German Prepositions Explained – “mit”

mit-prefix-meaning-germanHello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of our series German Prepositions Explained. And you know how series have these episodes that are kind of slow. Like… people talk and a thing or two happens but at the end you kind feel like there was no real progression.
Today is gonna be one of those episodes because we’ll take a look at the meaning of

mit

 

Okay, of course I don’t mean it’s going to be boring.
But mit just isn’t all that difficult.
I think all of you know that it means with.

  • Ich komme mit dem Fahrrad.
  • I’ll come by bike.

Okay… I… I guess that examples was kind of a fail. So mit CAN have other translations from time to time, but that’s just normal and overall the idea of with is pretty clear.
And case-wise mit goes with Dative which is also easy to remember because mit starts with m and Dative kind of ends with it… I mean, the article dem does… you know what I mean.

But yeah, the reason we’re even doing an episode about mit are the prefix verbs. Because there are quite a few colloquial ones that textbooks miss out on and people sometimes struggle to pin down.
So, today we’ll basically explore mit as a prefix so if you’re ready, then let’s jump right in :)

Now, if we take a prefix verb with mit and just try to translate it as with, that’s going to sound a bit odd. But it gets much clearer if we think of it as along(side).
That perfectly fits the different themes that mit-verbs can have. I mean… they’re not that different, but still.
And one of the things that can is often expressed through mit-verbs is the idea of  joining.

joining

Adding mit to a verb can express that you do whatever the verb is alongside with others. And the most generic example for it is mitmachen. Which basically means… to join.

  • Wie kann ich bei dem Projekt mitmachen?
  • How can I join in on the project.
  • Mach mit!”
  • Join us/in!

And while mitmachen can be found for all kinds of activities, we can of course also use a more specific verb.

  • Wer den Film nicht gesehen hat, kann nicht mitreden.
  • Who hasn’t seen the movie cannot talk/join the discussion (as in: should shut up)
  • Kann ich mitspielen? (super common among kids)
  • Can I join your playing?  (What’s the standard sand box phrasing :)??)
  • Meine Freundin ist voll der Gillmore Girls -Fan und ich hab gestern mal  mitgeguckt und ich fand es echt überraschend gut.
  • My girlfriend is such a big fan of Gilmore Girls and yesterday I joined her and watched an episode and it was surprisingly good.
  • Wir gehen was trinken. Willst du mitkommen?
  • We’re going for a few drinks. Wanne come along/join us?
  • “Oh das riecht aber lecker.”
    “Ja, ist ein Chili. Willst du mitessen?”
    “Gerne.”
  • “Oh that smells really good.”
    “Yeah, it’s a chili. Do you want some? (“Do you want to join the eating?”)
    “Definitely, thanks.”

Oh, and speaking of mitessen… do you know these little brown or black spots on the skin that release some greasy matter when you pinch them?  They’re mostly on the nose? In English they’re sometimes called blackheads, just like on the 2020 expansion pack of COD – Warzone: Blackheads – Mission nasal wing.”
Anyway, the “official” name for those things is comedo and guess where that comes from: the Latin word for eating. Because it was believed that those black things are in fact little worms that live off of us. And now guess what they’re called in German… exactly Mitesser.
We eat, they join right in.

“Äh… ich glaub ich will grad doch kein Chili.”

 

Cool :).
Now, the theme of joining is pretty clear, I think, so let’s move on to the next one.
And that is the idea of … well… along in a sense of with you.
Yeah… as I said in the intro… it’s really not all that difficult :)

along with you

And the best example for this one is probably the verb mitbringen.

  • Ich bringe dir dein Buch mit.
  • I’ll bring (along) your book (with me).

In English, you wouldn’t even necessarily translate the mit but in German, the sentence feels weird without it.
For one thing, without mit it sounds like I come ONLY to bring you the book. The mit makes it clear, that the bringing is a “side effect” of the fact that I am coming anyway. And also, it gives the sentences this nice prefix at the end, that German loves so much.
Here’s another example…

  • Bring Bier mit!
  • Bring some beer!

And here’s the same idea but with nehmen

  • Liebe Grillfreunde… bitte nehmt euren Müll mit.
  • Dear BBQ-Fans… please take you trash with you.

Without the mit, the sentence would sound incomplete. Just like in English actually, if you take out “with you”.
Oh and another REALLY common verb is mithaben, which is about the idea of having something with you. 

