In this article, we’ll explore the German verb “stehen” (to stand), learn all its forms and derivatives with prefixes, and, of course, practice using them.

Forms of the Verb “stehen”

“Stehen” belongs to the group of irregular verbs in German, as it changes its root vowels in Präteritum and Partizip II. Each irregular verb is unique, so their forms need to be memorized:

er/ sie/ essteht
sie/ Siestehen
er/ sie/ esstand
sie/ Siestanden
Perfektichhabe gestanden
duhast gestanden
er/ sie/ eshat gestanden
wirhaben gestanden
ihrhabt gestanden
sie/ Siehaben gestanden

Meanings and Translation of the Verb “stehen”

The German verb “stehen” in the sense of “to stand” can refer to the physical position of an object,

  • “The vase is on the table.” – Die Vase steht auf dem Tisch.
  • as well as to a state or circumstances,
  • “The child has stopped developing.” – Das Kind ist in der Entwicklung stehen geblieben.
  • and can also convey the meaning of a stop:
  • “The motor has stopped.” – Der Motor ist stehen geblieben.
  • “The clock has stopped.” – Die Uhr ist stehen geblieben.
  • In German, “stehen” also has a reflexive form sich stehen – to be in a certain position, but it is used quite rarely:
  • “Her husband is in a pretty good financial position.” – Ihr Mann steht sich finanziell ziemlich gut.

Errors Associated with “stehen”

“Stehen” belongs to the group of so-called paired verbs or verb flip-flops. Its partner is the verb stellen – to put.


  • “She puts the flowers in the vase.” – Sie stellt die Blumen in die Vase.
  • “The flowers in the vase are on the table.” – Die Blumen in der Vase stehen auf dem Tisch.

The similar sounding of paired verbs often leads to errors among beginners. More examples and information about flip-flop verbs in German can be found in the article via the link.

Prefixes of the Verb “stehen”

The meaning of the verb can be significantly altered by prefixes. This is a major advantage of the German language: you learn one verb, a few prefixes to it, and here you have ten new words in your vocabulary. Wonders!

Let’s start with separable prefixes.

Separable Prefixes

Let’s recall the rule using the first word:

  • aufstehen – to get up
    – “He gets up from bed.” – Er steht aus dem Bett auf.

The prefix auf- has separated and moved to the very end of the sentence.

  • abstehen – to stick up/stand on end
    – “Your hair is standing on end.” – Deine Haare stehen ab.
  • Another meaning of abstehen – to stand apart, far away.
    – “He stands too far apart.” – Er steht zu weit ab.
  • anstehen also has several meanings, the first – to stand in line
    – “Long lines are forming in front of the store.” – Lange Schlangen stehen vor dem Geschäft an.

The second – to be forthcoming:

“An important decision is forthcoming for me.” – Mir steht eine wichtige Entscheidung an.

The third – to suit:

  • “This coat suits you well.” – Der Mantel steht dir gut an.
  • ausstehen – to endure/ withstand
    – “I can’t stand him.” – Ich kann ihn nicht ausstehen/I can’t endure him.
  • beistehen – to support/help
    – “I will support you in this situation.” – Ich werde dir in dieser Situation beistehen.
  • nachstehen – to be inferior in quality
    – “He does not yield to his friend in strength.” – Er steht seinem Freund in seiner Stärke nicht nach.

Non-separable Prefixes

Non-separable prefixes in German are unstressed prefixes that never detach from the word.

  • bestehen – to exist/ consist of something
    “The exam consists of several parts.” – Die Prüfung besteht aus mehreren Teilen

Another meaning of bestehen – to insist:

  • “I insist that you come.” – Ich bestehe darauf, dass du kommst.
    gestehen – to admit/confess
  • “He admitted his guilt.” – Er hat seine Schuld gestanden.
    erstehen – to make an important purchase

For everyday or unimpressive purchases, the verb kaufen is used: Ich kaufe Brot. – I buy bread. But for large, extraordinary, or expensive purchases – erstehen.

  • “I buy the silver bowl from the antique dealer.” – Ich erstehe die Silberschale beim Antiquitätenhändler.
  • verstehen – to understand
    “I understand you.” – Ich verstehe dich.
  • entstehen – to arise
    “How does a thunderstorm form?” – Wie entsteht ein Gewitter?

Some prefixes can be both separable and non-separable.

Here are a couple of words with such prefixes:

  • umstehen – to surround/encircle
    “The students surround the teacher.” – Die Schüler umstehen den Lehrer.
  • unterstehen – to be subordinate/under someone’s protection
    “These employees are subordinate to the team leader.” – Diese Mitarbeiter unterstehen der Teamleiterin.

How to easily tell which prefix you have: non-separable prefixes are always unstressed, while separable ones are stressed.

In this case, these prefixes are non-separable. If they were separable, the words would have completely different meanings.

umstehen with a separable prefix means to retreat/withdraw or to wilt/perish:

  • “Step back a bit so I can sweep the floor.” – Steh ein wenig um, damit ich den Boden kehren kann.
  • “All the plants perished in the drought.” – Alle Pflanzen sind an der Dürre umgestanden.
    unterstehen – to be under something protective/sheltering
  • “They sheltered under a roof overhang.” – Sie standen unter einem Dachvorsprung unter.

Idiomatic Expressions with the Verb “stehen”

There are many constructions with this verb in German, let’s learn a few of the most frequent ones:

  • in Aussicht stehen – to promise
    – He has been offered/promised a position.” – Er hat eine Stelle in Aussicht.
  • zur Diskussion stehen – to be up for discussion
    – “This question will be discussed at the following meeting.” – Dieser Frage wird während der folgenden Sitzung zur Diskussion stehen.
  • hoch im Kurs stehen – to be popular
    – “Hard work and discipline are virtues that are highly valued by supervisors.” – Fleiß und Disziplin sind Tugenden, die bei Vorgesetzten hoch im Kurs stehen.
  • im Mittelpunkt stehen – to be the center of attention
    – “Environmental protection is at the center of current world politics.” – Der Umweltschutz steht im Mittelpunkt der gegenwärtigen Weltpolitik.
  • es besteht die Möglichkeit – there is a possibility
    – “There is a possibility that the project will be cancelled.” – Es besteht die Möglichkeit, dass das Projekt abgebrochen wird.
  • Prüfung bestehen – to pass an exam
    – “I passed the exam.” – Ich habe die Prüfung bestanden.
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