Inseparable Prefix Verbs in German (Untrennbare Verben)

    Hallo, Deutschlerner. In this lesson I will teach you how to use the inseparable prefix verbs in German. I explain when not to separate the prefix from a German verb and I’ll show you a list of the inseparable prefixes. You will learn how these inseparable verbs work and how to use a variety of inseparable verbs in German through a ton of example sentences. You will also learn how these inseparable prefixes change the meanings of the verbs. To skip to a particular verb or prefix, click on the prefix from the table of contents below. 

    This lesson is the first of a series of lessons about prefixes added to German verbs. This will be the only lesson about inseparable verbs. In the next several lessons I will explain how to use the separable verbs, which prefixes are separable and how each prefix changes the meaning of the verbs. Once I have those lessons made, they will be linked here. 

    You can download a worksheet and answer key to practice this topic along with the lists of verbs in each group here.

    You can get a copy of the verb lists for free here.

    Herr Antrim created flashcards on Quizlet for every group of inseparable prefix verbs in this lesson. You can find them all in this course here.

    Beginner German with Herr Antrim

    Table of Contents

    German Verb Prefix Overview

    First off, let’s talk about prefixes in general. German verbs are often modified with prefixes. They change the meaning and morph one verb into another. For example, the verb “geben” is often translated as “to give”, but when you add the prefix “aus-” we translate it with the English verb “to spend”. While this does more accurately represent the usage of the verb “ausgeben”, you can also translate it as “to give out”. This tells us the prefix aus- changes the direction of the “geben” from a more general non-specific “away from the subject” direction to a slightly more specific “outward” direction.

    Basically every verb in German has a direction of sorts. The direction of “lernen” is “from less to more”. For “leben” the direction is “forward”. The direction of “singen” is “from your mouth away”. These directions are changed by prefixes.

    Separable & Inseparable Prefix Examples

    Most prefixes, like “aus-” are separable. This means that the prefix is often moved to the end of the sentence. For example: 

    Ich gebe zwanzig Euro für das Konzert aus.
    I am spending twenty Euros for the concert. 

    Some prefixes are inseparable. This means that they modify the meaning of the verb, but they stay attached instead of being moved to the end of the sentence. For example, “kommen” means “to come”, but “bekommen” means “to receive”.

    Ich komme aus Frankfurt.
    I am from Frankfurt.

    Ich bekomme einen Brief aus Frankfurt.
    I am receiving a letter from Frankfurt.

    Although these prefixes don’t get removed, you should be aware of them, because they won’t take the ge- prefix that is added in the Perfekt tense, while the separable verbs will.

    The list of inseparable prefixes is relatively short. They are: be-, ent-, emp-, er-, ge-, miss-, ver-, and zer-. 

    Rules for Inseparable Prefix Verbs

    Now that we know what they look like and have a general idea of their purpose, let’s talk about the rules. As I mentioned, the inseparable prefixes are the easy ones. They simply act like normal verbs. You may recognize the base of the verb, but the meaning has changed due to the prefix. In the present, future and simple past (Präteritum) tenses, you simply treat them like normal verbs. If the non-prefixed version is irregular in the present or past, the prefixed version is irregular in the same way in the same tenses (usually).

    When you use a verb with an inseparable prefix in the Perfekt tense or any tense based on the Perfekt tense, the Pluperfect (Plusquamperfekt) and the Future Perfect (Futur 2), you don’t add ge- to the beginning of the past participle of those verbs. 

    FREE A1/A2 Materials
    InfinitivePast ParticipleInfinitivePast Participle
    antwortengeantwortetbeantwortenbeantwortet
    dankengedanktbedankenbedankt
    kommengekommenbekommenbekommen
    deutengedeutetbedeutenbedeutet

    No Bee Gees or Heebie Jeebies in German

    This is why in my German 2 classes we have a saying: “If you have a be-, you don’t need a ge-.” This is mostly due to the fact that the only inseparable prefix their textbook seems to care about is the be- found at the beginning of words like “bekommen” (to receive), “bedanken” (to thank), “bearbeiten” (to edit), “beantworten” (to answer), and so on.

    Obviously this rule applies to all of the prefixes, but it is particularly helpful for verbs that aren’t really seen as having prefixes at all like “beginnen” (to begin) and “begegnen” (to meet), as there is no such thing as “ginnen” or “gegnen”, but “beginnen” and “begegnen” are both treated as if the be- at the beginning is simply an inseparable prefix. 

    Where to Put the Emphasis in an Inseparable Verb

    The only other thing that is special about the inseparable prefixes is that the emphasis of the pronunciation is on the main part of the verb and not on the prefix. So it is beantworten, bedanken, bekommen and so on NOT beantworten, bedanken, bekommen. 

