Spoken German Bits – “stehen auf”


Hello everyone,

and welcome to another episode of Spoken German Bits – the series where we look at all the stuff that people use in real life but that you won’t find in the standard textbook and teaching materials.
“So basically the cool stuff?”
Yeah, the cool stuff :).
Today, we’ll learn a really fly phrase that I’d bet my butt you’ll want to use right away. Ladies and gents, get ready for:

stehen auf

Wow. That’s … uhm… kind of underwhelming.
Yup, combining stehen and auf isn’t exactly an outburst of creativity like, say, jumping and shark.

Stehen auf has a normal day job as to stand/be on (top of), be it in the turbo literal sense of location or for some more figurative uses like writing “on” a paper or sometimes for some sort of settings.

  • Die Tasse steht auf dem Tisch.
  • The cup stands/is on the table.
  • Was steht auf dem Schild? Ich kann das nicht lesen.
  • What does the sign say/What’s written on the sign?  I can’t read it.
  • Der Kühlschrank steht auf Stufe 4 und ist trotzdem zu warm.
  • The fridge is on level 4 and still, it is too warm.

So what’s so rad about it? Well, stehen auf is a super mega common informal way to express liking. Yes, another one. Besides mögen and gern and gefallen. Who would have thought that the dour Germans have so many words for liking :).
So, auf etwas/jemanden stehen is a quite casual, informal way to express that you like something or someone.
It’s pretty similar to mögen but it doesn’t work so well for serious emotions. And I feel like stehen auf sounds a little more greedy, or lusty at times. Like… you wanna have it. You don’t just appreciate it for what it is. But hey… I know we all stehen auf examples, so let’s do some :).

  • Ich steh auf Regen.
  • I like/dig rain.
  • “Willst du mal meinen Veggie-Burger kosten?”
    “Nee, ich steh nicht so auf  Soja.”
  • “Do you want to try my burger?”
    “No, I don’t really like soy (that much) .”
  • Ich steh’ voll auf Marias Parfum.
  • I really like Maria’s perfume.

And of course it also works with the da-word, d(a)rauf.

  • Wenn ihr darauf steht, unfreundlich behandelt zu werden und zuviel Geld für Scheißgetränke zu bezahlen, dann werdet ihr diese Bar lieben. (fictional review of a bar)
  • If you like being treated in an unfriendly manner and paying too much money for shitty drinks, then you’ll love this bar.
  • “Du trinkst in letzter Zeit öfter Schwarzbier, oder?”
    “Ja Mann, da steh ich grad voll drauf.
  • “Just lately, you have drunk more dark beer haven’t you?”
    “Yeah dude, I‘m really into that at the moment.”
  • “Ihhh… du riechst nach Döner.”
    “Komm schon, da stehst du doch drauf.
    “Nee, voll nich. Geh weg.”
  • “Ewwwww… you smell like kebab.”
    “Come on… I know you like that (that gets you going).”
    “No… I soooo do NOT. Go away!”

And it also works for people.

  • Ich glaub, der neue steht auf mich.
  • I think the new guy has a crush on me.
  • Hey, äh… du bist echt nett,  aber ich steh auf Frauen.
  • Hey new guy… you’re really nice, but I like women.

And in that context it’s usually about THAT liking. You can say the following to your crush, but not to your best friend… well, except if you have a crush on your best friend.

  • Ich steh auf dich.
  • I like/dig you.

Now, those of you who are currently in the “case phase” (the phase when you worry about getting the cases right and try to make sense of all of them”)  might be wondering “Wait, why dich and not dir.” A very good question that brings us to the secret of how to make everyone stehen auf you.
Nah kidding, I mean this:

The grammar of stehen auf

The normal use works with Dative. And Dative actually makes sense, because  stehen is stationary and that is connected to Dative. Still, the colloquial, abstract use works with Accusative. And this is actually a general trend of a general trend in German. Here they are back to back.

  • Thomas steht auf dem Tisch. (Thomas is standing  on the table.)
  • Thomas steht auf den Tisch. (Thomas digs/really likes the table.)
  • Ich warte auf dem Schiff. (I’m on the ship, waiting.)
  • Ich warte auf das Schiff (I’m waiting for the ship.)

The Dative covers the literal, location related meaning; the Accusative is used for the abstract combo of verb and preposition. And I can imagine that’s quite confusing for learners.  But luckily it makes sense… or we can make it make sense. Get ready for some mind bending:
Liking does have some overlap with wanting. And wanting something or someone has a fair bit of direction in it. You have a goal, and even if just on a very abstract level, you’re “moving” toward it. And stehen auf with Accusative kind of captures this “directed” mind.

  • Steve steht auf Maria.

He wants her, he desires her, his mind is bent on her, his soul is directed toward her. Damn Steve, that’s creepy… no wonder she thought about getting a restraining order.
But seriously, we can think of this Accusative as capturing the “directed-ness”, that is part of wanting and liking.
And if that doesn’t make sense to you, then I got another option, which is also a theory as to where stehen auf actually comes from.  There’s a similar phrasing to stehen auf: fliegen auf. It means the same but I think it’s a bit older and definitely somewhat out of fashion today. What’s cool about it is that the Accusative makes perfect sense there because fliegen is a directed movement, and that is connected with Accusative.
Just think of a flock of seagulls darting down on an open bag of potato chips someone left at the beach. They “fly on top of it” because they dig that stuff.
This fliegen auf might have inspired stehen auf and people just kept the case.
Wow, that was a lot of case talk :).
Let’s wrap this up then with something lighter… a word play. There’s a woman who has written a book about how to get healthy and strong feet. And now guess what it’s title could be….

Starke Füße – da steh ich drauf.


(so just mark it to read it, or click the link)

German humor… just gotta steh auf it.
Sometimes. When you can actually find some.
Anyway, that’s it for today. This was our look at the phrase stehen auf, which is a colloquial way to express liking. And which is SUPER MEGA COMMON.
What about you? Have you heard this phrasing in daily life? Do you use it? Were you confused by it at first? And what do you stehen auf? Leave a comment with your example and see if you used it correctly. And of course if you have any questions about any of this, let’s clear that up in the comments, too.
I’m out for now. I hope you had fun.
Bis nächstes Mal.

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