While reading, I encountered this sentence:

Dann bezahlte er und nahm die beiden Zaubertränke an sich.

Why does "an sich" appear at the end of the sentence? Is the verb here "sich annehmen"? If so, shouldn't the reflexive pronoun be beside "nahm"?

  • I could be wrong here but I believe sich here is the prepositional object for an. Leo gives a similar example: Sie adressieren den Brief an sich. -- "You address the letter to yourself."
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 3:58
  • At first glance I only looked at the end of the sentence and thought you'd be falling for a diffferent problem: "an sich" can also have a different meaning (roughly "eigentlich"), not related to a direction towards the subject as in your case: "An sich sehe ich nicht viel fern, aber für die Tagesschau mache ich eine Ausnahme" - "Der Mensch an sich ist gut" - But that is different story and I didn't want to confuse you (at least "an sich") Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 21:55

4 Answers 4


Is the verb here "sich annehmen"?

No, here it is etwas an sich nehmen. It means to take something to oneself or literally to one's body.
It's a form of "nehmen" that focuses on that now the person who took it still has it, rather than what it is.


  • Ich nehme es = I take it. Now I have it, but there is no information how long I will have it.
    I can take it to use it and place it back, or I can place it somewhere else or not give it back.
  • Ich nehme es weg = I take it away. I take something from where it was, focus is on the location it is before.
    Either a place where it shouldn't be any longer, or a person that shouldn't have it any longer.
    This doesn't mean I will keep it. Perhaps I just place it somewhere else.
  • Ich nehme es dir weg = I take it away from you. Focus is on the person who had it. I take something so you can't have it any more.
    I still can place it somewhere else, perhaps on a shelf where you can't reach it or I simply take it and place it a little further away from you so you see I don't want you to have it.
  • Ich nehme es an mich = I take it to me. Focus is on who has it now.
    Perhaps I put it in my pocket or I only place it in front of me so it's clear it is with me now.
    This expression implies a change of its location towards a person, the person grabs it.
    If you chose a car at a car dealer and say "es gefällt mir, ich nehme es" then "nehmen" of course means you move it to your home, you change the car's location. But you don't pull the car towards you in the moment you say you take it, so the "on you" part is not fulfilled.
  • I was thinking it must be something like this, but why not say Ich nehme es mit mir? Also, if you're using the Accusative then there is motion, so you're taking it and putting it on yourself (maybe in a pocket like you said). But isn't that implied if you just say Ich nehme es? Is this an idiom of some kind? The direct translation is "I take it on me" but it's not a normal sentence in English. Either you'd say "I take it" with the "on me (my person)" implied, or "I take it with me."
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 5:33
  • These phrases have all slightly different meanings: Etwas an sich nehmen means taking something and keeping it (at least for a short time). Etwas mit sich nehmen is used if someone takes something and carries it away.
    – RHa
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 5:55
  • @RDBury I'd say "ich nehme es mir" = "I take it for me" so it's mine but it could stay where it is, while "ich nehme es an mich" = "I take it on me" so it is physically with me. I edited my answer to make more clear that "an mich" is a physical change.
    – puck
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 7:00
  • 4
    "Etwas an sich nehmen" is often used when somebody takes something in their custody, rather than in their belonging (like in "ich nehme mir etwas" would express).
    – tofro
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 8:08
  • 1
    @RDBury: Note that "Ich nehme es mit mir." is not idiomatic, maybe even slightly incorrect. You can say "Ich nehme es mit.", meaning that you take it with you to wherever you're going. Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 9:00

That is because an sich is an adverbial of direction, and adverbials of direction belong into the predicate block. And that one is always at the end.

Ich habe gesehen, dass Müller im Strafraum den Ball nicht in das Tor schießen konnte.

Müller konnte im Strafraum den Ball nicht in das Tor schießen.

Müller schießt im Strafraum den Ball nicht in das Tor.

The adverbial of location (im Strafraum) precedes the noun accusative object (den Ball), as all "normal" adverbials (time, cause, mode, location) do. The adverbial of direction is special. It belongs to the predicate. It even moves with the predicate if you make it the topic of the main clause.

Nicht in das Tor schießen konnte Müller im Strafraum den Ball.

There is only ever one single item in front of the V2 verb. The full predicate block in this case.

(Of course you could also make only in das Tor the topic instead of the full predicate. That does not contradict the notion the directional adverbial is special as it can move together with the predicate.)

Dann bezahlte er und nahm die beiden Zaubertränke an sich.

Aber ich habe gesehen, dass er im Laden die beiden Zaubertränke nicht an sich nahm.

Same here.


"an sich nehmen" is the verb "nehmen" extended to a phrase that means "to take into one's possession". In contrast, "sich annehmen" means "to take care [of something, written as genitive object]".

Had it been the latter verb, the sentence would have been "Dann bezahlte er und nahm sich der beiden Zaubertränke an." which would be a bit strange: the latter part could have been short for "and took care of concocting/disposing of the magic potions". It could have been that he was haggling with a customer while in a tavern, agreeing to concoct/dispose of two magic potions, and then paid for his drinks and went to work on the potions.

As it is, he took hold of the potions after paying.


There is a verb "sich etwas [einer Sache oder eines Dinges; genitive] annehmen" (Duden, meaning 7). It means to literally or figuratively adopt some person, thing or task and care for it, or make it one's own. An example could be "er fand die Katze am Wegsesrand und nahm sich ihrer an". Indeed, the reflexive pronoun then is where you suggested it should be in such cases.

As others have explained, the same group of words can be re-ordered and simply mean "to take hold of something", as in your example: Er fand die Katze am Wegesrand und nahm sie an sich." The difference in meaning is subtle: Here, too, it can be meant figuratively, for example it could mean that he took the cat to his home, not necessarily all the time in physical contact. But it still does not imply the same level of care and commitment as the first example, "sich ihrer annehem".

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