The dilemma of using “put” in German

The dilemma of using “put” in German

In English, we put the butter in the fridge, the plate on the table or the hat on the head but in German, we need three different verbs to express this! After this article and its free worksheet, you will know the difference between stellen, legen and setzen.


Depending on your first language, you might already know the concept of the verbs “stellen, legen, setzen”. For everybody who does not know it yet, I will give you a brief introduction in the following.


In German, we separate the English verb “to put” in three verbs: “stellen”, “legen” and “setzen”. Accusative always follows all of them because they are referring to an active object:


  1. legen = meaning: to make sth. lay down
  2. stellen = meaning: to cause sth. to stand
  3. setzen = meaning: to cause sth. to sit


Now, you  might ask yourself when to use which verb when in English you only need to use one verb. The answer is not so complicated because “legen”, “stellen” and “setzen” are the Accusative forms of the Dative forms “liegen”, “stehen” and “sitzen”.


  1. legen vs. liegen = You need first to lay sth. down so it can finally lay down
  2. stellen vs. stehen = You need to cause sth. to stand before it can finally stand
  3. setzen vs. sitzen = You need to cause sth. to sit before it can finally sit


This means, that if you know that in German a plate “stands” on the table and you would like to say that you put it on the table that you can be sure that the suitable verb is “stellen” because you will cause the plate to stand.


All of these verbs are also available as a reflexive version which means that one is doing it with oneself:


  1. Ich lege mich ins Bett. (Akk.) I am still doing the action – Ich liege im Bett. (Dat.) –  I finished with the movement
  2. Ich stelle mich auf das Trampolin. (Akk.) I am still doing the action – Ich stehe auf dem Trampolin. (Dat.) – I finished with the movement
  3. Ich setze mich auf den Stuhl. (Akk.) I am still doing the movement – Ich sitze auf dem Stuhl. (Dat.) – I finished with the action


Now, after reading this article, you should be a pro regarding these three verbs, and you can practice your knowledge in the free Worksheet: The dilemma of using “put” in German.


Bis bald!





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