Prefissi verbali tedeschi: Separabile vs. Inseparabile

Understanding the nuances of German verb prefixes is essential for mastering the language. Among these prefixes, there exists a distinction between separable and inseparable prefixes, each with its own rules and implications. Let’s look into these two types of prefixes, accompanied by examples to elucidate their usage.


Separable Prefixes

Separable prefixes in German are prefixes that detach from the verb when conjugated in certain tenses, typically in the present tense, imperative, and infinitive constructions. These prefixes separate from the verb stem and often appear at the end of a clause or sentence. Here are some common separable prefixes:

  • ab- (off)
  • an- (su)
  • auf- (up)
  • aus- (out)
  • bei- (by)
  • ein- (in)
  • mit- (con)
  • nach- (after)
  • vor- (before)
  • zu- (to)

Examples of Separable Prefixes:

  1. anfangen (to begin)
    • Ich fange an. (I begin.)
    • Fang an! (Begin!)
  2. aufstehen (to get up)
    • Ich stehe auf. (I get up.)
    • Steh auf! (Get up!)


Inseparable Prefixes

Inseparable prefixes, as the name suggests, remain attached to the verb stem regardless of conjugation. They do not separate from the verb in any tense or construction. Here are some common inseparable prefixes:

  • be- (to make)
  • emp- (to cause)
  • ent- (de-)
  • er- (to indicate completion)
  • ge- (past participle)
  • ver- (to negate or reverse)
  • zer- (to destroy)

Examples of Inseparable Prefixes:

  1. besuchen (to visit)
    • Ich besuche meine Oma. (I visit my grandmother.)
  2. erklären (to explain)
    • Kannst du das bitte erklären? (Can you please explain that?)