From de.wiktionary, the separable form of übergeben is said to mean "to cover up, to spread over" and two examples are given:

  1. …und sie gab die Decke über unsere Körper.
  2. Eine dicke Obstlaubschicht gab die Decke über das Ganze.

From these two examples, I guess that the correct usage of übergeben should be:

etw(Accusative) über jdn/etw(Accusative) geben

If this is so, Example 1 makes sense with “She covered our bodies with the blanket”. I am having problems with Example 2. My attempt so far:

Eine dicke Obstlaubschicht = Subject of the sentence (A thick layer of fruit foliage)

das Ganze = das ganze Dach = my guess on what is being covered up

die Decke = the foliage itself?

I would like some help on how to use the verb correctly and how to parse example 2.

  • 3
    Nope, that's not the correct translation of "übergeben". It is "to deliver", "to hand over", "to throw up", "to render" or "to transfer". You should look for proper translations of "zudecken", "bedecken", "legen", as you say together with accusative.
    – user41853
    Mar 2, 2020 at 12:00

3 Answers 3


This is an example why we should be really careful when using Wiktionary and other crowdsourced resources...

Note that the references for the Wiktionary entry are:

  • DWDS [trustworthy] - but mentions only the other meaning, not the one you're talking about.
  • canoonet [trustworthy] - mentions neither (!) of the two meanings suggested
  • OWID - useless in this context as it's just an automatically compiled corpus, not a dictionary
  • Duden [trustworthy] - lists both meanings mentioned BUT marks them as "colloquial"

The "sources" for the Wiktionary entry are even worse:

  1. One sentence from a fanfic that very obviously has not been proofread
  2. One post from an online forum (!) on composting.

I'm afraid this is a caricature of what a dictionary entry should look like.

Please do not rely on info from crowdsourced "dictionaries" without thoroughly checking the references and sources!

Edit: Perhaps more usueful for your immediate situation: Do not use this definition of the separable verb (since it's colloquial and really rare), but rather this definition of the non-separable verb (this one and its meanings are what native speakers are used to).

  • 1
    While your criticism of the wiktionary entry may be accurate, I'm a bit surprised you have not pointed out the two examples by the OP are not even examples of a verb "übergeben", but simply of "geben". Mar 2, 2020 at 17:47

Another case where Wiktionary is maddeningly bad.

Duden lists a separable verb übergeben, characterised as colloquial, with the meaning to cover somebody with something, and has the following example.

als sie fror, gab er ihr die Stola über (Duden)

Note how the Verbzusatz (verbal particle) über of übergeben occurs in final position and, in contrast to the preposition über, does not take any arguments.

However, the examples from Wiktionary show ordinary geben combined with a directional preposition über.

1. … und sie gab die Decke über unsere Körper.

Geben seems to mean legen hier; cf. Duden geben, meaning 3a.

2. Eine dicke Obstlaubschicht gab die Decke über das Ganze.

Here, geben could simply be translated as to be (like), but maybe also play the part of. The sentence sounds quite strange.

Fallen leaves were (like) a blanket covering everything.
Fallen leaves played the part of a blanket covering everything.

Note that all these examples are strange and the only reasonably popular use of the separable verb übergeben is in the idiom er hat ihm eins übergegeben, where it means to strike someone.

  • In the Obstlaubschicht example, rather than "to be", "geben" appears to be either shortened from "ergeben" (to result in) or, similarly, to mean "to become", "to act as", in the way that "geben" is usually only used in colloquial constructions like "das gibt" ("Was gibt das jetzt?"; "Falte mal den Papierstreifen, das gibt eine Girlande."). Mar 3, 2020 at 5:23

Reasonable quality translations would not use übergeben in in your examples:

und sie breitete eine Decke über uns


... und sie deckte uns zu.

Eine dicke Obstlaubschicht bedeckte das Ganze.

A correct use would be:

Ich übergab die Sendung dem Kurier. (I forwarded the envelope to the courier.)

(Take care, that sich übergeben means to vomit.)

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