Less Common Separable Prefixes

    In this lesson I will teach you what some less common separable prefixes mean and how to use them with a variety of examples. If you want to know the rules for these prefixes, please check out my other post about that. Click here if you want to know how to use the most common separable prefixes. 

    For additional materials for this lesson including a worksheet with answer key, click here.

    auseinander- 

    This first prefix, “auseinander-” is pretty easy to understand. It generally is translated with the word “apart”. This is very clear in verbs like “auseinanderfallen”, which means “to fall apart”. It is less apparent in verbs like “auseinandersetzen”, which means “to confront, deal with”. Take apart the verb and you will see how it works, however. I already said “auseinander-” means “apart”. The verb “setzen” is “to set, put”. You are literally setting it apart. Here are a few examples of this prefix in action. 

    auseinanderfallen
    to fall apart 

    Dieses Buch fällt auseinander.
    This book is falling apart. 

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    auseinanderbauen
    to dismantle, take apart 

    Um mehr Arbeitsspeicher in meinem Computer zu installieren, muss ich ihn zuerst auseinanderbauen.
    In order to install more RAM in my computer, I have to take it apart first. 

    auseinandersetzen
    to confront, deal with

    Der Politiker musste sich mit der Realität der Situation auseinandersetzen.
    The politician had to confront the reality of the situation.

    Tragen Sie eine Maske, wenn Sie nicht zu Hause sind!
    Wear a mask if you aren’t at home.

    empor- 

    The next prefix is “empor-”, which indicates an upward movement towards the top of something or to the highest point possible. emporheben, for example, means to lift up and is often used with religious connotations of things going towards heaven such as blessings and praise. Here are some examples of this prefix. 

    emporheben
    to lift up 

    Die besten Menschen heben ihren Blick zu geistigen Höhen empor.
    The best people turn their gaze to spiritual heights. 

    emporstreben
    to aspire to a high level 

    Kleine Kinder glauben oft daran, dass sie zu grenzenlosen Höhen emporstreben können.
    Small children often believe that they can aspire to infinite/limitless heights. 

    emporsteigen
    to climb to a high level 

    Bane steigt aus dem Abgrund empor.
    Bane climbs out of the pit. 

    entgegen- 

    This prefix also indicates motion, but this time it is towards something or against something. This doesn’t have to be as literal as some of you might think. For example: entgegenkommen means to meet, as you are kind of coming towards someone until you are against them. Here are a few examples of “entgegen-”. 

    entgegenkommen
    to come to meet 

    Batman kommt Bane entgegen.
    Batman comes to meet Bane. 

    It can also mean that Batman tries to please Bane to get a compromise with him.

    Er kommt ihm beim Vertragsinhalt entgegen.
    He accommodates him in the content of the contract.

    entgegennehmen
    to receive, accept 

    Der durstige Kunde nimmt das Wasser mit Dank entgegen.
    The thirsty customer accepts the water with thanks. 

    entgegensetzen
    to resist, oppose

    This verb is actually saying that you are putting something in the path of something else. The “setzen” part tells you that it is placing something. The “entgegen-” part tells you where it is being placed. As I mentioned “entgegen-” is towards something or against something. That means whatever the object is in the sentence is being placed towards being against something. It takes a bit to wrap your brain around that, but this example helps.) 

    Eine kleine Gruppe setzte den neuen Regeln Widerstand entgegen.
    A small group opposed the new rules. 

    A small group is the one doing something. They are setting something. The object “Widerstand” is resistance. So the group is placing resistance. The direction is towards the indirect object, the rules. The entgegen- part tells us that the resistance is against the rules. 

    entlang- 

    You may recognize “entlang” as a preposition that is generally listed with the accusative prepositions. This is slightly confusing, as it is actually more than likely being used in those examples as a prefix to whatever the verb is. When used as an actual preposition, “entlang” requires the genitive case. 

    The prefix “entlang-” means “along” and can be seen in the following examples. 

    entlanglaufen
    to walk along 

    Wir laufen diese Straße entlang.
    We are walking along this street. 

    entlangblicken
    to look along (look at something from end to end)

    Der Polizist blickt den Bus entlang.
    The police officer looks along the bus. 

    entlangfahren
    to drive along 

    Meine Familie fährt gerne den See entlang.
    My family likes to drive along the lake. 

    entzwei- 

    “entzwei-” is an easy prefix to understand. It means “in two”, so whatever the action of the verb is, it is being done in such a way that something becomes two parts. You can see that in the following examples: 

    entzweibeißen
    to bite in two 

    Mein Sohn beißt den Bleistift entzwei.
    My son bites the pencil in two. 

    entzweigehen
    to go in two, fall into two pieces 

    Meine Brille ist entzweigegangen.
    My glasses broke in two. 

    entzweireißen
    to rip in two

    Der Lehrer reißt meinen Aufsatz entzwei.
    The teacher is tearing my essay in two. 

