Word of the Day – “einfallen”

Hello everyoneeinfallen german

and welcome to our German word of the day. This time we will have a look at the meanings of the wide spread word:

einfallen (pron.: ine_phullen)

This word is used for 3 seemingly distinct concepts: to come to someones mind, to collapse and to invade. But once you look at it a little closer, it becomes apparent why German uses the same word for all three. Einfallen consists of the basic verb fallen which translates to to fall and the prefix ein which carries the idea of into something or into oneself. Aaaaaaand nooooo… of course ein alone does NOT mean into. The stand-alone ein has nothing to do with the prefix ein- and only the prefix ein- expresses the concept of into, inward

Einladen for example means to invite and to load and einstellen means to employ (and some other things too). So einfallen expresses, that something is falling into something, falling inward. This being said let’s have a look at the three concepts einfallen can translate to one by one. By far the most important meaning is to come to ones mind.

  • Thomas ist froh , als ihm einfällt, wo sein Schlüssel ist.
  • Thomas is happy as he remembers where his key is.
  • Wir haben gestern abend nichts Besonderes gemacht. Uns ist nichts Gutes eingefallen.
  • We did nothing special last night. We could not think of anything good.

Some thought or idea ‘falls’ into someones mind. That is really the best way to think of this word. It is not a process but a short event. You sit somewhere and all of a sudden you remember something or you think of something ingenious… that is when Germans use einfallen. In situations like the first one, where the information had been know at some point, you can of course use the literal translation of to remember erinnern. But the structure of such a sentence is rather stiff.

  • Thomas ist froh, als er sich daran erinnert, wo sein Schlüssel ist.
  • Thomas ist froh, als ihm einfällt, wo sein Schlüssel ist.

So einfallen is shorter, easier to handle, sounds better and it captures what is going on. The idea drops into Thomas’ mind. One thing you need to understand is that einfallenis ‘done’  by the thought. The thought is the subject while the person who thinks of it is in case 3 so the person is dressed in her business-suit.

  • Mir fällt ein, dass ich heute einen Termin habe.
  • I remember, that I have an appointment today.
  • It comes to my mind, that I have an appointment today.

The German sentence does not use ich. That would be I in ‘active suit’. It is I in business-suit: mir, because ‘I’ is not doing anything. ‘I’ just sits there sipping coffee while the thought does all the hard work of falling into my ignorant mind. I am the indirect object in sentences with einfallen. The second meaning of einfallen is to collaps in sense of a building or a roof. It falls into itself.

  • The building has collapsed.
  • Das Haus ist eingefallen.

The last meaning, to invade, is nothing you need in everyday talk… anymore that is, back in medieval times people might have used it a little more often… anyways… einfallen  conveys the idea of a host of rather wild individuals storming a place or area. If you want to use metaphorical language you could say something like the following:

  • Gestern abend haben wir uns alle in einer Bar getroffen und später sind wir in den  Club eingefallen.
  • Last night we all met at a bar and later we all literally invaded the club.

Now to wrap this up the low down on the grammar of einfallen. Ein– is a weakly linked prefix so it splits of.

  • Mir fällt etwas ein.

Einfallen is one of the verbs with the a to ächange for you and he/she/it.

  • Ich falle ein, du fällst ein, es fällt ein, wir fallen ein…

The ge-form is eingefallen and the spoken past is built with to be because the basic verb fallenc learly is a movement.

  • Mir ist deine Telefonnummer wieder eingefallen.
  • Your phone number fell back into me. (lit.)
  • I (just) remembered your phone number.

The corresponding noun is der Einfall which is basically an idea. So may the word einfallen do what it is meant to do, to come to your mind, whenever you need it :) . Hope you enjoyed it and see you next time.