German Prefix Verbs Explained – “übergehen”

uebergehen-meaningHello everyone,

and welcome to another epic-sode of the epic series about German Prefix Verbs. What’s so epic about it?
Well, this is you speaking German without knowing about prefix verbs, and
this is you is you after you mastered them. Yeah. Can’t wait. So let’s get right to it and have a look at the meaning of



Many prefixes have two quite distinct notions.  Über, the German version of over,  is easy on us in that it has only one. Or one and a half. It can express above-ness and across-ness and when you think about they’re closely connected. Across usually involves above. Just think of crossing a bride. You can’t do that when you’re under it.  And speaking of crossing a bridge… we could also say going over a bridge. Hmmmm. Could that already be the meaning of übergehen???
Of course it is…

It’s a prefix verb and prefix verbs are like scientific papers – they all have abstracts. Badumm tish.
Wow, that was bad.
Seriously though, the most logical, literal interpretation of a prefix verb is NOT gonna be a translation. It’s always some level of abstract involved. Anyways, so über only has one idea, but it is tricky on a different level. It can be both – separable and inseparable. And in case of übergehen we’re dealing with both.

übergehen – separable

The separable ÜBERgehen, with the typical stress on the prefix, is about crossing from A to B – in all kinds of abstract senses. A very good match is to transition which this is actually the exact same word. Trans is Latin for over, across and the ition comes from ire which meant to go. But to transition is not always a fitting translation because übergehen is super broad…

Quite a range of contexts, right? And there’s more because the verb is also used in sense of transitioning from one behavior to another, or changing habits or procedures.

The noun for the verb is der Übergang. It’s fairly often translated as the transition and unlike the verb, it’s sometimes also used for actual physical crossings… only if there’s walking

Then, there’s the pretty useful adverb übergangsweise which expresses the idea of for a transitional period

and there are few compounds like Übergangsjacke (between-seasons jacket), Übergangsfreund(in) (between-relationships relationship) or Übergangsfrisur  which is a hairdo you get to for the not so funky transition period between short hair and long hair. Damn… there really is word for that :). But it’s not important and I think we could have ignored it. And speaking of ignoring, that is the perfect Übergang to the inseparable übergehen :)

übergehen – inseparable

The separable ÜBERgehen is about crossing with the focus being to get from A to B.  The inseparable überGEHen, with the stress on the GEH instead of the prefix, is also about crossing. But here, the focus is NOT on getting from A to B – it’s about not “meeting” the thing you’re crossing. Of course we need to mix that with a pinch (or a pound) of abstract to get the real meaning. I think to pass over is the best translation but again it depends a bit on context.

This übergehen is mostly used in context of people and their wishes, it’s slightly formal sounding and is by far not as common as the other one so I’d say let’s put that on the passive pile and move on to something much more useful… the r-version.


As usual the r-version is the one that actually takes the combination of base-verb and prefix literally. Rübergehen is about actually walking across something with the focus on getting from A to B.  People use quite a but when it doesn’t really matter all that much what you’re crossing or if it is implied by context. You can see it a lot in context of streets but also in a more broad sense of walking over somewhere.

Cool. And what about drübergehen? Is it the same? Well, sort of. People do use them interchangeably in many contexts but there are some situations where drübergehen wouldn’t fit.

  • Thomas geht drüber zur Bar.

Unless there’s smoldering coal or something interesting to walk across, this sentence sounds wrong because drüber always needs something specific you’re crossing while rüber can be just about the A to B thing.  Maybe we can put it this way…. drübergehen is going over it, while rübergehen can be just going/walking over.
By the way, a context where you’d rather use drübergehen is treating surfaces… painting, cleaning, coating, ironing and so on.

In these contexts the focus is really on the surface and not at all on getting from A to B and so h… beeep beeep beeep beeep… oh… haha…  that’s actually the alarm of the Who-cares-o’meter. The apparatus has a point.  I mean, it’s good to be aware that these kind of annoying nuances exist but you definitely DON’T need to worry about them when you want to speak.
The only thing you do need to keep in mind is the difference between the r-version and the base form, übergehenÜbergehen for abstract transitions, rübergehen for literal crossings. Oh and then there was a non-separable version but I don’t know where it is… oh wait, we put it on the passive pile, did we. Well, I’m too lazy to rübergehen there and get it. I’d much rather übergehen to drinking my Feierabendbier :).
So that’s it. This was our German Prefix Verb for the Day.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you enjoyed it, and see you next time.

