Prefix Verbs Explained – “einstellen”

einstellung

Hello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of the most epic series of all time – Prefix Verbs Explained.
Whoop, whoop… they hype train just reached the station. And we’ll all get on board.
And yes! I did have a beer before the show and I will have another one right now, as we look at the meaning of

einstellen

 

What’s that? You think drinking beer while teaching German is the wrong mindset and you’re not sure whether you should even listen to me?
Well, fair enough, feel free to consult a dictionary about einstellen.
Everybody back? Great :).
Then let’s jump right in.

A quick look at the list of possible translations of einstellen can be demoralizing, indeed – to cease, to employ, to set, to adjust, to mentally prepare.  I mean, how are we ever to learn this crazy language.
However, like most prefix verbs, einstellen is a lot more bark than bite. So all the seemingly random translations can actually be boiled down to one or a couple of core ideas.

The prefix ein has two ideas it can add to a verb. One is the sense of inward, the other is the idea of on as in activated.
And the verb stellen is one of the two main ways of “putting” stuff somewhere.
So taken literally, einstellen is something like “putting in” and that is actually kind of already enough to understand why einstellen means to employ. You “put someone in” a position. And you put to work. So it actually also matches with the “active”-idea of ein.

  • Mein Unternehmen läuft super. Ich werde 3 neue Leute einstellen.
  • My business is going great. I am going to employ 3 new people.

There is another translation for to employ, though – the very similar looking anstellen. We’ve talked about that in a separate article so I’ll leave the link below. The difference between anstellen and einstellen is to a large extend a matter of what’s idiomatic in a given context, and it’s not worth spending too much time on. But anstellen is definitely the more common one.

The main meaning of einstellen is something different. And the key to that is another verb of “placing”: to set.

“einstellen” and settings

The direct brother in German is setzen but the languages each use their versions “verbs of placing” slightly differently.
And einstellen became THE word for the idea of entering settings.  I mean, you do kind of “put” something “in” or “on” when you enter settings, so it makes a lot of sense actually.

  •  Thomas stellt seine Klimaanlage ein.
  • Thomas adjusts/configurates/stets up his airconditioning.
  • Maria stellt einen neuen Radiosender ein.
  • Maria tunes in a new radio station. (lit.)
  • Kannst du mir meinen Computer so einstellen, dass er nicht immer automatisch Updates runterlädt, sobald ich online bin.
  • Could you set up my computer such that it won’t automatically download updates whenever I am online.

As you can see, the translations vary, but the idea of “entering settings” is always there.
And it’s not limited to devices, either.
Einstellen can also be done with humans. Not in a sense of programming, of course, but in the sense of mentally preparing.
Technically, we can einstellen someone else auf (for) something…

  • Der Manager stellt das Team auf eine anstrengende Woche ein.
  • The manager “mentally prepares“/primes the team for an exhausting week.

But by far the more common use is the one with a self reference, sich einstellen …. so us “setting” ourselves

  • Um sich auf das Meeting einzustellen, hat Maria alle Akten gelesen.
  • In order to prepare for the meeting, Maria has read all the files.
  •  Wegen Corona müssen wir uns auf einen nicht ganz normalen Herbst einstellen.
  • Because of corona we have to expect/get ready for a not completely normal fall.
  • Stell dich darauf ein, dass es morgen regnet.
  • Prepare yourself that it will rain tomorrow.
    Attune yourself to that, that it will rain tomorrow.” (lit.)
  • Ach du bist ja schon da??? Ich war jetzt darauf eingestellt dich erst NACH dem Essen zu sehen.
  • Oh you are here already??? I was thinking that I meet you AFTER dinner.

This einstellen is used quite a lot, but even more important is the corresponding noun die Einstellung.
Of course, that works for devices in the sense of settings (die Einstellungen). Check with your cell phone for example.
But also people have Einstellungen.  Einstellungen about a certain question, Einstellungen towards other people and also general Einstellungen about life…

  • Du bist immer pessimistisch. Das ist die falsche Einstellung.
  • You are always pessimistic. That is the wrong  mind set.
  • Meine Einstellung gegenüber Vegetariern hat sich geändert.
  • My attitude towards vegetarians has changed.
  • Thomas hat eine merkwürdige politische Einstellung.
  • Thomas has a weird political opinion/view.
  • Du musst deine Einstellung ändern, wenn du Erfolg haben willst.
  • You have to change your attitude, if you want to be successful.

