German Verb Prefixes
Separable and Inseparable Verb Prefixes
Verbalpräfixe - Vorsilben bei Zeitwörtern
Part 1: Inseparable Prefixes
There are three kinds of verb prefixes in German: (1) separable (trennbar), (2) inseparable (untrennbar), and (3) dual prefixes (usually a preposition) that can be both. Separable prefixes are stressed (betont) in their pronunciation; inseparable prefixes are unstressed (unbetont). In this verb prefix chart, we have divided the prefixes into their three categories.
By adding various prefixes to a base verb, German can produce new meanings: kommen > abkommen (digress), ankommen (arrive), bekommen (get), entkommen (escape). (English does the same thing, using Greek and Latin prefixes: form > deform, inform, perform, etc.) Knowing the basic meaning of a verb prefix can be helpful in learning German vocabulary, but not all prefixes have a specific meaning, nor does each prefix always have the same meaning. For instance, knowing the meaning of the prefix ver- may or may not help you understand the meaning of verbs like verschlafen (to oversleep) or versprechen (to promise). The prefix meanings can be interesting and helpful, but they are no substitute for learning vocabulary.
Also see additional comments at the end of each section of the prefix chart.
Verb Prefixes: Inseparable > Separable > Dual >
Rechtschreibreform > Sample Sentences with verb prefixes
|be-||like English be-
makes verb take a direct object (acc.)
|s. befinden (be located)
bemerken (notice, remark)
|emp-||sense, receive||empfangen (receive)
entbehren (miss, do without)
entfallen (elude, slip)
entfernen (remove, take out)
entkleiden (disrobe, undress)
entkommen (escape, get away)
entlassen (discharge, release)
entstehen (originate, be formed/created)
entwerten (devalue, cancel)
|er-||fatal, dead||erhängen (hang, execute)
erschiessen (shoot dead)
|like English re-||s. erinnern (remember)
erholen (recover, relax)
|ge-||- -||gebrauchen (use, make use of)
gedenken (commemorate, intend)
gehören (belong to)
gelangen (arrive at)
genesen (recover, recuperate)
gestalten (shape, form)
gewähren (grant, give, offer)
|miss-||English mis-||missachten (disregard, disdain)
missbrauchen (abuse, misuse)
verderben (go bad, spoil)
s. verfahren (go astray, get lost)
verkommen (go to ruin, become run down)
|lose, away/out||verdrängen (drive out)
verduften (lose its aroma)
verlassen (leave, abandon)
|English for-||verbieten (forbid)
|???||verbinden (bandage, link, tie)
|voll-*||full, complete||vollenden (complete, finish)
vollführen (execute, perform)
vollstrecken (enforce, execute)
|*NOTE: Some verbal expressions with voll treat voll as an adverb rather than a prefix, and are spelled with the adverb voll separated from the verb, even in the infinitive form. Examples include: voll dröhnen (dope/tank up), voll essen (gorge oneself), voll machen (fill [up]).|
|zer-||collapse, shatter, shred||zerbrechen (shatter)
zerreissen (rip up, shred)
|NOTE: Inseparable-prefix verbs do not add the normal past participle prefix ge- in the perfect tenses. See the examples below.|
|NEXT > Separable Prefixes | Dual Prefixes|
Also see: Verb Prefixes and Rechtschreibreform
Comments: Inseparable Prefix Verbs
There are verbs in English that are constructed and used much like German inseparable-prefix verbs: contend, extend, pretend, and intend are all based on the verb "tend." A similar example in German is the verb finden (find). By adding various inseparable prefixes, German alters the meaning of finden to create new meanings: sich befinden (be located), empfinden (feel), or erfinden (invent). As you can see, many common German verbs are inseparable-prefix verbs.
German verbs with inseparable prefixes do not add the normal past participle prefix ge- in the perfect tenses. Examples: bekommen (to get) hat/hatte bekommen; erwarten (to expect, await) hat/hatte erwartet; verstehen (to understand) hat/hatte verstanden. For more about German verb tenses, see our German Verbs section.
Verb Prefixes and Rechtschreibreform
How do the new German spelling rules affect verb prefixes?
The 10 Meanings of the German Verb 'ausmachen'
There are at least ten different basic meanings for the German verb ausmachen. This lesson examines each meaning and provides examples in German and English.
An alphabetical list of common German verbs, many with links to their conjugations.
An index of all of our German verb pages.
All of the annotated glossaries on this site - from aerospace to travel.
All of the grammar resources on this site.
Subscribe to a free newsletter!