    fern- 

    One that makes it into almost every textbook is “fern-”. This prefix is incredibly rare. It means “far”, but is generally translated with the English prefix “tele-”. The most common of these is “fernsehen”, which is “to watch TV”. It is literally “seeing far”, but that’s exactly what television is. Vision – seeing, tele- – far. Here are a few examples of fern-. 

    fernsehen
    to watch TV 

    Heute Abend sehen wir nur fern.
    This evening we are just watching TV. 

    fernhalten
    to keep away 

    Ich halte meine Kinder von Politikern fern.
    I keep my children away from politicians. 

    fernlenken
    to control remotely 

    Das Kind lenkt das Auto fern.
    The child controls the car remotely. 

    für- 

    “für-” means “for” or “in one’s stead”. Nowadays “für” is used as a preposition or a prefix for nouns made from archaic verbs. For example: the verb “fürsprechen” is to advocate or to speak for someone. This hasn’t been used like this in a couple hundred years, but the noun “Fürsprecher” still remains and you can use the combination of “für” as a preposition and “sprechen” to mean the same as the old verb “fürsprechen”. Since this video is about lesser used prefixes, I thought it needed to be included, but there are very few verbs that actually use this as a prefix and those that do are archaic or seldom used. I’m not even going to give examples of its use in sentences, as there aren’t really any examples to be given. 

    gegen- 

    Another one that is mostly used as a prefix for nouns made from out of use verbs is “gegen-”. This prefix means “against”, but doesn’t have to be literal. “gegenchecken”, for example, is like the English verb “double check”. It could also be thought of as “counter checking” or “re-checking”. 

    gegenchecken
    to double check 

    Wir müssen alles das, was er sagt gegenchecken.
    We have to double check everything that he says. 

    gegenzeichnen
    to countersign

    Er zeichnet den Vertrag gegen.
    He countersigns the contract. 

    gegenüber- 

    As a preposition “gegenüber” means “across from”. As a prefix, it means the same, but it is saying that whatever the action of the verb is, is being done in such a way that the subject travels to a position across from something or someone else. For example: 

    gegenübersehen
    to be faced with, suddenly see someone in front of you (unexpectedly) 

    Plötzlich sah ich mich dem Verbrecher gegenüber.
    Suddenly I was faced with the criminal.
    (Literally: Suddenly I saw myself across from the criminal.)

    gegenübersitzen
    to sit across from 

    Der Mann und seine Noch-Ehefrau sitzen sich gegenüber.
    The man and his soon-to-be ex-wife are sitting across from each other. 

    gegenübertreten
    to walk in front of 

    Bigfoot ist mir gerade gegenübergetreten.
    Bigfoot just walked in front of me.

    A “Tritt” is literally one step. To be more precise, lift one of your feet and put it back on the ground, that’s a Tritt. The direction of this movement/action is not important, but is expressed by context. That’s why you can say “auf der Stelle treten” (to tread water or not make any progress), “jemanden treten” (to kick someone), “zurücktreten” (figuratively to resign and literally to step back). “Treten” is the sequence of doing Tritte. If you use the verb “gegenübertreten”, you are stopping in front of someone. Bigfoot didn’t continue walking after he stepped in front of me. He just stood there for a bit. 

    heim- 

    The prefix “heim-” isn’t very common. It simply means home, so there is a finite number of verbs that you can use it with. You can go home, drive home, fly home and so on, but that is pretty much the extent of it. Here are a few examples. 

    heimgehen
    to go home 

    Ich gehe jetzt heim.
    I am going home now. 

    heimbringen
    to bring home 

    Wir bringen morgen unseren neuen Hund heim.
    Tomorrow we are bringing our new dog home. 

    heimführen
    to lead home 

    Ich war so müde, dass mein Hund mich heimführen musste.
    I was so tired that my dog had to lead me home. 

    hinterher- 

    The prefix “hinterher-” means “afterwards” or “after that”. It is basically a prefix that functions as an adverb. Here are a few examples. 

    hinterherkommen
    to follow, come after 

    Nach dem ersten Auto kamen vier SUVs hinterher.
    After the first car four SUVs followed. 

    hinterherwerfen
    to throw at someone (from behind or as they are leaving) 

    Der Mobber warf dem Mädchen Steine hinterher.
    The bully threw rocks at the girl as she left. 

    hinterherhinken
    to lag behind (literally: to limp behind)

    Die USA hinkt der Europäischen Union hinterher, wenn es darum geht, COVID-19 unter Kontrolle zu bringen.
    The USA is lagging behind the European Union when it comes to getting COVID-19 under control.

    los- 

    A relatively popular prefix is “los-”. This prefix indicates that something is starting, such as in the verbs “losgehen” (to start) or “loskichern” (to stark snickering/giggling). It can also mean “away” as in the verbs “losketten” (to unchain) or “losbekommen” (to get something loose/off). And now, examples. 

