Word of the Day – “mit”

mit-prefix-meaning-germanHello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we’ll have a look at the meaning of

mit

 

Mit means with. Let’s do an example.

And that’s that. Just good ol’ literal translation. Hooray. And what’s even better is that we don’t have to worry about what case to use because… they all are equally correct with mit… okay they’re not. Mit needs Dative. But at least it’s easy to remember.. mit dem…  starts with “em” and ends with “em”. So, bottom line… mit  – simple, honest, literal.
Best preposition ever!
Now, of course mit wouldn’t be a Word of the Day if there wasn’t anything interesting to say about it. Mit is a really really cool prefix. There are so many uber common mit-verbs that are used every single day, and yet all those dumb text books miss out on them. Hey… hey beginners-book, I don’t care what bell pepper means!
Anyway…so, today we’ll take a look at some of the most common mit-verbs and along the way, we’ll discover the 2 main aspects mit can add to a verb. Sounds good?
Cool.

So, let’s start with one of the most basic verbs German has to offer. Herstellen. That is a synonym for the one I mean. I am talking of course about machen.
And when you add mit to it, well… you join the making… or doing.

Mitmachen, generic as it is, is actually the perfect word for joining if you don’t want to specify the exact activity.

Many NGOs like Greenpeace or Goldman Sachs as well as political parties have a menu “mitmachen” on their website.
But of course, if we want to be a little more specific, we can replace machen with all kinds of verbs and have mit add the join-idea.

Oh, 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 called  blackheads. Pretty cool name actually… they  even used it for a game that’s coming out in 2015. “Call of Duty: Blackheads – Mission nasal wing.”
Anyway, the “official” name for that is comedo… and guess where that comes from: the Latin word for eating.Because it was believed that those things are in fact little worms that live off of us. And what are they called in German? Mitesser. We eat, they join right in.

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

Oh okay :)
All right. So this was the  joining-idea of mit.  But that doesn’t always make sense.
Let’s look at this example.

Based on what we’ve learned so far this should mean something like: someone else is bringing you the book and I’m like “Hey that looks fun. Kann ich mitbringen?”. The true sense is different. It is  about bringing the book with me…. or along. Along actually best captures this second idea of mit.

  • I’ll bring along your book.

You see… without the mit, it would sound like I come ONLY to bring the book. That’s why I’m coming. With mit the bringing is more of a convenient side activity. Or a necessary one…

Very similar examples are mitnehmen and mithaben.

Without the mit, the sentence would sound incomplete. I would be like “Ok, I have my trash in my hand now.What do I do with it? Oh god…it doesn’t say it on the sign! What do I dooooo?”. I guess in English it’d be the same if the  with you were missing.
Anyway… isn’t the mit awesome? Imagine we would have to say with you/me/him in German…. we’d need to do all that case stuff. But no… just add mit and be done with it.

Another nice one is mitgeben which dictionaries translate as to give sb. sth. to take with him / her / them. That’s pretty long.

The mit in this context implies that I am going somewhere and I take the fruits with me. So much information in just a little word.
Now, I said that the second idea of mit was best captured by along… but all the examples are with this with her/him… stuff. So why not call THAT the second idea of mit. Well, even though it is not in the translations, along is still in the meaning of the example… mitgeben, mithaben, mitbringen... it’s always about going places and taking stuff along. I just felt like the with me-phrasings were more idiomatic (not sure ), so I used those. There are verbs however, for which the whole with me stuff doesn’t work at all. For example mitschreiben.

That doesn’t make sense. So what does the sentence mean? Based on the first idea of mit, the joining, we could assume that it means “join the others in their writing”. But nope. You can be the only person in the classroom writing and still call it mitschreiben. The actual meaning is this: as the lecture moves along, you “write along”… you take notes. And that’s the real translation

  • I never take notes/write anything down in class.