    That’s it. There is really only one special rule for inseparable prefixes and if you are just starting to learn German, this probably won’t affect anything you are trying to express right now. At least until you start trying to speak in the past tense. Then you obviously need this rule. 

    be- 

    Each prefix changes the verb in a distinct way. Now that you know the rules for using the inseparable prefix verbs, I will show you each of the inseparable prefixes and explain what they do to the meaning of the verb. 

    This prefix generally does stuff that involves direct objects or the transitivity of a verb. In other words, sometimes it makes a verb that didn’t used to be able to take a direct accusative object take a direct object.

    This happens with verbs like “antworten” and “beantworten”. Both mean “to answer”, which is often confusing for German learners. “antworten” is used to answer people and that person is indicated in the dative case. There is a sort of implied direct object of “the question”, but there is no real direct object to speak of. “beantworten” by contrast is used to directly answer questions, letters and the like. For example: 

    (be)antworten
    to answer 

    Er antwortet mir nicht.
    He doesn’t answer me. 

    Er beantwortet die Frage nicht.
    He doesn’t answer the question. 

    (be)zaubern
    to do magic, conjure up, (to enchant)

    This is the same for the difference between “zaubern” (to do magic or conjure up) and “bezaubern” (to enchant). 

    Die Hexe zaubert einen Besen.
    The witch conjures up a broom. 

    Die Hexe bezaubert den Besen.
    The witch enchants the broom. 

    In the first one, the witch created a broom (probably from “thin air” or out of nothing). In the second, there is already a broom there and she enchants it, as in the movie “The Sword in the Stone” (Die Hexe und der Zauberer) or Fantasia

    (be)kommen
    to come, (to receive)

    Sometimes the prefix be- shifts the action onto the object or changes it from one object to another. For example the verb “kommen” means “to come”. This indicates that the subject is going in the direction of a destination. If you add be- to this verb, it becomes “bekommen”, which means “to receive”. This moved the action from the person going somewhere to the object moving and the person being stationary. Here it is in action. 

    Ich komme um 3 Uhr.
    I’m coming at 3 o’clock. 

    Ich habe deine E-Mail bekommen.
    I received your email.  

    (be)achten
    to respect, esteem, (to pay attention to, heed)

    Here is another example of this happening with a be- verb. 

    Du solltest deinen Vater achten.
    You should respect/esteem your father. 

    Du solltest die Regeln beachten.
    You should heed/pay attention to/respect the rules. 

    be- Prefix Verb List

    The be- prefix is easily one of the most used inseparable prefixes. One website I read said approximately 25% of all inseparable prefix verbs are made with the be- prefix. That being said, I don’t know where their numbers come from, so take these percentages with a grain of salt. Below you can see a list of all of the verbs I could find with this prefix. I didn’t come up with this. This is from wiktionary.org. A lot of these I have personally never heard or used.

    beachten
    to pay attention to, heed
    beabsichtigen
    to intend
    beanstanden
    to object, make a complaint
    beantragen
    to request, plead
    beantworten
    to answer (a question)
    bearbeiten
    to work on, rework
    bedauern
    to regret, commiserate
    bedanken 
    to thank 
    bedecken
    to cover
    bedenken
    to consider, deliberate
    bedeuten
    to mean, signify
    bedienen
    to serve, operate 
    bedrohen
    to threaten
    beehren
    to honor
    beeilen
    to hurry, be quick
    beenden
    to finish, complete
    beerben
    to succeed, inherit
    beerdigen
    to bury, inter
    befehlen
    to command, order
    befeuern
    to heat
    beflecken
    to sully, taint, stain
    befördern
    to convey, send
    befragen
    to question (someone)
    befreien
    to free, liberate
    befürchten
    to fear 
    begehen
    to commit (an act)
    begehren
    to desire, covet
    begleiten
    to accompany
    beglücken
    to please, bless
    begreifen
    to comprehend
    begrüßen 
    to welcome, greet
    begünstigen
    to promote, favor
    behalten
    to retain, keep
    behandeln
    to treat, handle
    behaupten
    to claim, assert
    beheizen
    to heat
    beherrschen 
    to control
    beirren
    to confuse, mislead
    bejahen
    to affirm, to say yes to
    bekämpfen
    to fight against
    beknien
    to lean on, be urgently
    bekochen
    to cook for someone
    bekommen
    to receive, get
    beköstigen
    to feed someone, cater for
    bekümmern
    to trouble, distress
    belassen
    to leave something
    belasten
    to strain, burden
    belauschen
    to overhear, eavesdrop
    belehnen
    to mortgage
    belehren
    to instruct, lecture
    belobigen
    to commend, praise
    belohnen
    to reward
    belügen
    to lie to someone
    belustigen
    to amuse
    bemächtigen
    to seize, usurp
    bemannen
    to man, crew
    benachrichtigen
    to notify
    benachteiligen
    to wrong, adversely affect
    beobachten
    to watch, observe
    berauben
    to rob, spoil
    bereichern
    to enrich
    bereuen
    to regret
    besamen
    to fertilize, inseminate
    beschäftigen
    to employ, keep busy
    beschatten
    to tail, shadow
    beschenken
    to give presents to
    beschießen
    to batter, bombard
    bescheißen
    to cheat, swindle
    beschlafen
    to bed someone
    beschleunigen
    to accelerate
    beschließen
    to resolve, determine, decide
    beschneiden
    to prune, circumcise 
    beschönigen
    to whitewash, sugarcoat
    beschreiten
    to pursue
    beschuldigen
    to accuse
    beschweren
    to encumber, ballast
    beschwichtigen
    to allay, appease
    beschwören
    to invoke, implore
    besehen
    to look at
    besetzen
    to occupy, man, conquer
    besitzen
    to possess
    bestehen
    to insist, persist
    bestehlen
    to steal from someone
    besteuern
    to tax, impose a tax on
    bestrafen
    to punish, sentence
    bestrahlen
    to irradiate
    bestreuen
    to sprinkle, strew
    bestücken
    to fit, equip
    besuchen
    to attend, visit
    besudeln
    to sully, besmirch 
    betanken
    to refuel, fill up
    betasten
    to palpate, palm
    betätigen
    to operate, activate
    betatschen
    to feel up, grope
    betonen
    to emphasize, enhance
    betören
    to infatuate, beguile
    betrachten
    to consider, contemplate
    betrauern
    to mourn, bemoan
    betreiben
    to pursue, operate
    betreten
    to tread, step on
    betrinken
    to get drunk
    betrügen
    to deceive
    beweisen
    to prove, witness, substantiate
    bewerkstelligen
    to accomplish, bring about
    bewilligen
    to grant, approve, allow
    bezahlen
    to pay
    bezaubern
    to enchant, charm
    bezeichnen
    to denote, designate
    bezichtigen
    to accuse, incriminate
    beziehen
    to refer, correlate
    bezwingen
    to subjugate, conquer

