Prefix Verbs Explained – “ausstellen”

ausstellen-rausstellen-meanHello everyone,

and welcome to another episode of Prefix Verbs Explained. This time we’ll have a quick look at the meaning of



A word that comes in handy if you want to save gas and if you’re a painter. And if neither of those things sound interesting then let me tell you that we’ll also  learn something the r-version – that mysterious r-version that I keep mentioning without ever freaking bothering to give a detailed overview about what the hell that is. Yeah… I know, you find that annoying ;). Today we’ll add another piece to the puzzle, something about hin and her and r. And just so you know… it’s gonna be nerdy as hell and as a beginner you’ll be like “Whaaaaat”. So let’s waste no time and get right to it  :)


The prefix aus has two loosely related ideas it can add to a verb  – the idea of outside and the idea of off. And both come into play in combination with stellen. Stellen by itself is one of the three main “placers” – stellen, setzen and legen. English, too,  has three verbs as  put, set and lay. But there is no consensus among the languages about when to use them; nor has there ever been. Each language uses its placer-verbs for different things and there’s a good deal of random involved. Like… in English you put on a hat, in German you setzen it auf. And in English you set an alarm, in German you stellen it because stellen just happened to be German’s choice for setting machinery or devices. And that brings us the first meaning of ausstellen. The notion of setting for devices combined with the off-aus gives…  to turn off.

  • Ich bin mir nicht sicher ob ich den Herd ausgestellt habe.
  • I’m not sure if I turned off the stove.
  • Wenn ich an der Ampel bin, stelle ich den Motor aus.
  • When I’m at a traffic light, I turn off the engine.

But German has two other options for to turn off: ausmachen and abstellen and ausstellen is definitely the least common one. You might see it in a user manual or somewhere but I doubt you’ll come across it in daily life.
What you will come across, especially if you’re into culture and museums, is the second ausstellen. Take the literal meaning “to put out“, make that a broad sense of out there  and add the context of art and you’re almost there: ausstellen means to exhibit, to show at an exhibition.

  • Maria stellt in der Bar ihre Bilder aus.
  • Maria shows/exhibits her pictures at the bar.
  • Thomas geht mit seinen Hipsterfreunden zur Ausstellungseröffnung (also called: Vernissage).
  • Thomas and his hipster friends are going to the vernissage/gallery opening.
  • Marias beste Fotografien sind jetzt im MOMA ausgestellt.
  • Maria’s best photographs are currently shown (in an exhibition) in MOMA.

And yes, it is called ausSTELLEN even though the pictures are technically hung up ;). Again… with these placer-verbs you really shouldn’t put too much thought into why.
I guess we should mention that ausstellen is really limited to the context of showing art. So it is not to exhibit in sense of exhibiting curiosity or interest or something. Still, exhibit is the main meaning of ausstellen and the one you’ll definitely see sooner or later.
But there’s actually third meaning of austellen, and that one you might come across if you apply for a some official document. Because ausstellen can also mean that: drawing up, issuing  official papers like passports or working permits or checks or similar stuff.

  • Um eine Rechnung auszustellen, braucht man eine Steuernummer.
  • To write out/issue a bill you need a tax number.
  • Welche Behörde ist dafür zuständig einen Reisepass auszustellen?
  • Which government agency is responsible for issuing pass ports?
  • Den meisten Raststätten wurde in dem Test kein gutes Zeugnis ausgestellt.
  • Most motorway restaurants were given a somewhat negatives rating/grading in the test.

