Prefix Verbs Explained – “aussetzen”

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

5 6 votes
Article Rating

Liked the article?

Sign up to my epic newsletter and get notified whenever I post something new :)
(roughly once per week)

No Spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

It seems that “leave / leave out” covers a lot of meanings of “aussetzen”

leave out:
1. to cause to remain in the open
2. to omit or exclude

5 years ago

(Es geht nur darum, dass ich immer darauf stehe, Deutsch an der Unlogik seiner Grammatik auszusetzen.) :-)

5 years ago

Ich würde gerne an PaulJs Frage noch eine anschließen. Was die Grammatik angeht, hätte ich nicht erwartet, dass es “etw irgendWO aussetzen” anstatt “etwas irgendwoHIN aussetzen” wäre, denn mit “setzen” (ohne Präfix) werden immer Direktiv-Ergänzungen benutzt. (i.e. warum wäre es: “Nach dem Streit über den Hai, setzte Thomas die meckernde Marie auf einer Insel [dat] aus”, aber: “Danach setzte Maria ihre Unterschrift auf die Scheidungspapiere [akk]”?) Steckt sich eine Logik dahinter oder muss man das halt merken?

5 years ago

We have a few of this literal translations into English.

For example instead of saying “We’ll maroon you on a lonely island” it would actually be quite common to say “You’ll set out to a lonely island.” The phrase “you’ll set out on [adventure/vacation]” is an extremely common phrase in vacation advertising in the U.S.

I also agree with berlingrabers that we use “sit out” to mean skip a lot in English as well. Especially when the person could LITERALLY be sitting it out for example in sports someone might say “he is sitting this one out today” or if you don’t want to partake in an event “I’ll sit that out”.

The meaning of “expose” is a little further removed, but we do use the verb to say we are putting something outside. Such as “I set the package out on the porch to be picked up”, so in that idea it does make sense that if you are setting something outside that it could get exposed to the elements. I’ve seen people say things like “I set something out and then it rained all night and ruined it” or “I set meat out for dinner and it went bad, because I forgot about it”, so there is that “abandoned” aspect in there as well.

As far as the complaining aspect the only thing I can think of close is to be “set against someone or something”. Further elevated by adding “dead” to it. “Why are you always dead set against everything I want to do?”. I guess I could see someone saying something like “you were set out against from the start”, but I think this “set out” idea for complaining would be a lot less common in English than in German and it almost always uses “against”, where it appears German uses “an” instead of “gegen”.

5 years ago

Frage: The example had, “dass Menschen ihren Hund an der Autobahn aussetzen”. Okay, dative for the Autobahn, got it, but why “an der Autobahn”? I thought it was “an der Wand” und “auf dem Tisch”. “An” for vertical surfaces ” as in “das Bild an der Wand”, and “auf” for horizontal surfaces as in “der Teller auf dem Tisch.”

Jamie Shepherd
Jamie Shepherd
5 years ago

Is auseinandersetzen related to the various meanings of aussetzen, as you’ve described it here?

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren
5 years ago

Ich mag dein Physik-Witz

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak
5 years ago

Was it the sculpture or the sculptor who was outside in the weather – for years !
Loved this , learning lots.

5 years ago

Just to check, since you only used stress and weather as examples of things one might be “ausgesetzt” to, does this work broadly for anything you’d normally want to be protected from/spared, literally or figuratively?

– Viele Wähler wollten vor November nicht zugeben, dass sie vorhatten, für Donald Trump zu stimmen, vermutlich weil sie sonst dem Spott ihrer Bekannten ausgesetzt gewesen wären.

Oh, and “quibble about something” could be a good fit for “etwas an etwas aussetzen,” at least in some situations. “Find fault with” is also a good fit generally, though it feels a bit more formal than your examples.

5 years ago

At least in American usage, interestingly, “to sit something out” is a very good equivalent for the “skip” meaning of “aussetzen” (except when it’s about someone’s heartbeat). The literal meaning is a lot more like “sich raussetzen,” but it fits with your two examples really well:

– Ich setze eine Runde aus.
– I’ll sit out a 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 sit this one out.”

The English “expose” has also historically had that “abandon” meaning like “aussetzen,” too, at least in some contexts. The ancient Romans were known to expose unwanted babies, i.e. abandon them to die out in the wilderness somewhere. It wouldn’t be a normal term for ditching your dog on the highway or anything, but the connection is there.

It’s also common to talk about “suffering from exposure” (i.e., to the elements – sun, wind, rain, cold, heat, whatever), which doesn’t seem to have a standard equivalent in German.

5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I probably have, but it’s good to see the comparison. That’s obviously kind of close, but a more typical way (at least in American idiom) to describe that situation is “ride it out” (pretty similar to “weathering” something). I feel like there’s another expression I can’t quite think of, too.

“Sitting something out” is really about skipping something you would normally want or be expected to participate in (or have been participating in up until now).

5 years ago

Iwo nichts dran auszusetzen. (check the first blue word after the physics joke for a spelling error, and before the second examples two times “ausmachen” instead of “aussetzen”) It was a very nice article again.
Would have been a shame to infect it with Leprosy, whose name in German was for a long time “Aussatz” (because the people infected were isolated in places away from the healthy or “ausgesetzt”), and the people infected were called “Aussätzige” (adjective: “aussätzig”). Nowadays one calles the illness “Lepra” or by a medical name, but the word lives in some proverbs, e.g.: “Hier werde ich ja wie ein Aussätziger behandelt!” = “I am treated like a Typhoid Mary here!” (or what do you say? An immigrant by Donald Trump…?)
I don’t know whether that belongs here, but there is also “voraussetzen” = “to assume/expect” with a bunch of connected words, such as “die Voraussetzung” = “requirement” and the parents-love-it participle “vorausgesetzt” . For example: “Du darfst zur Party gehen…” – “Juhu!” – “… vorausgesetzt…” – “Ohhh.” – “…du hast bis heute Abend das Zimmer aufgeräumt.” = “You may go to the party today…” – “Yay!” – “…iffff…” – “Ohhh.” – “…you tidy up your room till today evening.”

5 years ago
Reply to  person243

Actually, “treated like a leper” would be a very usable if not fixed expression in English too. I was going to ask about “Aussatz”/”aussätzig” myself. :) Not exactly everyday, except for people like me who work with the Bible often, where it’s still the standard translation for “leprosy.” (The word translated with “Aussatz” actually refers to a range of skin diseases, not necessarily Hansen’s disease, which is what the term is generally understood to mean today, at least in English.)