    ent-

    This prefix is relatively popular, too. That website I mentioned just a minute ago said that about 15% of the inseparable prefix verbs start with ent-. It has a general meaning of removing something, but most often is translated with the prefixes un-, de- or dis- in English.

    enthaupten
    to behead, decapitate

    My personal favorite of these verbs doesn’t follow this convention, however. The verb “enthaupten” means “to behead”. (There is the option to translate it as “decapitate”, which would mean it does use one of the aforementioned English prefixes.) There is no verb “haupten”, but there is the noun “Haupt”, which refers to the main part of something. In this case, we have ent- in the front, which makes it so this verb literally means “to remove the main part”.

    Der Henker enthauptet den Verbrecher.
    The executioner beheads/decapitates the criminal. 

    (ent)laden
    to load, (to unload)

    There are some less disturbing examples of this prefix, obviously. For example: the verb “laden” means “to load”, add in ent- and it means “to unload”.  

    Die Bibliothekarin lädt die Bücher in den Wagen.
    The librarian loads the books into the cart. 

    Die Bibliothekarin entlädt die Bücher vom Wagen.
    The librarian unloads the books from the cart. 

    (ent)decken
    to cover, (to discover)

    “decken” means “to cover”, while “entdecken” means “to discover, uncover”. Here they are in action.

    Das Kind deckt den Tisch.
    The child sets the table. (covers the table with required items)

    Das Kind entdeckt Kaugummi unter seinem Schreibtisch.
    The child discovers gum under his desk.

    entfernen
    to remove

    A very popular verb in this category is “entfernen”, which means “to remove”. The base is “fern”, which isn’t a verb, but is an adjective or adverb that means “far”. So this is like removing something far away from where it was. For example: 

    Ich weiß nicht, wie man diese Malware entfernen kann.
    I don’t know how one can remove this malware. 

    (ent)färben
    to color, dye, (to discolor, bleach)

    One that I just think is cool, because of the way it works is “entfärben”, “to bleach or discolor”. There is “färben”, which means “to dye or color”. Adding ent- makes it so you remove the coloring that was added through the verb “färben”. 

    Ich färbe meine Schuhe grün.
    I am dying/coloring my shoes green. 

    Mami, du hast meine Hose entfärbt!
    Mom, you discolored my pants! 

    ent- Prefix Verb List

    You get the idea. ent- makes some sort of removal action with the verb. You could also think of it as a reversal of the action that happened without ent-. Here is the big list of verbs that use this prefix. 

