Separable Verbs I: Draw the line between prefixes and core verbs Posted by Sandra Rösner on Dec 1, 2010 in Grammar, Language
With this post I would like to start a series on German separable verbs. In this introductory post I explain how you can distinguish separable verbs from inseparable verbs.
The main difference between separable and inseparable verbs is that separable verbs consist of two words: a core verb and a semi-prefix, whereas inseparable verbs consist of a core verb and a real prefix. Let’s have a closer look at the some examples in order to explore what I mean by core verb, semi-prefix and real prefix.
The verbs nehmen (to take), laufen (to walk), and geben (to give) are so called core verbs because they form the basis of separable verbs. In order to modify their meanings you can add the following semi-prefixes to them:
This results in the separable verbs below:
(to assume; to accept)
(to gather; to host)
(to take off, to loose weight)
(to start; to put into)
(to go aground)
(to boast; to state)
(to give up)
(to hand in, to emit)
I should mention that the meaning of each separable verb does highly depend on the context in which it is used, thus, I only give the translations, which I consider most common.
I call the prefixes of separable verbs semi-prefixes because these prefixes are indeed independent words in German. That is, they can and do exist as separate words. Consequently, you can isolate them from the core verb when using them in a sentence. These semi-prefixes are always prepositions, adverbs or adjectives. – I will discuss all kinds of semi-prefixes in detail in my following posts.
In comparison to separable verbs, inseparable verbs have real prefixes. That is, these prefixes canNOT and do NOT exist as independent words in German – because they have no meaning. Consequently, you cannot separate them from the core verb when using them in a sentence. Compare these examples:
(to get lost)
(to tot up)
(to allot, to forgive)
Whenever you come across a verb that contains one of the following prefixes, you may be sure that it is an INSEPARABLE verb:
be- : bekommen (to get), belügen (to lie to), beraten (to advise)
ent- : entgehen (to evade), entstehen (to emerge), entsprechen (to correspond)
er- : erklären (to explain), erhalten (to obtain), erkennen (to realize; to recognize)
ge- : gebrauchen (to apply), gehören (to belong), gefallen (tp please, to like)
miss- : missachten (disregard), misshandeln (to abuse), misstrauen (to distrust)
ver- : verkaufen (to sell), versprechen (to promise; to make a slip of the tongue), versuchen (to try)
zer- : zerbrechen (to shatter), zerstören (to destroy), zerschlagen (to dash to pieces)
To be continued …
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