The verb “fallen” – (almost) all Prefix Versions

Hello everyone,

and welcome back to your favorite German learning blog, today with a little surprise for you :).
Hooray!!!
Because today, I actually want to show you a new type of post, which we could call

“All Prefixes Of”

In essence, this post is a quick comprehensive list of all (well, almost all) the prefix versions of a given verb, together with SHORT definitions and examples.

The thing is… in my normal articles, I usually skip over several prefix versions, just because usually, there are so many of them.
You can actually find pretty much all of them in my dictionary on the site, but looking at them all means a lot of clicking, so I thought it might be a cool idea to basically collect all the info from the dictionary and compile it in one place as a quick reference.

If you like this new format, I’ll make it into a whole new series and eventually, you’ll have nice comprehensive lists for all the common base verbs with all their prefixes.
So please let me know in the comments what you think and if this is helpful for you.

Today, we’ll do an overview for the verb fallen and we’ll do like 23 prefixes, including several r-versions, like raus- or rein-

It’s not a complete list yet, because this is actually part of a larger project I am doing behind the scenes (hint: a card game), but just let me know which ones are missing, and I’ll gradually add them here to the list.

I’ll also work on a way to make this post more accessible with less scrolling, but today it’s just a basic list in alphabetical order.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s dive right in to

The prefix versions of fallen

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fallen (1 meaning)

fallen means to fall and like in English, it is used for physically falling as well as for the figurative sense of a “number” going down.

Its spoken past is built with sein because fallen is about a change in one’s location.

  • Maria fällt aus dem Bett.
  • Maria is falling out of the bed.
  • Maria ist fast aus dem Bett gefallen.
  • Maria almost fell out of the bed.
  • Die Preise für Benzin sind zwar gefallen, aber es ist immer noch teuer.
  • The prices for gas have fallen, but it’s still expensive.

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abfallen (4 meanings)

#to decrease, to drop, to decline

German has several words for this idea and abfallen is not one of the most common ones. It sounds a bit technical and “performance focused” and you can find it for sudden drops in certain metrics quality, energy, performance and voltage. You kind of need to know when it’s idiomatic, so better to just add it to passive vocabulary.

  • Wenn im Flugzeug der Luftdruck zu sehr abfällt, fallen Sauerstoffmasken aus der Decke.
  • If in a plane the air pressure falls too much, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling.

#to descend, to slope down

Again, not a very common meaning and you kind of need to know when it’s idiomatic. Sounds technical and usually used to describe terrain.

  • Das Gelände fällt leicht in Richtung Süden ab.
  • The area slightly slopes down toward the south.

#to come out of, to be yielded

Fairly common and colloquial. Mainly used for financial gains or other compensations, and it has a little bit of a vibe of “loot”. The benefits are what does the “abfallen”.

  • Der Bär beobachtet die Wölfe bei der Jagd. Er hofft, dass für ihn auch was abfällt.
  • The bear is watching the wolves as they hunt. He is hoping that there’s something in it for him, as well.

#to fall off

The literal idea of something falling off of something it was attached to. Think of a bumper of a car, for example. Also for figurative loads that fall off of you. If the focus is on hitting the floor, then “runterfallen” is the better choice.

  • Nach der Prüfung ist alle Anspannung von mir abgefallen.
  • After the exam, all tension fell off of me.
  • Die Nase der Sphinx ist abgefallen.
  • The nose of the Sphinx fell off.

     

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anfallen (2 meanings)

#to attack

Think of a panther jumping down on its prey from a tree. Sudden, primal, physical, unexpected and with some “weight” behind it. NOT for armies or professional fighters. The noun der Anfall is used in a more figurative sense of something that comes over you, like a seizure or a bout of anxiety.

  • Zum ersten mal seit 10 Jahren hat hier ein Hai einen Surfer angefallen.
  • For the first time in 10 years a shark has attacked a surfer.
  • „Deine Einhorn-Bettwäsche… ich kann darin nicht schlafen.“
    „Wieso nicht? Ist 100% Baumwolle.“
    „Ich wurde mal von einem Einhorn angefallen. Ich habe PTBS.“
  • „Your unicorn sheets… I can’t sleep in those.“
    „Why not? They’re 100% cotton.“
    „I was attacked by a unicorn once. I have PTSD.”

