The meaning of “bereit”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day.
And this time with a look at the meaning of


Which is the German word for ready.
And the two are not only translations, they’re actually brothers.
And they’re related to a verb you’d never expect… to ride, or reiten in German

The origin of the family is the humiliatingly ancient Indo-European root *reidh-, which was about being in motion, travelling and in particular riding. Some etymologists also see a connection to words like reisen (to travel) and the pair rennen and to run, but there’s no scientific consensus about that.
I mean… not that we’d need that. It’s 2022 after all, and science got taken BACK by we the people, to whom it BELONGS.
Not a scientist elite in their liberatories. What do they know about how the world works.

Anyway, the connection between ready and riding is pretty well documented in various Germanic languages and the original sense of ready and bereit was something like “ready to be ridden”.
Which could be about the horse being all set up to get going…

“Sire, thy horse is ‘ridy’.”
“Very well, I shall ride out then.”

 … but also about a path being passable by riding, like “rideable”.

Over time, the words were used more and more broadly and eventually, they became the general term for the idea of … well… readiness. 

  • “Bist du bereit, dein Deutsch auf das nächste Level zu bringen?!”
    “Dann kauf meinen Free Article Course™, jetzt nur $99 anstatt $500.”
  • “Are you ready to bring your German to the next level?!
    “Then buy my Free Article Course™, now only $99 instead of $500.”
  • Thomas ist nicht bereit für ein Kind.
  • Thomas is not ready for a child.

Now, German actually also has the word fertig, which can also mean ready

  • Ich mache mich fertig/bereit.
  • I’m getting ready.

Here, it depends on the context which one I would prefer, and you’ll find other contexts where people use fertig for ready.
But it’s important to realize that fertig also carries the idea of finishing, completing. Like… finishing a beer for instance. bereit does NOT have that. It is definitely focused on the idea of being set, ready to go.
And that includes the idea of being mentally prepared in the sense of being willing to do something.

  • “Ich bin irgendwie nicht bereit $99 für einen Free Article Course zu bezahlen.”
    “Alles, was ich höre, ist Mangel-Mindset!! Und es ist kein free article course. Es ist der Free Article Course™.
  • “I’m somehow not willing to pay $99 for a free article course.”
    “All I’m hearing is scarcity mindset!! And it’s not a free article course. It’s the Free Article Course™.”
  • Das Model ist zu allem bereit, um den Job zu kriegen.
  • The model is ready/prepared to do anything to get the job.


Now, bereit is already quite useful by itself.
But of course it also comes with a bunch of relatives that you’ll also see in daily life, so let’s take a look.

Related Word of “bereit”

First up, there is a whole truckload of compound adjectives with bereit, that all revolve around the idea of being ready or willing for something.

  • Die Leute in Bulgarien sind sehr hilfsbereit.
  • The people in Bulgaria are very helpful/ready to help.
  • “Du bist überhaupt nicht kompromissbereit.”
    “Und du bist nicht opferbereit.”
  • “You’re not willing to compromise at all.”
    “And you’re not willing to sacrifice.”
  • Einhörner sind sehr gewaltbereit, vor allem, wenn sie trinken.
  • Unicorns are prone to violence, especially when they’re drinking.

Then, also worth mentioning, is the word bereits, which is basically a more fancy sounding option for schon in the sense of already.

  • “Wie bereits erwähnt bin ich nicht bereit $99 für einen fre…”
    “Lalala, so viel Mangel-Mindset.”
  • “As already mentioned I am not willing to pay $99 for a…”
    “Lalala, so much scarcity mindset.”

This does sound kind of formal though, so you’d probably rather use it in writing than in spoken German.

Next up, we of course also have the mention the noun: die Bereitschaft.
Which can just mean the general readiness, but it’s also the word for being on-call in the context of a job.

  • Der Politiker signalisiert seine Bereitschaft zurückzutreten.
  • The politician signals his readiness/willingness to step back.
  • “Kommst du mit zum See?”
    “Ich kann nicht, ich habe Bereitschaftsdienst?”
    “Ich dachte du bist DJ?”
    “Uh… aber ich bin auch bei McDonalds. Als … als Hobby.
  • “Are you coming to the lake?”
    “I can’t, I’m on call/standby.”
    “I thought you’re a DJ.”
    “Uh… yeah, but I’m also at McDonalds. As a… hobby.”

And then we have the verb bereiten.
Which looks like it it could mean to make ready, to ready, but the actual meaning is more like a mix between to create and to give and it’s mostly used for positive or negative experiences.

  • Die Deutsche Grammatik hat mir am Anfang viele Probleme bereitet.
  • The German grammar gave me a lot of problems in the beginning.
  • Kochen bereitet mir Freude.
  • Cooking gives me joy.

I mean, there is an element of “getting ready” in these. German grammar in the first example is like “Hey, I got some problems ready for you.”, if that makes sense.
But bereiten is not a common verb at all, though. It sounds quite formal and “scripted” and I don’t think I have ever used that in daily life. So that is definitely not one that you need to have in your active vocabulary.