As you can see, the translations vary again, but the core idea is always how your mind is “set” about something.
Cool.
Now, this settingeinstellen is definitely the most important meaning, but there is another one that we haven’t mentioned yet. Some of you might remember it from the intro… it is to cease.

“einstellen” as “to cease”

That’s right!
Einstellen can also mean to cease. More specifically, it is about ceasing an activity.

  • Feuer einstellen!
  • Cease fire/halt your fire!
  • Die Produktion des wurde letztes Jahr eingestellt.
  • The production was stopped last year.
  • Ich bitte Sie, das Telefonieren während der Oper einzustellen.
  • I ask you to stop making phone calls for the duration of the opera.

It is NOT to cease in the sense of something ceasing by itself. Like … a storm can cease, but it can’t einstellen for instance.
Einstellen is about us ceasing something. And what’s also noteworthy is that it can only take nouns. That’s one of the main differences to aufhören, which also means to stop, to cease.
Aufhören can be connected with a verb by using a zu-construction. That will NOT work for einstellen. There, we need to “nounify” the activity.

  • Ich höre auf zu rauchen.
  • I stop smoking.
  • Ich stelle ein, zu rauchen…. WRONG!
  • Ich stelle das Rauchen ein.
  • “I cease the smoking.”

Grammar aside, though, einstellen sounds VERY formal and stiff and it’s not something people typically use in daily life.
So there isn’t even really a question when to use aufhören and einstellen. Just use aufhören!
I just wanted to mention this meaning of einstellen, because it might be REALLY confusing if you and your friends are smoking on a plane and then, because the plane is about to land, they say ask you over the speaker if you can einstellen the smoking. And you’re like “Wait, what do you mean adjust the smoking?”
Well, I guess now we can’t smoke on planes and trains anymore anyway, because of the stupid Corona virus. Or was it because of that?
Anyway, so the ceasing-einstellen is nothing you’ll need on an active day to day level.
Still, you might be wondering how exactly this meaning evolved in the first place.
And honestly, I don’t really know. Maybe, it’s a twist on “putting something inside” in the sense of “putting it away“… though that’s kind of a stretch.
But as I said, this meaning isn’t really all that useful to us, so we shouldn’t worry about it too much.

What is very useful, on the other hand, at least if we like our beers cold, is the version that wraps up all episodes of prefix verbs explained… the infamous r-version

reinstellen

And reinstellen is a classic r-version, because it captures the most literal meaning we can get from the combo of prefix and base verb: the idea of literally putting something inside somewhere. Like a beer in the fridge, for instance.

  • “Ih, das Bier ist warm. Hast du keinen Kühlschrank?”
    “Doch, aber ich habe vergessen, die Biere reinzustellen.”
  • “Ew, the beer is warm. Do you not have a fridge?”
    “I do, but I forgot to put them in there.”
  • Über den Winter sollte man diese Pflanze reinstellen.
  • For the winter you should put this plant inside.

And oh, you can also find it in context of putting up classifieds on the web, sometimes.

  • Ich hab den Tisch bei Ebay reingestellt.
  • I put the table on Ebay.

And I think that’s actually it for today :). Hooray.
This was our look at the meaning of einstellen and die Einstellung.
As usual, if you want to recap and check 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 hope you liked it and see you next time.

Oh,  and to end this article with schmaltz, here is the famous Marlene Dietrich… enjoy

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahyLLX0tmD8]

further reading:

Prefix Verbs Explained – “aufhören”
Prefix Verbs Explained – “anstellen”

 

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Kimberly
Kimberly
3 months ago

Hallo

Ich war neugierig, warum es hier keine reflexive Konstruktion gibt?

Er ist sozial eingestellt.

Hätte sich die Person nicht angepasst, um diese Einstellung widerzuspiegeln? Vielleicht trägt einstellen einen Begriff der Veranlagung? Ich habe bemerkt, dass Sie diese reflexive Konstruktion in Ihrem Satz nicht verwendet haben:

Ach du bist ja schon da??? Ich war jetzt darauf eingestellt dich erst NACH dem Essen zu sehen.

Vielen Dank

ade0
ade0
5 months ago

Hi Emanuel,

Thank you very much for this super-interesting post!

One thing I’m not totally sure of is whether/where you would use einstellen for the straight-forward ‘to put in’ meaning. Does reinstellen only apply when something is put fully inside something else (as in your beer in the fridge example)?

