German Word of the Day – “vorbei”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we’ll have a look at the meaning of



Come on, German, really? Like… really?? We’re combining two of these ..uhm.. things into one word now?
“Ja, natürlich.”
Oh… uhm… okay. I mean… It’s just… I … er… I’ll just explain
“Viel Spaß.”
So.. the word vorbei is a combination of two prepositions or prefixes, which is a completely natural thing to do. Vor has at its core the meaning in front of.

But soon it also took on a temporal meaning… and just as in English before, it looks at the past.

Yeah… reversed priorities in the last example ;).
Anyway. The main meaning bei has today is a local at.

But of course it is related to the English by and in case of vorbei that shows, specifically the “going by/past”-by. And thus we’ve arrived at the first meaning of vorbei…. passing in front.

The fahren is the means of moving, bei expresses the passing and  vor kind of kind of implies that it is in front of me… vorbeifahren. Okay, I guess the “in front”-part has kind of faded a bit. I would also use use vorbeifahren for things that pass by behind me… but behind would be indicated then.

And of course it is not limited to fahren

So… whenever there is a verb of movement with vorbei it means to pass , right? Well.. uhm… nope. It can also mean the opposite… like… NOT passing something by.
Imagine you’re riding your bike through the city and you’re passing by a little gallery. But what if you stop for a second to look at what they’re showing, and then you continue… that would still be passing it by, right? Now, what if you went inside… just for second, just to ask how long they’ll be open the next day. And back on the way you are. Then you still passed it by, right? And now, you don’t really know how it happened, but you end up with a ticket in your hand… aaand  you might as well go see the exhibition. But before long you’ll be right back on your path… can you catch my drift? The German vorbei has also taken on the idea of visiting… and by is actually no different

  • I passed by the market and I bought carrots.
  • I by-passed the market and continued to the gallery.

So… vorbei can also imply dropping by … like… for all those casual every day visits.

Especially the combination with kommen is … uhm very common but in theory it works with any movement

Context makes it clear that the person is not telling us to literally walk by. And we don’t always have to rely on context because both vorbeis use different prepositions.. hooray :). For the passing-one it’s an, and for the “dropping-by“-one it is.. bei. Really, German? Bei…. vorbei?
“Na klar.”
Oh… okay.. uhm… just making sure…

All right.
Now let’s move on to the next idea of vorbei which is actually just a slight variation of the original.

vorbei – missing

We’ll start with an example

This one is purely about the path, so to speak.

This is more about the idea of missing your destination. And that is the next idea of vorbei which can be used whenever there is a target involved… be it a movement or any other activity that involves aiming

Although it comes from the simple idea of passing something, this missing-vorbei does as negative as to miss( the target).

Strictly logically speaking, this could also mean that the expectations were exceeded. But every German will understand that only one way…

  • The quarterly results missed the expectations by a mile.

So… this missing vorbei doesn’t always include passing. Even falling short can be expressed with vorbei.
All right.
Now on to the last idea of vorbei. 

Vorbei – past

Again it is just a slight variation of the original passing. A bus drives by. And then? It has passed. It is past.

But it is also used for events, movies and things that take time in general.

Now, there are some other translations for over in that context… zu Ende and beendet. So let’s have a quick look at what the differences are.
Zu Ende is very “pointy” and it works well for things with a definite ending… like a movie or a play.

Beendet is just the ge-form of the word beenden which is to bring something to an end/to finish something. So this kind of only works if a people have an active role in ending it…..

Zu Ende would work too but beendet wouldn’t work with a movie… because once the movie is shot it ends by itself. What you could beenden is the shooting of the movie.
Finally, vorbei is really just about that it is gone, it is in the past. It work for a pointy ending as well as a fade out that lasts a generation. What matters is that it is past.

This just means that the project over. You cannot partake in it any more.

This means that someone declared it to be over… either because it was finished or because it was a failure.
So, I hope that gave you some idea of how to use the over-vorbei.
We’re almost done here. Just two more things. There is a synonym for vorbei… vorüber. This mainly has the over-meaning and from that comes the quite common vorübergehend which means temporarily.

You can also find vorüber as the very literal passing by but it does not at all work as the visiting-vorbei.
Last but not least, there are two pretty common idioms with vorbei... one uses the missing vorbei, the other the passing one. I won’t give you the translations… can you figure out what they mean :)?

Okay… the last one isn’t really an idiom… it is a “confusium” for beginners when they hear it :).. “voby-blah-voby-di-voby… whaaaat? And it actually reminded me of one last thing… no matter which vorbei we’re talking about… the emphasis is ALWAYS on bei and it is strong….
and it would be quite confusing the other way around.
All right. I think we’re done. This was our German Word of the Day vorbei. The core is something like “passing in front of” and from comes the idea of missing the destination and the idea of over/passed. And, if you include a short, or not so short stop, on your way by… them you also get the idea of dropping by. All 4 ideas are equally common I would say but I am sure the context will always help you out.
This episode is vorbei now. If you have any question or suggestions about vorbei or if you want to take a shot at the three idioms just komm vorbei in the comment section :)
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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For your example “ich fahre bei  Bibliothek vorbei und mache ein Foto”, braucht man ein “der” für bei der Bibliothek, oder ist das gut allein?

Graham Manson
Graham Manson

You absolutely can say “from here” :). Yet another excellent post!



sehr schön. Neulich wollte ich sehr diesen Ausdruck lernen/verstehen. Vielen Dank.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

Danke, eine sehr nützliche Wörtersammlung, ich war immer auf “vorbei” neugierig.

