Prefix Verbs Explained – “aussetzen”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: July 11, 2024


Helo everyone,

and welcome to yet another episode of German Prefix Verbs explained, one of the longest running and most captivating series in all of TV series history. Better than The rings of pow… oh wait, anything is better than the Rings of Power.

Today’s verb is another one of those hidden gems. That means you won’t find it in textbooks and “normal” vocabulary decks, and it seems really random and boring at first glance, but then you find out about its everyday use and you’ll be like “OMG, this is amazing.”
Ladies and gentles, get ready for a look at the meaning of



Quick note before we start:

If you want just a quick overview of the meanings, you can find it in my second project – the Prefix Verb Dictionary.
There, you can find a lot of the most common prefix verbs like angehen, bekommen or aufmachen, and you don’t only get hand made translations that actually make sense and that come with audio examples – no, you also get a really cool an unique interface that let’s you explore prefixes and verbs like nowhere else. It’s a new project, but growing fast, so check it out :)

German Prefix Verb Dictionary

But now let’s jump right in.

When you look up aussetzen in one of those boring legacy dictionaries, it’s likely you’ll just stare at a column of translations that don’t seem to have anything in common with each other. With words like to expose, to suspend, to plant, to criticize, to maroon, to pretermit, to skip and many more.
But contrary to what these translations might suggest, aussetzen  is actually really straight forward.
Because all of the various meanings come from one simple core.

Like with all placement verbs, it’s not very helpful to pin a single translation on setzen. It makes more sense to just think of it as a word for the broad idea of setting and placing. The prefix aus can express “switched off”-ness and outside-ness and often it adds both ideas to a verb. But in the case of setzen all we need is outside.
Placing something or someone “outside” in some way. That’s the core idea of all the various translations.
Let’s put it to the test.

The most obvious version is probably this one:

  • Normaler Urlaub ist Ihnen zu langweilig? Wir setzen Sie auf einer einsamen Insel aus – das Abendteuer Ihres Lebens.
  • Normal vacation trips are too boring for you? We’ll maroon you on a lonely island – the adventure of your lifetime.
    (literally: “set you out”)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Es ist unglaublich, dass Menschen ihren Hund an der Autobahn aussetzen, nur weil sie in den Urlaub fahren wollen.
  • It’s incredible that people leave/abandon their dog for good on the highway, just because they want to go on vacation.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

This is really about getting put/placed outside… outside on the island, outside from the safety of home, outside in the wild.
And this actually brings us right over to the next meaning.
Marooned on an island, you’ve got to face all kinds of stuff…  mosquitoes, crazy island weather, hunger, scary animal noises, the constant complaining of your partner that it’s the worst vacation ever. You’re exposed to all that.

And that’s also a meaning of aussetzen – to expose. And in fact, expose and aussetzen are kind of literal translations. You see, to expose is the Latin prefix ex-, which carries a notion of “outside”, and the verb  “to pose”, which is about placing something.  aussetzen – expose.
Now, aussetzen is muchh less common though, and you always need to specify (using Dative) the influence to what something is exposed.
And also, aussetzen ONLY works in the sense of exposing to “forces”, be it the weather or a naggy boss.
It does NOT work for the idea of revealing or uncovering (there, enthüllen or bloßstellen are the words you want).
Anyway, time for examples.

  • Die Skulptur war jahrelang dem Wetter ausgesetzt.
  • For years the sculpture was exposed to the weather.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Viele Menschen sind am Arbeitsplatz permanentem Stress ausgesetzt.
  • Many people are exposed to permanent/never-ending stress at their workplace.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Ich will mich diesem Druck nicht mehr aussetzen.
  • I don’t want to expose/subject myself to this pressure anymore.


  • Die Fische in Marias Gartenteich sind massivem Stress ausgesetzt, seit Thomas dort einen Hai ausgesetzt hat.
  • The fish in Maria’s garden pond are subjected/exposed to constant stress ever since Thomas put/planted a shark there.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Oh Thomas, what are you doing. I really don’t understand why Maria is with him while I’m lightyears deep into the friendzo… anyway, I digress.

The next meaning of aussetzen is a tad bit more abstract. It’s still about placement outside of something, but this time it’s about placing outside of some sort of progression.

  • Ich setze eine Runde aus.
  • I’ll skip one round.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • “Wir gehen was trinken. Kommst du mit?”
    “Ich glaub, ich setz heute mal aus.”
  • “We’re going to go have a few brewskies. You up for it?
    “I think I’m gonna pass/skip today.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Mein Herz hat kurz ausgesetzt.
  • My heart skipped a beat/stopped beating for a second.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Note that with the exception of Runde in the first example, this aussetzen  usually doesn’t take an object. It just sounds wrong to use it that way.
So aussetzen is NOT the right word for skipping lunch or skipping a chapter in a book. For that, auslassen or überspringen are the ones you need.

