German Prefix Verbs Explained – “ausmachen”

ausmachen-rausmachen-meaninHello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of German Prefix Verbs explained. And I hope you’re concentrated because today we’ll look at one of the crazier ones. Get ready for the many meanings of

ausmachen

 

Aus is one of the most productive productive prefixes out there and machen is one of the verbest verbs ever. Yeah, that made no sense. But hey, you all know how common machen is. It means to make and also to do, and as if that wasn’t enough it’s also often used as a fall back if other options are hard to find.

  • Soll ich die Teller in die Kiste machen?
  • Should I put (“make”) the plates into the box?

This is not exactly beautiful language, but just recently I heard someone say that. And I totally felt him. I was like “Yeah man. Make that stuff into the box, man.” The thing is that neither stellen nor legen sound quite right there.
Anyways, back to our verb. The prefix aus can add two notions to a verb: switched off-ness and outside-ness. And guess which one it adds to machen.
Exactly.
Both.

The first meaning of ausmachen is so straight forward, a ray of light through space looks like a serpentine road in comparison. Ugh… physics jokes. The black holes of humor.
So, the “switched off”-aus combined with machen means: to switch off, turn off.

German also has ausschalten and ausstellen and abschalten for that, but ausmachen is BY FAR the most common one. The only context in which it would sound odd is devices turning off themselves.

  • Der Bildschirm macht sich selbst aus…. NOPE!
  • The screen turns itself off.

That sounds a bit like the screen has self awareness or something. Here,  sich ausschalten or better yet ausgehen are the right choices. Ausmachen also doesn’t work in sense of turning off people, but for turning off devices of any kind, it’s the word to go for.
Cool. We’ll get back to this switched-off-aus in the epic finale, but first
let’s  look at the other strand, the ausmachen that is based on the outside idea of aus. Better buckle up because there’s some crazy stuff ahead.

“Ausmachen” and “seeing stuff”

The ausmachen based on the outside-aus exists in English, too. Ausmachen is to make out.
Not the sexy, sometimes awkward but usually fun making out with someone, though. That’s NOT ausmachen. Ausmachen is the booooring to make out in the classic sense of making out something – as in recognizing stuff.

Now you might be wondering what that has to do with the idea of outside? Well, distinguishing something is in some way about making it stand out from the rest. Like… you have this foggy forest on the horizon and your perception, in that case the sense of vision, “carves out” the deer that grazes in front of it. Definitely abstract but I hope it makes sense.
Now, I feel like this making out isn’t all too common in spoken English. The German version is even less common. People would use erkennen or sehen.
However, this idea of making out was the base for another meaning of ausmachen, one that is uber common: to agree on something.
Now you’re like “Wait what? What does agreeing have to do with recogniz… oh hold on, wait, is it because agreeing is like recognizing common ground with someone?!”
And I’m just like “Yeah dude. You’re spot on!”
That’s exactly how the meaning came about. Think of two people trying to make an appointment… they’re trying to spot, make out a slot that fits both their schedules. And this logic also explains why ausmachen does absolutely NOT work for to agree in sense of only one person agreeing. Like… “I agree.”

  • I agree.
  • Ich mache aus… make NOOOO sense at all
  • Ich stimme zu. 

Ausmachen doesn’t work here because there’s no trying to make out common ground. Ausmachen always involves two parties agreeing on something.
But even though it’s not as broad as to agree, it still is super common and it works for all kinds of small,  informal or semi-formal agreements in daily life.

Really useful word.
And there’s more. So far, the ausmachen was kind of us looking for something. But it also works for the other side. Here’s an example.

Here, we’re asking for something that distinguishes a good teacher from other teachers; some features that make a good teacher recognizable within the horde of teachers. So we still totally have this idea of distinguishing, recognizing only this time, it’s the characteristics that “make out” the thing or person. They make it “make out”-able, if that makes sense. Here’s a couple more examples.

This meaning is not as useful as the one about the agreeing but you’ll definitely see it here and there.
And it leads us to the next big idea of ausmachen…. yes, there’s another big idea. The idea of effect.