Why is it ausstellen and not auslegen or aussetzen? I really don’t know. I don’t think there’s a logical reason. Maybe stellen sounds more energetic, powerful and pompous than the others and people liked that for the official vibe.
Anyway, to turn off, to show at an exhibition and to issue/draw up for official documents – those are the meanings of ausstellen.
Now, let’s get to the r-version.

rausstellen and heraustellen

Whenever I talk about the r-version, some people say “Oh, it’s just a colloquial, short version of the her-version of a verb.” But that doesn’t really do reality justice.
Yes, her is where the r came from. But in recent decades, the r-version has started to come into its own. It has started to cover different ground, different nuances or at least a different vibe than her- not for all the verbs but for some and ausstellen is one of them. There’s rausstellen and herausstellen and they’re not always interchangeable – at least not if you want to speak idiomatic German.
Rausstellen is super turbo literal. It means to put outside. Not in some abstract sense of putting pictures out there, on display. No, it’s putting outside as in putting the trash outside…. which is one of the most common contexts for this verb. Putting the trash next to the street for the trash fairy to pick it up.

  • Toll! Thomas hat mal wieder den Müll nicht rausgestellt.
  • Awesome! Thomas hasn’t put out the trash yet again.
  • Sehr geehrte Mieter. In letzter Zeit gab es des öfteren Beschwerden über Geruchsbelästigung. Daher möchten wir Sie daran erinnern, insbesondere im Sommer den Biomüll nicht zu früh rauszustellen. 24 Stunden vor Abholung ist das Maximum.  Vielen Dank, Ihre Hausverwaltung.
  • Dear tenants. There have repeatedly been complaints about odor pollution recently. In the light of that we’d like to remind you not to put out the organic waste too early; especially in summer. 24 hours before pick up is the earliest. Thank you , your property management team.
  • Kann ich meine Grünlilie im Sommer rausstellen?
  • Can I put/leave my spider plant outside in summer?
  • Ich habe das Fleisch gestern abend zum Auftauen rausgestellt.
  • I took the meat out of the freezer to defrost last night.

And in all of these examples herausstellen wouldn’t sound like proper, high German… it would sound like weird, unidiomatic German. And because the question “How was I” has taught me not to trust my own impression too much,  I did a quick check up on Google. The phrase “Müll * rausgestellt” yields about 21.000 hits on Google, the phrase “Müll * herausgestellt” only 9. That’s a clear indicator that this rausstellen is not just a shortened herausstellen and that using herausstellen would not be more proper.
So… why is that? Well, one reason why her- doesn’t sound right might be the fact that her- has this notion of “toward the speaker/current scene“. And that notion just doesn’t fit well into a context that is about away… like putting out the trash. The single r on the other hand doesn’t have that notion anymore. It just marks directed movement. 
And that’s not specific to rausstellen.

  • Komm (he)raus.
  • Come out(side).

Here, both versions are equally fine, the her-version just being a little bit more high brow,  because kommen implies that the movement is toward the speaker/scene.

  • Geh bitte kurz heraus/raus.
  • Please go outside for a second.

Here on the other, heraus sounds pretty weird to my ears because gehen and the context imply that the person moves away from the speaker.
In absolute 110% proper high German, in these instances where the idea is away, you’d need hin- as a prefix. But for most every day contexts and verbs, this would be too high.

  • Bitte denk daran, morgen den Müll hinauszustellen.
  • Ich gehe vor dem Abendessen ein bisschen hinaus.

That’s just too much. Kind of like someone grossly over-enunciating … just with words.
A really nice example is the group for werfen (to throw). For rauswerfen (which means to fire, to kick out)  you can find 330.000 hits on Google, hinauswerfen gives you 120.000 and herauswerfen… 32.900 (Here’s the link to a Google ngram, if you want to see the situation for printed German).

So long story short… you can shorten almost all her-version to just an r-version because… colloquial speech. But you CANNOT extend every r-version and make it a her-version because that might end up not idiomatic at all.
What’s left to do for us? The meaning of (he)rausstellen. There are two, actually. The first one is to put special emphasis on something

  • In der Rede hat der Chef besonders das Teamwork herausgestellt.
  • In his speech, the manager put special emphasis on the teamwork.

The idea of this is actually not too far from the whole exhibition thing we had. The boss puts the teamwork out there on a podium. And that’s also why her works just fine here… because the teamwork is put in the center of the scenery, not away from it.
The more useful herausstellen is the one that comes with a self reference.. sich herausstellen. Again, the literal idea is about putting something out there for the world to see… in this case oneself… and that is not too far from the actual meaning: to turn out.