  • Thomas hatte sein Handy nicht  mit.
  • Thomas hadn’t taken his phone with him.
  • Der Wanderer hatte Glück, dass er Einhornspray mithatte.
  • The hiker was lucky that he had the unicorn spray with him.

This mithaben is definitely one of those verbs that’ll make you sound super native so you should definitely add it to your active vocabulary.
Cool.
Now, if we wanted to, I guess we could make up a couple of more somewhat distinct themes for usage but honestly…. we might as well just look over a few more examples.

it’s all the same stuff

Actually, the distinctions we’ve made might be more limiting than they’re helpful. Like… we already had mitmachen and mitessen with the sense of joining. But they can show up in other contexts as well.

  • Die Schale kannst du mitessen. Das sind Bio-Kartoffeln.
  • You can eat the peel. These are organic potatoes.
  • “Ich mache mir einen Cappuccino.”
    “Oh, kannst du mir einen mitmachen?”
  • “I’m gonna make myself a cappuccino.”
    “Oh can you make me one, too?”

Here, the idea of mit is a sense of as well, but the core idea is still very much a sense of along.
And that goes for all mit-verbs… some are a bit abstract and the translations might seem a little odd at first glance, but with the sense of along in mind, they make perfect sense.

  • Ich schreibe im Unterricht nie mit.
  • I never take notes in class.
  • Die Erklärung war zu schnell. Ich bin nicht mitgekommen.
  • The explanation was too fast. I couldn’t follow/keep up.

The most abstract ones I could think of are mitkriegen and mitbekommen … which are the same, essentially, because kriegen and bekommen are synonyms
So yeah, mitkriegen and mitbekommen are a colloquial option for noticing or realizing, and the idea is that you, as well, get a share of the information.

  • Wenn mein Fenster zu ist, kriege ich von der Party draußen fast nichts mit.
  • When my window is closed I don’t hear much from the party outside.
  • Hast du mitbekommen, dass Maria ganz schön dick geworden ist. Vielleicht ist sie schwanger.
  • Have you noticed that Maria has grown somewhat large. Maybe she’s pregnant.

But that’s really about as abstract as it gets with mit.
Not much mind yoga needed for once.
Still, mit-verbs are pretty common in colloquial daily German, and there are also some really nice nouns.
Like das Mitleid for example, which is the German noun for pity. Or the very famous Mitbewohner, which roughly translates to person who never cleans up the kitchen after cooking.

There are plenty more but I think you can understand all of them from context.
There is one thing about mit, though, that does confuse students. And that’s the infamous da-word… damit.

damit – a quick look

Now, we’ve talked about the da-words some other time but since – in all those text books and courses – damit totally seems to be a thing let’s have a peek at it real quick.
Damit is often talked about under the headline “final clause”. I don’t really know what that is though. I’m a  little  clausetrophobic … ahem… get it? I just made a pun… … … …. okay, never mind.
So, here’s the deal. For many of the things we do in daily life we need a tool… a bike to bike, a key to pass the test, a lighter to lighten up. So we have a tool, and we do what we want to do with it. With it. Damit.  Tadah… so damit has the built in idea of help with accomplishing a goal. Now, not only tools can be a means to an end. Also an activity. And over time damit developed into a functional word that can connect activities or … verbs.
The “normal” use is this:

  • Ich habe ein Fahrrad. Damit kann ich zur Arbeit fahren.
  • I have a bike. With it I can go to work

and the functional use is this:

  • Ich habe ein Fahrrad, damit ich zur Arbeit fahren kann.
  • I have a bike so (that) I can go to work.

In the first sentence the bike is my tool, in the second having a bike is the tool. The structures are totally different but the content is kind of similar, albeit not identical.  So, this is where the functional damit comes from. The so that meaning.
And what about um zu? Well, that expresses the same idea with a different grammar. And it is more limited,because it only works if the subject in both parts of the sentence is the same. Just like in the bike-example.
Let’s look at another example with both ways back to back and then we’ll finish, all right?

  • Thomas … , damit er Maria nicht weckt.
  • Thomas steht sehr leise auf, um Maria nicht zu wecken.
  • Thomas gets up very quietly, so that he doesn’t/so as to not wake Maria.
  • Thomas steht sehr leise auf, damit Maria nicht aufwacht.
  • Thomas gets up very quietly so that Maria doesn’t wake up.

