My textbook has this sentence: "Ich kaufe Obst und Gemüse ein" but I don't understand what's the need for "ein" at the end. Is "Ich kaufe Obst und Gemüse" fine or is it necessary to use the word "ein" at the end?

  • 1
    There are two words in German: kaufen and einkaufen. The textbook used einkaufen, you kaufen. Both is possible and right and have more or less the same meaning. Aug 17, 2021 at 19:46
  • It seems bad form to link to a closed question, but I think the question is mostly answered here. Remember that einkaufen is separable so the ein gets moved to the end most of the time. This is a textbook example and not a real sentence, so it's hard to say what the author had in mind as the context or the exact meaning.
    – RDBury
    Aug 17, 2021 at 19:47

4 Answers 4


The two sentences just use different verbs, "einkaufen" vs. "kaufen". Both verbs basically mean "to exchange goods against money", but the nuances are slightly different.

"Kaufen" is kind of a everyday, general verb for the meaning. "Einkaufen" puts the focus a little bit more on aquiring the goods. So, if you'd say "Ich kaufe Obst und Gemüse ein", there's a small implication that you needed those goods and now have them. Also, "einkaufen" is more used for purchasing multiple things (for example, grocery shopping on the weekend), and "kaufen" is more used for purchasing one single, possibly expensive, thing. But the differences are really small.

Additionally, "kaufen" is typically used as a transitive verb, so it needs an object. "Einkaufen" can be used with or without an object:

Ich kaufe das Obst.

Ich kaufe. (would need an object)

Ich kaufe das Obst ein.

Ich kaufe ein. (fine without an object)

You might compare the two verbs with the English pair of "to buy" and "to purchase". The difference is really small there, too (though it's a different difference ;) ).


In this case it's fine to use it without "ein".

But "kaufen" and "einkaufen" aren't the same thing in general. Both can be used if you pay someone for getting some product. "kaufen" is only used for this (and for "bribe" in slang). "einkaufen" often includes going to the store where you actually will buy something and it's also used like "buy in" (in casino games, a firm, etc.).

A difference in usage is that "kaufen" needs a description of what you buy: "Ich kaufe Gemüse." or "Ich gehe Gemüse kaufen." while "einkaufen" doesn't: "Ich kaufe ein" or "Ich gehe einkaufen." but it would be ok to use it with a description: "Ich kaufe Gemüse ein." or "Ich gehe Gemüse einkaufen.". In this case the words are used like "buying" and "shopping".


Others have already focused on grammar, so I want to focus on practice.

In daily usage, einkaufen is usually the verb if you're getting groceries or other items of daily use.

"Ich muss später noch einkaufen".

If you say this, most people will assume you'll go to the supermarket. As other users have stated, this doesn't need on object.

Kaufen can only be used with an object, so you use it to highlight specific items you want to get, i.e.

"Kannst du noch Bratwürste kaufen?"

If you just want to stroll, you can use the germanised verb "shoppen"

"Wir waren heute in der Mall shoppen"

A German equivalent would be "bummeln".


Difference is the verb used in each sentence.

  • Ich kaufe Obst und Gemüse ein -> Verb is einkaufen
  • Ich kaufe Obst und Gemüse -> Verb is kaufen

In general, einkaufen is used when you buy multiple things and kaufen is used when you buy one item.

  • My understanding is that einkaufen is used for buying a large number of things to save for future use. It's also used as an equivalent to the English "buy in", as in "He bought into Apple before it got big." So I think you're oversimplifying things a bit. I don't think that was worth a downvote though, perhaps the person to downvoted the question could explain?
    – RDBury
    Aug 18, 2021 at 1:21
  • In your example, the "ein" of einkaufen has the meaning of in. In the example of the question, however, it does not.
    – Hereks
    Aug 18, 2021 at 10:41

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