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German Verb Prefixes

Separable and Inseparable Verb Prefixes

Verbalpräfixe - Vorsilben bei Zeitwörtern

This verb prefix guide, with a prefix chart, is part of Lesson 19 of our of free German for Beginners course. To learn more about German verbs, also see our German Verbs section and the Verb-Lexikon.

Part 1: Inseparable Prefixes

Verb 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.

If you are not already familiar with how separable and inseparable verbs are used in a sentence, see Lesson 19 and our Sample Sentences page for examples.

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

Inseparable Prefixes
Untrennbare Präfixe

Prefix Meaning Examples
be- like English be-

makes verb take a direct object (acc.)
s. befinden (be located)
befolgen (follow)
befreunden (befriend)
begegnen (meet)
bekommen (get)
bemerken (notice, remark)
emp- sense, receive empfangen (receive)
empfehlen (recommend)
empfinden (feel)
ent- away from

English de-/dis-
entarten (degenerate)
entbehren (miss, do without)
entdecken (discover)
entfallen (elude, slip)
entfernen (remove, take out)
entkalken (decalcify)
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)
ertrinken (drown)
like English re- s. erinnern (remember)
erkennen (recognize)
erholen (recover, relax)
ge- - - gebrauchen (use, make use of)
gedenken (commemorate, intend)
gefallen (like)
gehören (belong to)
gelangen (arrive at)
geloben (vow)
genesen (recover, recuperate)
gestalten (shape, form)
gestehen (confess)
gewähren (grant, give, offer)
miss- English mis- missachten (disregard, disdain)
missbrauchen (abuse, misuse)
misstrauen (mistrust)
missverstehen (misunderstand)
ver- bad, awry
English mis-
verachten (despise)
verbilden (miseducate)
verderben (go bad, spoil)
s. verfahren (go astray, get lost)
verkommen (go to ruin, become run down)
verschlafen (oversleep)
lose, away/out verdrängen (drive out)
verduften (lose its aroma)
verlassen (leave, abandon)
verlieren (lose)
English for- verbieten (forbid)
vergeben (forgive)
vergessen (forget)
??? verbinden (bandage, link, tie)
vergrößern (enlarge)
verhaften (arrest)
versprechen (promise)
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)
zerstören (destroy)
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.

NEXT > Separable Prefixes | Dual Prefixes
MORE > Sample Sentences with verb prefixes

Related Pages

Lesson 19
An introduction to separable-prefix verbs and their conjugation. Includes a brief look at inseparable prefixes as well. Part of our online German for Beginners course.

Verb Prefixes and Rechtschreibreform
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The 10 Meanings of the German Verb 'ausmachen'
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