Can I say something like

Er kommt bei mir vorbei und um.

to mean "he comes by my house and dies", thus expressing the verbs vorbeikommen and umkommen by using kommen only once?

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    Interesting question. I'd be also interested in its usage. Perahps could you address that as well in your question? If not, I could open a new question, but I'd feel like stealing your idea.
    – c.p.
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 11:07
  • @c.p. I think the usage is (at least partly) answered by the comments below. But please feel free to open a new question if you wish. :)
    – boaten
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 18:52

2 Answers 2


Yes. It's actually a rhetorical device named Zeugma. A few examples:

Er trat die Tür ein und den Rückweg an.

Ich heiße nicht nur Heinz Erhardt, sondern Sie auch herzlich willkommen.

Ich fror vor mich hin, denn nicht nur meine Mutter, auch der Ofen war ausgegangen.

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    One might add that this is done for comical effect.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 10:57
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    It certainly amuses me. And it is hardly a coincidence that the name Heinz Erhardt occurs in your examples.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 11:12
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    I think that issue is important. If it's done for amusement, for sake of economic writing or because it must be written so.
    – c.p.
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 11:26
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    In German language a zeugma is either used to create a comical effect or in error. I can't think of a situation where a zeugma is used in a stylistically correct serious German sentence. Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 12:08
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    Yes, it means "both my mother and the oven had gone out". The last example relies on the double meaning of "heißen" = being named and "Willkommen heißen" = to welcome.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 19:36

To add to the other answer... it doesn't always have to be playing with the language.

Ich fahre hin und zurück.

Ver- und Entsorgungswerke Berlin Brandenburg

It is done a lot. The wit comes in whenever the meaning of the basic verb is switched by one prefix.

  • Clearly the effect is more humorous the more the affixes change the meaning of the root. "Hin"/"zurück" are almost completely transparent, which is why combining them is unremarkable. "ankommen" and "umkommen" are almost arbitrarily different in meaning, so combining both in one phrase exhibits the sharp alteration in viewpoint that is the definition of humour. Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 6:39

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