Prefix Verbs Explained – “einlegen”

einlegen-reinlegen-meaningHello everyone,

and welcome to another episode of Prefix Verbs Explained. Have you ever wondered what a cucumber, a Blue Ray disc and an afternoon nap have in common? Good news then!! Today we’ll find out because we… what? Oh, you weren’t wondering? Oh.
Uhm… well, we’ll find out anyway because today we’ll take a look at the meaning of


Ein is the prefix version of the preposition in and it expresses the idea of “into-ness”. Legen  is the German version of to lay but it’s also used in a more general sense of (lay-like) putting.
So, it would make a lot of sense if the meaning of einlegen was to put in.
Well, believe it or not, it actually is.
But because that would be WAAAAY to easy, it’s only idiomatic for a few randomly selected contexts or group of things.  
The first group could be called  “somewhat small items you place inside of devices”  and it’s pretty cell phone. I mean handy.

  • Ich habe die SIM-Karte von einem Freund in mein Handy eingelegt, aber es erkennt sie nicht.
  • I put the SIM card of a friend into my phone but it doesn’t recognize it.
  • Ich lege eine DVD ein.
  • I put in a DVD.

SIM cards, CDs, films, batteries – for all these small things you put in some device, einlegen is THE word.
The second group could be called “objections”. The idea is basically that you write your objection on a piece of paper and then hand  (put) it in.
You can einlegen a Widerspruch (objection), an Einspruch (objection in court) or Berufung (appeal in court) or a  Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde
and no, I don’t think you can einlegen a Beschwerde against words like that anywhere :).
This einlegen is pretty formal and mostly used in writing in context of legal issues. But at least Widerspruch einlegen is definitely useful in daily life for instance if you get a bill you don’t agree with.

  • Sie können innerhalb von zwei Wochen Widerspruch einlegen.
  • You have two weeks to lodge an objection/to appeal.

I almost forgot, there’s one use which kind of uses the same logic and which is more positive and less formal.

  • Thomas legt beim Chef ein gutes Wort für den Praktikanten ein.
  • Thomas puts in a good word for the intern with the boss.

All right.

The third group or third context for einlegen is a bit harder to pin down but I think a pretty good title is “interludes”.  The most common example are breaks.

  • Öfter mal eine Pause einzulegen ist wichtig, wenn man produktiv sein will.
  • Making/taking a break every now and then is important if you want to be productive.

But it also works for other things that “break” an activity or routine.

  • Auch Langläufer sollten im Training öfter mal eine Sprinteinheit einlegen.
  • Also long distance runners should throw in a sprint work out every now and then in their training.
  • Das Parlament legt eine Schweigeminute ein.
  • The parliament holds a minute’s silence.
  • Wenn Maria sich nicht konzentrieren kann, legt sie manchmal eine kleine Tanzsession ein. Das hilft.
  • When Maria can’t concentrate, Maria sometimes throws in a little dance session. That helps.
  • Um das Projekt fertig zu kriegen, legt das ganze Team eine Nachtschicht ein.
  • The entire team pulls an all-nighter (lit.: night shift)  to finish the project.

Now, when you einlegen a Pause, you might go to the kitchen to get a little snack. And that kind of brings us to the last context of einlegen.
In the kitchen, einlegen is used for the following: “to put food into liquid, usually to have it sit there for a while and take up the flavor”. One translation is to pickle but einlegen is a bit broader than that, I think.

  • Ich lege eine Gurke ein.
  • I pickle a cucumber.
  • Ich liebe in Olivenöl eingelegtes gegrilltes Gemüse.
  • I love grilled vegetable in olive oil.
    (lit.: grilled veggies that have been put into olive oil)

  • Das Fleisch waschen, würzen und dann über Nacht in Bier einlegen.
  • Wash and season the meat and then, put it in beer and let it rest overnight.

All right.
So these were the 4 field of use for einlegen and we finally know what a cucumber, a nap and a Blue Ray have in common…. you can einlege… what? Oh right, nobody cares. I forgot.

Now, the noun for the verb is die Einlage. Literally, it would be inlay I guess but the translation completely depends on context because Einlage is just as broad as the verb: money in your savings account can be called Spareinlage, meat in a soup can be called Fleischeinlage, a little singing session at the meeting can be called Gesangseinlage – there are a few more like this. The one that’s really common daily life is: die Slipeinlage. And for the men who are now wondering what that could be, I’ve prepared a little Google Image Search.
Oh… oh hold on… I mixed something up. These are actually Einlegesohlen. Wait… so I guess in my shoes that’s actually… oh damn I gotta take those ou… but your face tells me that we should move on.


