German Verb Prefixes

In German, some verbs have their verb stem preceded by a verbal prefix such as auf-, zu-, mit- etc. They can be called particle verbs.

Separable German Verb Prefixes

When the particle is accentuated, it separates from the stem, it is then called a separable verbal prefix.

At the infinitive, the particle is attached to the verb, but as soon as the verb is used in an enunciative or interrogative sentence, the particle is detached from the verb (which remains in the first or second position of the proposition). It is often used to clarify the verb, to qualify the action, to accentuate it, to indicate a movement, or to slightly modify its meaning, for example:

  • anrufen : Heute ruft er seine Freundin an (Today he calls his girlfriend)
  • anrufen : Seine Freundin anrufen (Calling his girlfriend)

At the imperative, the verb is in the first position and the particle is placed at the end after all possible additions to the verb, for example :

  • anrufen : Ruf mich morgen an (Call me tomorrow)

Finally, in Perfekt – or Participle II – the structure is a bit particular. The element -ge- is inserted between the particle and the verbal base, for example :

  • anrufen : Sie hat gestern angerufen (She called yesterday)

Inseparable German Verb Prefixes

When a verbal prefix is not accentuated it is never separated from the verb. For example, miß (mißfallen – to dislike) and zer (zerreißen – to tear up) never separate from the verb. Therefore, it is very important to learn this characteristic when you encounter a verb in German for the first time. However, these verbs are in a minority in the German language.

Therefore, in Perfekt – or Participle II – the mark -ge- is not added to the verb.

German particle verbs on video

To go further, do not hesitate to watch this very instructive video.

Conjugate a verb in German

The most frequently used verbs in German: sein haben geben finden gehen wissen kommen können liegen sehen