    entarten
    to degenerate
    entblättern
    to shed leaves
    entbrennen
    to flare up, conflagrate
    entdecken
    to discover
    entehren
    to dishonor, defile, defame
    enteilen
    to hasten, hurry away
    enterben
    to disinherit, cut out of one’s will
    entfachen
    to spark, kindle, inflame
    entfernen
    to remove, extract
    entfesseln
    to unleash, set free
    entfetten
    to degrease, defat
    entflammen
    to kindle, inflame, catch fire
    entfliehen
    to escape, get away
    entfolgen
    to unfollow
    entfremden
    to alienate, estrange
    entfärben
    to bleach, decolor
    entführen
    to abduct, kidnap
    entgiften
    to detox
    enthaaren
    to remove hair
    enthäuten
    to skin, flay, peel
    enthüllen
    to expose, unveil, disclose
    entkräften
    to weaken, debilitate
    entlarven
    to reveal, debunk, unmask
    entnehmen
    to extract, withdraw
    entpuppen
    to emerge from its chrysalis/cocoon
    entrosten
    to derust, remove rust
    entschädigen
    to reimburse, compensate, indemnify
    entschärfen
    to defuse, alleviate, disarm
    entsetzen
    to relieve, oust
    entsichern
    to unlock, activate
    entsprießen
    to arise from something
    entspringen
    to arise from, spring up
    entstehen
    to emerge, rise
    entwaffnen
    to disarm
    entzaubern
    to disenchant, break the spell, debunk
    entzünden
    to kindle, inflame, ignite

    emp-

    This is a variant of ent-, but is only used with these three verbs and verbs derived from them. 

    empfangen
    to receive 
    empfehlen
    to recommend 
    empfinden
    to feel, sense

    Ich habe keine Nachrichten empfangen.
    I haven’t received any (phone) notifications. 

    Der Kellner empfiehlt den Rinderbraten.
    The waiter recommends the roast beef. 

    Wir empfinden eine große Verantwortung für die heutigen Probleme.
    We feel a great responsibility for the problems of today. 

    er-

    This prefix is another pretty popular one. That website I keep mentioning says it makes up 10% of all inseparable prefix verbs in German.

    It can be used to initiate the action of the verb. For example: “lernen” means “to learn”, but “erlernen” is usually translated as “to master”. It can also be translated as “to learn”, however, which makes it a bit confusing. This verb is different from “lernen” in that with “lernen”, you are adding to your knowledge and the previous level of knowledge is unknown or unclear. With “erlernen”, we know that you had no prior knowledge about the subject and the learning process has begun with the sentence that you are saying. 

    Ich lerne Deutsch.
    I am learning German.

    We don’t know how much German I knew before this sentence, but we know that the knowledge has increased as a result of this sentence.

    Ich erlerne Deutsch.
    I am acquiring/learning German.

    We can tell with the prefix er- that I previously didn’t have any knowledge of the language, but I am initiating the learning process with this sentence.

    (er)trinken
    to drink, (to drown)

    A strange, but colorful example of this is “trinken”, which means “to drink” and “ertrinken”, which means “to drown”. 

    Er trinkt Wasser.
    He is drinking water. 

    Er ist im Wackelpudding ertrunken.
    He drowned in pudding. 

    Verbs from Adjectives with er-

    You can create a verb from an adjective using er-. If possible, the verb will add an umlaut to the base of the verb when you do this.

    erniedrigen
    to humiliate

    For example: The adjective “niedrig” means “low”. When you add the prefix er- and the requisite -en at the end to make it a verb, it becomes “erniedrigen”, which is “to humiliate”. Literally “to make someone low”. As I mentioned before er- initiates the action of the verb, which means that this verb is literally starting the lowering of someone.

    Der Muttersprachler erniedrigt den Lehrer, indem er jede Kleinigkeit korrigiert.
    The native speaker humiliates the teacher by correcting every little thing.  

    ergänzen
    to complete

    Another example of this is often used in worksheets. The adjective “ganz” means “whole”. The verb version “ergänzen” means “to complete or make whole”. Again, we are initiating the action of making something whole with this verb. For example: 

    Ergänze die folgenden Sätze!
    Complete the following sentences. 

    er- Prefix Verb List

    Here is the obligatory list of verbs that use the prefix er-. 