Now, the r-version is usually a very literal, very factual interpretation of the prefix-verb-combination. Reinlegen is no exception. It means to put/lay something into something. No special contexts, just plain and simple. Wanna put a milk in your shopping cart? Go ahead, leg it rein. Wanna lie down in that warm bath? Great idea, just leg yourself rein.

  • Das Mousse au Chocolat war so lecker… ich hätte mich reinlegen können.
  • The mousse au chocolat was so tasty… I could have bathed in it. (lit.: lie myself down in it)
    not sure if that’s idiomatic

  • Ist im Eisfach noch Platz? Ich würde gerne das Bier kurz reinlegen?
  • Is there any room in the freezer? I’d like to put the beer in there for a little bit.
  • “Mist, das Bier ist warm.”
    “Wir können es ja kurz ins Eisfach reinlegen.”
  • “Crap, the beer’s warm.”
    “Well, we can put it in the freezer for a bit.”

In the first two examples, the “destination” of the laying had already been specified before and the rein makes reference to that. In the last example, the destination is right there so technically you wouldn’t don’t need the rein. A simple legen would do. But reinlegen is one of those words where people “double up” on their preposition because they think it “sounds cool”. And in fact, it doesn’t stop at two.

  • … kurz ins Eisfach hinein einreinlegen
  • … kurz inneninein ins Eisfach hininnereinin einreinlegen

In colloquial German, things like these are super uber common and sometimes speakers go on like this for minutes.
Now you’re like “Wait, is German really THAT crazy???”
But don’t worry.  Of course the last two examples were bullcrap.  I just wanted to trick you. Why? Because that’s the last meaning of reinlegen :)
Yup, that’s right. Reinlegen means to trick and it’s super super common. Think of it as putting someone into a trap…

  • Du hast mich reingelegt.
  • You tricked me.
  • Ich lasse mich nicht so leicht reinlegen.
  • I won’t be tricked (so) easily.
  • Die Enkel-Masche – wie Kriminelle Rentner reinlegen. (newspaper headline) 
  • The grand child ploy – how criminals trick pensioners.
  • Reingelegt!
  • Gotcha! (after someone bought into your bs)

And that’s it for today. This was our look at the various meanings of einlegen. It’s a bit tricky because it is so context specific but at least the einlegen in sense of putting in DVDs and SIM cards and stuff is really worth remembering.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if I forgot a use of einlegen (which is totally possible) just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you in 2 months.
And you’re now like “Whaaat? Why two months?” then let me just say

** einlegen – fact sheet **

put in  – for small technical things you “lay” in somewhere (SIM cards, SD cards, DVDs, etc…)
also used for breaks as well as unusual shifts,
also used for appeal, lodge objections (legal talk),
also for putting in gears,
also for putting veggies and other food into oil or vinaguer (pickle)

spoken past:
form of “haben” + eingelegt

written past stem:
legte- ein/einlegte-

related words:
die Einlage – thing put in… most common is “Slipeinlage” but it also works for little interlude like actions (Tanzeinlage, Gesangseinlage)
eingelegt – pickled, in (fin context with oil)
die Einlegearbeiten – inlays ( furniture, construction, not for teeth)
Tanzeinlage – dancing interlude
Rülpseinlage – burping interlude (made up word but everyone would understand)
die Einlegesohlen – the shoe inserts

5 6 votes
Article Rating

Newsletter for free?!

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.

Your Thoughts and Questions

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 years ago

Cute joke with Slipeinlage! Not sure many got this…

6 years ago

i read some posts here speaking of ‘r-verb’, which suggets that there is a grammar category like that. Actualls it is only the short form of ‘herein’ (into) with the first two letters cancelled. This stresses the ‘direction’ aspect

6 years ago

I really like the way you look at things, and your humor is very refreshing. :)

Judith Walters
Judith Walters
6 years ago

Your blog on “einlegen” made me think of when and where I had heard this word before. As a young American woman in the late 1960’s, I spent a summer with my cousins in Austria. I had a vision of my younger self and my cousins “setting” our hair with those big “brush rollers” or “curlers” (more generic term). My cousins called the curlers “Wickler” und “to set” was “einlegen.” I also remember hearing “einlegen” used for marinating food. Perhaps there is a connection between the two, I thought. One uses some sort of liquid in both processes ;-) But then, on the other hand, in English one can “set” jelly or concrete into different shapes using a mold. I also find it interesting that German speakers “lay” hair(s) (German cognate: legen), while American speakers “set” it (German cognate: setzen). But then the British “lay” the table; and Americans “set” the table. Hmmm!?