There is this very common phrase that people say when are about to repeat something to make it extra clear

Similar to mitschreiben is mitdenken, which is something like to think along. And again, you can be the only person doing any thinking. You “think along” as a situation unfolds. For instance you and some friends rented a little cottage in the middle of nowhere for the weekend. On the way there you do your groceries, but then, as you start to cook dinner you find that there is no salt in the cabinet. Damn. And you actually wanted to make a pasta with salt-sauce. Double damn. But then your friend Cathy goes like… “Chill out dudes… I brought some salt from home. I figured there might be none here.” Perfect moment to say

Little did they know what the night had in store for Cathy… but that’s another story.
So, first we had along as in along with ourselves and then we had along as in along with whatever happens. But that’s still not all we can do with the along idea. Take for instance the verb mitessen. The second night in the cottage a German friend has cooked the traditional “Kartoffeln mit Kräuterquark” (potatoes with herb-curd). Someone complains, that the potatoes are too hot to peel, but your friend says

Little did he know that there was something else “organic” in the house…. but anyway… mitessen basically means that you can eat for example the peel along with the rest of the potato. But wait… wasn’t mitessen to join eating? Yes, it was. It can mean either. And that is true for many mit-verbs. Even for mitmachen.
The next morning in the cottage…

  • “Uahhhh… was für eine Nacht. Weißt du wo Cathy ist?”
    “Nee… keine Ahnung.”
    “Naja… vielleicht wandern oder sowas. Ich mach mir erstmal einen Crawnberry-Acai-Frappucino.”
    “Oh … kannst du mir einen mitmachen?”
    “Klar.”
  • “Guahhh… what a night. Do you know where Cathy is?”
    “Nah… no idea.”
    “Oh well… maybe hiking or something. I’m gonna go fix myself  a Crawnberry-Acai-Frappucino.”
    “Oh … can you make me one too?”
    ” ‘course”

Little did he know what awaite…okay, okay… I’ll stop that :).
So mitmachen can mean to join the making but also “to make along”. Those are the two essential ideas or poles that mit can add to a verb. And they are not really that far away from each other after all. And often they do overlap. Take mitsingen.

These two are super close. Or take mitkommen.

This is basically one verb. The two idea just completely fuse.
So… we have two different ideas, yes, but they have a lot lot lot in common and maybe it is best to just think of mit as  along-ish and let the context do the rest. That would also help with the more abstract uses that have evolved for many of these verbs.

  1. Jeden Tag Überstunden und immer nur Gemecker. Ich mache das
    nicht mehr lange mit.

  2. Mein Fahrrad hat schon viel mitgemacht, aber fährt immer noch
    wie eine 1.

  3. Als der Lehrer über Grammatik geredet hat, bin ich nicht mehr mitgekommen.
  4. George Clooney hat in vielen Filmen mitgespielt.
  5. Der Politiker wird dieses Projekt nicht mittragen.

All those should be pretty more or less clear by context…. the precise translation doesn’t matter that much. It’s the idea that counts.

  1. Extra hours everyday and nothing but bleat. I’m not going to take that/go along with that/suffer that for much longer
  2. My bike has been through a lot but it is still running perfectly.
  3. When the teacher started speaking about grammar, I couldn’t follow anymore.
  4. George Clooney has been in many movies.
  5. The politician will not support that project.

The most abstract one out there is probably mitbekommen (or it’s colloquial brother mitkriegen)

The words are used in a bunch of different context and it doesn’t make much sense to give ONE translation… sometimes it’s hearing, sometimes it’s reading, or seeing. The underlying idea is that you get (bekommen) some kind of information along your path through life, so to say.
But that’s about as abstract as it gets with mit and I hope you got an idea of what the mit does.
Now, before we wrap up, let’s maybe look at a few mit-nouns. Okay… actually there is also a verb for most of them but whatever.
The first noun is Mitarbeiter. Of course logic suggests that Mitarbeiter means coworker. But nope. Shoo logic, shoo shoo… go back to math, there’s no room for you in language. Mitarbeiter means employee and if you say “Mein Mitarbeiter” then that means that you’re the boss.
The next noun is das Mitleid. Literally this is “the with-suffering” and it is a verbatim translation of a Latin word…  com-passio Passion is such a weird word. For years I was REALLY confused about the title “The passion of Christ”… I was like “What’s his passion? Like … healing or soccer or something?”. But then at some point it clicked and I was like “Ohhhh passion can mean suffering too”. Anyway… Leid is a little bit more “suffering” than passion, so Mitleid is actually closer to pity than to compassion.