    erachten
    to consider, think of (in a certain way)
    erarbeiten
    to develop, compile, work towards
    erbauen
    to build, construct
    erbeben
    to shudder, tremble, quake
    erbetteln
    to be, panhandle
    erbeuten
    to prey, capture, entrap
    erbieten
    to undertake, offer, volunteer
    erbitten
    to solicit, request, petition
    erblassen
    to fade, grow/turn pale
    erblicken
    to behold, catch sight of
    erblühen
    to blossom, bloom
    erbrechen
    to vomit
    erbringen
    to render, perform, generate
    erdenken
    to conceive, think up
    erdreisten
    to dare, venture
    erdrosseln
    to choke, strangle
    erdrücken
    to overwhelm, crush/smother (to death)
    erdulden
    to endure, tolerate
    ereifern
    to get excited about something
    ereilen
    to befall, overtake
    ererben
    to inherit
    erfahren
    to experience
    erfassen
    to capture, collect, acquire
    erfinden
    to invent
    erfolgen
    to follow, ensue
    erfordern
    to require, demand
    erfragen
    to inquire about, ask
    erfreuen
    to please, delight
    erfrieren
    to freeze to death 
    erfrischen
    to refresh
    erfüllen
    to fulfill, accomplish, satisfy
    ergänzen
    to complete, complement
    ergaunern
    to scam
    ergeben
    to yield, give, reveal
    ergießen
    to pour, spill
    ergrauen
    to grey, turn grey
    ergreifen
    to seize, grasp, grab
    erhalten
    to obtain, receive
    erhängen
    to hang (to death)
    erhärten
    to solidify, confirm
    erheben
    to raise, elevate
    erheischen
    to command (attention)
    erhellen
    to lighten, illuminate
    erhitzen
    to heat, warm
    erhöhen
    to raise, increase
    erhoffen
    to anticipate, wish for
    erholen
    to rally, recover
    erhören
    to answer (a prayer, plea)
    erkälten
    to catch a cold
    erkämpfen
    to eke out, carve out
    erkaufen
    to buy, pay dearly fo
    erkennen
    to recognize, realize
    erkiesen
    to choose
    erklären
    to explain, declare
    erklimmen
    to crest, clamber
    erklingen
    to resound, ring out
    erkranken
    to sicken, become diseased
    erküren
    to choose
    erlahmen
    to languish, grow weak
    erlangen
    to gain, obtain
    erlassen
    to exempt, cancel, abate
    erleben
    to experience
    erledigen
    to manage, finish, take care of 
    erlegen
    to slay, kill
    erleiden
    to suffer, incur
    erlernen
    to learn, master
    erlesen
    to select
    erleuchten
    to illuminate
    erliegen
    to succumb
    erlöschen
    to lapse, expire 
    erlösen
    to release, save
    erlügen
    to fabricate something
    ermahnen
    to urge, caution, remind
    ermangeln
    to lack
    ermitteln
    to determine, investigate
    ermöglichen
    to enable, make possible
    ermorden
    to murder, assassinate
    ermüden
    to tire, fatigue
    ermuntern
    to encourage, cheer up
    ermutigen
    to encourage, embolden
    ernähren
    to nourish, feed
    ernennen
    to appoint, nominate 
    erniedrigen
    to humiliate, debase
    eröffnen
    to establish, initiate
    erpressen
    to blackmail, extort
    erproben
    to prove, attempt, try
    erraten
    to guess, answer
    errechnen
    to reckon, calculate
    erregen
    to thrill, excite
    erreichen
    to obtain, reach, accomplish
    erretten
    to redeem, save
    errichten
    to erect, establish
    erringen
    to achieve, gain, win
    erröten
    to blush, flush, redden
    ersaufen
    to drown
    erschlaffen
    to go limp, slacken
    erschaffen
    to create, fabricate
    erschallen
    to resound, ring out
    erschauen
    to behold, see
    erscheinen
    to appear, emerge
    erschießen
    to shoot (and kill)
    erschlagen
    to slay, beat (to death)
    erschließen
    to exploit, develop
    erschöpfen
    to deplete, exhaust
    erschrecken
    to scare, frighten
    ersehen
    to see, learn from
    ersehnen
    to crave, desire
    ersetzen
    to replace, substitute
    erspähen
    to spy, discover
    erstarren
    to stiffen, congeal
    erstaunen
    to astonish, amaze
    erstechen
    to stab (to death)
    erstellen
    to issue, compile, build
    ersterben
    to die away (down)
    ersticken
    to choke, suffocate
    erstreben
    to strive, aim at
    erstreiten
    to contend successfully for
    erstürmen
    to storm, take by storm
    ertappen
    to cop, catch out
    erteilen
    to confer, award, administer
    ertönen
    to sound, resonate
    ertragen
    to bear, endure, tolerate
    ertränken
    to drown
    erträumen
    to picture, dream of
    ertrinken
    to drown
    ertüchtigen
    to toughen up, get fit
    erwachsen
    to grow up
    erwägen 
    to contemplate, deliberate
    erwählen
    to choose, elect, select
    erwärmen
    to warm (up)
    erwarten
    to expect
    erwecken
    to arouse, inspire
    erwehren
    to resist, ward off
    erweichen
    to melt, soften
    erweisen
    to prove, demonstrate
    erweitern
    to expand, broaden
    erwerben
    to acquire, earn, procure
    erwidern
    to respond, retort, reply
    erwirken
    to effect, obtain
    erwirtschaften
    to earn, obtain
    erwischen
    to catch, nab, seize
    erwürgen
    to choke, strangle
    erzählen
    to tell, narrate
    erzeigen
    to prove, show
    erzeugen
    to generate, manufacture, constitute
    erziehen
    to educate, rear, train
    erzielen
    to achieve, attain, obtain
    erzürnen
    to irritate, anger, offend
    erzwingen
    to compel, force, extort

    ge-

    This is my least favorite prefix, because the meaning seems to be completely arbitrary. It’s like the Germans ran out of prefixes to use and so they just threw all of the other verbs into this category. Luckily it isn’t nearly as popular as some of the other prefixes with more definitive meanings. 

