The Meanings of the German Verb 'Ausmachen'

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Flippo, Hyde. "The Meanings of the German Verb 'Ausmachen'." ThoughtCo, Apr. 3, 2017, Flippo, Hyde. (2017, April 3). The Meanings of the German Verb 'Ausmachen'. Retrieved from Flippo, Hyde. "The Meanings of the German Verb 'Ausmachen'." ThoughtCo. (accessed September 21, 2017).
Smoke trailing from extinguished white candle
The word "ausmachen" can be used when asked to extinguish a candle. Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

The German verb machen is a very common regular verb with the basic meaning of "to make" or "to do." It gets plenty of mileage all by itself, but by adding the prefix aus-, machen turns into something even more interesting — and takes on many more meanings. (It can add other prefixes, notably an-, but we'll concentrate on aus- here.)

Understanding German verb prefixes is an important part of learning German vocabulary and German verb conjugation.

As we shall see with ausmachen, a prefix can make BIG changes in the meaning of a German verb. Although the essential meaning of aus (which is also a dative preposition) is "out" and ausmachen can mean "turn off/out" (the light) or "put out" (a fire), that is only one of its many meanings (in German or English).

How is the German Verb "Ausmachen" Used?

Let's examine this versatile verb, which has no fewer than ten different meanings, depending on the context. The ten basic meanings listed below are generally ranked in the order of how frequently the verb is used in that meaning, but this is not an exact science. Each meaning also has one or more German synonyms listed along with the English meaning.

1. ausmachen (löschen)

English Meaning: to put out, extinguish, douse

Example: Kannst du die Kerzen bitte ausmachen? (Can you please douse/extinguish the candles?)

2. ausmachen (abdrehen, ausschalten)

English Meaning: to switch off, turn off
(Note: The opposite is anmachen -- to switch on, turn on -- another verb with several different meanings.)

Example 1: Machen Sie bitte das Licht / den Fernseher aus! (Please turn off the light / the TV.)
Example 2: Sie müssen das Gas zuerst ausmachen, bevor sie die Reparaturen machen können.

(They have to turn off the gas before they can make the repairs.)

3. ausmachen (stören, ärgern)
(etw macht jdm etw aus)

English Meaning: to bother (sb), mind, object to

Example 1: Macht es Ihnen etwas aus, wenn ich rauche? (Do you mind if I smoke?)
Example 2: Es macht mir nichts aus, ihm zu helfen. (I don't mind helping him.)

4. (etw/jdn) ausmachen (ermitteln, entdecken)

English Meaning: to make out (sth/sb), spot, determine

Example 1: Ich kann ihn nicht ausmachen, weil es zu dunkel ist. (I can't make him out because it's too dark.)
Example 2: Es ist noch nicht ausgemacht, dass er seinen eigenen Putsch politisch überlebt. (It hasn't yet been determined that he will survive his own coup politically.)

5. ausmachen (ins Gewicht fallen)

English Meaning: to make a difference

Example 1: Was macht es schon aus? (What difference does it make?)
Example 2: Es macht gar nichts aus! (It makes no difference at all!)

6. ausmachen (vereinbaren)

English Meaning: to agree to, agree on, set up (appointment)

Example 1: Wir müssen nur noch ausmachen, wo wir uns treffen. (We just need to agree on where we'll meet.)
Example 2: Wie ausgemacht, habe ich das Auto am Flughafen gelassen. (As agreed, I left the car at the airport.)

7. ausmachen (austragen)

English Meaning: to sort (sth) out, settle (a case, a dispute, an issue, etc.)

Example 1: Das müssen wir mit ihm ausmachen. (We have to sort that out with him.)
Example 2: Könntet ihr diesen Streit nicht unter euch ausmachen? (Can't you guys settle this argument among yourselves?)

8. ausmachen (auszeichnen)

English Meaning: to be (all) about, be the essence of sth, make (up) sth, make sth special

Example 1: Was macht das Leben aus? (What is life all about?)
Example 2: Arbeit / Liebe macht das Leben aus. (Work/love is what life's about.)
Example 3: Ihm fehlt alles, was einen richtigen Manager ausmacht. (He's missing everything that goes to make a real manager.)

9. ausmachen (betragen)

English Meaning: to amount to, add up to, come to

Example: Der Zeitunterschied macht neun Stunden aus.

(The time difference is/amounts to nine hours.)

10. ausmachen (ausgraben)

English Meaning: to dig up (dialect, regional)

Example: Sie haben die Kartoffeln ausgemacht. (They dug up the potatoes.)