#to accumulate, to accrue, to arise

The core idea is “turning up” and it’s used in context of costs, work or wastage of some kind.
Think of stuff landing on a pile, if you need a visual image.

  • Beim Morgenmeeting besprechen wir, welche Arbeiten an dem Tag anfallen.
  • At the morning meeting we talk about which tasks “turn up” are to be done that day.
  • In Deutschland fallen pro Jahr ungefähr 400 Millionen Tonnen Abfall an.
  • In Germany, around 400 millions tons of garbage accumulate per year.

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ranfallen (1 meaning)

#to fall against

Technically, this r-version can have the literal meaning of something falling against something else, like a tree gently falling against a wall. But in practice, people would use “fallen +gegen” and I doubt you’ll ever see ranfallen in practice.

  • “Warum ist da so eine Delle im Kühlschrank?”
    “Da ist mal meine Leiter rangefallen, als ich den Elefanten gewaschen habe.”
    “Äh… was?!”
  • “Why is there such a dent in the fridge?”
    “Oh, my ladder fell against it once, when I was washing the elephant.”
    “Uh… what?!”

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auffallen (2 meanings)

#to catch someone’s attention, to be noticed by someone, to notice

The structure is reverse to English – “jemandem auffallen (an+Dative)” . So whatever you notice “falls up”  to you (your attention), if that makes sense. Oh and the preposition is “an” with Dative. Like, as if the feature is “tagged on” to the person or thing.
It’s a really common verb and worth adding to your vocabulary.

  • Ist dir an mir was aufgefallen?
  • Did you notice something about me?
  • Mir ist aufgefallen, dass dein Deutsch viel besser geworden ist.
  • I noticed that your German has gotten much better.

#to stand out, to catch the eye, to be noticeable

Similar idea as the one before of something “falling” to you (your attention). This one doesn’t take an object though.

  • Meinst du, ich kann heimlich ein bisschen von Marias Kuchen essen? Oder fällt das auf?
  • Do you think I can secretly eat a bit of Maria’s cake? Or is that noticeable/Or will that catch (her) attention?
  • “Ist das rote Kleid okay für das Dinner?”
    “Wenn du auffallen willst, dann ja.”
  • “Is the red dress okay for the dinner?”
    “If you want to be an eye catcher/stand out, then yes.”

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(d)rauffallen (1,5 meanings)

#to fall on top of something

drauffallen can be used for something literally falling on top of something, but it’s rare in practice. rauffallen also works, but drauf is more idiomatic here, and sounds more “impactful”.

  • Mein Laptop ist kaputt. Ich bin gestern betrunken (d)raufgefallen.
  • My laptop is broken. I fell on it when I was drunk, yesterday.

#to fall upwards

Theoretically, rauffallen could mean falling upward, and maybe some singer songwriter has used it, but it’s not common at all. Maybe in the stupid MeTaVeRsE one day.

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ausfallen (4 meanings)

#to fall out

Literal, but ONLY for hair, teeth and nails. And NO, it does NOT work for piercings.

  • Thomas denkt, dass ihm langsam die Haare ausfallen.
  • Thomas thinks that his hair is starting to fall out.

#to be cancelled

Think of it as “falling out of the schedule”… it’s a REALLY common translation for “to cancel”, but the phrasing is backwards, so the event cancelled is the subject.

  • Wegen Hitze fällt die Schule heute aus.
  • Because of the heat, school is cancelled today.
  • Der Sommer fällt dieses Jahr wohl aus.
    (common headline when there’s a rainy summer with no end in sight)
  • Looks like summer is cancelled this year.
  • “Na, wie war der Deutschkurs”
    “Gar nicht. Ist ausgefallen.”
  • “And? How was the German course?”
    “It wasn’t. It was cancelled.

#to not work, stop working

Similar idea as the one before, except now it’s about “falling out of service”. Mainly used for phones or other technical devices.

  • Leider ist in diesem Zug die Klimaanlage ausgefallen. Wir bitten um ihr Verständnis.
  • Unfortunately, the air conditioning in this train isn’t working. We ask for your understanding.

#to turn out

Think of a “result” falling out of a process. Mainly used for reviews, financial balance reports, bottom lines, summaries, feedback decisions and tests that can “come out” in various qualities.

  • Das Feedback ist größtenteils positiv ausgefallen.
  • The feedback was mostly positive.
  • Wegen der Trockenheit wird die Ernte dieses Jahr niedrig ausfallen.
  • Because of the drought, the harvest this year will turn out/be low.