  • Mein Verdacht stellte sich als falsch heraus.
  • My suspicion turned out to be wrong.
  • Wie sich jetzt herausgestellt hat, sind doch weit mehr Wagen als anfangs erwartet von den Manipulationen betroffen.
  • As it turned out now, far more vehicles than originally suspected are affected by the manipulations.
  • “Wie war deine Prüfung?”
    “Ich hab sie nicht geschrieben?”
    “Warum das denn nicht.”
    “Na, es hat sich (he)rausgestellt, dass ich die gar nicht brauche.”

It’s nothing you really need in daily life but when it comes to written German this is pretty common and definitely a good word to know for B2-level students.

And that’s it for today. This was our look at the meaning of austellen and our little nerd moment about r-versions and her-versions and I really hope it wasn’t too boring :).
As always, if you have any question or suggestion about any of this, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

** ausstellen – fact sheet **

to turn off (less common than ausmachen)
to exhibit (for art, not behavior)
issue, hand out (for official documents and similar stuff)

spoken past:
form of haben + ausgestellt

related words:
die Austellung  – the exhibition
rausstellen – put outside (for cake for instance)
sich (he)rausstellen – turn out (for information surfacing)
etwas herausstellen – put a focus/epmhasis on something

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5 years ago

Hi Could you please explain usage of erstellen and erfassen in short?

6 years ago

Ich habe eine Frage über dein Beispiel:

-Wie sich jetzt herausgestellt hat, sind doch weit mehr Wagen als anfangs erwartet von den Manipulationen betroffen.

Mir klingt der erste Satzteil verwirrend (als englischer Muttersprachler), denn es gibt kein Subjekt. Ich meine, wen referenziert das Wort “sich” denn eigentlich? Ich glaube, es wäre extrem seltsam auf Englisch, ein reflexives Verb ohne Subjekt zu benutzen. Ist das einer der merkwürdigen deutschen Fälle, in dem man einen subjektlosen Satz bilden kann, oder braucht man irgendwo ein “es”?

Danke für den tollen Post!

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ja, danke! Natürlich, sind reflexive Konstruktionen seltener auf Englisch, aber ich glaube, auch meistens buchstäblicher (He taught himself to play the airguitar, I cut myself while juggling scissors, my computer turns itself off every time I open Safari, etc.) Daran liegt es vielleicht, dass auf Englisch reflexive Konstruktionen mit Satzteile als Subjekt ungewöhnlich sind. Es gibt aber wahrscheinlich Ausnahmen…

6 years ago

Thank you thank you! I will be in Berlin at the end of June. Do you run any courses at the moment? I remember you mentioned a joint course you were intending/running. Maybe I can come and be a student!

6 years ago

Ok. So the negative needs to go away for that last question to make sense. The difference between
Das hättest du ja machen können (hypothetical? Tense a bit fluid? Only if such and such conditions had been met or
were to be met in the future, THEN you could have done/could do that)
Das hattest du ja machen können (fact. You could have done it. Past tense).
Das konntest du ja machen. (Fact. You could have done it. Past tense)

And then there is..
Das konntest du Ja gemacht haben? What is the difference THERE? Or is that not a real sentance either?
Or am I reading to much in to it…. ???!!!

6 years ago

Very helpful article, thank you for writing it! I’ve never had clear understanding of those ‘r’ words until now.

6 years ago

I dont truly know what I think the difference is in english is either! To me the first version seems more factual. It is a statement of fact. Something could simply not have occurred. Punkt. The second version seems somehow a bit more … explanatory somehow. Something that was put forward as true ither intentionally or in error or inferred by someone is/has to be revealedexactly as actually not true. Not able/possible to be true. (And this is why … The second version maybe suggests there will be further details forthcoming about WHY this thing cannot/could not be true…).
I dont know how I would start to explain that gramatically – or even whether any other native speakers would agree… (Curious if anyone does have more detail..)
Is there that kind of subtle difference in the german version? If there is NO difference why do the two versions even exist?!

