The meaning and use of “aufhören”

Hello everyone,aufhören is NOT hören

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. Today we are going to take a look at the meaning of:



Aufhören is a very important word and it is one that you cannot guess just based on your knowledge of the basic verb hören. Hören means to hear and to listen. It is good if you know that but in an example like the following this can mislead you big time.

People who are new to German often kind of ignore those little words at the end of the sentence whenever they can’t really make sense of them. Suppose you know hören (to hear) and rauchen (to smoke) you might say “Yeah it is like something like with to hear smoke or something… whatever that means…”. Unfortunately this time, you are totally wrong.  The verb of the sentence is NOT hören, it is aufhören and aufhören means to stop and now the sentence makes sense. So always remember the 12th commandment of the Learn-German-God.

12. Thou shalt not ignore little words at the end of a phrase,
for jumping to conclusions will lead to confusion.

With that said, let’s talk about aufhören. Aufhören means to stop… now if you are  feeling like “What the hell, how do to hear and up merge to something entirely different… damn German. How am I supposed to memorize that?”, I can understand but I will tell you why this in fact does make some sort of sense in a little bit. But we need to nail the meaning of aufhören first. It is a certain kind of to stop. Precisely aufhören means to stop an action you yourself are doing. If you want to stop your car, a DVD or another moving object you would say anhalten.

If you want to stop a person from doing something there are several possibilities depending on the exact context. The most natural one would be aufhalten I guess. Anyway, aufhören is to stop an action that you yourself have been doing up to that point…. and just to make sure… there is no other word for that so you will need aufhören.

I want to stress again, you CAN’T aufhören things. You can only stop actions like smoke, be lazy, think of something and so on. And you can ONLY aufhören what you have been doing yourself.
Just like to stop, aufhören does not imply any completion so it does not mean to finish or end. If you would say “I stopped because I had finished.”, that would be kind of a weird phrasing and in German it is just the same.
Oh and I almost forgot: whenever IT stops, you know, the IT that rains, is a nice day, annoys you, and does all this other stuff… so what this IT does when it stops is aufhören.

Now before we get to the grammar, let’s take a quick look if aufhören has any connection to hören after all. So imagine some cave-men sitting around their fireplace doing cave-men things and then all of a sudden there is a noise in the woods. Naturally they all would stop their activity and try to listen closely…. they stop doing their thing and … listen up… aufhören. Over time the listen part has disappeared and aufhören only kept the stop whatever you are doing part as its meaning. There is a very similar word by the way that describes the listening part: aufhorchen. In a boring parliamentary session all the senators might swoosh their fingers over their smart-phones or daze while the speaker keeps babbling about something no-one cares about. But then all of a sudden he slips in this really decisive announcement and the audience is all like “…. Hmmmm? What was that?”. They stop their smart phone activities – aufhören, and start to actively listen to what the person is saying – aufhorchen. So now that you won’t ever forget aufhören, as the example seemed so contrived  let’s go over the grammar and call it a day. The spoken past of aufhören is built with haben and the ge-form is aufgehört so it is entirely regular.

The real past stem is hörte auf / aufhörte.

So I think between the lines of the post you could have gotten the impression, that aufhören only works for actions… ok actually I really tried to hammer that into your brain… anyway, when there are 2 actions done by the same subject you will have to deal with the question how to connect the verbs. Um… zu or …zu???? That is once more the big question :).
Stop doing something translates to a …zu-construction. Why? Because you cannot step into a room and just say “He stops.” without having everyone confused. These cases always work with …zu.

If you have a sentence with stop to do something it will be um … zu. Why. Because the English sentence can be rephrased using in order to and those are always um…zu.

And thus we have reached the end. Remember aufhören is to stop whatever you have been doing, no more and no less. If you have questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.


Test yourself on aufhören!

1 / 7

What does aufhören mean?

2 / 7

What’s the “logic” behind the meaning of “aufhören”?

3 / 7

Which verb do you use in context of stopping a car?

4 / 7

How do you say “I stop singing.

5 / 7

Which of the following is the proper translation for “It stops raining.”?

6 / 7

Which is the spoken past form of aufhören?

7 / 7

How do you translate:

I stopped learning German to focus on (playing) golf.

Your score is


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This is brilliant, thanks! I live in Germany now and really need to learn some proper language. I will remember this much better than a textbook format because it was entertaining and you bothered to explain some background behind the word and how it may have evolved. Thanks for blogging, please keep going, and I really dig your writing style :-)

Anonymous learner
Anonymous learner

In the UK, teachers often tell chattering pupils to “listen up” when they want the pupils to “stop what they are doing [their actions]”. Of course, they do want the pupils to listen after they stop.”listen up” is a common expression that people use when they ask others to stop what they are doing and to give their attention.


This is good.. I have been wondering about this for quite some time.. Thank you. Keep it up!


A wonderful article. Thank you very much for writing this.

One question. You wrote:

* Ich habe aufgehört, mir Sorgen zu machen.
* I stopped to worry.

Should the translation not be “I stopped worrying”?


This helped my a lot, thanks so much! Here are some other things that I am struggling with though:

The difference between aufhoren and einstellen (or just the word einstellen in general).
The difference between greifen, ergreifen, fassen, nehmen and holen (especially the word fassen!).
The difference between nutzen, verbrauchen, einsetzen and verwenden (including difference between words like brauchbar vs nutzlich etc).
The difference between Idee and Ahnung.
And the German words for obviously, apparently and blatantly.