In the first example, Thomas is the subject in both parts, so I can use um zu. In the second example, Thomas is the subject in the first part, while Maria is the subject in the second part and hence, um zu is not an option and damit is what we need.

And speaking of what we need… I don’t know about you, but I need a nice cold beer now. And it’s well deserved because we’re done for today :). Hooray.
This was our look at the meaning and use of the preposition mit,in particular as a prefix. And even though it wasn’t all that mind blowing, I hope you learned a few useful things.
At least verbs like mithaben or mitmachen are really worth adding to your active vocabulary.

As usual, if you have any questions about today, just leave a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

Oh … by the way… here’s a common German idiom. Our teachers used that in elementary school after some of us had done something stupid during lunch break … can you guess what it means?

  • Mitgegangen, mitgefangen, mitgehangen.

Hint: they used it to legitimize their unjust collective reprimands … that’s right!! I have not forgotten!!!!

further reading:

 

** vocab **

mit = with
mitmachen = to join (an activity); make something for another person (while you’re making it for yourself); put up with (usually used with a negation)
mitreden = to talk, to join the discussion
mitessen = join eating, eat with someone
der Mitesser = the blackhead
mitbringen = bring along (doesn’t work if bringing is the only purpose of your going somewhere)
mitnehmen = take with you
mithaben = have with you, have on you (colloquial)
mitschreiben = write along (as someone is talking)
mitdenken = to think along
mitteilen = to let someone know something
mitkommen = to come with someone, to join (very common in context of inviting friends for events)
mitbekommen = to hear, to learn (in the sense of picking up a piece of information, usually “mitkriegen” in spoken)
mitkriegen = to hear, to learn (in the sense of picking up a piece of information, fancy version is “mitbekommen”)
der Mitarbeiter = the employee, the coworker
das Mitleid = the compassion
das Selbstmitleid = the self pity
die Mitteilung = the notification, the message
der Mitbewohner = the flat mate
damit = with that; so that (conjunction)
mitgegangen, mitgefangen, mitgehangen = In for a penny, in for a pound (idiom)

 

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Arty
Arty
6 months ago

Hallo Emanuel –

Dein Thema war wieder einmal goldrichtig! Ich war neugierig auf die Konstruktion mit “voll”….(Meine Freundin ist voll der Gillmore Girls -Fan und ich hab gestern mal mitgeguckt und ich fand es echt überraschend gut.) Ich habe versucht, meinen Verstand zu beugen, um zu sehen, wie “voll” sich darauf bezieht, etwas zu mögen/ein Fan zu sein?

Außerdem scheint es so, als ob mithaben und dabeihaben einige Überschneidungen haben?

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 months ago

Hi Emanuel,

Thank you for the great article!

A couple of quick questions if I may:

1) if I want to join some colleagues who are already eating their lunch, does „kann ich mitessen?“ work if I am going to bring my own food? Or would it suggest that I want to share their food?

2) can one add „mit“ to any verb where appropriate, or are there a specific list of mit-verbs? e.g., picking up on your coffee example above, if a friend said s/he was going to get (holen) a coffee, could I say „kannst du mir einen mitholen“ (to mean “can you please get one for me too?”)

Many thanks in advance
Ade

Jake
Jake
7 months ago

“Can I join your playing?”
I would say “Can I play along?” (US English)

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

Join the discussion…

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago

Nette “Böse Tote”-Schilderung ;)

Woran kann man denn “mit” *nicht* anfügen? Ich glaub, es geht sogar mit werden:

– Wir gehen ins Kino.
– Ich würd gerne mit.

Wenn es geht, dann ist es ja “mitwerden” (wie “hinsollen” und andere “elliptische” umgangsprachliche Verben).

Immerhin: man hätte hier wahrscheinlich auch das Adverb-“mit” erwähnen sollen, weil es eigentlich nicht so selten vorkommt. “Man darf keine Tiere mit ins Flugzeug nehmen” usw.

mio991
7 years ago

In dem Satz “Ich würde gerne mit.” läst man Umgangssprachlich ein Wort weg, nähmlich “kommen” was dann “mitkommen” daraus mach. “mitwerden” gibt es nicht.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago
Reply to  mio991

Du hast halt was ich gesagt habe anders ausgedrückt.
“elliptische” umgangsprachliche” bedeutet eben derartige umgangssprachliche Abkürzungen, die die Form der Verben annehmen. Und da es sie eigentlich gibt (z.B. hinsollen), wieso soll es – auch wenn nur tgeoretisch – nicht “mitwerden” geben?
Interessanterweise kommt eigentlich das Substantiv “Mitwerden” in manchen Büchern vor. Und ein paar Treffer ergeben sich für “mitzuwerden”.

mio991
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

“mitsollen” und “mitsein” gibt es meiner Meinung nach nicht. Sätze die mit diesen gebildet werden, sind eigentlich immer verkürzt. Zum Beispiel der Satz “Du bist mit.” ist meiner Meinung nach “Du bist mit gekommen.”