What about ‘das hättest du ja nicht wissen können’? What does THAT mean in comparison to ‘das hattest du ja nicht wissen können’?

6 years ago

I always love your posts. I have a random off topic question… Und zwar:
The difference between ‘Das konntest du ja nicht wissen’ and ‘Das hattest du
ja nicht wissen können’.
Is it: ‘You could not (possibly) have known that’ and ‘you could not/would not
(Possibly) have been able to know that’ ?

6 years ago

Gibt es Unterschiede zwischen “abstellen”, “ausmachen” und “austellen”, oder sind die Bedeutungen gleich?

Im Uebrigen, dachte ich das “turn off” auch als “ausschalten” uebersetzt wird. Ist das so?

Wie kann ich wissen, welches Wort zu benutzen?

(Hoffentlich ist meine Frage auf Deutsch verstaendbar. Wenn nicht, kann ich es auf Englisch wiederholen!)

6 years ago

Just another great article! Really enjoyed it. I have a question related to separate prefixed verbs. As only in the present tense we need to put a prefix at the end of the sentence, what if we’ll just ‘forget’ to have any prefix? For example:

Maria stellt in der Bar ihre Bilder aus.

Would it be a big mistake to just say:

Maria stellt in der Bar ihre Bilder.

For me it seems to carry similar meaning. Maria has brought her picture to the bar and she shows/put/install it in front of other people. I am fully aware that it would not work with every verbs, but with some of them?

6 years ago

Hmm. We do have a cut of meat here in the U.S. called “hanger steak.” It’s inexpensive but very good if properly seasoned and tenderized (on tacos, etc). I never made the connection before — I don’t know what part of the beef that cut comes from; I hope the “hanger” doesn’t refer to the cut of beef referenced above, or I’m going to be sick. :-)

6 years ago

Great post! One quibble:

“And yes, it is called ausSTELLEN even though the pictures are technically hanged up”

In English, the past tense and past participle of “to hang” is “hung” if you are referring to pictures, etc. The only time you properly use “hanged” is when referring the execution of a person.

The picture was hung on the wall.
The prisoner was hanged by the neck until dead.

You could also say that “the prisoner was ‘hung,'” but this does not mean he was executed. It describes a characteristic of one of his body parts, that is not suitable for discussion on a G-rated website. :)

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

That is like the difference between (hängen, hing, gehangen) and (hängen, hängte, gehängt) in German, isn’t it? It is also often used wrongly in German. “Das Bild ist aufgehangen/aufgehängt.” or “Der Computer hat sich aufgehangen/aufgehängt.” but the “aufgehangen” version is wrong. In English it seems to be the other way around which is even more confusing.

6 years ago
Reply to  person243

The first version is intransitive, the second is transitive. Unfortunately for prisoners in the old days they could become the subject of the transitive version of the verb.

6 years ago

Great article!

The question from my side would be if herausstellen would be in a sense the same as rauskommen (turn out)? As in example bellow (taken from your website :) )

Beim Meeting kam raus, dass wir zwei Wochen weniger Zeit haben als gedacht.

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It has. Thanks a lot.

6 years ago

Danke nochmal für einen tollen und interesanten Beitrag! Als ich ihn durchgelesen habe, ist etwas mir aufgefallen. Hast du dich viellleicht vertippt? Du hast geschrieben, “Toll! Thomas hat mal wieder den Müll nicht rausgestellen.”.

Soll es nicht “rausgestellt” sein?

Tut mir leid für die Korrektur!



6 years ago

Very interesting – as always. Can’t find the fact sheet though …
I have one more ‘ausstellen’ for you: In the seventies we had ‘Schlaghosen’ (bell-bottoms) the legs of which were ‘ausgestellt’ (flared).