Judith Walters
Judith Walters
6 years ago

I’m an old woman and can remember yet another meaning for “einlegen” >> “to set” one’s hair. A Google search for “Haare einlegen” produced various images, which I tried to copy here, but alas was unsuccessful. :-( Is the word “einlegen” used today in any context concerning hair care?

6 years ago

Ich muss sagen: vielen, vielen Dank. Dein Blog hat mir so viel geholfen, dass ich meinen eigenen Kanal heißt “The Art of German” für YouTube gemacht habe. Wenn du Interessiert hast, hier ist der Link:

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks so much for your reply! Yes, that is a good idea. In the info for my channel I mention that I am American (I thought this was enough of a disclaimer on its own… hahah). I will find a way to make this more clear to my viewers, as I don’t want to muck up anyone’s German in the process :-)

And thanks so much for the tips! Very helpful.

My plan is to stay here in Berlin indefinitely, but who knows really. But at least I can say now for many more years to come.

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I realise when I type too quickly this is when the flood of mistakes occur. I meant to write: Wenn es dich interessiert, hier ist der Link…

And the “heißt” thing… yes, that was some serious Denglisch creeping in.

6 years ago

Nebenbei, ich weiss (oder ich vermute), es gibt ein anderes Wort das in engem Zuzammenhang mit der letzten Bedeutung (to trick) von reinlegen steht, bzw reinfallen. Stimmt’s oder ich habe mich total geirrt? Und, wenn diese undeutliche Erinnerung richtig ist, kannst du mal mir erklaeren wIe dieses Verb gebildet wird und welche Praeposition dazu gehoert in der Satzbildung?
danke sehr
P.S.: Es waere sooooooo nett von dir all the ins and outs von einem Praefix wie rein klarzumachen : wenn es kommt zum Umgangssprache, sind die REIN VERBE normalerweise verwendet. Also, ich beziehe mich auf die REINBEISSEN, REINZIEHEN, Familie……

6 years ago

Sigh! I have such a long way to go to be able to recognize German words as they are spoken. When I listen to “Ich lasse mich nicht so leicht reinlegen”, it sounds like the words “Ich” and “lasse” are spoken in just one syllable, sounding like “schlass”. Maybe it’s just my computer? I guess this is typical in everyday speech – some sort of a colloquial contraction?… Just as Americans take shortcuts when speaking (“gonna” instead of “going to”).

6 years ago
Reply to  Dave

I think comparing it to ‘gonna’ is accurate or ‘whachew wanna do?’. Just keep practicing, and it won’t be that long before you’ll be able to parse the words with little problem. Übung macht den Meister. Apart from repetition and listening to/watching as much as possible, you’ll find that practicing your grammar and expanding your vocab will help you develop better instincts for what the words *must* be, given the context. You’ve no doubt seen a number of contractions like ‘nen for einen, or dropping the ‘e’ in first person verbs and infinitives: ‘ich hab’s geseh’n’. My advice is to focus on saying, writing and speaking things properly, and this everyday speech will make more sense in no time at all.

6 years ago

Vielen Dank! Du bist der Beste :)

6 years ago

Mensch! Du sollst ein Buch schreiben! Alles, was du schreibst, ist einfach köstlich!

6 years ago

Thoughtful and entertaining post, as always. Your posts are an absolute treat to read, thank you!

Nikolaus Wittenstein

“Das Fleisch waschen, würzen und dann über Nacht in Bier einlegen.”
Auf Englisch kann man auch “marinate” sagen: Wash and season the meat, then marinate it in beer overnight.
Ich glaube, dass man “marinate” nur für Fleisch sagt, aber es wird auch für z.B. Gemüse versteht.

6 years ago

Man kann ”marinate” sagen für Essen außerdem Fleisch, aber es klingt nicht. Vielleicht weil es ist nicht häufig, die Gemüse zu einlegen. Jedoch ”marinate” ist das fachgerechte Wort für alles Essen.

6 years ago

So I guess I am confused on the r+verb and da+preposition..
“Wir können es ja kurz ins Eisfach reinlegen.”
If beer is direct object and ice is indirect object..
So r+verb = DO and da+prep = IO, right?
reinlegen means put beer in.. (so we dont have to say beer outright)
darein means in there (so we don’t have to say bucket of ice outright)
… and so darein wouldn’t really work in this example, right?

3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Also, könnte man vielleicht antworten… -Ja, leg es (das Bier) darein (ins Eisfach) ?

Robin A.
6 years ago

I believe it also means to make a deposit into a bank account.

Marília Zangrandi
6 years ago

You’re soooo funny! I love your blog! I learn German laughing!

der Libyer
der Libyer
6 years ago

I’m glad einlegen with cucumbers doesn’t have the same meaning of the literal translation in (Egyptian) Arabic. PS in English they use “shove” :)