** übergehen – fact sheet **


Spoken past: form of  “sein” + übergegangen
auf mich übergehen – pass into my possession
zu etwas übergehen- shift a habit or change a procedure
dazu übergehen, etwas zu tun – same meaning, focus on activity
in etwas übergehen – pass over into
related words:
der Übergang – the transition
übergangsweise – temporarily/for a transitional period


spoken past: form of haben + übergangen
jemanden oder etwas (Akk) übergehen – pass over/ignore/skip something

Word for actual location: rübergehen
spoken past: sein + rübergegangen
zu/in rübergehengo over there (the other side of the street as well as another room)
über etwas (Akk) rübergehen – crossing something (sounds redundant and tautological but Germans do that a lot when they talk about location)

for members :)

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“Thomas geht rüber zur Bar.”
Warum nicht “Tomas geht zur Bar rüber”?

“I’ll do white grounding and then I’ll go over it with green.”
Vielleicht mehr idomatisch würde:
“I’ll put on a white base coat and….”
“I’ll paint it with white primer and…”
“I’ll prime it with white and…”
“Base coat” is more general (whatever white paint zou have around) and “primer” is more technical, and there are special primers that are for the first coat on an unpainted surface so the paint sticks better. And you could also use “prime” as a verb (but I don’t think it’s necessary to prime with primer)….


Die sogenannte Ausklammerung ist im Deutschen in mehreren Fällen “erlaubt” (d.h. auch standardsprachlich), das ist einer der Fälle – Ausklammerung eines Satzelements mit Präposition. Es gibt auch weitere Fälle, in welchen die Satzstruktur ohne Ausklammerung zu ungeschickt wäre, und genau da verzichtet man auf die “strenge” Satzklammer (das ist z.B. bei langen Auflistungen der Fall).

der Libyer
der Libyer

herausragender artikel wie immer! (Artikel oder Beitrag?)

I was wondering about the preposition used with the first übergehen,

“…IN einen Kiesweg über”
“..gehen nahtlos INeinander über”
“..das Koffein IN die Muttermilch übergeht”
“geht IN Maria’s Besitz über”
“Der Übergang von Studium INS Berufsleben”

“..gehen Thomas und Maria langsam ZUM Knutschen über.”
“Immer mehr Universitäten gehen daZU über”

So im guessing if it’s a thing (noun) that you’re crossing/trasitioning then u use “in + akk” but if it’s a verb you’re transitioning to, you would use “zu” , is thing correct?


“In” steht für Zielorte (sowohl abstrakte, als auch konkrete), während “zu” Aktivitäten andeutet.


Wow well noticed!, i can’t wait for the reply ;)


Dear Emanuel,
Why is this not an ‘um…zu’ construction? “Ich geh’ kurz zum Nachbarn rüber, nach Salz fragen.”


Das ist eine Zusammenknüpfung von “Ich geh’ kurz zum Nachbarn rüber” und “Ich geh’ nach Salz fragen”.


“Lass uns mal rübergehen. Kommt doch kein Auto.
Come on, let’s cross. There’s no car anywhere.”

Hahaha. Unless Germany has changed a lot since I lived there, this is NEVER a good idea. I was yelled at more than once for attempting to cross the street (when the sign said “do not cross”) even though there was NO car in sight. :)


I love you!


Thanks – great post as always!

