how to express that in English)
  • Der Polizist konnte nicht rausgeben, deshalb musste ich dann doch nichts bezahlen.
  • The police officer couldn’t give me back change, so that’s why I ended up not having to pay anything after all.
  • Können Sie auf einen Hunderter rausgeben?
  • Can you give back change if I give you a hundred?

Sounds like a rather specific word to have but the phrase “auf einen * rausgeben”  (with the asterix being a random bill)  yields half a million results on Google, more than you can find for the word herausgeben. So it’s definitely something people use quite a bit and it’s worth remembering. As is the word ausgeben itself. Because even though it applies the idea of giving out to rather specific contexts, the sense of to spend in context of money makes this word a definite must have. And that’s it for today. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.

** ausgeben – fact sheet **

to spend
to buy a drink (jemandem etwas ausgeben)
to pass off as (sich/etwas als jemand/etwas ausgeben)
to issue (specific contexts)

spoken past:
form of haben + ausgegeben

related words:
die Ausgabe – the issue, the counter, the expense (usually plural: Ausgaben)
die Herausgabe – surrender (of stolen things), also: act of publishing (rare)
der Herausgeber – the publisher (common)
herausgeben – give out/release (for stuff that has been withheld, or pieces of information)
rausgeben – give back change 


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