German Language Blog

Getting Dressed In German: 5 Verbs Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Language

Guten Tag!!

I hope you’re all well and enjoying some sunshine, wherever you are! Today I want to bring you part 2 of my clothes-themed posts (the first is here). I wanted to write about a couple of words & phrases surrounding clothing because, although a straight-forward subject, there are a few bits & pieces that I think can seem confusing at first. My first post will show you how many different words there are for the word ‘clothes’, and how and when to use them. In this post, I’ll try to explain the verbs surrounding the topic of clothes.

c'est beau la bourgeoisie...

Photo: 53199633@N02 on under a CC license (CC BY-ND 2.0)



tragento wear/carry

To state what you’re wearing, you’d say ‘Ich trage ____’. Example: ‘Ich trage eine Bluse’ – ‘I’m wearing a blouse’. When you learn this at school you’re just told this is the verb to use, and you accept it. But the verb tragen also means ‘to carry’, which makes sense because you ‘carry’ clothes on your body, too. But this verb isn’t restricted to clothes. Example: ‘Ich trage eine Schachtel’ – ‘I carry/I’m carrying a box’. Seems confusing? Fear not! Unless your personal style is particularly avant-garde, it’s unlikely you’re actually wearing a box.  With that in mind, it’s fairly easy to recognise when tragen means ‘to wear’ and when it means ‘to carry’.

Mein Kind ist müde. Ich muss sie tragen.  —- My child is tired. I have to carry her.

Ich trage heute mein neues Kleid! —- I’m wearing my new dress today!


Movers with a Box

Wearing a box, or carrying a box? Tragen – to wear/to carry. Photo by Guy Kilroy on under a CC license (CC BY-SA 2.0)


anziehen – to get dressed.

Literally ‘to pull on’. This is a reflexive and separable verb, so to use it you’d say ‘Ich ziehe mich an’. You can remember that anziehen is ‘to get dressed’ because the prefix ‘an’ looks like the English word on.


ausziehento get undressed.

Literally ‘to pull off/out’. Also a reflexive and separable verb, so to use it you’d say ‘Ich ziehe mich aus’. You can remember that ausziehen is ‘to get undressed’ because the prefix ‘aus’ sounds like the English word out.


umziehen to get changed.

You use this if you’re already dressed, but you want to change into something else. Again, it follows the same rule as the other verbs, so you’d say, ‘Ich ziehe mich um’. But! The verb umziehen also means ‘to move house’! To make sure you’re saying you’re changing clothes and NOT telling your friends you’re moving out, be sure to say ‘Ich ziehe mich um’ rather than ‘Ich ziehe um’. Missing out that ‘mich’ is what changes the phrase completely.


You and Your Girlfriend

Was hast du denn an? Photo by orinrobertjohn on under a CC license (CC BY 2.0)

anhaben to have something on/be wearing something.

Has someone ever looked you up and down and said, ‘What on earth are you wearing?’ Yeah. Me, too. In German, you’d say ‘Was hast du denn an?’ You might say this one is pretty similar to verb #1 – tragen – and you’d be right. Here are two ways of saying ‘I’m wearing a blouse’, using both verbs:

tragen: Ich trage eine Bluse

anhaben: Ich habe eine Bluse an

It’s important to note, however, that anhaben only works when describing something you’re already wearing. Saying ‘Ich trage heute eine Bluse’ (‘I’m wearing a blouse today’) works whether you’re wearing one at the time of saying this sentence or not, because you might be saying you are currently wearing one, or that you are planning on wearing one today. ‘Ich habe heute eine Bluse an’, on the other hand, can ONLY be said if you are wearing a blouse at the time of saying it.


But don’t be too worried about these little differences. The main thing is to acquaint yourselves with the different verbs for now. 🙂

I hope this has been helpful. Any questions or suggestions, do leave a comment!

Bis später,


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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. sunshine:

    Danke das war sehr nutzlich.

    • Constanze:

      @sunshine DANKE, sunshine! 🙂 🙂

  2. Max Spring:

    “Mein Kind ist müde. Ich muss sie tragen.”

    Correctly it would have to say “… Ich muss es tragen”, because the grammatical gender of “Kind” (child) is neuter.

    In a real life situation, however, people would use the biological gender of the child and say “Ich muss sie tragen”/”Ich muss ihn tragen” for girl/boy.


    • Constanze:

      @Max Spring Thanks for your insight, Max. You are correct, but what I wrote wasn’t incorrect, either. In a real life situation people talk in many different ways, and some do refer to their child as ‘my child’, followed by something using ‘he’ or ‘she’, which is what I was thinking of when I wrote my example. Yes, if we are being pedantic, using ‘es’ because of ‘das Kind’ would have been ‘more’ correct. But, since this was just an example of how to use ‘tragen’ in conversation, and not the actual subject of the post, I didn’t think too deeply about it. In real life people talk in many different ways, and I don’t want anyone getting stressed about using this word over that word when they should be focusing on the act of speaking/writing itself. I don’t want anyone being so scared of making a mistake that they don’t open their mouths at all. Learning a language is hard enough as it is. I know, because I’m continuously learning, too! 😀

  3. Laura:

    I hadn´t realized the “little” grammar detail Max comments about gender. I am happy he did because I like learning languages the correct way.

    Thank you Constanze for your posts! They are very helpful for understanding those differences that are not very easy to get at language school.

    • Constanze:

      @Laura So pleased you like the posts, Laura! It was my aim to include details you don’t learn at school.