Die Stadt wird von einer mächtigen Schlossruine überragt.

What does the verb überragen mean in this context? it is used as an untrennbares Verb, so it should have a metaphorical meaning. So what is this meaning?

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    Was sagt denn das Wörterbuch? Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 3:49
  • "There is a huge ruined castle towering over the city." Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 5:54
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    "used as an untrennbares Verb, so it should have a metaphorical meaning" - do you have a citation for that? As a native speaker, I have never heard of such a rule. Plenty of inseparable verbs can mean literally what they say, e.g. umarmen, vergraben, überdehnen, ... Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 10:13
  • ... In fact, I'd say almost every verb can be used in a literal and in a metaphorical sense, but except for really few exceptions, any given verb is either separable or not; you do not get to choose whether to use a verb in a separable or inseparable way. Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 11:15
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    @SergeyZykov: If you are referring to the conjugation tables on this page, I'd say they are simply wrong. Do note how the examples of usage given on the same page conflict with the tables, and how in the pronunciation box, the stress is on the stem rather than the prefix, which is a typical trait of inseparable verbs. Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 12:56

3 Answers 3


From the comments I learn, that you know what the word means (A überragt B = A is taller or higher than B)

The word »überragen« (to be taller/higher) is a not-separable verb like »überholen« (to overtake). Compare it with »überkochen« (to boil over) which is separable:


Der Kirchturm überragt das Dorf.
Der Ferrari überholt den Skoda.
Die Milch kocht über.


Der Kirchturm hat das Dorf überragt.
Der Ferrari hat den Skoda überholt.
Die Milch ist übergekocht.


Der Kirchturm überragte das Dorf.
Der Ferrari überholte den Skoda.
Die Milch kochte über.

Futur I:

Der Kirchturm wird das Dorf überragen.
Der Ferrari wird den Skoda überholen.
Die Milch wird überkochen.

  • you say that überragen is not trennbar, but it looks like that Duden disagrees with you, take a look here and here, in both cases the Grammatik section treats the verb as ternnbar.
    – zesy
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 11:27

There are two variants of überragen which are spelled the same, but have somewhat different meanings and different grammatical properties. See Duden – überragen/übertreffen/hinausragen and Duden – überragen/hinausragen.

The first one is the one you are referring to. The second one can be translated with to overlap or to overhang. This verb can get separated, for example:

Das Buch ragt über den Rand des Tisches hinaus.

I have never heard about the rule that untrennbare Verben have a metaphorical meaning. (Of course that doesn’t have to mean that it’s wrong, as a native speaker you don’t need to know all rules, you just use the language from experience.)

I suppose you could say that the first variant of überragen can be used in a metaphorical sense, like ein überragender Geist. I can’t think of a metaphorical usage of the second variant at the moment.

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    – Jan
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 9:32
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    "Das Buch ragt über den Rand des Tisches hinaus." - the verb in that sentence is "über etwas hinausragen", which is a different verb than "überragen". Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 10:11
  • @idspispopd if you look at both Duden articles, then you see that Duden treats the verb as trennbar (Grammatik section). Why then in my sentence (taken also from a grammar exercise book) it is treated as untrennbar?
    – zesy
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 11:30

It means that the ruin is higher than or rather above the city. The ruin is easily visible from large parts of the city, maybe it is a landmark. As ruins are usually not very high I guess the ruin is on top of a hill.

  • that was actually also my first idea, but if what you are saying is true, then the verb is used in its literal sense, but should not then the verb be trennbar, i.e. should not we then say übergeragt?
    – zesy
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 20:46
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    @SergeyZykov as a native speaker I find it surprisingly hard to tell why it is überragt instead of übergeragt... I can't, sorry
    – Breeze
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 20:55
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    Maybe a clue might be that it is in the passive voice. In the active it would be Eine mächtige Schlossruine ragt über der Stadt. In the past tense: ...ragte über... and in the perfect tense ... hat über der Stadt geragt. So I don't understand why it should be 'untrennbar'? Also, I must admit that I never heard of the concept of 'Untrennbarkeit' in connection with German verbs. A comparable English translation would be A large ruined castle towers over the town (in the active voice). Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 21:22
  • @OliverMason: No, the active form of the sentence would be Eine mächtige Schlossruine überragt die Stadt. In your sentence, you have replaced the verb. Actually, (in)sep arability is quite a central concept in German verb conjugation, but it is a property of verbs, not a usage mode that you could decide about. Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 10:27

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