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:



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.

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.

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.

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 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:

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

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.

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.

for members :)

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Amr Boghdady

Wow, glad I came by your blog!
I’ve seen many sites offering a German word of the day, but none gave any explanation on how it is usually used in context!

Kudos for doing such a great job, will definitely be a regular visitor here :)


I love your blog. Your style of writing makes me smile quite so often and your articles remind me of just how beautiful my native language actually is.
And as a note, from a native speaker:

“einfallen” can also be used in the context of “invading”.

We don’t really have a verb for “to invade” that derives from the noun “Invasion” in the German language.
I mean, I looked it up and found “invadieren” which kind of sound logical but also very awkward and bulky to me. In fact, I’ve never ever heard this in my entire life.
So Instead of this, we usually use the verb “einfallen” for “to invade”. Just like a thought can drop into your mind a whole nation, tribe or group of people can drop into your country, house or golf club ruining your day.

In the European history e.g. the invading or “einfallenden” Huns were part of the reason for what we Germans call “die Völkerwanderung” (the Migration Period).

Hope this makes sense to you.

Keep on bloggin’! :)


Man, must have overlook it. I was reading your blog while I was at work.
Guess my job somehow distracted me from the joy of reading the article to the end.

Oh my! I’m doing it again!


Ich bin sehr froh dass ich deinen blog gefunden habe. Toller Blog!!. Keep on coming!!.


Such an excellent site!!! Tausand Danke :D


I am a beginner and your explanation is so great! Anyway I could not get the meaning of “Mir ist deine Telefonnummer einfallen.” Could you please translate it into English? That I can much easier to understand :(; thanks in advance!


That really helps! I get it finally, danke schön!


Your very first sentence is grammatically incorrect. It should read “Thomas ist froehlich, als ihm einfaellt (verb to end of dependent clause beginning with ‘als’), wo sein Schluessel ist. (There was a tense problem too but I’ll overlook that).


Loved loved loved this… Been thinking about why your blog is so good/appreciated and for me, it’s like you’re sitting next to me telling me an interesting and often funny story about the word/concept from what you’ve discovered, then I’m drawn in to it, walking with you, then I think about it in my own way, so now I have an idea on how to remember einfallen that relates to how you’ve described it, though not exactly the same, it’s one that will work for me… Which is the most important bit… So you’re bringing it to life and then allowing it to be made personal for each person reading… That’s my thoughts so far anyway ;)

Alternatively, it could just be your curiosity and interest in German, and quirky sense of humour is contagious??

That’s what comes to mind… Oh my, wait, what a pun… I believe I just applied einfallen with this comment I’ve just written… Too funny… (I hope so anyway)…


Why wouldn’t besonderes and gutes be capitalized?


Hey Emmanuel
Gerade habe ich häufiger gesehen, dass man auch “auffallen” verwendet, und ich frage mich, was der Unterschied dazwischen ist.
zB: “Mir ist aufgefallen, dass mein Beispiel nicht wohlbereitet ist.”


Einfallen is proving a difficult term for me to learn. In the context of remembering something, I notice you begin all of your sentences with the object (Ihm, Uns, Mir, etc.). To me, this feels unnatural. Would you ever say it the other way around?

Die Idee fällt mir ein.
The idea occurs to me.

or past tense

Die Idee ist mir eingefallen.
The idea occurred to me.

After reading your first two posts on word order, I’m guessing the above would only be used in contrast to another idea, such as in the following.

Die Idee ist mir eingefallen, nicht dir.
I came up with the idea, not you. (rough translation)

The way you’ve ordered it, such as in the sentence, “Mir ist deine Telefonnummer wieder eingefallen.” I would more literally translate to, “I was fallen back into by your telephone number”

This one is going to take some practice, but I’m afraid I’ll more likely just use ” erinnern” in any opportunity I have to practice it, except maybe during a Eureka moment.


Another question, on the prefix, ein

I always assumed Einstein translated to “a rock”, or maybe “one rock”, but now I’m wondering if maybe it means “in a rock”, or “a rock from inside”, or does the prefix only work for verbs, and not nouns? Is it possible stein is also a verb that I’m not aware of, or is there no good translation for Einstein?


´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.´

also ´in DEN Club eingefallen ´ besagt eindeutig, dass ´we invaded the club´
but what if I were to say ´…in einer Bar getroffen und später sind wir IM Club eingefallen´?
would that mean that ´we collapsed in the club´ (implied being here that ´we drank too much and passed out´)

if such is the case, then I must say I would´ve never thought that these pesky little wechselpräpositionen could change so drastically the meaning of a word, thus conveying and entirely different message.

Danke im Voraus


Was wondering whether the r-version reinfallen mit+D and reinfallen auf+A. are really used. They seem pretty handy in real life situations


Just want to say your explanation and examples are very easy to follow and leave me knowing a useful German verb. Ich muss später in einen Club eingefallen!