Prefix Verbs Explained – “vorgehen”

vorgeheHello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of the acclaimed HBO series Prefix Verbs of Thrones, this time with a look at the meaning of

vorgehen

 

Gehen means to go, and vor is all about the idea of ahead, forward. So it would make a lot of sense if vorgehen meant to go forward.
Does it?
Well, it’s like Maria’s relationship status on Facebook.
Complicated.
So let’s take a look, shall we :)

Vorgehen, to some extent, does mean what the combination of the parts would suggest. For one thing, it can be used in the literal sense of going to the front though nach vorne gehen,which is more proper.

  • Der Schauspieler geht vor/nach vorne  zur Bühne.
  • The actor goes forward to the stage.

Then, it can be used in the sense of to come first, but only in a few contexts.

  • Sicherheit geht vor.
  • Safety first.

And vorgehen can also mean to go ahead.

  • Der Gang sieht gruselig aus. Geh du vor.
  • The hallway looks creepy. You go ahead.
  • Du kannst schon mal vorgehen. Ich komm gleich.
  • You can go ahead. I’ll be right there.

But  ONLY in the literal sense of walking ahead and in case of a watch, being fast.

  • “Hey, wie spät ist es?” (among buddies, don’t ask strangers that way)
    “Kurz nach 6. Aber meine Uhr geht ein paar Minuten vor.”
  • “Hey what’s the time?”
    “A bit past 6. But my watch is a few minutes fast/”ahead”.

Vorgehen does absolutely NOT mean to go ahead in phrasings like this one.

  • “Can I ask you something?”
    “Sure, go ahead.”
  • “Kann ich dich was fragen?”
    “Klar, (mach ruhig). (“klar” alone is enough here)
    “Klar, geh vor.”…. SUPER CONFUSING!!!

The translation for that depends on context and sometimes it’s actually best to just skip it entirely in German. But vorgehen doesn’t work AT ALL. It wouldn’t even be understandable because it would sound like the person should literally walk somewhere.

  • Oh no, my boss is calling. I have to take this. You go ahead and eat so it doesn’t get cold. (at a restaurant)
  • Oh nein, mein Chef ruft an. Ich muss rangehen. Aber iss du mal schon, wird doch sonst kalt. (I used super idiomatic language here, don’t do a word for word analysis)
  • … rangehen. Geh du vor und iss….. NOPE!!!

So, vorgehen does NOT mean to go ahead in the sense of proceeding.
And now guess what vorgehen is actually kind of the exact copy of… exactly: proceeding.
God, German. You suck.
But seriously…  proceed  literally means “to go forward”. “Cedere” , which is also part of words like concede or precede or recession, is Latin for “to go (away)”  and pro is actually a brother vor and for and can just like them express forwardness.

Now, that doesn’t mean that vorgehen is a good translation for to proceed. Usually it isn’t because whenever proceed has a focus on continuation, vorgehen doesn’t fit anymore.
But the idea of some sort of process is part of all the more abstract uses of vorgehen.
First up, vorgehen is a somewhat technical sounding option for taking action in a planned manner.

  • Wie wollen wir vorgehen?
  • How should we go about it/(start and) proceed?
    What steps of action should we take?
  • Der Politiker hat das Vorgehen der Polizei kritisiert.
  • The politician has criticized the course of action/actions/approach of the police.
  • Thomas geht gerichtlich gegen seine Ex-Firma vor.
  • Thomas takes legal action against his former company.

It can be also used in a more general sense of stuff going on, which is also a kind of process.

  • Was geht hier vor? Warum sind alle nackt?
  • What’s going on here? Why is everyone naked?

It’s not like German has enough words for stuff happening already (passieren, geschehen, sich ereignen, los sein). What makes this one useful is it’s “inner” version.  Stuff happening in your mind or soul.

  • Ich würde manchmal echt gerne wissen, was in deinem Kopf vorgeht. (usually in a negative context)
  • Sometimes, I’d really like to know what you are thinking/what’s going on in your head.
  • Thomas hat oft keine Ahnung, was in Maria vorgeht.
  • Often Thomas has no clue as to what is moving Maria/what’s going on in Maria’s head/heart.

