Verb prefixes

There are three kinds of verb prefixes in German: separable, inseparable and dual prefixes (usually a preposition) that can be both.

Separable prefixes are stressed in their pronunciation; inseparable prefixes are unstressed.

By adding various prefixes to a base verb, German can produce new meanings: kommen (to come) => ankommen (to arrive), bekommen (to get), entkommen (to escape). English does the same thing, using Greek and Latin prefixes: to form => to inform, to deform, to 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.

Inseparable verb prefixes

Inseparable-prefix verbs do not add the normal past participle prefix ge- in the perfect tenses.

The stressed syllable of the verb is underlined, i.e in sich befinden (to be located, the stress is on fin.

be-

(like the English be-
=> makes the verb take a direct object [accusative])

sich befinden
(to be located)

befolgen
(to follow)

befreunden
(to befriend)

begegnen
(to meet)

bekommen
(to get)

bemerken
(to notice, to remark)

emp-

(meaning: to sense, to receive)

empfangen
(to receive)

empfehlen
(to recommend)

empfinden
(to feel)

ent-

(like the English de-/dis- [away from])

entarten
(to degenerate)

entbehren
(to miss, to do without)

entdecken
(to discover)

entfallen
(to elude, to slip [one's mind])
entfernen
(to remove, to take out)

entfangen
(to receive)

entkalken
(to decalcify)

entkleiden
(to undress)

entkommen
(to escape, to get away)

entlassen
(to discharge, to release)

entstehen
(to originate, to be created)
entwerten
(to devalue, to cancel)

er-

(meaning: fatal, dead)

erhängen
(to hang, to execute)

erschiessen
(to shoot dead)

ertrinken
(to drown)

(like the English re-)

sich erinnern
(to remember)

erkennen
(to recognize)

sich erholen
(to recover)

ge-

gebrauchen
(to use, to make use of)

gedenken
(to commemorate, to intend)
gefallen
(to like)

geren
(to belong to)

gelangen
(to arrive at)

geloben
(to vow)

genesen
(to recover, to recuperate)

gestalten
(to shape, to form)

gestehen
(to confess)

gewähren
(to grant, to give, to offer)

miss-

(like the English mis-)

missachten
(to disregard, to disdain)

missbrauchen
(to abuse, to misuse)

misstrauen
(to mistrust)

missverstehen
(to misunderstand)

ver-

(meaning: bad, awry)

verachten
(to despise)

verderben
(to go bad, to spoil)

sich verfahren
(to go astray, to get lost)

verkommen
(to become run down)

verschlafen
(to oversleep)

(meaning: away/out)

verdrängen
(to suppress)

verlassen
(to leave, to abandon)

verlieren
(to lose)

(like the English for-)

verbieten
(to forbid)

vergeben
(to forgive)

vergessen
(to forget)

(other meanings)

verbinden
(to bandage, to link, to tie)

vergrößern
(to enlarge)

verhaften
(to arrest)

versprechen
(to promise)

voll-

(meaning: full, complete)

vollenden
(to complete, to finish)

vollstrecken
(to execute, to enforce)

zer-

(meaning: collapse, shatter, shred)

zerbrechen
(to shatter)

zerreißen
(to tear, to shred)

zerstören
(to destroy)

Separable verb prefixes

ab-

abblenden
(to dim)

abdanken
(to abdicate, to resign)

abnehmen
(to lose weight, to decrease)

an-

anbauen
(to cultivate, to grow, to plant)
anbringen
(to fasten, to install, to display)
anfangen
(to begin, to start)

anhängen
(to attach)

ankommen
(to arrive)

anschauen
(to look at, to examine)

auf-

aufbauen
(to build up, to put up)

aufdrehen
(to turn on, to unscrew)

auffallen
(to stand out, to be noticeable)
aufgeben
(to give up, to check [luggage])
aufkommen
(to arise)

aufschließen
(to unlock)

aus-

ausbilden
(to educate, to train)

ausbreiten
(to extend, to spread out)

ausfallen
(to fail, to fall out, to be cancelled)
ausgehen
(to go out)

aussehen
(to appear, to look like)

auswechseln
(to exchange, to replace [parts])

bei-

beibringen
(to teach, to inflict)

beikommen
(to get hold of, to deal with)
beischlafen
(to have sexual relations)

beisetzen
(to bury, to inter)

beitragen
(to contribute)

beitreten
(to join)

da-

(meaning: there)

dableiben
(to stay behind)

dalassen
(to leave there)

dabei-

(meaning: there)

dabeibleiben
(to stay/stick with it)

dabeisitzen
(to sit in)

durch-

(meaning: through)

durchhalten
(to withstand, to endure)

durchfahren
(to drive through)

durchfallen
(to fail [an exam])

ein-

(meaning: in, into, inward, down)

einatmen
(to inhale)

einberufen
(to convene, to summon)

einbrechen
(to break in; to break down)
eindringen
(to force entry into, to penetrate, to besiege)
einfallen
(to collapse; to occur to, to remind)
eingeben
(to enter [COMPUT.])