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(he)rausfallen (1 meaning)

#to fall out, to drop out

The very literal sense of falling out from somewhere, and also sometimes used figuratively. NOT for dropping out of a class or college.

  • Meine Tasche war offen und mein Handy ist rausgefallen.
  • My purse was open and my phone dropped out.
  • Marias Dekolté war so tief… da ist beinahe alles rausgefallen.
  • Maria’s cleavage was so low, that ‘things’ almost fell out.

     

  • Ich muss zum Zahnarzt. Mir ist gestern eine Füllung rausgefallen.
  • I have to go to the dentist. I lost a filling/inlay yesterday.

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befallen (1 meaning)

#to infest, to attack, to come over

The logic is a bit like for anfallen (to attack) and the core idea is “suddenly coming over”. befallen is mainly used for insects attacking plants or some sort of curse or spell “infecting” a person. For physical assaults, anfallen or angreifen are the idiomatic choices.

  • Der Käfer befällt vor allem Eichen.
  • The bug attacks primarily oak trees.
  • Mich hat im Meeting eine unglaubliche Müdigkeit befallen.
  • An unbelievable fatigue came over me at the meeting.

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einfallen (3 meanings)

#to come to ones mind, to remember

Think of it as a thought or idea “falling in to your head” – the idea or thought is the subject and we are the indirect object in Dative. It’s a very common verb and definitely one you should add to your vocabulary.

  • Immer wenn ich ein Beispiel brauche, fällt mir keins ein.
  • Whenever I need an example, I can’t think of one.
  • Ich war an der Kasse und dann ist mir plötzlich meine Pin nicht eingefallen. Voll peinlich.
  • I was at the cash desk and then I suddenly couldn’t remember/think of my pin number. Totally embarrassing.

#to invade

Only used for armies invading countries, and sometimes colloquially for a “crew”. Not idiomatic for most other uses of invade.

  • Gestern Abend haben wir uns alle in einer Bar getroffen und später sind wir in den  Club eingefallen.
  • Last night we all met at a bar and later we all literally invaded the club.

#to collapse

For a structure like a building or roof. There are several options for this in German, and einfallen is not the most common one. Mainly used as a ge-form adjective.

  • Das Dach ist wegen dem vielen Schnee eingefallen.
  • The root collapsed because of all the snow.

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reinfallen (2 meanings)

#to fall into it

The literal sense of falling into a hole or something.

  • Da vorne ist ein Loch, pass auf, dass du nicht reinfällst.
  • There’s a hole coming up, watch out, so you don’t fall in.

#fall for a trap or prank

The same idea as the first one, only that now it’s a figurative hole/trap.

  • “Guck mal mein Bauch. Ich bin schwanger.”
    “ECHT?! Glückwunsch!!”
    “Haha, reingefallen. Ich habe einfach nur Blähungen.”
  • “Look…my belly. I am pregnant.”
    “REALLY?! Congratulations!!”
    “Haha… gotcha. I just have gas.”

  • Maria versteht nicht, warum sie immer wieder auf Machos reinfällt.
  • Maria doesn’t understand why she keeps being fooled by macho guys.

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entfallen (3 meanings)

#to be cancelled, waived

Something that was “set to happen” but “falls out of schedule“. Very similar to ausfallen but it sounds more formal and technical. And unlike ausfallen, it also works for fees being waived or some restriction being lifted. Not idiomatic for a date being cancelled.

  • Bei einem Ein-Jahres-Vertrag entfällt die Service-Gebühr.
  • For a one year contract, the service fee is waived.
  • Wegen der Sondersendung entfällt heute die Kochshow.
  • The cooking show is not on today because of the special report.

#to forget, drop out of one’s mind

Basically the opposite of einfallen – something “falls out of your head”. The thought or memory is the subject and you’re the indirect object – “jemandem entfallen”. Sounds a bit high register, but you can hear it in daily life.

  • Sorry, dein Name ist mir entfallen.
  • Sorry, I forgot your name.

#to fall on, to go to

Basically, something “falls to someone” – “entfallen auf+Acc”. It’s used for tasks and allocated resources, and sounds fairly formal. Hard to use idiomatically and not all that common.

  • Etwa ein Drittel der Gesundheitskosten in Europa entfallen auf Medikamente.
  • About one third of the health costs in Europe are allotted to/go to medication.