Note that it’s not a pure thought process. It’s about emotions. But yeah, this one is worth adding to your active vocabulary.
Cool.
Last but not least, there’s the noun der Vorgang and this is as close to process as it gets.

  • Der Loginvorgang konnte nicht abgeschlossen werden.
  • The login-procedure could not be completed.
  • Um den Vorgang abschließend bearbeiten zu können, benötigen wir von Ihnen folgende Unterlagen: [insert long list here]
  • To uhm…  process the case conclusively … be able… uh… we need the following underlyin… uhm wait, Unterlagen means documents… what the hell…

God, this language must be awful for a learner :).
Vorgang fits right in there, because it’s pretty stiff sounding but you’ll definitely come across it if you ever make contact with German bureaucracy.
We’re almost done but of course when looking at prefix verbs we need to look at one particular variation of it. If you’ve read a few entries in this series you know that I’m talking about the r-version.
For verbs with vor- that’s always going to be a her-version.

hervorgehen

Hervor, basically combining here and forth, expresses the idea of coming out from under something or behind something. Like, the sun can come “hervor” from behind the clouds. And hervorkommen is actually much more common, but hervorgehen is about the same idea. It can mean to come from or to say but these translations are really not telling you very much about the actual use, so let’s just look at some examples.

  • Aus dem Jazzhaus-Wohnprojekt sind viele bekannte Künstler hervorgegangen.
  • Many famous artists came from/have their roots at the Jazzhouse-living-project.
  • Aus der Statistik geht klar hervor, dass politisch Konservative eine 10 mal höhere Wahrscheinlichkeit haben, ein lebendes Einhorn zu sehen als der Gesamtdurchschnitt, Punkt.
  • The statistic clearly says/shows that politically conservative people are 10 times more likely to see a living unicorn than the overall average. Period.
    (average: zero sightings in 500 attempts, conservative: zero sightings in 1.000 attempts, conservative need more trials to see no unicorns so chance to see not “none” is greater than for average #myheadhurts #spicerfacts)

It sounds a bit high brow and it’s nothing for day to day conversation. But at least the last use, as to say to show, is one of those drivel words that’ll give the person reviewing your B2-exam a proper hard-o… uhm… I mean, they’ll like it very, very much (phew, that was close).

All  right, and I think that’s it. This was our look at the various meanings of vorgehen, not the most common verb ever, but I’m sure you’ll see it around.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you have a fun bureaucracy story about a Vorgang, just leave a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.
Oh, and leave a like if you enjoyed… it’s like Youtube now here :).

** vorgehen – fact sheet **

meanings: 

– go to the front (quite colloquial)
– go ahead (literally walking with a head start)
– to take action in a planned manner
– take legal action (gerichtlich gegen jemanden vorgehen)
– to go on (limited to a few phrasings)
– go on in someone’s mind/soul (in jemandem vorgehen)
– be fast (only for a watch)

past

ging vor 
form of sein + vorgegangen

related words:

das Vorgehen – the course of action
die Vorgehensweise – the way of going about something

der Vorgang – the process, the procedure, the proceedings,; very common in bureaucracy
hervorgehen aus: come from (in sense of emerging), say/show (for texts and images)

Further reading:

 

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daniel
Admin
daniel
2 years ago

Hey man, I found an interesting structure in the wild and I was hoping you could shed some light on it: “vor sich gehen”.
It seems to express a similar thing as “vorgehen” im Sinne von passieren, geschehen. Like “Was geht hier vor?” or “was geht in deinem Kopf vor?”
What’s the difference? Why might the author have chosen to say “Wie das Vergessen vor sich geht” and not “Wie das Vergessen vorgeht”?

lokiuucx
lokiuucx
2 years ago

Was ist denn genau der Unterschied zwischen das Vorgehen und der Ablauf (oder die Verben vorgehen und ablaufen als “to proceed” übersetzt)?
Ich habe beides auf der Arbeit gesehen aber kann nicht erfassen, ob es einen Unterschied gibt.

Ich habe irgendwo auch das Verb “verlaufen” mit der selben Bedeutung gesehen, ist verlaufen auch “to proceed/taking action in a planned manner”? Was ist nochmal der Unterschied?