> You can also find vorüber as the very literal passing by

Wirkt das auch mit “an”?


Ich glaube du hast einen kleinen Tippfehler bei “Knapp daneben” gemacht. :)

Sehr schöner Post!


Ich verstehe nich diese zwei sätze :
1) Wobei , ich WOLLT davor bei die vorbei . Warum wollt ? Es muss “wolltE” sein .
2) KommT ich hier geradeaus zum Markt . Warum “kommt” ? Es muss” komme “sein . Ich bin verwirt . Erkläre mir bitte . Voraus Danke .


* Mahlzeit ^^


Sehr interessant. Das “passing” vorbei wusste ich überhaupt nicht. Dachte ich, dass es war nur für die Vergangenheit. Beendet habe ich nur gesehen, wenn mann ein computer-fenster schließen muss. Schließlich denke ich, dass zu ende schön ist, da ich in viele Bücher schon gelesen habe z.B Der Sommer geht zu ende, (klingt wie “draws to a close” oder?) Viel schöner als “The summer IS finished/over/at an end” aber das ist nur meine Meinung.


Sehr Gute Artikel, immer noch! Ich habe mehr oder weniger keine Ahnung über was die drei Idioms bedeutet. Ich verstehe jedes Wort aber der Beduetung…keine Anhnung. Vielleicht der Mittelere ist wie ‘Ist mir (scheiss) egal’ ,oder etwas?
Sowieso, dein ‘Schneeball werfen Beispiel ‘ hat mir an das Verb ‘treffen’ überlegen gemacht.
Zwei personen konnen einfach treffen , und ein Schneeball und ein Lanterne scheinbar , aber was sonst? Kann ein Auto und ein anderer Auto ,in ein Verkehr Zufall, sich ‘treffen’? Oder sind sie einfach ‘schlagen’? Oder ich habe auch ‘in die hinter fahren’ oder ertwas ehnlich gehört.
Kann ein Tennisschläger die Balle ‘treffen’? Zwei Fahrädder konnen auch ‘treffen’ in ein Zufall? Manchmal es scheint wie die Englische Verb ‘to hit’, und manchmal nicht!

Besten Dank, und ich hoffe immer noch das mein Deutsch verständlich ist.
Alles Gut!


1) Knapp daneben ist auch vorbei.= when something is short of being perfect, it’s not imperfect.

2)Das geht mir am Arsch vorbei. ( a bit vulgar) = I don’t care, or it’s worthless .

3) Wobei, ich wollt’ davor bei dir vorbei.: That’s why i came past to see you .
That’s what i understood. Oder ???

Christopher Kellen

Vielen Dank! Ich fühle mich, wie einer von denen Idiome sehr nützlich wird sein! Aber werde ich nicht welche sagen. >.>

Ich habe eine zufällig Frage: können Sie mir sagen, was bedeutet die Wort ‘schnarchigen’ in Englisch? Ich habe das im Artikel von gesehen. Kann ich nicht eine Übersetzung irgendwo finden!


It’s imperfect

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

“eins gehört gehört” – the first [channel] deserves to be listened to?

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

Was bedeutet “herbei”?


hierher, hierhin ( or hither in English )

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

Frage zum Ersatzinfinitiv.

Du wirst gefragt. – Du wurdest gefragt.
Du könntest gefragt werden. – Du hättest gefragt werden können. ?

dass du gefragt wirst – dass du gefragt wurdest
dass du gefragt werden könntest – dass du hättest gefragt werden können ?

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

Ich glaube, dieser Ausdruck verdient es, im Artikel erwähnt zu werden: aneinander vorbeireden


Gute idee. Es gibt ein paar halbmodal verben, wie heissen, helfen, gebrauchen, sehen als Ersatinfinitif .


Ach enschuldigung! Ich möchte ” brauchen” sagen .

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

Du meinst wahrscheinlich, du *wolltest* das sagen, da sich deine Aussage eher auf die Vergangenheit bezieht, während “möchte” eine Präsensform ist.


Du hast vollkommen recht . Vielen Dank .


Hey great blog on the nuances of the German language! I love learning new languages and I am currently studying four languages, and I must say your blog is taking it to a whole other level. I have seen other blogs on German, and other languages too. I think part of your success is the language itself. It lends itself to much exploration because you can combine words is a simple way in German, and yet, the other secret to your success is how you explain the details (etymology) of how each word formed over the centuries in German for its various meanings. I really enjoy how you break down the different meanings of each word into an enjoyable read. Bravo! Two questions for you if you have the time: How many languages do you speak or study, and I believe your native language (from what I have read) is German?


hello , thanks for this word :D sometimes i hear people using it like if they want to say ” i dont the card with me ” they say ” ich habe nicht die karte vorbei ” is that true ? can we use it this way ?
1 more thing , can we request a word of the day for later ? coz i would like to read some explanation about the word ” holen “, is it like the “get ” in english ? coz u know there is a lot of ways to use ” get ” is that the same in german ? and how does it work in german please !?
oh , 1 more thing :$ u told me before to read more german to gain more vocabs , have u any idea where i can find some easy german texts to read so i can understand at least some of what im reading !?

peter mohideen
peter mohideen


I wanted to thank you for your blog. I’m in berlin and I just finished b1 at the vhs. german is still really confusing and your blog posts help put everything in context before I take my test. I shared your blog with some people in my class and they all love it too, even the spanish who don’t speak english so well. thanks for explaining everything so entertainingly.