User:Drew.ward/prefix an- (german)

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An· is a separable prefix of the German language. Its most common usages are in conveying approach, motion toward, nearness, and belonging. As a separable prefix an· may be appended to the beginning of its root or appear separately within the clause in which it appears. When used separately it is important that an· not be confused with preposition an as both may appear in the same clause.


  • IPA(key): /ʔan/
  • (file)


prefix an- (german)

  1. Separable verb prefix, on
  2. Separable verb prefix, up



An· signifies approach, hence, coming or bringing to or on, resulting contiguity in space, active union with, the exact opposite of Ab·: ankleiden (to put on clothes); anziehen (to pull on, as in gloves, etc.); der Stein friert an die Erde (the stone freezes hard to the earth); die Eisenbahnzüge schliesen sich an einander (the railcars close on one another, i.e., make a connection).

Permanent Nearness[edit]

The connection resulting from the contiguity may be fixed and permanent: e.g., angehören (to belong), where not the fact of ownership is prominent, as in gehören (to belong to); but the fact of close and permanent association: compare mein Buch gehört mir, with mein Kind gehört mir an.


An· most frequently supposes an object toward which the action of the verb is directed: e.g., eine Leiter anlegen (to place a ladder, lay for example, an die Mauer, on the wall); die Rebe anbinden (to bind the vine say an den Pfahl, onto the stake); er bringt viele Bücher an (i.e., to the place where I am, or to me, laying them down at that point; he places many books before me); anschaffen (to procure and make my own, e.g., clothes, books; verschaffen leaves it open whether it is mine or not).

Energy / Continuation[edit]

The other notion of approach may pass into the notion of energetic activity of the subject: e.g., greifen (to seize); angreifen (to attack); der Wolf fällt die Schafe an (the wolf falls upon the sheep). Quite frequently, and in imperatives it expresses a continuance of what has been begun, or a challenge to do, e.g., Sing an! Sprich an! Halt an! Komm an!


An· often refers to a firmer condition from which it passes to a present condition: hence, it refers to the beginning of an action: e.g., antreten, anheben, anfangen (all meaning to begin); anbrechen (to make the first break, i.e., off of a whole), as einen Laib Brod anbrechen (to make the first cut into a loaf of bread); ein Feld anbauen (to till a field, i.e., with it being currently untilled): Sie hat die Suppe anbrennen lassen (i.e., did not take it off the stove at the right time, so that it began to burn to the pot); das Leid anstimmen (to take the lead in a song, to strike up a tune).

Further Usage[edit]

The prefix is sometimes coloured by the verb itself, so that, as in anbeten (to adore) and Andacht (devotion), there is expressed the direction of the thought, or of a request to a higher or a sublime object. It is not impossible however, that an· may here come near in meaning to auf·; and so in anstimmenaufheben des Gesanges, we may possibly better interpret the power of the prefix. The difference between an· and auf· is very little in, e.g., sanft ansteigende or aufsteigende Hügel (gently ascending hills): der Arzt setzte der Verband an, or auf (the doctor applied the bandage); Geld anhäufen or aufhäufen (to heap up money).

An· is stronger than bei·, weaker than zu·, and stands in the middle between them: e.g., zugehörig is more than angehörig; beistimmend is less than zustimmend.

The meaning of nouns with An· are generally to be inferred from the verbs from which the nouns are derived: e.g., Ankunft, Anfang, Anstoß are to be referred to ankommen, anfangen, anstoßen. Words like Anbetracht, Anbewußt (there being no anbetrachten, anbewissen) are uncouth and unnecessary. The notion of addition, of participation, of association frequently distinguishes the compounds from the simple noun: e.g., Führer (a guide, i.e., of one or many); Anführer (a leader, i.e., of more than one); Anzahl (a number, i.e., more than one in association); Anteil (a share, i.e., with others interested).

Heran· and hinan· differ from an· in that they express a motion toward some object named as the limit of the motion: e.g., man treibt ein Pferd zum Laufen an (one pushes a horse to a run); man treibt ein Pferd ans Ziel heran or hinan (one urges a horse to the goal); das Wasser schwillt an (the water is rising); das Wasser schwillt bis zu einer gewissen Höhe heran (the water rises to a certain height); ihr Feld grenzt an unseres an (your field is next to ours; no motion); er zieht Einen zu sich heran (he draws one to himself; motion in space), but das Mädchen zieht mich an (attracts me; no motion). hinan·, besides the above use, is used to denote the approach and direction toward an object, expressed or understood, in a higher situation. There is a difference of sense, according as Hinan- is used with an·, zu·, or with the accusative alone: e.g., er geht (bis) an den Berg, or (bis) zum Berge (he goes to the mountain, i.e., to its foot); er geht den Berg hinan (he climbs the mountain, i.e., to the top (hinaufgehen) or not).

If the simple verb signifies, by itself, the approach to a limit, or the reaching of a limit, such as nahen, kommen, the compounds with an·, e.g., ankommen, annahen, lay stress upon the arrival at the point, while the compounds with heran, e.g., herankommen, herannahen, lay stress upon the gradualness of the approach.



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