Prefix Verbs Explained – “aussetzen”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: April 7, 2022

aussetzen-meaning-germanHelo everyone,

and welcome to yet another episode of German prefix verbs explained, one of the longest running and most captivating series’ses’s in television history. And it’s not even on television.
Today’s verb is another one of those hidden gems. 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 it’s everyday use and boooooom…. your heart SKIP SKIPS a beat… hint hint.
Ladies and gentles, get ready for a look at the meaning of



When you look up aussetzen in a dictionary, it’s very likely your heart skip ski… oh wait, we already had that. Aussetzen really does have an eclectic selection of translations, though. To expose, to suspend, to plant, to criticize, to maroon, to pretermit, to skip and many more.
But the verb is actually really straight forward. All of these 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.
  • 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.

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. In fact… check this out: ex- is the Latin prefix for “outside” and “pose” is a placement verb. Aussetzen and expose are kind of literal translations. Aussetzen is much less common though, and you always need to specify (using Dative) to what something is exposed.

  • Die Skulptur war jahrelang dem Wetter ausgesetzt.
  • For years the sculpture was exposed to the weather.
  • Viele Menschen sind am Arbeitsplatz permanentem Stress ausgesetzt.
  • Many people are exposed to permanent/never-ending stress at their workplace.
  • 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.

Man, Thomas is such a dick sometimes. I really don’t understand why Maria … but 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.
  • “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.”
  • Mein Herz hat kurz ausgesetzt.
  • My heart skipped a beat/stopped beating for a second.

Note that with the exception of Runde in the first example, this aussetzen  usually doesn’t take an object. It’s 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.

All right.
Now you might be like “Uhm… Emanuel, didn’t you promise that our heart would skip a beat? As in… aussetzen is so cool? Well, just so you know… it hasn’t skipped yet.”

And you’re right. The meanings we had so far were interesting but nothing more. The cool one comes now.
You see, you probably didn’t know (kidding, ‘course you did) but Germans like to complain a lot. And they can find something negative about pretty much anything. Even an anode.

:| :| :|

Physics jokes. Always a sure miss.
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. “X an Y aussetzen” means “to criticize X about Y”. 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. Wow, that sounded weird. Anyway, examples.

  • “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?”
  • 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.
  • Was hast du denn daran auszusetzen?
  • What’s not okay with it?/What do you not like about it?

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 erfahrensich 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 – literal as hell. Sich raussetzen simply means to go sit outside. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Ich wollte mich in der Pause einfach ein bisschen raussetzen.
  • I just wanted to sit outside for a bit during the break.
  • 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)

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 have any questions or if you want try out some examples or if you have something to  daran aussetzen about this article, just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it, and 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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