    (ge)brauchen
    to need, (to use)

    I hate the verbs “brauchen” and “gebrauchen”. “brauchen” means “to need”, but “gebrauchen” means “to use”. 

    Ich brauche einen Bleistift.
    I need a pencil. 

    Ich habe einen Bleistift gebraucht.
    I needed a pencil. 

    Ich gebrauche einen Bleistift.
    I am using a pencil. 

    Ich habe den Bleistift gebrauchen.
    I used the pencil. 

    THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IN THE PERFEKT TENSE IS -EN vs -T! 

    (ge)denken
    to think, (to commemorate)

    “denken” and “gedenken” are worse. Check out these examples:

    Ich denke an deine Mutter.
    I am thinking about your mother. 

    Ich habe oft an deine Mutter gedacht.
    I thought about your mother often. 

    Mit dieser Tafel gedenken wir den Soldaten.
    With this plaque we are commemorating the soldiers. 

    Mit dieser Tafel haben wir den Soldaten gedacht.
    With this plaque we commemorated the soldiers.

    This time there is literally no difference between the past participle of “gedenken” and “denken”. You can tell based on the use and the context, but still, that is bothersome. 

    Basically what I am saying is that you need to be careful with verbs with the prefix ge-, as they often have a non-prefixed version that shares some scary similarities to the prefixed version.

    ge- Prefix Verb List

    As I mentioned before, the prefix ge- isn’t nearly as popular as some of the other prefixes on our list for today, so the list for this prefix is shorter. 

    gebieten
    to demand, command
    gebrauchen
    to use
    gedenken
    to commemorate
    gefallen
    to please, delight
    gefrieren
    to freeze, congeal
    geruhen
    to condescend
    gehören
    to belong to
    geleiten
    to usher, escort
    genießen
    to enjoy, relish
    gerinnen
    to congeal, clot
    gestehen
    to confess, admit
    geziemen
    to become, befit, behoove

    miss-

    Unlike ge-, miss- is super easy to use. It is pretty much the same as the English prefix mis-. This prefix indicates something went awry. It didn’t go as planned. Something is bad.

    (miss)achten
    to respect, regard, (to disregard, disobey)

    For example: “achten” means “to respect or regard”, but “missachten” means “to disregard, disobey”. 

    Wir achten das Gesetz.
    We respect the law. 

    Er hat die Warnung missachtet.
    He is disregarded the warning. 

    (miss)trauen
    to trust, (to mistrust)

    “trauen” is “to trust”, but “misstrauen” is “to mistrust”. 

    Ich traue ihm nicht.
    I don’t trust him. 

    Ich misstraue ihm.
    I mistrust him. 

    (miss)(ver)stehen
    to stand, (to understand),

    A fun one is “missverstehen”, as it has two prefixes, miss- and ver-. Both of them are inseparable. “stehen” means “to stand”. “verstehen” means “to understand”. “missverstehen” means “to misunderstand”. 

    stehen – to stand
    Elmo steht in der Ecke.
    Elmo is standing in the corner. 

    verstehen – to understand
    Elmo versteht den Mann.
    Elmo understands the man. 

    missverstehen – to misunderstand
    Elmo missversteht den Mann.
    Elmo misunderstands the man. 

    miss- Prefix Verb List

    The list for this prefix is pretty short, too. 

    missachten
    to disregard, flout
    missbrauchen
    to misuse, abuse
    missdeuten
    to misconstrue, misinterpret
    missgönnen
    to grudge, begrudge
    misshandeln
    to abuse, maltreat
    misslingen
    to fail, miscarry, be unsuccessful
    misstrauen
    to mistrust, distrust, suspect
    missverstehen
    to misunderstand

    ver- 

    There are a ton of verbs that start with ver-. This is partially due to the fact that this prefix is relatively flexible with its meanings. There are several categories into which one can classify verbs with the prefix ver-, but they all have one overarching idea. The prefix ver- changes the direction of the verb. It doesn’t point it in a particular direction, it simply means that it isn’t in the direction that the verb went prior to the prefix ver- being applied. The actual direction is expressed through the rest of the sentence.  

    (ver)laufen
    to walk, run, (to get lost)

    The first category that most people mention is a concept of completing or going away. The verb “laufen” means “to run, walk, or at the very least go on foot”. Generally there is a direction or destination in mind when the “laufen” takes place. When you add ver-, you get “verlaufen”, which translates as “to get lost”. It literally is going somewhere, but you don’t end up where you wanted to go. You could think of it as indicating that something is going to excess or in a bad way. 

    If you want to point the direction of a verb with ver- in a particular direction, you need to add a bit more info to the sentence to give that context, as the verb and prefix combination on their own can’t do that. 

    Ich laufe zum Bahnhof.
    I am running to the train station.

    The destination is clear and I purposefully reached the destination.

    Ich verlaufe mich zum Bahnhof.
    I lose myself to the train station.

