Word of the Day – “bringen”

bringen-pictureHello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. Today, I checked the date. 18th of December, the day numbering app said. And I was like “Holy crap… I had a dentist appointment two days ag… ” okay it is about to be Christmas and that means presents. Yeay. A present is ein Geschenk in German but we’ve already talked about that last year. So this year will talk about what the under payed, over monitored temporary elves of Jeff Bezos do… uhm… I mean … Santa Clause. He does it. Today, we’ll look at the meaning of


Uh… I mean bringen of course. Seriously… bringen doesn’t seem to be all that interesting. It is the twin brother of the English to bring.

  • Bring mir einen Kaffee!
  • Bring me a coffee!

The origin of the word isn’t really known but my personal theory is that the word goes back to the old Indo-European root brrrrrrrrrinnnnng which it is an onomonote… homeopath… uh… omapotato… uhm… an imitation of the sound of the door bell… like… the mail man brrrrinnnnngs a packa… what? Oh… no door bells? Ohhhh… well, it’s just a theory. Oh by the way… have you ever wished your inbox could say “You’ve got femail”… just freaking once?!
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So… the verb bringenseems to be boring but it is full of surprises. For one thing, German speakers much more fond of it than English speakers. In German, you sure make a lot, but you also bring a lot. And then, there are the prefix versions of bringenand some really have WTF-potential. I mean… umbringen means to kill… really? But let’s look at the bare bringen first.

The basic meaning is the same as in English.

But the German one is also used in contexts where English prefers to take… like for example if you accompany someone.

Bringen is really the standard word for that. And it is not limited to real locations … just as you can bringen someone to a bus stop you can bringen someone somewhere on a mental or abstract level.

And it is not limited to people.

As we see, English uses to getand to make for that. Now, those verbs have in them a notion of achieving or accomplishing something. Like… making it on time or getting things done. And this is part of bringen, too.

And before you ask… it is a dummy esin the last two examples… it doesn’t mean anything. It is just there because grammar says “You have to bringen something, you shall not just bringen.”And since there isn’t anything particular, the dummy es fills in so German grammar is content. Better not to piss it off lest it get out the exceptions.
Anyway… a variation of this accomplishment idea is the verb vollbringen which is a rather positive term for getting something done.

All right. Now… achieving something usually implies some sort of gain or benefit. And that leads us right to the next use of bringen…an important one.

This use is hyper-mega-triple-platinum-afterburner-common. Esor das brings something. There is not exactly the ONE translation for this but the idea is always the same.

I feel like this bringenalso kind of exists in English too, but in German it is really incredibly common.
All right. Now, are that all of the meanings of bringen? No, there is one more we should mention and that is bringen as in to have the guts.Or actually it is a general to have what it takes since it works not only for fear but also for moral hesitation or qualms.

So, clearly we have a wide variety of us… oh… and I see we have a call, here. Ekatharina from Novosibirsk‎ in Russia, welcome to the show
“Hi Emanuel thanks for taking my call…. I have a question.”
Sure, go right ahead.
“So… you mentioned all those different meanings like the standard bringing and the abstract mental bringing and the … uhm… the… “
“Yeah, the achieving one and the benefit one and last one. But I was thinking that they all kind of share the idea of delivery… “
“Well, I mean… take for instance this super common one …. the ‘Das bringt nichts’. Can’t we just think of it as if this ‘es’ doesn’t deliver? Like…Grandfather Frost brings me a book about dogs and the book in turn brings me nothing?”
Hmmm…. yeah… that actually makes a lot of sense… it’s even better than the benefit-idea since it is the basic meaning of the verb…
“Yeah… and it works for the others too. For example… Thomas delivered 900 points in scrabble or I don’t ‘deliver’ making a move on the new guy…. I don’t know… to me it makes sense”
Oh wow… you’re totally right. It works. I did not really see the connection but all the meanings are more or less abstract facets of the basic bringing. That’s a really cool view … thank you so much for bringing that up.
“Haha. I was worried you’d say it’s nonsense”
Oh don’t think that. When it comes to those kind of things there is no right or wrong. Whatever makes sense for you and helps you remember… that’s perfect no matter how weird or abstract it is… and yours wasn’t.
“Can I ask another question?”

Na klar!!
“Okay, so .. is bringen the best word for all of those meanings? Like… can I just use it all the time or is it more complicated?”
Hmm… let me think… so, the ones that are safe are the standard bringen, the abstract bringenis very common too and you definitely need the benefit-bringen… the one with “Es bringt nichts” or “Es bringt viel“. As for the others… I’d say it is enough to be aware of them. Using them correctly is not as easy. For instance the daring-one has a very specific tone to it that doesn’t fit in all situations. Same for the achievement one. But I can’t really tell when it’ll work and when it won’t. Does that help?
“Yeah it does… thanks a lot.”
Well thank you. Are you ready for the prefixes now?
“Oh… I’m afraid not… I have to get all those presents you know… I’ll catch up online once this Chrismadness is over.”
Haha.. that’s cool.You won’t miss much anyway. So have fun searching for presents and have a great holiday.
“You too.. bye.”
All right. So… in the remainder of the show we’ll look at the prefix versions of bringen and we’ll start with….