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herfallen (2 meanings)

#to fall (to) here

The literal sense of something dropping/falling to “this place”, whatever that may be. Not very useful in practice.

  • “So ein schöner Ort. Toller Ausblick.”
    “Ja, wenn jetzt noch ein Bier herfallen würde, dann wäre es perfekt.”
  • “What a beautiful place. Great view.”
    “Yeah, if also a beer were to fall down here, then it would be perfect.”

#to attack, to pounce on

“herfallen über+Acc” – It’s a fairly savage, all out attack. Can be used for actual attacks, but also figuratively for digging in at the hotel buffet after a long day’s hike. MUST be used with “über”.

  • Nach der langweiligen Zeremonie sind die Hochzeitsgäste über das Büffet hergefallen, wie ein Schwarm Heuschrecken.
  • After the boring ceremony, the wedding guests attacked/savaged the buffet like a swarm of locusts.

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hinfallen (2 meanings)

#to fall over

hin is in its typical role as a generic marker for “destination”. The verb is mainly used for people falling over. Think of a kid falling while running. For objects, umfallen is more idiomatic.

  • “Warum weinst du denn?”
    “Ich bin hingefallen.”
  • “Why are you crying?”
    “I fell down.”

#to land, to fall “there”

Again, hin is just a generic marker for destination. Primarily used in combination with “love” in the sense of you can’t control where it “falls/lands”.

  • Es ist manchmal komisch, wo die Liebe hinfällt.
  • It’s strange sometimes where love falls.

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mitfallen (1 meaning)

#to fall alongside

Technically, you could use this one for actual falling, but in practice, you’ll only ever see it in context of prices or other metrics falling alongside another one.

  • Die Temperatur fällt, und die Laune der Leute fällt mit.
  • The temperature is falling and the mood of the people is falling along (with it).

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überfallen (1 meaning)

to attack, to assault, to rob

Just like anfallen and befallen, we have the underlying theme of attacking here, which fits well with the sudden, raw nature of fallen. überfallen is used for people attacking people, often (but not limited to) mugging and robbing. Also works for bank robberies and countries invading each other, but NOT for an animal attacking another one. überfallen is always deliberate and conscious.

Überfallen is inseparable and does not have a separable version.

  • Ich wurde im Stadtpark von Einhörner überfallen.
  • I was ambushed/mugged by unicorns in the city park.
  • “Warum hat Robert einen McDonalds überfallen?”
    “Keine Ahnung. Irgendwas mit McRob”
    “Ist das ein McRib-Pun?”
  • “Why did Robert rob a McDonalds?”
    “Dunno. Something about McRob.”
    “Is that a McRib pun?”

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umfallen (1 meaning)

#to fall over

Think of a vase or a glass of water. It also works for a person falling over, but only while standing. For a person falling while walking hinfallen is the better choice… yup, German is annoying sometimes.
Sometimes used figuratively for a person (politician) caving to pressure and changing their mind.

This umfallen is separable. The non-separable version would theoretically mean “to fall around” something, in the sense of dodging it, and some poet might have used it, but it’s not really a thing.

  • Das Regal im Flur sieht so aus, als ob es gleich umfällt.
  • The rack in the hallway looks as if it is going to fall over any moment.
  • Ich glaube ich habe genug getrunken. Ich bin beim Pullern fast umgefallen.
  • I think I’ve had enough to drink. I almost fell over while peeing.

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(he)runterfallen (2 meanings)

#to fall down

The core idea here is “falling from a height”. That doesn’t mean, it needs to be “high”, but there needs to be a “vertical difference”. So it does NOT work for a person falling over on the street. More common with just runter. herunter is for snobs and overzealous German teachers who treat r-versions as JUST a colloquial form of her-versions.

  • Der Apfel fällt runter.
  • The apple falls down.
  • “Guck mal Mama, ich bin auf den Baum geklettert.”
    “Toll… aber pass auf, dass du nicht runterfällst.”
  • “Look mom, I climbed up the tree.”
    “Great… but pay attention that you don’t fall down.”

     

#to drop

Instead of saying “I drop something.”, Germans like to say “Something drops from me.” – “jemandem+Dative fällt etwas runter”. German phrases it backwards. It’s VERY common, and you’ll sound super native if you can pull this structure of.
Pretty much ALWAYS comes as runterfallen, so WITHOUT the “fancy” “her-” that textbooks love so much.

