Prefix Verbs Explained- “auskommen”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: July 20, 2023

Hello everyone,

and welcome. So a couple of weeks ago we had a poll here about which word you guys want to have explained next, gerade, ja or eben.  and the winner is…. drrrrrrr dishhhhhh… eben. A bit of a surprise. I was expecting gerade. But anyway, eben it is,  so I’ll get my my slacker pants, a coffee and a beer   whole research team and get to work and I vow I won’t shower until the case is solved. Ewww.
In the meantime you can have a look at another German Prefix Verb with me. Just a quick one.



Auskommen is a combination of the German word for to come and the German word for out.  So naturally it means to come out and all we need to do is look at a couple of examples and boom, new word acquired. Right? RIIIIIGHT???

If you’re now like “I’m not so sure, this is right.” then you’ve definitely learned some German already. Auskommen does NOT mean  to come out.
Of course not. It’s a prefix verb. Auskommen has two kinda niche-y yet useful meanings, while the verb for  to come out is something else. And if you’re now like “R-version, maybe?” then that means you’re already on the road to being a prefix verb master :) 

Aus can add two notions to a verb: switched-off-ness, and outside-ness. In case of auskommen we’re dealing with the latter, but in a really, really twisted way.
Back a few centuries ago when tomatoes were still tasty and meanings still made sense people still used auskommen as to come out, in context of actual buildings but also in a more abstract sense of coming out of a journey or a period of time. A bit like we say “I made it through the 10 hour meeting” only that they would say  “We outcame the 10 hour meeting” … well… kind of like that. Now, a good way to “outcome” a boring meeting is with the assistance of Mister Coffee. For that, people back then might have said: “I made it through the meeting with coffee.”.
And that is quite close to how auskommen is used today. Though it doesn’t sound as “grave”  as to make it through. Auskommen is not so much about making it through in sense of there being a real challenge , it’s more about a general “making it through” and means getting by, making do,  managing  with or without something. Time for examples:

  • Der Film kommt ohne viele Explosionen und Special Effects aus.
  • The movie doesn’t need/use a lot of explosions and CGI.
  • Das neue Müsli kommt komplett ohne Zucker aus.
  • The new musli doesn’t need any sugar.
    (Super common in German food talk… what would be proper marketing English for this?)
  • Wegen sinkender Steuereinnahmen muss die Stadt mit weniger Geld auskommen.
  • Due to sinking tax revenue the city has to make do/manage with less money.
  • Thomas ist nervös, weil er für 2 Wochen ohne seinen Praktikanten auskommen muss.
  • Thomas is nervous because he has to get by/manage without his intern for two weeks.
  • Erst war ich nervös, dass das Auto kein Navi hatte, aber ich bin ganz gut ohne ausgekommen.
  • First I was nervous about the car not having a sat nav but I managed quite well without.
    (Note that it’s bin ausgekommen, not habe ausgekommen.. clearly a leftover from back i the day when the verb was still about movement)

Now, to get by, to manage, to make do… all these work just fine on their own. “I get by” is a proper sentence. This is a bit different for auskommen. Auskommen pretty much ALWAYS comes in combination with mit or ohne. Or to say it in German:

“Auskommen” kommt nicht ohne “mit” oder “ohne” aus.

Wow, what a messy sentence :)… but seriously… auskommen just by itself rarely idiomatic. It’s always about some sort of tool. If you need a general to get by/to manage then go for zurechtkommen.

  • Ich komm schon zurecht/klar.
  • Don’t worry, I‘ll be fine/I’ll get by.

All right.
Now… in the beginning I said that auskommen has two meanings. Well, in a way the second one is a variation of the first. But at the same time it’s very different at the same time. So it’s a fariation…. get it? Like “fa.. meh never mind.

  • Thomas kommt nicht ohne seinen Praktikanten aus.
  • Thomas can’t get by without /really needs his intern.

This is the meaning we already know. Now let’s change that example a tiny bit.

  • Thomas kommt nicht mit seinem Praktikanten aus.

Based on what we’ve learned this should mean that Thomas can’t make do with his intern. Like … he needs more interns.
But what most people would understand when they hear the sentence is this:

  • Thomas doesn’t get along with his intern.

So auskommen can be getting by AND getting along… and also in English, they’re awfully close and totally different at the same time.

  • Ich komme gut mit meinen Kollegen aus.
  • I get along well with my colleagues.
  • Maria und die Ex von ihrem Freund kommen gut miteinander aus.
  • Maria her boyfriend’s ex get along well (with each other).

So, does that mean that auskommen mit in combination with a person always means getting along. Well, no.

  • Thomas kommt gut mit einem Praktikanten aus.

This sentence can mean either… that he gets along with one of the intern or that he gets by with one intern as in he doesn’t need two. But I think context will make it clear most of the time.
All right. So these were the one and half meaning of auskommen. They do originate from the idea of coming out of something but this connection is lost completely. That’s why if you say “Komm aus.” that doesn’t feel like “Come out!” at all. It feels like nothing, it just sounds wrong. And it might take a native speaker a few seconds to even understand what you mean. And all that because a little scratching noise is missing in the beginning – the “r” of the so called r-version.


As usual, it’s not the prefix verb itself that has the most logical, literal, straight forward, real world translation. It’s its r-version. The right match for coming out from somewhere is rauskommen, or its fancier version herauskommen. So the proper translation for “Come out!” is this:

  • Komm (he)raus!

But rauskommen isn’t limited to a strictly local sense. It’s used in quite a range of situations where something kinda sorta comes out of somewhere. Here are some examples that are all pretty common uses in day to day German

  • Der Film kommt in drei Monaten raus.
  • The movie is gonna come out in three months.
  • Einfach geradeaus weiter fahren, dann kommt ihr direkt beim Brandenburger Tor raus.
  • Just keep going straight and you’ll end up/wind up right at the Brandenburger Gate.
  • Beim Meeting kam raus, dass wir zwei Wochen weniger Zeit haben als gedacht.
  • It turned out/We found out at the meeting that we have two weeks less than we thought.
  • Beim Test kam raus, dass ich nicht laktoseintollerant bin… aber ich glaube das nicht.
  • The result/outcome of the test was that I’m not lactose intolerant… but I don’t believe that.

In the last example we have the English noun the outcome. I’m gonna check out the translation for that right now but I have a feeling that we already know it. Here it comes, the translation for outcome is…. das Ergebnis. Wait what? Let me double check that…. hmm… I guess it’s right. There’s a noun das Auskommen but that is a rare word for livelihood (means of getting by). Sigh.
Or as Goethe put it:

“Language, bro. Language.
A constant source of anguish.”

And I think that’s it. This was our little look at the prefix verb auskommen. You can definitely auskommen without it but it’s useful so I hope the explanation helped that you auskommen with it a bit better… man, that was so constructed :). Anyway, as always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

** auskommen – fact sheet **

get by/make do/manage
get along (with people)

Ich komme mit etwas/jemandem (Dativ) aus. 

spoken past:
form of “sein” +  ausgekommen

written past stem:
kam- aus/auskam-

related words:
das Auskommen – livelihood (somewhat rare, but definitely used in newspapers)

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