“ausmachen” and effect

It does need some mind yoga but the idea of being distinguishable, recognizable, “make out”-able is not too far from the idea of effect. An effect usually is recognizable and if you add a defining feature to something, that does have an effect. Like… making your running jacket light weight, good looking and breathable “has the effect that it’s (recognizable as) a good running jacket.”
This broad, vague idea of effect is also part of ausmachen. And that’s no wonder, considering that ausmachen is actually kind of the literal translation for effect.
Wait, what?!?!
Yup, you heard that right. Effect comes from Latin and it’s a combination of the prefix ex and the verb facere. Ex means out (as in exit)  and facere is Latin for…. to make, to do. Nice, right?
But what does ausmachen do with the idea of effect? Like… how does it show?
One use is to express that something makes a (usually big) difference, which is kind of also an effect.

This is a nice to know phrasing, but what makes the effect-ausmachen really really useful is the more personal use. Here’s an example:

Taken literally, this means that something makes no difference for me, has no effect on me. In practice, it’s only used for negative effects.

  • That doesn’t “have a negative effect” on me.

And you know what… we actually just went full circle: back to ausmachen in sense of to turn off. Because… having a negative effect and turning off really do share some common ground.
Anyway, the idiomatic translation for the example can be any of the following:

  • Das macht mir nichts aus.
  • I don’t mind that.
    That doesn’t bother me.
    That doesn’t faze me.

Let’s look at some more examples.

I know that the structure is a bit weird. With the es and the mir all that. Definitely something to get used to. But the phrasing is super mega common in daily life and it’s worth investing some time. Here are a few fragments.

Maybe try out some examples in the comments as an exercise and I’ll correct you.
But wait, before we get to that, there’s one more thing we need to discuss… the r-version.

rausmachen

Just like most r-versions, the meaning of rausmachen is pretty much the literal combination of the prefix and the verb. Rausmachen simply means “making” something that was inside before not be inside anymore after; or in real English: to remove, to take out. Why not rausnehmen then? Well, the result of nehmen (taking) is having and that’s not always the purpose of the taking out. Like… when you take out a tick it’s not because you want to have the tick. You just want it gone. And that’s what rausmachen is.

Rausmachen is really quite useful and I’m sure you’ll hear it sooner or later when you come to Germany.
And by the way… it’s a good example why it makes sense to think of the r-version as a a category and NOT just think of it as a shortened her-version. Because when you look for herausmachen on Google you get like 20.000 hits, many of which are dictionary entries in various languages. For rausmachen you get 10 times as many entries; and they’re actually real uses. Sure, rausmachen is a colloquial but hey, that’s how people speak. It’s called language, not penuage… get it? Get it? Ugh…
Anyway, And calling it a “version” of herausmachen wouldn’t do it justice.

All right.
And that’s it for today. This was our look at the meanings of ausmachen and phew, that was quite intense actually. First, we had the meaning of turning off, then the idea of “seeing, recognizing” and the main meaning “to agree on something” and then we had this whole stuff about having an effect, making a difference and fazing someone, which we can think of as “being clearly recognizable”… you know… just if we want to find some common core for all of it :).
If you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to try out some examples just leave me a comment. And if you enjoyed it, hit that little like button and give me some like-love.
Schöne Woche euch und bis nächstes Mal.

** ausmachen – fact sheet **

meanings:
X ausmachen – turn off X (opposite: anmachen)
X ausmachen – make out (distinguish, recognize) X
X mit Y ausmachen – agree on X with Y
mir/dir/… etwas ausmachen – to faze someone, to mind

past:
form of haben + ausgemacht

machte- … aus

other words:
rummachen – to make out (sexual sense)
rausmachen – remove (from inside), take out

for members :)

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aoind
aoind

Ich hoffe das macht dir nichts aus, aber ich muss dir informieren, dass ich kein E-Mail von diesem Thema gekriegt habe.

Jake
Jake

So when one wants to “tick” instead of “untick” a checkbox, sagt man einfach “machen”?

Was ist der Unterschied zwischen den Folgenden?

– Wir haben ausgemacht, dass …
– Wir haben uns darauf geeinigt, dass …

berlingrabers
berlingrabers

I wouldn’t say “make out” in the “see/recognize/distinguish” sense is rare in English. You can also use it for hearing, actually.

– I can hear his voice on the phone, but the audio quality is so bad I can’t make out what he’s saying.

I think the “seeing” version might be most common with writing:

– There’s something written there, but I can’t make it out.

Would those work in German?

– Ich kann seine Stimme hören aber die Sprachqualität ist so schlecht, dass ich nicht ausmachen kann, was er sagt.
– Da steht was geschrieben aber ich kann es nicht ausmachen.

aoind
aoind

“make (something) out” is used in the visual sense in exactly the same way as for hearing – when the object is difficult to distinguish from its background -but I agree it’s probably rarer than trying to “make out” the lyrics of a song against a raucous backing track.

