The Two Different Uses of the German Verb “hängen”

The German verb hängen means the same as “hang” in English. But grammatically it is quite complex because it has two different conjugations depending on its use.

1. Transitive Verb: hänge/hängte/gehängt

Transitive” means the verb can or must have a direct object (Akkusativobjekt) being the thing you hang in/on somewhere. As there is a direct object, you can transform the sentence into passive:

  1. Active: Ich hänge das Hemd in den Schrank. (I hang the shirt in the closet.)
  2. Passive: Das Hemd wird in den Schrank gehängt. (The shirt is hung in the closet.)

After the verb and its direct object (accusative), you must use a complement of place, e.g. with a Two-Way Preposition that also takes accusative. In other words, a thing is moved to a certain place.

Summary: There is always

  • [A:] someone (the subject) who hangs
  • [B:] something (the direct object)
  • [C] in/on/over a place (complement of place).


  1. Ich hänge das Bild an die Wand. (Präsens)
  2. Sie hängte das Hemd in den Schrank. (Präteritum)
  3. Wir haben die Hosen auf Kleiderbügel gehängt. (Perfekt)

If we want to use hängen without a complement of place, we need the prefixed verb aufhängen: Sie hängen Bilder auf. (They hang [up] pictures.)

The expression sich reinhängen means “to throw oneself into it” (in this case, the reflexive pronoun is the accusative object): Sie hat sich da total/voll/richtig reingehängt. (She threw herself completely into it.)

With all these uses, hängen is completely regular:

ichhänge (... auf)hängte (... auf)habe ... (auf)gehängt
duhängst (... auf)hängtest (... auf)hast ... (auf)gehängt
er/sie/eshängt (... auf)hängte (... auf)hat ... (auf)gehängt
wirhängen (... auf)hängten (... auf)haben ... (auf)gehängt
ihrhängt (... auf)hängtet (... auf)habt ... (auf)gehängt
sie/Siehängen (... auf)hängten (... auf)haben ... (auf)gehängt

2. Intransitive Verb: hänge/hing/gehangen

Intransitive” means the verb can never take a direct object and thus, it is not possible to form a passive sentence.

This verb expresses that something (or someone) hangs/is hanging somewhere.

So, there is no one doing anything, there is just

  • [A:] a thing (the direct object from above is now the subject) hanging
  • [B] in/on/over/from a place (Two-Way Preposition with dative case). Consequently, it is static, there is no movement.


  1. Das Bild hängt an der Wand. (Präsens)
  2. Das Hemd hing im Schrank. (Präteritum)
  3. Die Hosen haben auf Kleiderbügeln gehangen. (Perfekt)

The expression an jemandem hängen means “to cling to somebody/something”: Er hat (sehr) an seinem Hund gehangen. (He clung to his dog.)

The verb rumhängen means “hang around/out” in English: Er hat mit seinen Freunden rumgehangen. (He was hanging around/out with his friends)

With these uses, hängen is irregular in simple past and perfect tense (present tense is regular: see above):

ichhinghabe ... gehangen
duhingsthast ... gehangen
er/sie/eshinghat ... gehangen
wirhingenhaben ... gehangen
ihrhingthabt ... gehangen
sie/Siehingenhaben ... gehangen

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