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago
Reply to  mio991

Heh, wem soll ich nämlich trauen – deiner Meinung oder dem Duden? ;)

http://www.duden. de/rechtschreibung/mitsollen

mit­sol­len
Wortart: unregelmäßiges Verb
Worttrennung:
mit|sol|len
Beispiel:
weil der Hund mitsoll

RobD
RobD
7 years ago

OK cool, verstehe! Vielen Dank :-)

RobD
RobD
7 years ago

Ja, “Ich komme dir mit” klingt mir total komisch, aber ich verstehe immer noch nicht den Unterschied zwischen “Ich komme mit dir mit” und bloß “Ich komme mit dir”. Gibt es überhaupt einen?

Danke :)

mio991
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ich komme mit dir.
is absolutly correct and just means the same as
Ich komme mit dir mit.
but i think it’s a phrase and therefore an exception from the rules.

Ich finde den Blog super. Weiter so.

Grüße

mio991

RobD
RobD
7 years ago

Hey Emanuel, first off thanks so much for this blog, I always enjoy reading the entries and learning new quirks of German (and English, for that matter).

I wanted to ask about the doubled use of “mit” in certain situations; I can’t think of a good example off the top of my head, but I’m sure I’ve heard people say things like “Nimm das mit dir mit” or something similar. I suppose the first one is needed to connect with the dative object and the last one as the separable prefix. I’m just wondering whether this is standard usage or colloquial?

igorsrb
7 years ago

Danke. Ich dachte, dass “andere” in diesem Satz stehen kann, weil sie beide Frauen sind.

igorsrb
7 years ago

Gestern sah ich eine Werbung im Fernseher, in der eine Frau zu anderem Mädchen sagte:
Kann ich deine E-mail MITLESEN :)

berlingrabers
7 years ago

(Make that “eingerostet.” Told you…)

berlingrabers
7 years ago

Love this blog! We’re freshly returned to Berlin after 4 years back in the States and trying to rehabilitate our eingeröstetes German, and this is wonderfully helpful.

More a comment on English dialect than German, but are you aware that some American speakers actually use “with” rather like a German separable prefix? As in:

– We’re heading out for dinner and a movie. You wanna come with?

I think you see that most often in places like Wisconsin with a pretty significant German heritage, and I always got a kick out of it.

Thanks again for blogging! I’ll definitely be throwing some questions your way at some point.

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

You’re definitely right about prepositions in final position in American English, though I think most of us would be more likely to say “finish your pizza” than “eat your pizza up” (although if you’re trying to get everybody to finish their meal, you might just say “Eat up!”).

There are also lots of phrases that can go either way:

– Put your toys away and put your pajamas on.
– Put away your toys and put on your pajamas.

(I hear parents here use the plain infinitive for commands to their kids fairly often: “Spielsachen aufräumen und Schlafanzug anziehen!” in place of “Räum deine Spielsachen auf” usw. I guess that’s similar?)

I think Texas dialect could have some Germanisms, but if so it’s less because it’s related to Southern accents and more because there were tons of German and Bohemian settlers in central Texas historically. There are towns called Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, and Gruene down there.

Vielen Dank fürs nette willkommen Heißen!

jag041
jag041
7 years ago

Gut!
Ich habe immer an den Unterschied zwischen “damit” und “um zu” nachgedacht. Natürlich dachte ich, dass es ähnlich wie Englisch wäre, aber das ist auf jeden Fall nicht ein guter Grund, was zu glauben… Sicherlich nicht bei Deutsch…

ellem910
ellem910
7 years ago

What a fantastic blog this is, I just stumbled upon it the other day looking searching online for resources. I’m hoping to teach my son and start using German at home. I studied German in school and later lived in Austria but that was over 10 years ago so I’m a bit rusty. I can’t wait to read through the archives here and look forward to future posts!

