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Verbs: Present tense - separable verbs

One facet of verbs is that they can be preceded by prefixes, small units of language that somehow modify or enhance the meaning of basic verbs. Although there are some patterns as to how these prefixes affect the verbs' meaning, for the most part you just need to learn the individual verbs.

The seven dwarfs watch TV in the living room.The seven warves are watching TV in the living room.
Chef plays Disney's 'Snow White' for them.Doc is playing them Disney's Snow White.
Of course, he also invites Snow White.Hey invites Snow White as well, of course.
She brings fresh cookies and herbal tea.She brings fresh cookies and herbal tea (to the party).
When Snow White bites the apple in the film, Grumpy Bear starts crying loudly and quickly runs away ... He can't stand this scene at all!As Snow White bites into the apple in the film, Grumpy starts to cry loudly and runs away ... He can't stand this scene!
Snow White runs after him and they prefer to go for a walk in the beautiful forests in the Harz Mountains.Snow White runs after him, and they go for a walk in the beautiful forests in the Harz mountains instead.

I. Prepositions as separable prefixes

Most prepositions can be made into separable prefixes, and most separable prefixes are originally prepositions. These prefixes change the new verb's meaning in a way that is often related to the original meaning of the preposition. Here are some examples for the most common separable prefixes:

preposition / prefix
(general meaning)
exampleenglish
AB- (away)depart
cancel
depart
cancel
AN- (towards)arrive
to begin
arrive
begin
ON- (up, on)stand up
stop
wake up
stop
AUS- (out, also suggests completion)get out
stand
get out (of a bus)
stood somebody
ON- (in)enter
invite
get in (a bus, train)
invite
LOS- (indicates beginning something)go off
break loose
get started
break loose / escape (break out)
MIT- (with, along)bring
come along
bring along
come with, come along
AFTER- (after, follow)catch up
run after
make up (work, homework)
run after someone (literally)
VOR- (before, ahead, forward)read out
pretend
read out loud
play (e.g., a film)
AWAY- (away)throw away
run away
throw away
run away

II. Other common separable prefix verbs

television - watch TVgo for a walk
Cycling - ride a bicycleillegal work - work illegally
participate - participateblack driving - ride (e.g., a train) without a ticket
get to know - get to knowpay attention

III. Word order and separable prefixes

A. Declarative sentences

The separable prefixes affect word order in basic sentences; they also have slightly different participle forms.

The typical word order in basic German (declarative) sentences is SUBJECT-VERB-VERBAL COMPLEMENTS. While this order stays the same for the most part, the separable prefix of the separable prefix verb goes to the very end of the declarative sentence.

parts of the sentencesubjectverbother items that complete the verb (e.g., direct object)separable prefix
declarative sentencebossplaysTennis.
declarative sentence with a separable prefix verbbossplaysthe moviein front.

B. Questions

Separable prefix verbs affect the word order in questions as well:

parts of the sentencesubject / question wordverbverbal complements/subjectseparable prefix
declarative sentencebossplaysthe moviein front.
Who?whoplaysthe moviein front?
What?Whatplaysbossin front?

C. With modal verbs

Modal verbs affect the word order of sentences with separable prefix verbs, too:

parts of the sentencesubjectprimary verbverbal complements/subjectseparable prefix/infinitive
declarative sentencebossplaysthe moviein front.
modal verb: wantbosswantthe moviepretend
question with modal verbWhatwantbosspretend?

D. With subordinating conjunctions

Finally, separable prefix verbs move around when different phrases are connected by subordinating conjunctions (and also by relative pronouns).

subordinating conjunctionsubject/question wordverbverbal complements/subjectseparable prefix
bossplaysthe moviein front.
boss loadsSnow whitea.
Beforeboss --the movieplays, he invites Snow White.
After (after)boss--Snow whiteinvites, he plays the film.
GrowlI want to throw this film away !!! I never want to look at it again!I would like to throw away this film !!! I never want to watch it again!
Snow whiteAfter you throw the DVD away, we'll read your new script for this story! After you throw away the DVD, let's read your new screen play for this story!
GrowlUm ... It's not done yet. And still it's a bit cheesy ... Um ... The witch can't kill you, of course, and I'm the hero, and although you meet the prince, you will marry me ... Hmmm ...Ahem ... It's not finished yet. And furthermore, it's also a bit kitschy ... Ahem ... The witch of course can't kill you, and I am the hero, and although you meet the prince, you marry me ... Hmmm ...
Snow whiteMy dear growler, you are really cute! But you shouldn't give up your career!My dear Grumpy, you are really sweet! But you should not give up your (day) job!

Below are some of the most commonly used separable prefix verbs with English equivalents. The first column offers some general meanings associated with the prefixes, but these are only tendencies, not set rules.

preposition/prefix (general meaning)exampleenglish
AB- (away)burn down
submit
abbreviate
lose weight
to lock
abort
burn down
turn in (homework), hand over (ticket)
shorten
lose weight
finish, complete
abort
AN- (towards)recognize
imply
specify
accuse
dress up
look at
hire
instruct
apply
recognize
hint at, suggest
brag, show off
accuse
dress
watch
hire, employ
instruct
use
ON- (up, on)
breathe easy
stay up
list
enlighten
loosen up
take up
to clean up
crack open
grow up
breathe a sigh of relief
stay up (person), stay open (store)
perform (e.g., theater play)
inform, enlighten, clear up
liven up (a party, person)
take a picture of (incl. video images)
tidy / clean up (e.g., room)
open (eyes, book)
grow up
AUS- (out, also suggests completion)form
breaking out
print
express
flip out
output
go out
laugh at
turn off
exploit
exclude
pronounce
die out
change
educate, train
break out
print (e.g., text, picture)
express
freak out (flip out)
publish, hand out
go out, date
laugh at (someone)
turn off (light), put out (fire)
take advantage of (person, opportunity)
lock out, exclude
pronounce
die out, go extinct
exchange
ON- (in)collapse
remember (it occurred to me)
introduce
shop
settle in
take in
set up
assess
fall asleep
intimidate
throw in
move in
break in (horse, into house)
occur (to someone), come to mind
introduce (a topic)
go shopping, buy
get used to
earn, make money
furnish (apartment), arrange (furniture)
judge, guess (e.g., at size, value)
case asleep
intimidate, bully
throw in (e.g., remark, towel)
move in (e.g., into a new apartment)
LOS- (beginning something)drive off
Get rid of
get going, leave
get rid of, spend, lose
MIT- (with, along)notice
ride along
empathize
participate
take
play along
notify
get out (of a lecture), understand
ride along
sympathize
participate, do something w / someone
take along
play along (in a sport)
inform, share knowledge
AFTER- (after, follow)to imitate
think about it (i want to ~)
retell
follow
give in
check
look up
do it
count
imitate
think about (I'd like to think about that)
retell, relate (a story)
follow, succeed (e.g., a king)
give in (e.g., to pressure)
double check (e.g., essay, homework)
look up (e.g., a word in a dictionary)
follow somebody's example
re-count (double check numbers)
VOR- (before, ahead, forward)to prepare
pre-order
project
occurrence
make
to introduce
present
prepare
order in advance (e.g., books)
plan, have at least
come up, happen
carry out a task
introduce, imagine
perform (play), give lecture / opinion
AWAY- (away)stay away
bring away
walk away
take away
put away
step away
move away
stay away
take / bring away
go away
take away
clear away (e.g., mess)
step away
pull away