Separable Prefix Verb Song
Nikki J asked me on YouTube several months ago if I could do a song about the separable prefixes in German. It took me a while to write, but here is my Separable Prefix Song.
How to Separable Prefix Verbs Work in German?
So let’s take a closer look at the grammar in this song. Separable prefix verbs are called that because they have prefixes and get removed occasionally. If you use a separable prefix verb in the present tense, you are almost always going to put the prefix at the end of the sentence. There are a few examples of this below.
Der Fußballspieler gibt den Ball ab.
The soccer player passes the ball.
Heute Abend gehen meine Freundin und ich aus.
This evening, my girlfriend and I are going out.
Separable Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries
This doesn’t work, however, if there is a modal auxiliary involved or you are using the future tense with the verb “werden”. In those cases, you use the infinitive form of the verb, which would have the prefix reattached.
Ich muss 10 Kilo abholen.
I have to lose 10 pounds.
Was wirst du mitbringen?
What will you bring along?
When Separable Prefixes Don’t Separate
This, however, isn’t the only time you will put the prefix back on to the verb. If you have been following my 3 Minuten Deutsch series, you will know that there are several instances that force the verb to move to a different position in the sentence. This includes relative clauses and subordinating conjunctions. If you are using a dependent clause in any way with a separable prefix verb, you have to put the prefix back on the verb even if you have conjugated the separable prefix verb. Take a look at these examples.
Was ich heute vorhabe, ist ins Kino zu gehen.
What I have planned for this evening, is to go to the movies.
Die Tür, die du gerade zumachst, muss offen bleiben.
The door that you are closing has to stay open.
Separable Prefix Verbs in Perfekt
If you are using the present perfect tense, you usually put “ge-” in front of the rest of the verb to form the past participle. If you are doing this with a separable prefix verb, you have to put the “ge” between the prefix and the rest of the verb.
Dein Bruder hat mir mein Geld nicht zurückgegeben.
Your brother didn’t give me my money back.
Meine Mutter ist gestern vorbeigekommen.
My mother came by yesterday.
As you can see, there is a lot more to the topic of separable prefixes than just the simple overview that the song explains, but for a beginner song, this one works out pretty well.