By the way, would you possibly do a word of the day sometime on frieren, gefrieren, einfrieren, erfrieren, zufrieren (and unverfroren), etc.? These are pretty confusing :|


Noch zum oben Geschriebenen kann man hinzufügen, dass “zu”-Verben oft den Sinn des “Schließens” (verschiedener Grade) haben, z.B. zumachen, zudecken, zufrieren, zumauern, zubauen, zukleben, zunageln, …


I’ve recently started to follow this blog, and have been enjoying your posts very much. Your explanations of the words, and how they are used in a sentence, are funny and helpful (although I don’t always understand the grammatical structure – weakness on my part).
I always look forward to the sentence featuring the recurring characters of Thomas and Maria (it’s like a continuing story) – nice to see they have patched things up a bit after the yoghurt-eating incident ;-)

Just a small (not very important) note: “After the catastrophe people are trying to get back to their normal day-to-day routines.” would flow smoother – ending the sentence after “day to day” just feels a bit abrupt.


Erstmal danke.
Was ist mit “drüben”, also beispielsweise geh mal nach drüben.


How could translation “ire” be coming from to go? is it a sense of abstraction?


“Froderungen” soll zu “Forderungen” übergehen. :-)


I am still in love with you!


Thought of writing “I love you” but it seems there’s a lot of competition ;-)
Thanks for a fantastic blog. Absolutely useful and great fun – you have such a sense of humor!


absolutely love your blog! i find it extremely helpful. it’s actually much better than the myriad of books for learning german that i’ve found in stores. i sincerely thank you for the time you invest in writing these posts. it must take a while, i think.. :)


Please keep up the good work. The way you write everything by adding some humor makes the learning process easier and more fun. All the grammar books i’ve come across have a somewhat cold tone that seems kinda intimidating :P Oh and.. Your intuition was quite close. I’m currently reading “The Children of Hurin”. She’s mentioned in there a bit. The Silmarillion is next on my “must read” list :)


i’m glad to hear you love Tolkien’s work, too. i really wanted to dive into his universe by reading his books in an order that would help me understand his stories better. maybe it would have been better if i started with The Silmarillion, and then continued with The Children of Hurin, Unfinished Tales, all the way to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. aaaand… there is also another book by him that is connected to these ones which is called The history of Middle Earth. i’d also love to the see more of his works on screen. it was the movies that inspired me to start reading the books and, i must say, i feel like i’m actually in that world with every turn of the page..


That’s a very good piece of advice. The part with imagining being at a camp fire with a story teller. :) It’s nice to get advice from a Tolkien fan. While reading The Children of Hurin i often got frustrated thinking that maybe i started out reading the books in the wrong order. Like watching a movie series from the 3rd season, without seeing prior episodes. Names of places, of characters, events are abundant on every page, so i got overwhelmed. I even thought of taking a pen and paper and making some sort of family tree for each character to better understand their genealogy, since it was and still is confusing. I guess maybe i’ll go on like this, by reading this one and then continue with The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales and so forth. Cause i haven’t read those yet, i was pondering for quite a while what order would be better to read them in.
Have you read the books with a few illustrations here and there? The Children of Hurin has a few illustrated pages by a man by the name of Alan Lee. His imagery really helps the “dreaming” process while reading the book. But they’re not very numerous, therefore the reader’s imagination can conjure whatever mental pictures it wants. Oh and, what did you mean when you said Unfinished Tales is more for the subconscious? Is it lighter in comparison to the Silmarillion?


“Ich gehe über vor Freude.” = “I am overcome by joy.”

This one is a bit special as there is neither a target nor something you cross in the sentence. That is even stranger than with “Er geht hinüber.” = “He transcends.” Where the target is at least implied (the realm of death or just the condition of being dead).
And here you just “go over”. Well, it would be easy to just say: “It is an idiom, it does not have to make sense.” But that would be too shallow I think. There is this a bit older meaning of “übergehen” (separable) Which is “to rise over something”. It is not really used nowadays I think. Duden said something about sparkling wine and how you want to keep it from overflowing. “Pass auf, dass nichts übergeht.” = “Pay attention that nothing slowly shoots out.” (I don’t know about the Wnglish translation.) But I think that is the meaning that is used in this idiom.
“Ich gehen über vor Freude.” =(lit.) “I rise above the border of normality and social customs because of joy.”

Again, a really nice article. I just wanted to add this, as that sentence was the first that came to my mind when I read the title. Cheerio.


The first link to “this is you” refirects to some sketchy virus warning website. probably best to remove/change it.