    In this sentence “laufen” is not going straight to the train station. The subject is lost or getting lost, but still arrives at the train station even though he got lost or because he got lost. 

    (ver)hungern
    to hunger, (to starve)

    “hungern” is translated as “to hunger”, but “verhungern” is “to starve”. Literally to hunger to excess. 

    Du wirst nicht mehr hungern oder dursten.
    You will no longer hunger or thirst. 

    Ich muss frühstücken, sonst werde ich verhungern.
    I need to eat breakfast, otherwise I will starve. 

    (ver)jagen
    to hunt, (to chase away)

    “jagen” is “to hunt”, but “verjagen” is “to chase away”. 

    Der Eiskönig jagt den Drachen.
    The ice king hunts the dragon. 

    Der Drachen verjagt die Schafe.
    The dragon chases away the sheep. 

    (ver)achten
    to respect, regard, (to despise)

    I’ve mentioned “achten” a couple of times now. When you add ver-, you get “to despise”. You “regard” them in the wrong direction.

    Mein Hund verachtet Eichhörnchen.
    My dog despises squirrels. 

    vereinfachen
    to simplify

    It can also imbue a verb with an attribute by changing a noun or adjective into a verb. “vereinfachen”, for example means “to make simple”, as the word “einfach” means “simple”. 

    Sollte ich diese Arbeit vereinfachen?
    Should I make this work easier? 

    versteinern
    to petrify, turn to stone

    You can make things into stone using the verb “versteinern”, which comes from the noun “Stein” or “stone”. 

    Nach ein paar Millionen Jahren versteinern die Bäume.
    After a few  million years, the trees turn to stone (petrify). 

    verkörpern
    to embody, represent

    You can also do this with slightly less literal verbs like “verkörpern” (to embody), which comes from the noun, “der Körper” (the body). 

    Diese Schlange verkörpert keine Gefahr.
    This snake represents (embodies) no danger. 

    ver- Prefix Verb List

    As I mentioned earlier, this is the most popular inseparable prefix in the German language. That website I keep mentioning says it makes up 45% of all inseparable verbs, but this is the one that makes me question their numbers, as I found fewer verbs with ver- than er-. 

    verabreichen
    to administer, deliver
    verabscheuen
    to abhor, detest, nauseate
    verabschieden
    to dismiss, see off, say goodbye
    veralbern
    to tease, stultify
    verallgemeinern
    to generalize, universalise
    verändern
    to change, alter, modify
    veranlassen
    to prompt, induce
    verantworten
    to answer (for something)
    verarbeiten
    to process, manufacture
    verärgern
    to annoy, exasperate
    verarschen
    to hoax, to take someone for a ride
    verarzten
    to doctor, administer first aid to someone
    verballern
    to squander, waste
    verbannen
    to banish, relegate
    verbeamten
    to make someone a civil servant
    verbessern
    to improve, enhance
    verbieten
    to forbid, prohibit, ban
    verbinden
    to connect, link
    verbraten
    to waste, fritter away
    verbuddeln
    to bury, plant
    verderben
    to spoil, taint, ruin
    verdienen
    to earn, deserve
    verdingen
    to hire out
    verehren
    to worship, adore, revere
    verelenden
    to immiserate, pauperize
    verengen
    to constrict, narrow
    vererben
    to bequeath, hand down
    verfahren
    to proceed, act
    verfallen
    to decay, expire, decline
    verfassen
    to indict, draft, compose
    verfeinden
    to make enemies of
    verflachen
    to flatten, degenerate
    verflüssigen
    to liquefy
    verfolgen
    to pursue, follow
    verfremden
    to alienate
    verfügen
    to command, decree
    verführen
    to seduce, allure, mislead
    vergessen
    to forget
    vergeuden
    to squander, waste
    vergolden
    to gild, gold-plate
    vergöttern
    to adore, idolize
    vergraben
    to bury
    vergrößern
    to enhance, increase
    verhalten
    to restrain, control
    verhauen
    to whack, spank
    verheißen
    to augur, promise
    verhelfen
    to help provide
    verhunzen
    to ruin, spoil
    verhütten
    to smelt ore
    verirren
    to stray, become lost
    verkaufen
    to sell
    verkehren
    to pervert
    verklären
    to glorify
    verkörpern
    to embody, epitomize
    verköstigen
    to feed, provide with meals
    verkünden
    to declare, proclaim
    verkuppeln
    to matchmake
    verlangsamen
    to decelerate, slow down
    verlassen
    to leave, desert
    verleugnen
    to disown, deny
    verlieren
    to lose, forfeit
    verludern
    to squander
    vermachen
    to bequeath
    vermehren
    to increase, multiply
    vermindern
    to reduce, impair, shrink
    vermissen
    to miss
    vermöbeln
    to lambast, thrash, bash, beat up
    vermüllen
    to litter
    vernageln
    to nail up something, board up
    verpassen
    to miss
    verpissen
    to bugger off, eff off, piss off
    verprassen
    to squander, blow, fritter away
    verprügeln
    to batter, pummel, wallop
    verpulvern
    to blow (money)
    versachlichen
    to objectify
    versagen
    to fail, malfunction, fall through
    versalzen
    to oversalt
    versanden
    to silt up, fizzle out, peter out
    verschalen
    to lag, plank
    verscherzen
    to forfeit, trifle away
    verschießen
    to misplay, shoot away
    verschlampen
    to lose
    verschütten
    to spill
    verschwenden
    to dissipate, squander, waste
    verschwimmen
    to become blurred, grow hazy
    verschwinden
    to disappear, vanish
    verseuchen
    to pollute, infect, contaminate
    versichern
    to assure, assert, insure
    versieben
    to squander a chance
    versilbern
    to silver-plate, cover with silver
    versinken
    to sink
    versohlen
    to belt, leather, paddle
    verstehen
    to understand, comprehend
    versuchen
    to attempt, try
    vertiefen
    to deepen, intensify
    vertreiben
    to banish, displace
    vertreten
    to substitute, deputize
    vertun
    to waste, squander, fool away
    vervielfältigen
    to duplicate, manifold
    verwahrlosen
    to go to seed, become dilapidated
    verwässern
    to dilute, water down
    verweichlichen
    to grow soft, sissify, render effeminate
    verwerfen
    to repudiate, condemn, abolish
    verwirken
    to forfeit
    verwünschen
    to imprecate, cuss, curse
    verwursten
    to rehash, make into sausage