I mean… who would reject actual compassion like that :).
All right.
Another nice noun  is Mitteilung. Teilen is to share so Mitteilung would literally be something like with-sharing. The actual meaning is (somewhat formal) message. For example, SMS is Kurzmitteilung in German. Or it would be if it wasn’t SMS … in your face,language Nazis. Anyway.. in a message we’re sharing information with someone. The mit is kind of unnecessary… I mean… sharing is by default with someone. But whatever, it isn’t too odd.

  • Betreffend unsere Mitteilung vom 32. 4. 2021…
  • Pertaining to our message of April 32nd…

And there are many many more. Mitschuld (part of the guild), Mithilfe (assistance, help), Mitbewohner (room-mate)…  Mit is just super productive and you do a lot with it. And that concludes our Germ… wait a second. With it. Wouldn’t that be… yeah, it totally would be damit in German.

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:

and the functional use is this:

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, no um zu is a no go.
I on the other hand am a yes go, because we’re done and I will go to the break room,  drink coffee. Little do I know what horrors are waiti.. oh wait, we’re not in that cottage anymore. Phew.
This was our look at the German preposition mit, and I hope you got some idea of how useful and common it really is as a prefix. Mitkommen, mitbringen, mithaben, mitmachen, mitthis, mitthat … there are sooo many. The two main ideas it adds are joining in and along….  joining  is actually more a sub-domain of along but anyway. What matters is that you got a bit of a feel for it, so I hope you did.
If you have any questions about mit or if you want to try out some examples and have them corrected, or if you know some other cool mit-words that we should mention, 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:

 

for members :)

54
Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
alexviajero
alexviajero

Another terrific and very useful article! Who knew so much useful information surrounded a small word like “mit” ?? It was also even more hilarious than usual… someone’s mind is in a bawdy mood today! ;-) (Poor Cathy…) I laughed out loud more than once reading this!

My experience with this convention goes all the way back to my first days living in Germany over 30 years ago. Being the typical young, ugly American, instead of trying out delicious brats and other new German food that I would eventually discover and come to love, I headed straight for my local McDonald’s in Nürnberg and promptly ordered my Big Mac, Pommes Frites, und ein großes Bier (yes, I loved that you could get a beer in McDonald’s there!), and the reply was, “ist das für hier oder zu mitnehmen?”

Good times! Thanks, and keep up the good work, please!

APC
APC

For “Kann ich mitspielen?” we just say “Can I play?” It is implied that you want to play with the people you are talking to. I guess if you want to be grammatically “correct” you can say, “May I play?” but then you’d probably be beaten up pretty badly.

I think I want to try out some of the mit-verbs, and see if I get it.

1. Ich habe kein Platz im Auto für diese Sachen. Kannst du bitte in deinem Auto mitbringen?
2. Ich fahre zum Strand. Du kannst mitkommen, wenn du willst.
3. Ich habe mein Brüder schauen, Schach zu spielen. Aber ich habe ihnen mitgespielt, weil ich ihnen zeigen musste, wie man Schach gut spielen kann.
4. Ich habe einen schlechten Tag. Hast du das nicht mitbekommen?

Fin Famos
Fin Famos

I guess you add the “mit” in Mitteilung because “teilen” on its own wouldn’t necessarily mean “to share” but could also be “to divide” or “to split” or something. And for that you don’t need another person. So, just Teilung would maybe make you think of “division” or “dividing” or something and not “sharing”.. my guess. I love to muse about these things.. :)

Bella Mae
Bella Mae

Thank you! Love this website.

Anonymous
Anonymous

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!

Anil
Anil

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.

Anil
Anil

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:)

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:)

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…

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!!

Anonymous
Anonymous

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!

ellem910

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!

jag041
jag041

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…

berlingrabers

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

(Make that “eingerostet.” Told you…)

igorsrb

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

igorsrb

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

RobD
RobD

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?

RobD
RobD

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 :)

RobD
RobD

OK cool, verstehe! Vielen Dank :-)

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

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
mio991

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

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”.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Join the discussion…