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Separable and inseparable verbs (Trennbare/Untrennbare Verben) in German


As in Russian, verbs in German have prefixes. What is unusual is that some of these prefixes can separate from the verb and go to the end of the sentence:

  • Ich stehe morgen früh auf – I wake up early tomorrow.

The verb “aufstehen” in this sentence is “wake up”. It consists of the verb “stehen” – “stand” and the prefix “auf”, which is separated and moved to the end of the sentence.

Here’s another example:

  • Die Flasche steht auf dem Tisch – a bottle stands on the table.

Here the “auf” is no longer a prefix, but an excuse to “on”. The excuse doesn’t end up in the last place. The inclined verb in this sentence “stehen” is “to stand” and not “aufstehen” is “to wake up”.

The third example:

  • Ich bestehe die Prüfung – I pass the exam.

The verb “bestehen” – “to overcome” (“pass” in our case) – has an inseparable prefix “to be”.

We found out that there are verbs without prefixes but with prepositions, with detachable and inseparable prefixes. So how do you know which prefixes are separable and which are not? You have to learn that:

Separable (trennbare):

  • an- (anmelden – register);
  • auf- (aufmachen – open);
  • aus- (ausziehen – to be evicted);
  • bei- (beiwohnen – be present);
  • ein- (einnehmen – accept);
  • fest- (festlegen – approve);
  • ab- (abgrenzen – fence off);
  • mit- (mitgehen – go together);
  • nach- (nachweisen – prove/confirm);
  • vor- (vorstellen – represent);
  • zu- (zubereiten – cook).


  • be- (bekommen – receive);
  • emp- (empfinden – feel);
  • ent- (entstehen – arise/proceed);
  • er- (erreichen – to reach);
  • ge- (gewinnen – win);
  • miss- (misstrauen – do not trust);
  • ver- (verzichten – to refuse);
  • zer- (zerfallen – break up);
  • hinter- (hinterlassen – to leave behind).

To be able to distinguish them without any problems, you must remember that inseparable prefixes are always shockless.

Some prefixes can be separable and non-separable with different verbs: um-, durch-, über-, um-, unter-, voll-, wider-, wieder-.


  • Er fällt durch – it fails;
  • Ich durchschaue dich – I can see right through you.

And there are the same words that change their meaning depending on whether the accent falls on the attachment and it becomes detachable or the accent falls on the root of the word and then the attachment remains inseparable:

  • Ich umfahre den Polizisten – I will unite the police;
  • Ich fahre den Polizisten um – I’ll go after the cops.
    That’s a funny paradox.

The detached prefix does not always go to the end of the sentence, sometimes it gives way to the verb. It’s done so that the prefix doesn’t get too far away from the verb and the sentence doesn’t lose its meaning.

  • Ich habe vor ins Kino zu gehen – I intend to go to the cinema;

If a verb with detachable prefix is not bowed but infinitive (i.e. remains unchanged when another verb is bowed), the prefix is not detachable:

  • Kannst du die Tür aufmachen – can you open the door?

Here, the modal verb is bowed and the verb with the detachable prefix remains in the infinitive.

  • Ich habe das eingenommen – I took it.

This is where the auxiliary verb “haben” is bowed.

In the construction zu + Infinitiv, “zu” is placed between the detachable prefix and the verb:

  • Ich habe vor auszuschlafen – I plan to get some sleep.

This is all you need to know about detachable and non-detachable prefixes in German.

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