    zer-

    This prefix is used to destroy things or break them into pieces. I mean that literally. Words like “stören” (to bother, disturb) change into “zerstören” (to destroy). Literally that would be to bother or disturb to pieces. Here is an example. 

    (zer)stören
    to disturb, bother, (to destroy)

    Bitte, stör mich nicht, während ich arbeite.
    Please, don’t disturb me while I am working. 

    Ein Feuer hat den Wald zerstört.
    A fire destroyed the forest. 

    (zer)teilen
    to divide, share, (to cut up/off)

    It doesn’t have to be this drastic, however, as the verb “teilen” means “to divide”, but when zer- is added it becomes “zerteilen” (to cut up/off). 

    Seine Mutter teilt den Kuchen.
    His mother divides (shares) the cake. 

    Die Mauer hat Berliner 28 Jahre zerteilt.
    The wall cut the Berliners off for 28 years.

    (zer)beißen
    to bite, (to bite in two, chew up)

    Of course there are a lot of terrible verbs in this list, because they all mean to destroy something by means of the main part of the verb. For example: 

    Der Hund hat mich gebissen.
    The dog bit me. 

    Das Schnabeltier hat meinen Finger zerbissen.
    The platypus chewed up my finger. 

    (zer)pflücken
    to pick, (to pick apart)

    Der Junge pflückt ein paar Blumen.
    The boy picks a few flowers. 

    Der Junge zerpflückt ein paar Blumen.
    The boy picks a few flowers apart. 

    zer- Prefix Verb List

    Here is the last big list of verbs for the day. 

    zerbeißen
    to masticate, bite something in two, chew
    zerbersten
    to burst, rupture
    zerbomben
    to bomb to pieces
    zerbröckeln
    to crumble
    zerdrücken
    to crush, squash
    zerfahren
    to kill (with a vehicle), flatten
    zerfleddern
    to tatter
    zerfleischen
    to mangle, tear to pieces
    zerfressen
    to erode, corrode
    zergliedern
    to parse, dismember, dissect
    zerhacken
    to mince, hack, chop up
    zerhauen
    to beat to pieces
    zerkauen
    to scrunch, chew up, masticate
    zerknautschen
    to crumple
    zerknüllen
    to rumple, wad into a ball
    zerkrümeln
    to crumble
    zerlassen
    to melt
    zermanschen
    to smash
    zermartern
    to torment
    zermürben
    to demoralize, wear down
    zerpflücken
    to pick to pieces
    zerreiben
    to grind, pulverize
    zerrütten
    to subvert, ruin, wreck, destroy
    zersägen
    to saw up, slab, cut up
    zerschellen
    to burst, shatter, smash to pieces
    zerschlagen
    to smite, batter, break
    zerschmelzen
    to melt (away)
    zerschneiden
    to cut, carve, dissect
    zerschrammen
    to bruise, seam
    zerspalten
    to split
    zersprengen
    to scatter
    zerspringen
    to burst, shatter
    zerstampfen
    to pound, bruise, pulverize
    zerteilen
    to dissipate, dissect, break up, divide up
    zertrennen
    to disjoint, sever, separate
    zertreten
    to squelch, trample, scrunch
    zertrümmern
    to smash, break, pound
    zerwühlen
    to dishevel, churn up, make a mess of
    zerzausen
    to ruffle, rough up

    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.