Danke im Voraus,

lokiuucx
lokiuucx
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

es hilft sehr für den Arbeitsbereich. Deine Erklärungen sind immer die besten :)

AmyPond
AmyPond
3 years ago

Ist “hervorragend” auch damit verwandt?

AmyPond
AmyPond
3 years ago

In these examples I notice that you use “du” in some of the imperatives – “Geh du vor” and” Iss du mal schon.” How would these feel different without the “du”? And thanks – I’m finding your site really helpful!

AmyPond
AmyPond
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ah, thanks! I never knew that.

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

Sehr schön, danke!

aaron
aaron
5 years ago

You mentioned that vorgehen does not mean “proceed” whenever the action has a focus on continuation – what would be some examples of verbs that fit that meaning of proceed?

aaron
aaron
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Now it’s clicked. Thanks!

Kinjal
Kinjal
5 years ago

Isn’t vor also more like bevor (before)?
So when someone is saying vorgehen: is it like you before me?
(geh du vor: for example)
and so there is also the verb ‘vorhaben’: to plan in advance about what you have to do later…

Conner
Conner
5 years ago

I would like to thank everyone very much who made it possible for people like me to learn german using this website by providing extra money!

AhmedA
AhmedA
5 years ago

Thank you! for me this website posts are more to me like “one more post and I will close” Facebook thing xD

Stewart Mee
Stewart Mee
5 years ago

moderation? I recommend “Moderation in all things.” Especially in Abstinence!

Stewart Mee
Stewart Mee
5 years ago

Use of vorgehen: You should not use it saying “I’ll forego my usual wine this evening.”
Because wine aids the digestion :)

berlingrabers
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

This is one of those cases of verb mixing… The word you’d use for “auf etwas verzichten” would be “forgo” (no “e”), related to “VERgehen” (not that “vergehen” would work any better there in German, I grant you). “Forego” basically doesn’t exist in modern English except in participle forms: “a foregone conclusion” is a pretty typical expression for something inevitable, decided long before the end of whatever process is going on. “Foregoing” refers to something previously stated/written; it’s really restricted to bureaucratic/legalese writing, though.

parisbongi
parisbongi
5 years ago

Good one today. Could you try to explain what that “schon mal” part adds to “Du kannst schon mal vorgehen”? I probably would have left that out, is it the same without? I’ll have a look in your words of the day section too.

SteveBead
SteveBead
5 years ago

Emanuel love the baked in satire – you realise your chance of entry to the United States is now zero?

I’m British and we’re preparing for the Orange One’s royal visit.

teateajay
5 years ago

And they say Germans have no sense of humour?! thanks for the giggles

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Hi, cool article. Another connected noun would be “der Vorgänger” (“die Vorgängerin”) which is “the predecessor”. The one who went some place before/ahead of you. Also known from compound words such as “die Vorgängerversion” = “the previous/older version” or to show that I read the news “der Amtsvorgänger” = “the predecessor in office”. (I just hope that this fat blunt guy doesn’t start a war, I mean he has to fill some big shoes that’s is for sure, well, somebody has to be president I guess. Just a shame that he can’t stay foreign minister that way. What? I am talking about Gabriel and Steinmeier of course. Not everything is about the USA. Don’t be so self-absorbed.)

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Why is that anonymous now? Can you check that, Emanuel? I am very sure that I was logged in while writing that. Maybe it was a temporary thing but it also took hours till this showed up. Thought at first it didn’t go through at all.

person243
person243
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yes, I am person243. I am logged in, I know that because I can read the article. The same as the first two times. Hopefully it works now. Otherwise I can just put my nick name under the comments I write, it’s not that big of a problem. Just a bit inconvenient.

person243
person243
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yes, it is all good now.

person243
person243
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I am always happy to help.

Yort
Yort
5 years ago

I love your site and thought I would share a helpful tip – when you read this site on an RSS feed it clips the message and says “Whooops… looks like you just reached the limit you can read for free” etc. That makes it look like you can’t read it on the site itself without being a member, which might dissuade someone from clicking through to your site – which would be terrible! SO … you might want to amend that message to let RSS-format readers know that they CAN click through and read the article on the site.

Brandella
Brandella
5 years ago

Vielleicht es hat nur mir aufgefallen dass die Post noch schärfer als sonst ist? Naked people and a hard-o… Weiter so! :D

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Very nice!