One of its prefix versions on the other hand is an absolute must have because it can prepare you for anything… like… literally.

“prepare” in German

Many of you probably guessed it  – I’m talking of course about vorbereiten, which is basically getting ready with the added clear notion of in advance. Or in one word… to prepare.
Which is also a prefix version, by the way, consisting of the Latin stem pare, which meant to make, to produce (also seen in repair and compare and more), and the prefix pre… which just like vor adds the idea of in advance here.

But yeah, the main German translation for to prepare is vorbereiten and while the meanings line up pretty well, there is one important difference in grammar that we need to note.
In English, you can either prepare something, like a presentation for example. But you can also just generally prepare for that presentation.
In German, vorbereiten pretty much always needs a direct object, so you either vorbereiten something

  • Ich bereite meine Präsentation vor.
  • I prepare my  presentation.

or you can vorbereiten yourself (sich – Accusative) for something. So you have to use it reflexively.
Oh and yes, in place of “for” in German we say “auf” because… why not.

  • Ich bereite mich auf meine Präsentation vor.
  • I prepare for my presentation.

I mean… in English you could also say “I prepare myself” but the thing is that in German you HAVE to say it that way. Without the self reference, it sounds REALLY wrong to a native speaker.

  • I’m preparing for my presentation…. works
  • Ich bereite auf meine Präsentation vor….WRONG

It’s still understandable, but yeah… sounds very weird.
Anyway, let’s look at a few more examples.

  • Maria bereitet sich auf das Date vor.
  • Maria is getting ready/preparing for the date.
  • Ich muss mich auf den Marathon vorbereiten.
  • I have to prepare for the marathon.
  • Die Managerin hat das Meeting gut vorbereitet.
  • The manager has prepared the meeting well.
    “Die Küche… so sauber…  was soll das?”
    “Gefällt dir das nicht?”
    “Äh… doch, doch, alles gut. Ich war einfach nicht darauf vorbereitet.
    “The kitchen… so clean… what’s that supposed to be?”
    “You don’t like it?”
    “Uh.. I do, I do, all good. I just wasn’t prepared (for this).”

Of course, there’s also the noun die Vorbereitung which is the preparation.

  • Wie lange dauert die Vorbereitung?
  • How long does the preparation take?

And this somewhat generic example brings up another noteworthy point. The English to prepare and preparation is also pretty commonly used in context of actually cooking. The German vorbereiten would not really fit there, because its focus is entirely on the idea of prepping in advance.
Instead, the proper word for preparing food in German is zubereiten.

  • Der berühmte 3-Sterne-Koch bereitet Essen wie vor 300 Jahren zu. Es gibt sogar Ratten in der Küche.
  • The famous 3 star chef prepares the food like it was done 300 years ago. There even are rats in the kitchen.
  • Die Zubereitung dauert in etwa eine Stunde.
  • The preparation takes roughly one hour.

Using Vorbereitung in the second example would also work, but then it would sound like you’re talking about the preparation you do BEFORE you actually start preparing the food.
I should say though that zubereiten and Zubereitung do sound a little technical and in colloquial German people are more likely to use das Kochen or das Machen or something.

Anyway, besides vorbereiten and zubereiten, there are also nachbereiten and aufbereiten. The latter, aufbereiten is once again about preparing, but in the special sense of making material ready to be used. You’ll find this one primarily in context with information and also garbage and wastewater and the like that you treat and prepare for some purpose.

And the other one, nachbereiten, is kind of the counterpart to vorbereiten.
So it’s what you’d do AFTER a meeting or presentation – like a debrief, when you go over what went well, if there should be gluten free cookies next time and if everyone being naked was a good idea. You know… typical German office talk.
Neither of the two, nachbereiten and aufbereiten are really common, though, and it’s definitely enough if you have them in your passive vocabulary.
And the same goes for the last word of today  – the absolutely epic verbenreiten, which…
uh… doesn’t really exist, but if it did, it would mean to ride on verbs.

Ich lerne jeden Tag, über die Weiten,
der Deutschen Sprache verbenzureiten.

#poetry #achieved

And that’s it for today.
This was our little ride along the meaning and the family of bereit.
As usual, if you want to test yourself and see how much you remember, you can take the little quiz I have prepared.
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment – I am bereit to clear up everything
I hope you had a good time today, have a great week and I’ll see you in the next one.

Bye :)


** vocab **

bereit (für, zu) = ready, set; willing
bereits = already (formal alternative to “schon”)
die Bereitschaft = the readiness, the willingness; the “being on call duty”

vorbereiten = to prepare (not for food, needs direct object)
die Vorbereitung = the preparation (not for food)

zubereiten = to prepare (for food, sounds a bit high class)
die Zubereitung = the preparation (for food)

aufbereiten = to prepare, to treat (Mainly used for material and information that cannot be used in its original state, implies improvement)
wiederaufbereiten = to treat (Mainly used for sewage water and uranium)

nachbereiten = to evaluate, to review (ONLY in the context of looking back on an event or presentation and analyzing how it went)



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