Word of the Day – “ausschlafen”

Hello everyone,ausschlafen - this kitten knows what that means

and welcome to our German Word of the Day:


Ausschlafen is something a lot of people like to do. The verb consists of the 2 parts aus and schlafen and schlafen simply means… to sleep. To be honest it would have been more adequate to call schlafen the word of the day but I thought that some of you might have just ignored it entirely then and thus missed out on the schlafen-family, …. and after all ausschlafen is by far the best of all of them. But let’s start from the beginning. In order to properly sleep you first need to… right fall asleep. In German for this we use the word einschlafen.

  • I fall asleep while learning German.
  • Ich schlafe ein, während ich Deutsch lerne.

Once this is done you can peacefully sleep the whole night. Especially when you have a little baby you hope that you can sleep without having to wake up once. This is called durchschlafen in German and it means sleep through the night, but it is nothing you need very much in daily life. And now imagine there is no alarm, no place you need to go, no chores you need to do and no noise outside keeping you awake. If you are not ready yet to get up you just turn around and nap another hour…. now that is ausschlafen at its finest. Ausschlafen is usually translated by to sleep in and to sleep late. The latter however does not really capture the essence of ausschlafen because it is not necessarily connected to a time… it simply means that you sleep as long as YOU want. If you feel like you are done sleeping at 4 am… you can still call that ausschlafen. Now some of you might say: “Well, I have seen aus before and it always means something with out of or off…  how does that translate to sleep IN??”, and someone else might add: “Yeah wouldn’t it make more sense if EINschlafen were sleep in since einusually means something like into something or on.” Well these are legitimate questions and the only answer I can give you is the 35. commandment of the Language Learning God:

35. Thou shalt not generalize prepositions for it will cause great confusion! 

One of the probably most used examples with ausschlafen is the following sentence:

  • Perfekt! Morgen kann ich ausschlafen!
  • Perfect! Tomorrow I can sleep in /I can sleep as long as I want.

There is also the word ausgeschlafen. This is the ge-form of ausschlafenso you use it to build the spoken past.

  • Gestern habe ich ausgeschlafen.

But it is also used as an adjective.

  • Ich hoffe, du bist ausgeschlafen.
  • Der kleine Sohn von Thomas und Maria ist ganz schön ausgeschlafen.

In the first sentence ausgeschlafen means something like ‘well-rested’ or simply ‘awake’. The meaning in the second sentence is a little bit more abstract.  The sentence says that the son of Maria and Thomas is a clever kid. Much to my surprise the Leo.org dictionary does not list this signification and Pons suggests sharp which to me seems just plain wrong. This is weird since ausgeschlafen in sense of clever it is not some ancient idiom that no one ever uses. So just to recap real quick, ausschlafen means to sleep as long as YOU want be it late or not. Now imagine you do it because you don’t hear the alarm going of. That’s what we call verschlafen.

  • Mist, ich habe verschlafen. Jetzt komme ich zu spät zur Arbeit.
  • Damn, I overslept. Now I am late for work.

The ge-form of verschlafen is … verschlafen so there is no difference there. Verschlafenis also used as an adjective.

  • Du siehst aber noch verschlafen aus.
  • You still  look kind of  sleepy.
  • Das ist ein verschlafenes kleines Städtchen.
  • This is a sleepy little town.

Another translation for sleepy is schläfrig and there is a couple more verbs and a bunch of adjectives that originate from schlafen. Entschlafen is like the English to pass away a poetic wording for to die. Vorschlafen  is to sleep too much for one or 2 night in order to build up a sort of sleep account which will get you through these 4 intense festival nights. Scientists claim this to be nonsense which might explain why it is not in the dictionaries. The last word before we do a that little grammar is …. HEY WAKE UP YOU! …. Nicht einschlafen!  I promise you we will have an adult section after the grammar. :) So the last word I want to tell you is a one to impress your flat mates with. Watch their faces in awe and their jaw on the floor when you tell them:

  • Oh Gott, ich kann mir kaum einen Kaffee machen, so schlaftrunken wie ich bin.

Some dictionaries offer sleepy, drowsy or somnolent as a translation for schlaftrunken but what it really is is drunk with sleep. To wrap this up here is the little bit of grammar. Schlafen and its buddies have a vowel change for du und erso it is:

  • ich schlafe
  • du schläfst
  • er schläft

The ge-form is __geschlafen except of course for the ones with a strongly linked prefix like verschlafen  and entschlafen. Most of them work with haben. The only 2 where the past is built with sein are einschlafen and entschlafenas these are changes of your state. Examples? There you go:

  • Ich habe gut geschlafen.
  • Ich bin gestern erst um 3 eingeschlafen.

The real past stem of schlafen is schlief and the corresponding noun is der Schlaf.

And now on to the meanings of schlafen, that require you to be awake… there is mainly two phrasings for ‘to have sex’ one of which is also used in English:

  • Thomas slept with Maria.
  • Thomas hat mit Maria geschlafen.
  • Thomas und Maria schlafen miteinander.
  • Thomas and Maria have sex with one another.

The second might seem a little complicated because of the miteinander… but you can not use zusammen in that case. The first phrasing has a pretty neutral tone to it, you just inform about what happened. The second one is a little more sensual, yet it can’t compete with Liebe machen (make love).

So this was our German Word of Today or better the whole word family of the day – ‘the Schlafens‘.

Hope you like it and see you next time… and to say good bye here is… more sleeping kittens! Because although we all sleep… they do it best.

a sleeping kitten