What about when something is partially put into something else? For example, if you are putting your U-Bahn ticket into that validating machine (der Entwerter?), could you say you einstellen your ticket, or does reinstellen work here, or is a different verb altogether required?

Thanks!
Ade

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

That’s really helpful – thanks!

Pedram
Pedram
1 year ago

Hi Emanuel,

I visited this page as I was trying to find out the difference between sich auf etw einstellen and einstimmen.
Dictionary says: “sich innerlich auf etw. vorbereiten” (for both verbs)

I’m not sure if they are interchangeable. They’re probably close, but there is probably a difference, oder?

Thank you!

Pedram
Pedram
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

That makes sense!
like changing or adjusting die “Stimmung” then.

Thanks!

Karl
Karl
1 year ago

Hallo- schoener Artikel

Ich habe die folgenden Saetze gesehen:

Meistens gehe ich nicht ans Telefon, weil ich es auf lautlos gestellt habe.

Ich habe einfach vergessen, den Wecker zu stellen.

Ich habe mich gefragt, warum “einstellen” in diesen Faellen nicht verwendet wurde?

Was ist der Unterschied?

Vielen Dank

Tom
Tom
1 year ago

Great article! I just want to point out a mistake in one translation:

  • Du musst deine Einstellung ändern, wenn du Erfolg haben willst.
  • You have to change your attitude, if you want to get a job.

Instead of “if you want to get a job”, there should be “if you want to be successful”

optimalight
optimalight
2 years ago

Hello Emanuel,
 
Love your website . I like the vocab explainations you provide.
I have a request for you. Can you please explain the verb “einsetzen”? It seems to be a very dynamic one and has lot of meanings.
 
Thanks :)

optimalight
optimalight
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Wow! Looking forward to it :) Thanks again

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Hallo Emanuel

Wie immer treffen deine Erklärungen ins Schwarze! Danke. Ich habe diesen Satz gelesen

Meistens gehe ich nicht ans Telefon, weil ich es auf lautlos gestellt habe.

und mich gefragt, ob du diese Konstruktion verwendest, um auszudrücken, dass du etwas an eine bestimmte Einstellung angepasst hast? Wenn nicht, wie würde man “einstellen” konstruieren, um eine bestimmte Einstellung auszudrücken?

Vielen Dank!!

Lamb
Lamb
2 years ago

On the Leo site einstellen was translated also as to abandon. Wonder if anyone has anything to say on this use of the word ?

Turtles
Turtles
2 years ago

1) I am kinda having trouble with meaning 1,but here we go with a miny convo

Einhorn 1 : Ich habe das Kissen eingestellt. Jetzt ist es gemütlich.

Nach 8 uhr

In der Schule

Teacher : Ich hoffe, du bist eingestellt/ du stellest dir auf die Prüfung.

Einhorn 1 : DIE WAS? SIE MÜSSEN DAS EINSTELLEN.

2) What do you mean you won’t say the difference between (an/ein)stellen. The unicorns are not happy ;). Mabye, we could have bigger discussion, when I comment on wending post and talk about Verwenden as well ;

Turtles
Turtles
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

1) Let’s try this again. Wir stellen das audio ein ( We can set the volume up or down?)

And how did I mess up the perpostions part?

2) okay. To wendige post then ;) jk. Only the comment is coming soon. Not focused on verwenden of course

Danke

Turtles
Turtles
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

1) “we set the audio” is incomplete. There should be “up” at the end and that is still incomplete. It should be “we set the audio device up”. Hence, I choose the word “volume”
“Set the volume up or down” is the same as increasing the volume or lowering the volume. With the latter being the one. You could also say turn the volume up or down. The latter options are much better. Using the Word “adjust” in the translation would have made it better. I recognize that my example in Deutsch was weird and mabye choosing the word “audio” added to that confusion. My mother tongue is Arabic. Although, my Arabic and English are almost on Par for some reason ( more on that later since the commen is already long). How would you say both the audio and pillow one?

2) It’s not that I am rushing. It’s that i am really horrible at recognizing my own mistakes. I will write 2 sentences next time since that would decrease the number of errors. Thank you for your patience

Turtles
Turtles
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

1) For the audio example, I mean that we are adjusting the volume to make it just right

The one with pillow is wierd, Anyway

Here is the meaning: My pillow is in an uncomfy position and I am changing it to a comfy one

gallia_a
gallia_a
2 years ago

In the explanation for the first meaning, when you talk about the “prepare” yourself or “attune” yourself, you mention that the “yourself” part is always needed. But one of the examples is:

Ach du bist ja schon da??? Ich war jetzt darauf eingestellt dich erst NACH dem Essen zu sehen.