This is probably the first one that comes to mindand the difference to bringen is that for mitbringen, the bringing is just kind of a side effect of something else you’re doing.

Here, I am bringing the book to you. That is my goal and the purpose of my coming to you.

This sentence implies that I am going to you anyway and I could just bring along the book. In English you would probably say bring with meor just bringbut German just uses mitbringen and it is kind of strict. Like… you’re having a party and I am invited and I already said I’d come. Then you call me and ask

I would be quite confused. Why do I need to bring you your book? Can’t I just bring it with (me) when I come, later? I mean, people would understand it but the mitis not really optional. There is a difference between mitbringenand bringenand people feel it. So try getting used to the mit.


Verbringenmeans to spend as in to spend time. WHAT? But if you’ve read th.. I mean listened to the show about the prefix ver-you already know how it works. Ver adds the meaning of away here.

A variation of that is (he)rumbringen which is used if passing the time is kind of a chore.


This is kind of the idea of to bring in. The ein basically adds a direction to the standard bringing. A common use is with money.

And then there is a reflexive use of it… you einbringen yourself. And that means to take part… for instance in a project or in a discussion.

Should you add that word to you active vocabulary… hmmm… maybe not. I think I use it once a month so “filing” it on the passive pile ought to be enough.


This one has two meanings too. The first one is again the literal bringing something with the notion of approach added. You can anbringen an argument in a meeting for instance. But this isn’t all that common. So I won’t give an example. A variation of that is vorbringen which is kind of presenting aurally. Vorbringen is often done by lawyers in court when they make accusations or something.

The other anbringen means to fix something on something… usually on a vertical surface. And that kind of ties in with the whole achievement idea we had earlier.

Theoretically you can also anbringen a sticker on a bumper but to me that would sound overly technical and more complicated than it actually is.
So bottom line… anbringen is not used that much and it is definitely a candidate for the passive pile.

abbringen (von)

Ab is often the opposite of an so abbringen could very well mean to unfix something. But it doesn’t.

That’s it. Talk someone out of something. It obviously connects to the whole getting people to do stuff idea of bringen. Is it useful? Yes. Is it a must have? Definitely not. Put in on your passive pile :)


Now this is a bit surprising and even more so if you know that überbringen means to deliver as in delivering a message. Unterbringen means… to accommodate, or to place.

It works for people and for things but the people-use is the more common one, I think. Especially the noun Unterbringung is something you’ll find a lot in context of vacation and travel.
Now, why does this verb mean that anyway? Well, I think it is simply the idea of getting under a roof.
And is it useful? Well kind of. You’ll definitely see it but there are alternatives for it so once more I’d say… store it on the passive pile. That’s the really big one over there :).


Now, finally this is actually a USEFUL word. Beibringen has beiin it which is related to by. To bring by. Hmmm. And to what weird, twisted, absurd meaning could German possibly have bent this?
To teach.
German, you are full of shit.
Beibringen means to teach or to show and it does make sense when you think of it as kind of delivering knowledge or skill to someone.
And there is actually a side meaning of it where it is about passing on information.

You bring by the information. And this is really close to teaching….

Now, I think many of you don’t realize but German doesn’t really have a good word for to teach. A teacher is ein Lehrer and there is the verb lehrenbut this is actually quite heavy sounding. I wouldn’t want my elementary school teacher lehren me stuff. Erklären (explain) is okay,mich unterrichten in (teach me in) is okay or beibringen mir (teach me) is okay but lehren… brrr.. so serious. I’m a kid. I want fun. Same for middle school, high school, college and university. I am a kid. I want fu…okay I guess at university lehren has its place. That’s what professors do at university. Beibringen is the best choice for small things with a limited complexity that involve actively doing something. You can’t really beibringensomeone math because that would take decades and it is just fictio… I mean theory. And for REALLY small things, like how to boil pasta… the better choice is probably zeigen (to show) but for stuff like riding a bike, juggling, multiply on paper and so on, beibringen is the best choice.

All right. Now… those weren’t all the prefix verbs. There is wegbringen(bring away), erbringen (rare: deliver in context of performance), umbringen( to kill… from bringing someone around a corner to rob him), ausbringen(some farm stuff I think), durchbringen (get someone through… for instance a hard winter), and aufbringen(to upset people, to stop and frisk a ship)… hmmm… I guess the last one deserves an example

But I think that’s enough for today. That was our German Word of the Day bringen. It means to bring but German really uses all the facets of delivery that you can imagine… like getting people somewhere mentally, achieving or accomplishing something, daring something… it’s all kind of in there. But the meanings you really need are the standard bringen, the getting people somewhere on a mental leveland the bringen of “Das bringt nichts” as in “There’s no use/it is pointless.” Those are the ones you should incopr..innorcepa… uhm… add to your active vocabulary. As for the rest. Let it rot ripe on the passive pile.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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