eingehen
(to be received)

entgegen-

(meaning: against, towards)

entgegenarbeiten
(to oppose, to work against)
entgegenkommen
(to approach, to come towards)

entlang-

(meaning: along)

entlanggehen
(to go/walk along)

entlangschrammen
(to scrape by)

fehl-

(meaning: awry, wrong)

fehlgehen
(to go awry, to err)

fehlschlagen
(to go wrong, to come to nothing)

fest-

(meaning: firm, fixed)

festlaufen
(to run aground)

festlegen
(to establish, to fix)

festsitzen
(to be stuck, to cling)

fort-

(meaning: away, forth, onward)

fortbilden
(to continue education )

fortbringen
(to take away [for repair] )

fortpflanzen
(to propagate, to reproduce)
fortsetzen
(to continue )

gegenüber-

(meaning: across from, opposite)

gegenüberliegen
(to face, to be opposite)

gegenüberstellen
(to confront, to compare)

gleich-

(meaning: equal)

gleichkommen
(to equal, to match)

gleichsetzen
(to equate, to treat as equivalent)

her-

(meaning: from, here)

herfahren
(to come/get here)

herstellen
(to manufacture, to produce)

heraus-

(meaning: from, out of)

herauskriegen
(to find out)

herausfordern
(to challenge, to provoke)

hin-

(meaning: to, towards, there)

hinarbeiten
(to work towards)

hinfahren
(to go/drive there)

hinzu-

(meaning: in addition)

hinzubekommen
(to get in addition)

hinzufügen
(to add, to enclose)

mit-

(meaning: along, with, co-)

mitarbeiten
(to cooperate, to collaborate)
mitbestimmen
(to co-determine, to have a say in)
mitbringen
(to bring along)

mitfahren
(to go/travel with, to get a lift)
mitmachen
(to join in, to go along with)
mitteilen
(to inform, to communicate)

nach-

(meaning: along, with, co-)

nachahmen
(to imitate, to emulate, to copy)
nachbessern
(to retouch)

nachdrucken
(to reprint)

nachfüllen
(to refill, to top up)

nachgehen
(to follow, to go after, to run slow [clock])

statt-

stattfinden
(to take place)

stattgeben
(to grant)

vor-

(meaning: before, forward, pre-, pro-

vorbereiten
(to prepare)

vorbeugen
(to prevent, to bend forward)
vorbringen
(to bring forward)

vorführen
(to present, to perform)

vorgehen
(to proceed, to go on, to to first)
vorlegen
(to present, to submit)

weg-

(meaning: away, off)

wegbleiben
(to stay away)

wegfahren
(to leave, to drive off)

wegfallen
(to be discontinued, to be omitted)
wegnehmen
(to take away)

zu-

(meaning: shut/closed, to, towards, upon)

zudecken
(to cover up)

zuerkennen
(to bestow, to confer)

zufahren
(to drive towards)

zulassen
(to authorize, to license)

zunehmen
(to increase, to add weight)

zurück-

(meaning: back, re-)

zurückblenden
(to flash back)

zurückgehen
(to go back, to return)

zurückschlagen
(to hit/strike back)

zurückschrecken
(to recoil, to shy away)

zurücksetzen
(to reverse, to put back)

zurückweisen
(to repulse, to turn away)

(meaning: together)

zusammenarbeiten
(to cooperate, to collaborate )
zusammenbauen
(to assemble )

zusammenfassen
(to summarize )

zusammenklappen
(to fold up, to shut )

zusammenkommen
(to meet, to come together )
zusammensetzen
(to put together )

zusammenstoßen
(to collide, to clash )

zusammenreißen
(to pull oneself together )

Dual prefixes

All the dual verb prefixes are stressed when separable, unstressed when inseparable:

separable

überfahren
(to cross over )

inseparable

überfahren
(to run over )

separable

übersetzen
(to cross over )

inseparable

übersetzen
(to translate )

separable

umbauen
(to renovate )

inseparable

umbauen
(to enclose,
to surround
)
separable

umschreiben
(to translate,
to transcribe
)
inseparable

umschreiben
(to paraphrase,
to outline
)
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