And I can’t see where the reflexive part is. Shouldn’t it be

Ach du bist ja schon da??? Ich war MICH jetzt darauf eingestellt dich erst NACH dem Essen zu sehen.

gallia_a
gallia_a
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Perfectly clear now, thanks

PeterB
PeterB
3 years ago

Perhaps, “einstellen” in the sense of stopping is more like “refraining” in your example “Bitte stellen Sie das Rauchen ein.” So, it would mean not doing something whether you were doing it before or not. On the other hand, “aufhoeren” would mean stopping your current activity. So, “Bitte hoeren Sie mit das Rauchen auf.” would imply that you are currently smoking. Is that correct?

Graeme Gordon
Graeme Gordon
3 years ago

I commented earlier that “stow it in” is conceptually similar to the “stop” meaning of einstellen…”pack it in” would be an equivalent on the UK side of the Atlantic…

Graeme Gordon
Graeme Gordon
3 years ago

A similar usage in English to einstellen in the meaning of to stop is “stow it in”. Admittedly “stow it in” is rare and informal but it shares with einstellen the core concept of stopping by leaving/putting something in place…

Vish
Vish
4 years ago

Hi Emanuel :

Ich suche deine Worteliste, wann Ich ein neues Worte austreffen. Kanst du bitte reinstellen erklaren?

Vielen Dank

Grüße
Vish

Jafaelle
Jafaelle
4 years ago

Woooooow, great article! Things are a lot clearer now and I feel like new doors have opened in my understanding of the language :D Einstellen is a pretty cool dude! Thanks a lot for the explanations and for your website, great great resource! x

Roshanak
Roshanak
5 years ago

Ist es wie immer möglich, dass Du aufklärst, wie “ein” plus “stellen” “to adjust” bedeuten? Eine von Deinen tollen Geschichten möchte ich :)

Roshanak
Roshanak
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Du hast Recht, aber ich habe etwas anderes gemeint. Ich wollte kennen, wie die erste Bedeutung (to adjust) die Hauptbedeutng (to put into) betrifft.

Roshanak
Roshanak
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Sure. At first, you said that the core meaning of einstellen is “to put into sth” and then you started to go in details. The first meaning of einstellen is “to adjust”. Now my question is that how the first meaning is related to the core meaning. Let’s put it this way, I want an explanation similar to one that you gave for the last meaning of einstellen (to stop). Saying that stop is some kind of putting sth back, you explained the relation between the last meaning and the core meaning, but you didn’t do the same for the first meaning.
Hope I could say what I wanted to! :)

Roshanak
Roshanak
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I have read the article about the difference between kennen and wissen but I’ve forgotten which is which :D I should read it again and take some notes.

ronaldoserio
ronaldoserio
7 years ago

Excellent article and very interesting comments !

Deutsch Lerner
Deutsch Lerner
7 years ago

Perhaps this is too late but English has a similar construction to einstellen.
It is set to rain this afternoon.
I am all set for the rain/bad weather.
It is all set /setup/in place for Tuesday.

I agree with you about the use of shall. Fifty odd years ago, a teacher used to ask: “Shall you do …..?” She was heavily involved in amateur dramatics and I though the question, it was usually rhetorical, was rather affected then and I have never heard anyone use it since.

I really appreciate your column, it is fascinating, thank you so much.
I am off now to read about aufhören because I would like to know the link between hearing, belonging and stopping.

Joanne
8 years ago

Are any of you familiar with using the word “Einstellen” as a way that Bruno Groening (spiritual healer from Germany) to position oneself to tune in to the Heilstrom (healing stream) from the Divine/God? That is why I am looking at this site…to learn what exactly the word “einstellen” means. Thank you so much for you explanation and for the laughs; you are funny. If anyone wants to learn about Bruno Groening, I highly suggest this website: http://www.help-and-healing-sessions.com to learn about him. Many thousands have been healed even since his death in 1959 just by doing einstellen and following his teachings. I hope this information can help someone. It is good to know just in case you know someone who needs a healing. Thanks again for the lesson. Joanne

Brad
Brad
7 years ago
Reply to  Joanne

Yes, Joanne, I also looked at this page because of Bruno Groning.

Will
Will
10 years ago

PS Fantastic article!