German Separable Prefixes

    This week’s episode of 3 Minuten Deutsch explains the separable prefix verbs in German. I gave a few examples and went over some rules. If you want to see the video for that, you can watch it above. If you have trouble keeping up with the speed, you can always find the slides used in the video below the video. As usual, this blog post hopes to expand upon the topic in the 3 Minuten Deutsch episode.

    Which Prefixes are Separable?

    In the video I mentioned that there are prefixes that are separable and there are those which are not separable. Rather than send you to about.com for their list of separable and inseparable prefixes, I decided to make my own in a pretty little chart. I even added what they do to a verb, most of the time. It is important to realize that the definitions I have given are generalizations and should not be considered to be the only definition for a particular prefix. Also, these are not the only separable and inseparable prefixes. These are just the ones I consider to be most important.

    Separable Prefix List
    Separable Prefix List

    ab – off

    schneiden
    to cut
    Der Koch schneidet die Zwiebeln.
    The cook cuts the onions.

    abschneiden
    to cut off
    Der Ritter schneidet den Arm des anderen Ritters ab.
    The knight is cutting the arm off of the other knight.

    an – at, on

    kommen
    to come
    Ich komme heute zu Besuch.
    I am coming to visit today.

    ankommen
    to arrive
    Der Zug kommt fast immer pünktlich an.
    The train almost always arrives on time.

    auf – up

    hören
    to hear
    Der Junge hört gern Rockmusik.
    The boy likes to listen to rock music.

    aufhören
    to stop, quit
    Er hört auf zu rauchen.
    He is quitting smoking.

    Beginner German with Herr Antrim

    aus – out

    geben
    to give
    Meine Mutter gibt mir ein Geschenk zum Geburtstag.
    My mother is giving me a gift for my birthday.

    ausgeben
    to spend
    Du gibst zu viel Geld aus.
    You are spending too much money.

    ein – in, into

    fallen
    to fall
    Er fällt zu Boden.
    He is falling to the floor.

    einfallen
    to occur
    Es fällt mir ein, dass du klüger als ich bist.
    It occurs to me that you are smarter than I.

    fern – far

    sehen
    to see
    Siehst du den Bären?
    Do you see the bear?

    fernsehen
    to watch TV
    Siehst du gern fern?
    Do you like to watch television?

    fort – away

    gehen
    to go
    Ich gehe jetzt nach Hause.
    I am going home now.

    fortgehen
    to depart
    Ich gehe jetzt fort.
    I am departing now.

    her – to here

    stellen
    to place, put
    Der Arbeiter stellt die Tasse auf den Tisch.
    The worker puts the cup on the table.

    herstellen
    to manufacture
    Der Arbeiter stellt Tassen her.
    The worker manufactures cups.

    hin – to there

    weisen
    to point
    Er weist den Weg nach Hause.
    He points the way home.

    hinweisen
    to warn
    Der Polizist weist den Mann darauf hin, dass er ins Gefängnis gehen könnte.
    The policeman warned the man that he could go to jail.

    mit – along, with

    machen
    to do, make
    Ich mache immer meine Hausaufgaben.
    I always do my homework.

    mitmachen
    to participate
    Wenn meine Freunde Fußball spielen, mache ich immer mit.
    When my friends play soccer, I always participate.

    nach – after

    bessern
    to improve
    Der Markt bessert sich bald.
    The market will soon improve.

    nachbessern
    to repair
    Der Verkäufer bessert das Product nach.
    The sales person repairs the product.

    um – around, at

    ziehen
    to pull
    Die Frau zieht das Seil.
    The woman is pulling on the rope.

    umziehen
    to move
    Die Frau zieht nach Berlin um.
    The woman is moving to Berlin.

    vor – before

    haben
    to have
    Ich habe einen Kuchen.
    I have a cake.

    vorhaben
    to have planned
    Ich habe heute vor, einen Kuchen zu backen.
    I plan to bake a cake.