You say that aufhoeren is only used ” to stop an action that you yourself have been doing up to that point” – but why do I always hear kids telling each other to “hoer auf!”


when i sow the article about aufhören I immediately thought on: gehören (to belong). It took me a while to memorize the translation because in my head it doesn’t make sens how a verb like hören can end up in something that shows the possession. Your explanation for aushören is brilliant and it helps a lot for remembering its meaning.
Related to suggestions, i have difficulties for using the verb: to use :). It has multiple forms in german: gebrauchen, benutzen, verwenden, nutzen, anwenden. How should we know when to use a specific form of: to use?

Thank you,

Guilherme Lopes (@WilhelmLopsch)

I just found out about this blog a couple of days ago and I’ve been devouring every word ever since (whenever I have the time)
You, Sir, are a better tutor over the internet than all the SprachlehrerInnen i’ve had until now!
That being said, I have a small remark/suggestion to make:
Regarding “aufhöhren”, wouldn’t “quit” sometimes be a more fitting english translation in most of the cases than “stop”?
“Quit” or “giving (sth.) up” would actually make more sense to me in a couple of your examples, and still be quite passable in others…
But anyway, keep up this amazing work and wish you all the best!


Hello again! I am really impressed by your articles.
I have one question about the on of the first examples with Aufhören.
“Ich höre auf, zu rauchen” = “Ich gewöhne mir rauchen ab”. In this context are these equal?? And could you describe the differences of using this words (maybe 1 is more official and second is better for “umgangsprache”) I will be very thankful for your response!

Elena Anastasaki

Love your blog! Keep it coming! :-)


something I’ve missed, why is the following sentence grammatically written like this: •”Es hörte auf zu regnen”,
when I feel like most weak linked verbs would have the sentence like this: •”Es hörte zu regnen auf”,
Perhaps it’s not a weak linked verb after all????? arrrggghhhh!
Sooooooooo confused! But I just found this site today and you are my shining light in the tunnel of extreme darkness! A thousand thank you’s for all of this, and keeping it fun(ny) and dumbed down a shade for us strugglers…..

Michael Chucks (@manfish7)

I’ve been learning German for a while now in school but couldn’t really get a hold on it until I accidentally stumbled across your blog. I can say my life or better still my German hasn’t been the same, people in my class has started to notice and say I am well above their level but I tell them that I’ve got something they cant lay their hands on and that is your website.
Keep it going mate, you are doing one hell of a job.
Thanks a Mill.


You explained it very well, thank you


Another masterpiece, bravo, Emanuel! Though I did a little research on ab/auf/ge/ver/über/zu/her/anhören, and while it’s much easier to differentiate words with completely different meaning (like gehören and aufhören), I just couldn’t wrap my head around the nuances between hören, mithören, zuhören, anhören and herhören. Even after looking these words up in dictionaries. Would be kind enough to explain it to me? Viele Dank.


Thanks very much for your work explaining all of this. I have another question about aufhören. I was recently told that it is also used to mean something like “listen up” or “pay attention”, similar to “aufhorchen”, especially when talking about music. For example: “dieses Riff lässt einen aufhören.” I can’t find that meaning online, but I don’t have a hard copy of Duden… Do you have any examples of this usage? Is that usage really possible? Thanks!!

Gil Johnson

danke für diese (blog), ich bin noch ein sehr neues deutschelerner, (as) vom meine schlecten deutsch kennen Sie. Aber ich finden sich deinen (blog)(most helpful).
Hopefully your blog will help make my German less tangled and opaque. I found my way here a few days ago and it’s quickly moved into my short list of valuable resources.
I have trouble still believing my brain will be able to follow a sentence where words are split in half so, but I’m trying not to let my zweifel turn to verzweifeln :)

A question and a correction:

Question: how picky are native speakers about proper capitalization in situations such as texting, where it can be difficult to capitalize letters? Do lowercase nouns look wrong but accceptable, or annoyingly lazy like texting “I m l8 4 wrk sry R U mad?”, or actually unintelligible because you can’t tell sie from Sie or nouns from adjectives?

correction: you wrote ” But we need to nail the meaning first as aufhören it is a certain kind of to stop.”

Better would be “…the meaning of aufhören first, as it is…” We English speakers don’t have the short term memory of German speakers. we need our “as it is” type statements unbroken by intruding information or the sentence becomes difficult for us to parse!


I wonder which one is correct in order to translate “stop stealing my milk, and other stuff”, if any?
(1) beenden Diebstahl meiner Milch und andere Sachen
(2) stoppen Diebstahl meiner Milch und andere Sachen
(3) aufhören zu stehlen meiner Milch und andere Sachen


Thank you it was very useful for me


[…] unpicking grammar, looking up key new words (hat tip to the lovely German is easy! blog for today’s), trying to parse sarcasm or metaphors or slang. And it’s a good example of little-and-often […]


First of all, I find your blog super helpful as I am learning Geman and many time my doubts are easily answered here… The point of my post is that I have a question… I got the meaning of aufhören and anhalten, but what about “stopp”? How shall I use it?

by the way I am not a native English speaker, so excuse my mistakes :p


Why is – Ich höre auf, zu rauchen. not Ich hore zu rauchen auf? When does the auf not go at the end?