Advent Calendar 14 – “Prefixes – I’m drawing a line”

“Prefixes – I’m drawing a line!”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to door number 14 of our German Advent Calendar. And behind it is a chart. A chart that’ll make you go like
“What the hell is that”.

Those of you, who have been following for a while will know that I am working on a book about non-separable prefixes. Though not working on it is the more accurate description for what I did this year. I just couldn’t focus on it among all the work and the crazy relationship stuff and life changes I went through – it was quite a crazy year. I like it, though. Just wasn’t the year to write a book.
Anywho, this summer I actually gave a life workshop on the topic, partially to get back into it a bit and see which lines of thought work and which ones suck.
And while I was preparing the workshop I was like “I should give them a handout.”
But it’s not a normal handout. Normal handouts are booooooooring.
I made it as minimalistic and visceral as possible. It’s just the raw essence of each non separable prefix captured. Or  bunch of nonsense….
Just follow the white rabbit ;)


(you can also follow German non separable prefixes explained if the rabbit doesn’t show up)

Comment section opens for questions in 3, 2, 1…. :).  Hit me!!!
Stop whining, I said it was gonna be really minimalistic.  It’ll make more sense, once you have the explanations (which will come in my book). This is really just a tease. But even though it was kind of a last minute thing, I am actually really satisfied with these icons, so maybe the help you, too.
Let me know all your questions in the comments and I’ll see you there or tomorrow with another door.
Bis dann :)

for members :)

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Wow, smoking that glühwein residue again? Beware the 4am postings y’all! But I might, almost see where you’re going… almost.


I have no clue but I like them


Oof . . . well it certainly seems to be following the KISS principle – which is good.

Now all I need is the key!

I tried coming at it from using the first verb(s) that came into my head to decode: . . .
befragen . . nee – nix. I tried others but then be- verbs have always confused me in any case . . . on with the rest:
entlassen . . . yes – going off in the opposite direction;
zerstören – things going off in all directions (falling apart in this case) OK;
ertrinken – a sort of opposite – trinken (liquid inside you) ertrinken the liquid engulfing you . . hmmmm;
verstehen – woah that’s an outlier, think more of mieten/vermieten, kaufen/verkaufen – ver sets up counterparts – inside the circle and outside the circle . . and finally well the first one that came to mind was
wittern/gewittern and then I thought frieren/gefrieren which you had a few days ago and I thought OK a meaning within is given by the prefix.

Am I close? It was certainly an interesting exercise and made me think more about the prefixes . . .


I think you’ve got it pretty good.
– befragen – “do questions to someone” :)
– ertrinken – (metaphorically) “the drinking to end all drinking”

Look for the article on “ver-” in the archives. I’d consider it among the most helpful on the site.


I suspect the Illustrations would be good as a quick reminder of the concept, but some explanation and examples as Elizabeth has provided would solidify it.

Cold in the desert
Cold in the desert

I like this…very basic yet gets at the “feel” of the concept ,such as a child would learn through example and use A couple are still foggy, but kommon/entkommen, stehen/verstehen (stand outside to see the whole and understand it), fahren/erfahren, schlagen/zerschlagen seem to make sense to me. Look forward to more!


I’ll have a go at them!
be- . I remember you saying this means “to inflict [something]upon”. The poor dot looks as if it’s being be(!)leaguered from all sides. Good! By the way, I’m sure many have pointed out that we have “be” in English too. Befriend, for example.

ent- . Does this signify splitting something apart?
zer- . Is this the SUPER ent- ? As in completely blasting something all to bits? If yes, it could look a bit more violent ;-)
er- . Looks to me as if the icon signifies putting something up onto a pedestal or place of honor. I’ve seen some er- words but still not sure of the general rule behind them. I await your Erklärung.
-ver . Looks as if this means going outside the usual meaning to…. the opposite? the inverse?
-ge . This reminds me of the spiral entrance to the time machine in “The Spy Who Shagged Me”. But of course, I might only say that because I know ge- words signify that something has been done (in other words, sends a verb into the past). Still, might as well jump in, baby.


This reminds me of the French mnemonic a friend once told me about, which actually also mentions other inseparable prefixes than you, Emanuel (is it a matter of definition how many prefixes you count into that group, or is your chart just a sample/draft?): “Cerbère gémit en Enfer” (lit. “Cerberus howls in hell”) of which each syllable stands for one inseparable prefix: zer-, be-, er-, ge-, miss-, ent-, emp, ver-. Maybe this helps some of you francophone German learners :)


Is there a version (with different captions?) to go in your other book? The one on particle physics.


Von wegen, those describe the prefixes!

Charlie Joe
Charlie Joe

Like my answer yesterday, to the last of the hard multiple choices, where I chose drin as the odd man out because I figured Tee und See rhymed (I know that was not in the ball park) I think these images are supposed to be suggested by the vague meanings that these prefixes might bring to a word. I think I’m right but I may be reading into the icons more than is there. I agree that more explanation would have been helpful but you have a mental block on this subject I guess. But I’m deep in Genowrin, the German learning book so it’s OK with me.


This a piece of shit. If all you have to offer is this garbage, go to hell and UNsubscribe me.


To Anon Ymous: Did someone piss on your Corn Flakes this morning? Von wegen, this is shit! My goodness! This is one of the Top Five Most Brilliant Sites on the Internet! And I don’t mean for learning German, I mean On The Net, Period! Dude (Anon Ymous), grab a Glühwein, be a Mensch (Ok, so it’s a Yiddish word) and enjoy the fun. Emanual is a genius and the comments are brilliant (‘cept, perhaps, that Amerikanerin one – she’s just getting fat) – pull up a chair, sit yourself down and join the fun in this festive Yuletide season.

Charlie Joe
Charlie Joe

Es ist nicht leicht einen Adventskalender zu machen. So viele Tagen! Und es ist unmöglich alle Menschen zu gefallen.


Mein Lieblings:-
beachten heed
beantragen apply for
beantworten answer for
befahren drive on
befohlen order

entwickeln produce, develop
entfliegen fly off
entführen kidnap, Hijack
entlaufen run away from
entmilitarisieren demilitarize

zerbomben bomb to pieces
zerbrechen breakup
zerkochen overcook
zerlegen dismantle split up (into)

gehören belong to
gewinnen win win over
genesen recover ( from )
genießen enjoy

erkaufen buy
erfragen ascertain
erkennen recognise
ewarten expect (of)

verkaufen sell
verklager sue
verhaften arrest
vergeben award (to)


When MichaelS puts it that way… I think I can see what he means – although I don’t know if the drawings will make me remember the words he’s written – it’s only a one way street for me: from his words to the drawings, but not back again. This will haunt me until I “get” it.


Danke. Ich Muß mehr Deutsch lernen.


What’s the latest on this book you speak of? It’s highly anticipated, you know… By me at least :) Are you crowdfunding it?