Prefix Verbs Explained – “zustehen”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: May 21, 2024

Hallo und wie geht’s German learners,

so guess whaaaaat: someone is having his birthday today (November 6th)! Your’s truly. The most bestest, beer drinkingest German ‘splainer on the web… uh, I mean radio. This is a radio show, don’t let all the reading deceive yo… oh god, this intro sucks.
Almost as much as prefix verbs – German’s acne. You think you got ’em all but then over night ‘popopopopop‘ and there they are. A whole bunch of new ones. So annoying.
The we’ll pop open

zustehen

 

By itself is pretty clear, but when you look at it back to back with its spin offs zuständig and der Zustand, it’s definitely rife for a quick squeeze.
So let’s wash our hands and get to work.

Zu can add two ideas to a verb: the idea of closed and the idea of toward.
In case of zustehen we’re looking at the latter.
Taken literally, it means “to stand to(ward)”. And with a bit of mental squinting, that’s fairly similar to the actual meaning: the idea that something is rightfully yours/ should be yours by right.
Like… something “stands to you”, if that makes sense.

  • Diese Pause steht mir zu.
  • I have a right to that break.
    Lit.: “This break stands toward me.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Ich nehme nur, was mir zusteht.
  • I only take what‘s rightfully mine.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Note that it’s NOT just the synonym for to belong. The focus really is on the fact the “rightful” part. Now, some of you might be like “Hey wait, isn’t that basically like being entitled?” And technically it is. Except for one thing… tone. Zustehen just doesn’t sound entitled ;).

  • I only take what I am entitled to.

Some of you might have been like  “Ugh. Millennials!!” and to those I want to say “Gee, I know, right?!?!”
Nah, I’m kidding of course. I’m not generationist and I believe that all generations suck equally. Millenials suck, Gen Z sucks, Boomers suck. Gen X is the rare exception.
But anyway, let’s look at a few more examples to get a feel  for the verb.

  • Ja, er ist mein Chef, aber so mit mir zu reden steht ihm nicht zu.
  • Ye, he is my boss, but he has no right to talk to me like that.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Steht mir Weihnachtsgeld gesetzlich zu?
  • Am I legally entitled to a Christmas bonus?
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Wer das Buch nur quergelesen hat, dem steht es nicht zu, es zu bewerten.
  • Anyone who only skim-read the book halfway has no right to attach a label to it.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

And that’s it. This is the ONLY meaning of the verb zustehen.
Now let’s turn to the adjective zuständig.

The Meaning of “zuständig”

Based on what we’ve learned about the verb, it could mean something like belonging to. That would be consistent. But we all know what German has to say about consistent:
“Not my job.”
Or in proper bureaucratic German:

“Dafür bin ich nicht zuständig.

Zuständig means something like responsible, in charge. So it actually IS about “standing toward” but this time it is us “standing toward” a thing.
What’s important to note is that zuständig is focused on assigned responsibilities and duties, not about guilt or who’s to blame. Like… let’s say you go to the toilet and when you get back there’s a pile of horse poo on your desk. If you want to know who did it you’d ask this:

  • Wer ist dafür verantwortlich?
  • Who is responsible for that?
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

If you say

  • Wer ist dafür zuständig?
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

that sounds like you’re asking who’s in charge of dealing with poo on desks.  So yeah, maybe think of zuständig as a mix of responsible and charged with.
But let’s just look at some examples.

  • Bitte wenden Sie sich an die dafür zuständige Abteilung.
  •  Please turn to the department responsible for/tasked with that.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • “Das war ein echt tolles Dinner!!”
    “Danke. Maria hat das Essen gemacht. Ich war für den Wein zuständig.”
  • “That was a really great dinner!!”
    “Thanks. Maria made the food. I was in charge/tasked with/responsible for the wine.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Das größte Problem in der Firma ist, dass die Zuständigkeiten nicht klar verteilt sind.
  • The biggest problem of the company is that the responsibilities are not clearly assigned/it’s not clear who does what.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Der Tesla X-  das Auto macht die ganze Arbeit. Sie sind für’s Genießen zuständig.
  •  The Tesla X – the car does all the work. You’re in charge of enjoyment.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Uhhm…. hey Elon, Elon… where’s my paycheck? For the ad? Why isn’t it here yet??
“It’s coming… probably later the year. Or next year.”
“Oh, okay”
, I thought to myself, looking at the sky.

The sky was covered with gray clouds, the metal jetty with leaves; yellow, red, green. But most of them a dirty brown. A strong wind blew fine rain drizzle over the land. The duck sitting on riverside fluffed up a bit more. “Ahhhh November. Time for red wine.” it said to itself and turned back to the article. “What a weird transition.” the duck thought as the article turned toward the noun der Zustand.

The Meaning of “der Zustand”

When you look it up in a dictionary, you’ll find the state, the condition or shape. But these two can mean all kinds of things, and it’s better to remember and grasp the core idea of der Zustand, which is basically the “how something is at a certain time”. So it is NOT condition in the sense of “If A then B” for example.
Does it tie in with the other idea we’ve had? Well, I can’t really see any connection at least. And I’m usually a good connection see-er.
Still, it does make sense on its own right. The state, der Zustand of something is “how it stands”… more or less :).
Anyway, der Zustand is a pretty common noun and you can find it in a variety of contexts.

  • Die Couch ist 5 Jahre alt, aber in sehr gutem Zustand.
  • The couch is 5 years old but in very good condition.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • In diesem Zustand kannst du nicht schwimmen gehen.
  • I that state/shape  you can’t go swimming.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Die Zustände in dem Flüchtlingslager haben sich verbessert.
  • The conditions in the refugee camp have improved.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

And of course there are also lots of compounds with it.

  • Thomas versetzt seinen Laptop in den Ruhezustand.
  • Thomas sets his laptop to hibernate (“state of calm”).
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Nach der Flut ruft der Bürgermeister den Ausnahmezustand aus.
  • After the flood, the mayor declares the state of emergency. (lit: “exception state”)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • In Deutsch gibt es das sogenannte Zustandspassiv.
  • In German, there’s the so called “fixed state passive“.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Welchen Aggregatzustand hat das Element H2O bei 98 Grad Celsius?
  • Which state of matter does the element H2O have at 98 degrees Celsius?
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

And which state of matter is it?!?! It’s a gas.
What’s that you say? Boiling point of water is 100 degrees Celsius?!
Well, that was BEFORE global warming!!! Now 98 is warmer!
Check you facts, duuuuh.
Oh speaking of duh… I think, we’re duh-ne here.
Yeah, I know… the cringe is strong today.
But yeah… normally, we’d have to look at the r-version still, but verbs with zu as a prefix don’t have and r-version. So yeah, that’s it.

This was our look at zustehen, zuständig and der Zustand.
As always, if you want to check if you remember the key point, you can take the little quiz I have prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

 

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