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Thanks for the post I always enjoy learning the German here in all of its different meanings and contexts. Keep writing and I will keep reading!

compassionatelanguage

Ahhhhh this is so useful, as is your whole blog — seriously, the extensive grammar explanations are so helpful. Thank you so much for posting all this. I hope you keep blogging here for a long time!!

Anil
Anil
7 years ago

Thanks for the tip. I live in Schwäbisch Gmünd. It is is Baden wüttermberg state and ostalbkreis state.
Do you suggest any YouTube links for German movies with German subtitels. I searched for them but could not get movies with subtitels. I am watching Easy German episodes , but getting bored quick… So I thought watching movies would be better option.

Thanks again

Vc:)
Vc:)
7 years ago
Reply to  Anil

Hi Anil!
I’m from Schwäbisch Gmünd myself and I’m living proof of that “außer Hochdeutsch” bit (I wish I could say that for the “wir können alles” part, too… so please bear with my English)
Perhaps it might help you to know some of the Swabian “grammar”.
First, we shorten lots of words (who needs vowels, anyway?) So, for example in the -en-ending, the e is actually nonexistent. Instead of wissen we would say wissn. One syllable instead of two, which saves time, time is money, Swabians are known to be stingy anyway, and schaffa, schaffa, Heisle baua.
Unfortunately, with the -en-ending, there is also the possibility to keep the syllable, eliminate both e andere n and replace it by a short nasal sound somewhere between e and a, e.g. schaffen –> schaffa. This also works with the eln-ending.-eln is changend into -la. Also nasal, e.g. handla instead of handeln.
Then there is the ge-prefix. We usually don’t pronounce the e, so it’s gwusst, gmalt, grührt, gschafft. If the verb starts with k, t, g, d, p, b (…?) we would leave the prefix altogether, e.g. I hann heut ebbes Guats kocht.(That one was quite mean, I guess… it means Ich habe heute etwas Gutes gekocht.) In that sentence you can also see ich is i (pretty much always), hab might become hann (i hann, du hosch, er hot, mir henn, ihr henn, die henn. Watch out for the personal pronouns mir (for wir) and die (for sie)). Ebbes instead of etwas is also pretty common.
Then, there’s the st-sound. Swabians are unable to wrap their tongues around that one. It usually comes out as schd, e.g. Kischde, baschdla, radla. Sometimes, we even leave out the t, especially in isch (ist) the second person singular present: du hast –> du hasch, du kannst –> du kannsch. I suppose, the sch sometimes even enpowers the verb to stand without the pronoun, so if you stumble across sentences like So was hasch no nie gsähna.(So etwas hast du noch nie gesehen.), don’t look for the pronoun…
I’m starting to notice understanding Swabian must be really, REALLY hard…:( And it doesn’t even sound that nice… Anyway, just ask if you don’t understand anything. I’m sure no one expects you to know random Swabian idiomatics, which have nothing to do with the standard language. Swabians, especially in smaller towns or villages may seem a bit rough around the edges, but they’re not bad folks ;) Especially, if you ask them about their beloved dialect without telling them that it sounds somewhat awfull…
I hope that helped a bit. Liebs Grüßle und viel Glück!

…und Emanuel! Dein Blog ist einfach der Hammer!!! Vielen lieben Dank dafür!! Ich finde ihn auch als Muttersprachlerin wahnsinnig spannend und lustig. Mir war echt nicht bewusst, wie schön Deutsch eigentlich sein kann! Und ich lerne nebenbei auch noch ein bisschen Englisch:) Bitte weiter so!!!

Vc:)
Vc:)
7 years ago
Reply to  Vc:)

Oops, I’ve just noticed I answered twice. Sorry about that! I thought it didn’t work the first time and therefore posted again. I think I might just want to try and be a little more patient with my internet…

Anil
Anil
7 years ago

Nice post. Thanks.
Question related to post: Is there a difference between Merken and mitbekommen? If not which word Germans use more?

General question: I am in Germany rightnow.. living since 5 months here. I try to listen when my German colleagues talk, but I hardly understand anything though I have a good vocabulary. And if I read an Artikel I can understand the most of the stuff as I have more time to read. How do I overcome this Problem? do you have any suggestions?

Thanks.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

I’m loving your explanations, they have definitely eased my path through German learning even to the point of enjoying it!! :) I am still wondering what happened in that cottage… actually I better not know!

Bella Mae
Bella Mae
7 years ago

Thank you! Love this website.