  • drop the cup.
  • Mir fällt die Tasse runter.
  • dropped your new computer.
  • Mir ist dein neuer Computer runtergefallen.

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verfallen (4 meanings)

#to expire

Taken literally, it would be “to fall away” – it’s used for vouchers, tickets and similar things that lose “validity”.
For food,  ablaufen is the more common verb, but the noun das Verfallsdatum is very common.

  • Der Gutschein verfällt bald.
  • The voucher expires soon.

#to decay

Again, the core theme is “falling away”, but this time, it’s for buildings. NOT for biomass, though. Sounds VERY dilapidated and is mostly used as an adjective.

  • Das alte Anwesen verfällt langsam.
  • The old mansion slowly decays/falls apart.

#to fall into

The idea here is falling into a new state, and it’s used in contexts of moods or reactions. Not very common. The preposition it goes with is “in” and Accusative.

  • Wenn man beim Wandern ein Einhorn trifft, darf man nicht in Panik verfallen.
  • If you encounter a unicorn while hiking, you must not fall into panic.
  • Es ist wichtig, dass man nach einer Trennung nicht in Apathie verfällt.
  • It is important not to fall into apathy after a breakup.

#to fall for

“jemandem verfallen” – the idea is “falling across a boundary”, with a slight undertone of getting lost. Only used in the romantic sense of having an intense crush on someone.

  • Seit der Trennung ist Thomas dem Whisky verfallen.
  • Since the breakup, Thomas has fallen for whisky.

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vorfallen (2 meanings)

#to happen, to occur

The Latin based incident literally meant “fall in” (kadere = to fall). And vorfallen has the same idea, only with vor instead of in.
vorfallen is only used for incidents that were somehow caused by people, though. Not for natural disasters. Sounds a bit serious and formal and it’s not idiomatic in the negative in contexts like “must not happen again”.

  • Der Chef informiert das Team darüber, was bei der Konferenz vorgefallen ist.
  • The boss informs the team about what took place/happened at the conference.
    (does NOT sound neutral, so it’s about something bag and unexpected.)

#to fall forward

Technically, vorfallen can mean that but “nach vorne fallen” is more idiomatic for this idea.

  • Beim Laufen lässt man sich eigentlich für einen Moment kontrolliert vorfallen.
  • When walking you actually let yourself fall forward in a controlled way for a moment.

 

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wegfallen (1 meaning)

#to be dropped

For regulations, requirements or regularly scheduled things. NOT for cancelling one single event. That would be ausfallen. Similar to entfallen but less formal sounding and sounds more definite.

  • Die Subventionen für Elektroautos fallen im nächsten Jahr weg.
  • The subsidies for electric vehicles will go away next year.

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zerfallen (1 meaning)

#to fall apart, to decay

Literally “falling apart” – It’s used for atoms, substances and buildings. Also works for food, but it has a negative touch. Like overcooked dumplings, for example.

  • Verdammt, meine Dumplings sind schon wieder zerfallen.
  • Damn it, my dumplings fell apart again.
  • “Lass mich ausreden: eine Disassemble-App. Wenn man sie öffnet, zerfällt das Handy in sein Teile.”
    Cathy Wood: “Disruption . Love it. Ich investiere!”
  • “Hear me out: a disassemble app. When you open it, the smartphone falls apart into its components.”
    Cathy Wood: “Disruption. Love it. I’ll invest!”

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zufallen (2 meanings)

#to fall shut

Literally “to fall shut” – for doors, windows and eyes in the sense of “closing by themselves”.

  • Die Tür ist zugefallen.
  • The door fell shut.
  • Ich bin supermüde, mir fallen die Augen zu.
  • I’m super tired, my eyes are falling shut.

#to fall to someone

“jemandem+Dative zufallen” – used for either responsibilities, tasks or talent. Very similar to entfallen auf, but more common and less stiff sounding.

  • Thomas hatte nie Probleme in der Schule. Ihm ist alles zugefallen.
  • Thomas never had problem in school. Things just came to him naturally.
  • Mir ist die Aufgabe zugefallen, die Rechnungen zu sortieren.
  • I got given the job of sorting the bills. (The task “fell to me”)

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Wrap up

So that’s the overview :).

Let me know in the comments, how you like this and if I should make this into a series.
And also, let me know what I could change or improve.
Have a great week and I’ll see you next time.

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