  • Ich lasse heute das Mittagessen aus.
  • Ich habe das Kapitel übersprungen.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

All right.
Now you might be like “Uhm… Emanuel, you said in the intro that aussetzen is an amazing hidden gem. Is that… uh.. is that gem part still coming?”

And you’re right of course. The meanings we had so far were interesting but nothing more.
The cool one comes now.

The useful meaning of “aussetzen”

You see, this probably comes as a surprise to all of you but…. Germans like to complain a lot.
Wow, mind blowing news, I know.

But yeah, Germans do have a penchant for finding the one little aspect about something great that is not so great.
And aussetzen is the perfect word for that.
The full phrasing is “etwas aussetzen an” and it means as much as “criticizing something about“.
How does that fit in with the core idea of aussetzen? Well, you “place” one aspect about a thing “outside” of the overall positive judgment… I hope that makes sense :).
It’s pretty common in daily life and I’m sure you and it will cross each others’ paths eventually. And you’ll be like “Oh, it’s YOU. I was expecting you.”
And aussetzen will be like “Uh… do I know you good Sir/Mam?”
And you’ll be like “No. But I know you very well.”
It’ll be so epic.

  • “Du Schatz, ich find’ das mit dem Hai in unserem Teich nicht so eine gute Idee. Der Koi wirkt ein bisschen gestresst.”
    “Du hast auch immer an allem was auszusetzen, oder?”
  • “Honey, I don’t think that’s such a great idea with the shark in our garden pond. The coi seems a little stressed.”
    “You always have something to complain about with everything, don’t you?”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Ich war mit der Präsentation nicht zufrieden, aber mein Chef hatte nichts daran auszusetzen.
  • I wasn’t satisfied with my presentation but my boss had no complaints.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Was hast du denn daran auszusetzen?
  • What’s not okay with it?/What do you not like about it?
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

I think we should note that this nagging-aussetzen is pretty much only used with generic words like nichts (nothing) or wenig (not much) or viel (a lot). And also, it’s mostly used in combination with haben, so auszusetzen haben. You wouldn’t say something like “Ich setze die Farbe aus.”.
I know you’re getting anxious now, like “OMG, so much to consider! I can’t!”
But if you feel that way, then just don’t use it :). You don’t really need it to get by, so you can just keep your ears open for it and slowly build a feel for how people do use it. And then one day, when you least expect it, you’ll be ready.
“Uhm, Emanuel… I least expect it NOW. Does that mean I’m ready?!”
Nah, probably not. So yeah, forget that bit. But you will be ready at some point. Big fat pinky swear.

All right.

Now, there are a few other phrasings with aussetzen out there but they’re all pretty narrow and nothing you’ll need. And if you really come across one,  I’m sure you’ll be able to guess the meaning with what we learned today.

So instead of looking at those, we’ll focus the rest of our learning energy on raussetzen.

“sich raussetzen”

And we need all the energy we can muster because, yes, sich raussetzen is an r-version.

But it’s an abstract nightmare.
Forget bestellen or erfahren or bestehen. sich raussetzen is the real boss fight.
In fact, some of Dalí’s sickest paintings were made after he mused about sich rau… okay, who am I kidding.
Sich raussetzen is a classic r-version, as r-version as they come. So it’s super literal and about “space” and it simply means to go sit outside. Nothing more, nothing less.
Do we need the self-reference? Well, technically, it doesn’t have to be a self reference. What we need is a direct object, because that’s just how setzen works. So you can technically also raussetzen someone else, but that’d only be useful when you bring your grandma outside on the porch in her wheelchair maybe.
But when you talk about YOU going to sit outside, then yes, you need the self reference – you “set yourself outside”, is what you say in German, pretty much.

  • Ich wollte mich in der Pause einfach ein bisschen raussetzen.
  • I just wanted to sit outside for a bit during the break.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Ich wollt’ nur Bescheid sagen, dass wir uns raussetzen.
  • I just wanted to say that we have moved outside.
    (guest to waiter, that changed from an inside to an outside table)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Not exactly the definition of useful, but it’s one of those words that make you sound super native speaker-like if you use them at the right time.

And that’s it for today. Hooray.
This was our look at the prefix verb aussetzen. As always, if you want to check how much you remember, just take the little quiz I have prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked this episode and have nothing daran auszusetzen. Have a great week and I’ll see you next time.



** fact sheet **


aussetzen – skip a turn (mostly in board and card games)

etwas/jemanden aussetzen – maroon, plant, abandon
etwas /jemanden (akk) einer Sache (dative) aussetzen – to expose something/someone to something

etwas an etwas/jemandem aussetzen – to criticize something about something/someone

etwas zur Belohnung aussetzen – put a bounty on something
ein Verfahren aussetzen – to stall/halt a proceeding (in court)


form of haben + ausgesetzt

related words:
sich raussetzen – go sit outside

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