Recently, I was reading “Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen”, and I came across this sentence: “Ein tiefes Brummen hatte die Stille um sie her zerbrochen.” I’ve never seen “um etwas her” before, and that led me to wonder if “umher” could be separated, and what the grammar behind it is.

Thank you in advance!

2 Answers 2


This construction is valid. "Um ... her" is different from "umher" in that "umher" is (generally) simply an adverb or (IMHO even more often) part of a separable verb as in "umhergehen".

"Um ... her" is a special sort of preposition requiring the accusative where the "her" follows the noun. More common is "um .. herum". This is actually a combined pre- and postposition. I don't know if there is a linguistic term for that.

Note that it is easy to confuse this sort of construct with cases where "herum" is part of a separable verb:

Um das Haus herum war es still.

Er ging um das Haus herum.

In the latter example the verb is "herumgehen", so "herum" does not belong to "um" but is part of the verb.


Friedrich Schiller wrote this way in Die Kraniche des Ibykus, and the German Bible in Psalm 18:11. It's a bit odd and old-fashioned here. But Harry Potter wants to be old-fashioned, eh?

BUT, you can see this sometimes with separable verbs which carry two prefixes. E.g. umhinkommen:

Sie kommt nicht umhin, solche Seltsamkeiten zu schlucken.

Sie kommt nicht um es hin.

The second sentence refers to the first, and that inserted es representing the whole infinitive clause is in fact even required at this position. It cannot be put elsewhere. It cannot be left out. The verb shatters to pieces.

You can see prefixes, pre- and postpositions and adverbs aren't as distinctive groups as one might think. Often enough these are just different terms for the very same thing.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.