So I understand one of the meanings of verlassen is to leave a place, but leave as in what sense?

In English, leaving a place could mean that you go away from that place for just a period of time and will come back later, as in

I'm leaving for work.

But it could also mean you abandon a place by stopping the contract of renting it, for example.

I'm leaving this apartment in January.

So which meaning is more precise to use with verlassen? My language sense is telling me that it is the second one. And in case that I'm right, which verb is to use to express the first meaning, just gehen or is there a better word? Like maybe if it's my last day of apartment rental and I'm ready to leave, is there any other way to say it rather than:

Ich bin bereit zu gehen.

2 Answers 2


verlassen can have three meanings:

  1. to trust in somebody unconditionally: ''Ich verlasse mich auf dich.''
  2. to leave somebody you were close to: ''Ich habe Ihn verlassen.''
  3. to leave a place

In the third meaning it can be used, both for leaving a place temporarily and for leaving a place permanently. However in any case you cannot get away without specifying the place that you are leaving. So your first example you could phrase:

Ich verlasse das Haus um zur Arbeit zu gehen.

If you don't want to specify "das Haus", you cannot use the word "verlassen", but could say:

Ich gehe zur Arbeit.

Your second example (using verlassen) would translate as:

Ich verlasse diese Wohnung im Januar.

However if I was to talk about leaving my apartment permanently in January, I would more likely use constructions like:

Ich ziehe aus dieser Wohnung im Januar aus. Ich ziehe im Januar um.....

Still it is natural to use verlassen when leaving an apartment permanently in constructions like: Beim Verlassen der alten Wohnung sollten die Wände gestrichen werden.

Whether it is permanent or temporary leave you can only infer from the context (just like in English).

  • "Die Wohnung verlassen" is in my understanding purely temporarily, e. g. for work or shopping. To leave it permanently would be "Aus der Wohnung ausziehen". An abandoned apartment or house on the other hand would indeed be "eine verlassene Wohnung" or "ein verlassenes Haus". Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 21:30
  • @Raketenolli But you could say, for instance, "Die Einbrecher haben die Wohnung zwischen 17 und 18 Uhr verlassen."
    – Uwe
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 22:03
  • @Raketenolli: I disagree. For instance you could say: Beim Auszug sollte die alte Wohnung in einem sauberen Zustand verlassen werden. or Beim Verlassen der alten Wohnung.... But yes, if I was talking about leaving the apartment in January I would use another construction. WIll edit my answer. Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 22:10
  • Your points are valid, it seems like I was focussed too much on the "Ich verlasse die Wohnung ..." construction. Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 22:12

"verlassen" needs an accusative object (a person or a place), so it can only be used to translate "leave" if the latter is used with a direct object.

As you conjectured correctly, "leave" without a direct object corresponds usually to "gehen". "I'm leaving for work" = "Ich gehe jetzt zur Arbeit".

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