    losfahren
    to start driving 

    Sobald ich meine Mutter sehe, fahre ich los.
    As soon as I see my mother I start driving (away). 

    losbekommen
    to get something loose/off 

    Mein Vater konnte den Deckel nicht losbekommen.
    My father couldn’t get the lid loose/off. 

    losbinden
    to untie, let loose 

    Der Jäger bindet den Fuchs los.
    The hunter is untying the fox. (The hunter is letting the fox loose.) 

    neben- 

    If you are familiar with the preposition “neben”, which means “next to”, you will understand this prefix pretty easily. It indicates that two or more things are immediately adjacent to each other. As with the prefixes “gegen-” and “für-” the prefix “neben-” is mostly used for nouns now.

    The nouns created with this prefix (and the others for that matter), are usually noun versions of verbs. For example: “darstellen” is “to act”. A “Darsteller” is an actor. A “Nebendarsteller” is a supporting actor. You might also see this prefix combined with “einander” to become “nebeneinander-”, which you can see in the verb “nebeneinanderhalten” (to hold next to one another). All of the other verbs like this are incredibly similar: nebeneinandersitzen – to sit next to one another, nebeneinanderstellen – to place next to one another, and so on. You get the idea. Here are a few examples for good measure. 

    nebeneinanderhalten
    to hold next to one another 

    Der Verkäufer hält die Ohrringe zum Vergleich nebeneinander.
    The salesman holds the earrings next to each other for comparison. 

    nebeneinandersitzen
    to sit next to one another 

    Meine Eltern verweigern nebeneinanderzusitzen.
    My parents refuse to sit next to each another. 

    nebeneinanderstellen
    to place next to one another 

    Der Kellner stellt die Gläser nebeneinander.
    The waiter puts the glasses next to each other. 

    nieder- 

    The prefix “nieder-” indicates a downward direction. This is apparent in verbs like “niederbeugen” (to bow down) and “niederbrennen” (to burn down). Here are some examples in sentences. 

    niederbeugen
    to bow down

    Der Ritter beugt sich vor dem König nieder.
    The knight bows down before the king. 

    niederbrennen
    to burn down 

    Tina Weymouth brennt das Haus nieder.
    Tina Weymouth is burning down the house.

    niederdrücken
    to turn/push downwards 

    Als ich die Türklinke niederdrückte, sah ich den Schatten hinter mir.
    As I turned the door handle, I saw the shadow behind me. 

    weiter- 

    To add the idea of a continuation or onwards motion, use the prefix “weiter-”. For example: 

    weiterfahren
    to drive on, continue driving 

    Nachdem wir getankt haben, sind wir weitergefahren.
    After we filled up on gas, we drove on (continued driving). 

    weiterziehen
    to move on, continue on 

    Die Nomaden zogen weiter.
    The nomads continued on. 

    weitersprechen
    to continue talking 

    Nachdem er einen Schluck Wasser getrunken hat, hat er weitergesprochen.
    After he took a drink of water, he continued talking. 

    zurück- 

    The word “zurück” means “back”. As a prefix, it makes a verb return to the origin or go back to something where it previously was. For example: 

    zurückkommen
    to come back

    Sie kamen um 3 Uhr morgens von der Party zurück.
    They came back from the party at 3 am. 

    zurückbringen
    to bring back

    Mein Nachbar hat meine Werkzeuge nicht zurückgebracht.
    My neighbor didn’t bring back my tools. 

    zurückhalten
    to hold back, restrain 

    Der Biergarten hält ein Euro als Pfand zurück.
    The beer garden keeps a Euro as a deposit. 

    zusammen-

    The prefix “zusammen-” means together. Whatever the action of the verb is brings two or more things or people towards each other. For example: 

    zusammenschieben
    to push together 

    zusammensitzen
    to sit together 

    Der Kellner schiebt die zwei kleinen Tische zusammen, damit wir alle zusammensitzen können.
    The waiter is pushing the two small tables together so that we can all sit together. 

    zusammenwachsen
    to grow together 

    Es dauerte sechs Wochen bevor mein Beinknochen wieder zusammenwuchs.
    It took 6 weeks before my leg bone grew back together. 

    zusammenbinden
    to tie together 

    Herr Antrim bindet seine Maske hinter seinem Kopf zusammen, damit sie nicht immer auf seine Ohren drücken.
    Herr Antrim ties his mask together behind his head, so that it doesn’t always push on his ears. 

    For additional materials for this lesson including a worksheet with answer key, click here.

    As I mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, these prefixes are less common than the ones I talked about last week. If you haven’t seen that video or the others in this series about prefixes added to German verbs, you can see them all in this playlist linked here. Das ist alles für heute. Danke fürs Zuschauen. Bis zum nächsten Mal. Tschüss. 

    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.