    vorbei – past

    gehen
    to go
    Geh in die Schule!
    Go to school.

    vorbeigehen
    to go past
    Geh an der Schule vorbei!
    Go past the school.

    weg – away

    kommen
    to come
    Kommst du nicht?
    Aren’t you coming?

    wegkommen
    to come away from something
    Er kommt in der Prüfung schlecht weg.
    He is coming away from the test poorly. (He did bad on the test.)

    zu – closed

    knallen
    to bang
    Ich knalle meinen Kopf gegen die Tür.
    I am banging my head against the door.

    zuknallen
    to slam
    Ich knalle die Tür zu.
    I am slamming the door shut.

    zurück – back

    bezahlen
    to pay
    Er bezahlt immer die Rechnung.
    He always pays the bill.

    zurückbezahlen
    to repay
    Er bezahlt alles zurück, was ich ihm geliehen habe.
    He pays back all that I loaned him.

    zusammen – together

    fassen
    to catch
    Der Junge fasst den Ball.
    The boy catches the ball.

    zusammenfassen
    to summarize
    Der Junge fasst das Buch zusammen.
    The boy summarizes the book.

    Inseparable German Prefixes

    Inseparable Prefix List
    Inseparable Prefix List

    be – transitive verb creator

    antworten
    to answer
    Der Schüler antwortet mir nicht.
    The student isn’t answering me.

    beantworten
    to answer
    Der Schüler beantwortet die Frage nicht.
    The student isn’t answering the question.

    ent – separation

    decken
    to cover
    Der Untersuchungsrichter deckt die Leiche.
    The coroner covers the body.

    entdecken
    to discover
    Der Untersuchungsrichter entdeckt die Leiche.
    The coroner discovers the body.

    er – stresses the outcome

    kennen
    to know
    Ich kenne den Mann.
    I know the man.

    erkennen
    to recognize
    Er erkennt mich auch.
    He recognizes me too.

    ge – completed action

    brauchen
    to need
    Ich brauche einen Kuli.
    I need a pen.

    gebrauchen
    to use
    Der Junge gebraucht den Kuli um zu schreiben.
    The boy uses the pen in order to write.

    miss – ill, mistaken

    brauchen
    to need
    Die Frau braucht ein neues Auto.
    The woman needs a new car.

    missbrauchen
    to abuse
    Der böse Junge missbraucht den armen Hund.
    The evil boy abuses the poor dog.

    ver – usually a bad version of the original verb

    laufen
    to walk, go
    Hans läuft nach Hause.
    Hans is walking home.

    verlaufen
    to go astray
    Hans verläuft sich im Wald.
    Hans is getting lost in the forest.

    zer – apart

    stören
    to disturb
    Das stört mich nicht.
    That doesn’t bother me.

    zerstören
    to destroy
    Der Außerirdischer zerstört die Menschen.
    The alien destroys the people.

    As I mentioned in the video, there is way too much information about prefixes for me to cover it in one video (or in one blog post). The advice I would give to you about German prefixes is that you should learn which prefixes can be separated and which ones can’t be. Once you know which ones can be separated, you should learn the rules about them, which were listed at the top of this post.

    I personally never learned what the prefixes meant in general. I learned each verb as I added vocabulary in my German learning. This method allows you to understand some of the nuances that occur in German with these prefixes. Some of the prefixes don’t fit into any nice, neat category. They do some weird things to the meanings of verbs. The meanings listed above are just generalizations. For this reason, I like to learn each verb on its own and just remember which prefixes can be removed and which ones can’t.

    More About Separable Verbs

    Separable Verbs Skit
    Separable Verbs Worksheet Explanation
    Separable Prefix Song

    Herr Antrim

    Herr Antrim is a German teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. In 2011 he started his successful YouTube Channel "Learn German with Herr Antrim". In 2015 he created this website to enhance the German language lessons he was providing on YouTube. He is now the author of his own e-book, "Beginner German with Herr Antrim". He has also been featured on numerous blogs and other sites.