Alie
Alie

Thanks Emmanuel for this very informative post ! A little problem though… I can’t open your pdf :( und das macht mir aus! (is this even correct in this situation?)

richtam
richtam

So, can you translate “What a difference a day makes” to ,, So, was ein Tag ausmacht ” ?

richtam
richtam

Noch ein Beitrag- Könnte man in Beziehung auf ,, betragen ” sagen : Das Anteil macht X Prozent der Bevölkerung aus. ?

Danke !

Aviv
Aviv

Ich hoffee dass du schon gewusst bist, wie deine Blog macht so viel aus. Danke dir

person243
person243

“Etwas mit/für sich selbst/selber ausmachen” = “to manage something on one’s own”

Took me long enough but I found something worth mentioning that you had not covered yet. My translation is probably not perfect, so I try with some examples:
“Das mach mal schön mit dir selber aus.” = “I’m out, that’s on you.” (“I” is angry with “you” and now “you” asked for help, but “I”strictly declines)
“Ich gehe nicht zum Arzt. Ich mache die Krankheit lieber mit mir selbst aus.” = “I won’t visit the doctor. I prefer managing the illness on my own.”
“Danke für das Angebot, aber ich mache das schon für mich selbst aus.” = “Thanks for the offer but I’ll manage on my own.”

You can probably connect that to the agreeing meaning of “ausmachen” via “coming to terms with something on your own”.
Anyway cool article Emanuel and greetings.

Anomenschkind
Anomenschkind

Macht es dir aus, wenn ich so oft & offen mit dir rede? Ich kann es einfach nicht ausmachen, wenn ich mit Ausländern & Männern rede.

(Beispiele & eigene Fragen )

raspberry
raspberry

The pdf is missing, could you please put it back. :)

camilo
camilo

Hey emanuel..nice one again..thanks ..a question…”ob..ist der gute musik in Cafe” so why not use “es gibt” instead of “ist”.. It’s something i can not catch in daily German still..how to translate “there is”..not always clear for me..

Und eine kleine korrectur: “the hair do has a big différence” ist “does have”

Danke viel Emanuel..

camilo
camilo

Ja..das ist sehr hilfreich. Aber ob ich richtig vertehen, das hangt im welche ist die objekt von das setze.. So sometimes both may be correct grammatically but not necesarily defining what one was to say.. If you can give me maybe one one more example i’d appreciate it lots..because in spanish i don’t find a valid comparison. Cuz i was trying tnot to bother you but internet does bot dissipate still the doubt.. Maybe i’m using it iy wrong ans people won’t understand me? beispiel: es gibt ein konzert…versus es ist ein konzert….
Danke viel auch mein alter..

camilo
camilo

I think i’m getting it …but from what i”m getting you germans are unique in this matter… The french have “il y a” and now i’m remembering at first it was kind of hard ..cuz it’s with the verbe avoir or to have..anyways. Thanks

barratt
barratt

Dr. Tollpatsch hatte geistig alles, was einen guten Erfinder ausmacht. Er war aber wesentlich ungeschickt und Geschicklichkeit macht für Erfinder leider viel aus. Er hatte etwas machen wollen, was etwas ausmacht. Daher hatte er eine Maschine erfunden, die gleichzeitig alle Umweltprobleme löst, alle Krankheiten ausrottet und Clinton als US-Präsidentin wählt. Als er versucht hat, das Ding anzuschalten, hat er versehentlich das Licht seines Labors ausgemacht. Weil er zufällig auch schon seine Kontaktlinsen rausgemacht hatte, konnte er gar nichts in dem dunklen Labor ausmachen. Er stolperte rum, bis er seine Maschine umstieß und die Erfindung hin war. Dank Dr. Tollpatsch wird gleich Trump Präsident.

barratt
barratt

Es war am nächsten Tag peinlich für Dr. Tollpatsch, die UN anzurufen, um die Ausstellung abzusagen, den er schon mit ihnen ausgemacht hat.

barratt
barratt

*die er schon…

Roshanak
Roshanak

hi, thanks for mega useful posts, which also make german very enjoying. is “es macht mir nicht aus, wenn…” structure more common than “wenn es Sie keine Umstaende macht,…” or “wenn es Sie nicht stoert,…” ? do they have the same meaning?