Thinking about Non-Separable Prefixes

Cartoon about Reaching fluency in GermanHello everyone,

and welcome to the third and final part of our general look at prefix verbs.
In part one (which you can find here) we found out that the concept of adding a syllable to the beginning of a verb goes all the way back to Indo-European and we’ve learned that the grand theme of prefixes across most European languages is adding a sense of goal or destination.
In the second part (which you can find here), we then talked about the infamous German separable prefix verbs and learned about their close relations to English phrasal verbs.
And today, we’ll focus on

Non-Separable Prefixes

In part two, we actually already mentioned a few non-separable prefix verbs like understand, overcome or bypass, where the prefix is basically a preopistion that got stuck to the verb.
But unless you’re a complete beginner in German, you’ll know that there’s another kind of prefixes, which we could call pure prefixes. I’m talking of course about ver- and be- and the like; the ones that are not a word on their own.
That’s where we’ll start our journey today.
And just to make sure… it’s really a journey. Because as usual in this series, it’s meant as a nice little stroll through the fascinating world of language in general. We’ll get off the path here and there and enjoy the (in)sights.
It’s not a straight to the point practical prefix survival guide. Just felt like mentioning that so you don’t have wrong expectations :).
Anyway, so let’s start our journey with the German “pure prefixes” and their big secret, which is…

… hold on… let me put in a headline real quick.

German Inseparable Prefixes

German inseparable prefixes actually were words on their own once.
Yeah, many of you probably suspected this :).
Those prefixes were words, too, but generations of speakers have washed over them like water over a rock and smoothed them out.
That’s a natural process in language.
You see, speaking is actually quite complex and exhausting. We have all felt it when drunk or while trying to say something in a foreign language. The amount of muscle coordination in mouth and throat is pretty insane actually. We’re really really trained in out mother tongue, but still we try to make it as efficient as possible and whenever we can get away with halfassing it we’ll do it.
This happens in every language, but it’s especially strong in languages that have a strong difference between stressed and unstressed syllables.
Each word has a “main” syllable that carries the main stress. This emphasis can be achieved by pitch, loudness or length or a combination of them.
And what matters is that the difference between stressed and unstressed syllables, especially within a word, is pretty strong in German and English. Much stronger than in Spanish or Italian for instance.
I don’t have any data on this but my guess would be that the stressed syllables account for like two thirds of the recognition with context pitching in another 10-15%. The unstressed syllables really don’t matter all that much and often their contribution is rhythm.

  • I ate a baNAna.

Go ahead and try to say bunanor instead of banana. As long as the na-part has the main emphasis, you will most likely be understood.
And because in languages with a strong word accent, the unstressed syllables don’t matter all that much, speakers can save a LOT of effort on those – be it by slight modifications that make them easier to pronounce.
That’s how English got rid of most of the verb and case endings it once had, and we can actually kind of observe the same in German.

  • Ich habe einen Kaffee getrunken. (how it’s spelled)
  • Ich hab’ ein’n Kaffee getrunk’ng. (how I say it)

And now we get right back to non-separable prefixes. If you look at verbs like overcome or understand, you can see that the main emphasis is NOT on the prefix. And thus, it’s exposed to the same “force of lazy” as the endings. And the perfect example in English is the verb to forgive.
It is spelled with an “o”, and if someone enunciates really clearly, it does sound like an “o”, too. But in normal everyday speech it trends more toward this “ə” sound (like in men for example)because that’s just easier to say. For “o” we’d have to get off the couch and actually round our lips, while for “ə” we just have to open our mouth enough to put some more chips inside.
And that’s pretty much how ver-, be-, ent-, zer- and er- came about.
They’ve been fixed prefixes for a looong time and they got smoothed so much that they’re not recognizable anymore.
Here’s a little overview with there non-modified counterparts/origins

  • ver- : vor, für, pro, per
  • ent- : anti, in
  • be-   : bei
  • er-   : ur (which relates to out)
  • zer- : zwei+ur

Old English actually had a few of those, too, but it did away with them, just as it did with most of its endings. English is efficient like that. One of them has survived though:  be-. It’s by far not as common as the German version, but there are plenty of examples to be found, among them several really common ones like behave, begin, behold or become.
Now, looking at these four examples, it’s almost impossible to find a common theme for the prefix or connect it to its origin by. That’s simply because those prefix verbs have been around for a LONG time and the meanings have drifted.
And it’s no different in German. If you look at various verbs for ver- for instance, there seems to be no consistency, no theme to them.
Yet, there is. If you look at the little overview again, you can see that they all carry a directional quality – forth/forward, inward, against/toward, by/around, outward and … well… “in two”-ward.
The key is to understand in what abstract way(s) that this vague directional idea got twisted. Which is what we’ll do in separate articles and in the book I am working on. Because yes, we need to do quite an intense amount of mind yoga for some of the verbs.
But if you think these German prefixes are the pinnacle of twisted and difficult, then you’re wrong.
There’s worse.

Prefixes in Slavic languages

Slavic languages like Russian, Bulgarian or Polish also belong to the Indo-European family, and like all members they do have prefixes.
Russian has 16 to be exact. They’re different from the German ones and they look a bit more divers. There’s na- and po- and iz- and raz- and ob-, for instance. But they’re all non-separable and about 10 of them are  “pure prefixes”, meaning that they’re NOT also a word on their own.
And what do they express?
Well, they fit right in with the grand theme of prefixes. They all lend a sense of direction or goal to the verb and that can be super literal but it can also be super twisted and abstract.
Let’s look at a couple examples, actually. I’m gonna use Bulgarian here, because I know that a little better than Russian. Which isn’t saying much… I mean… I’m really a beginner.
Anyway.. take the noun izhod for example. It’s the word for der Ausgang, the exit. The prefix iz- expresses a notion of outward, leaving and the stem -hod means going. Perfectly literal, makes perfect sense.
The verb izhoshdam however, actually means to assume, to presume. Which makes NO sense to an English speaker. But it might make sense to a German learner because German has ausgehen von.
There’s a figurative point from which you go on your mental adventure, if you will.
Or take kazvam, which means to say.
Combined with the raz-prefix, which expresses the idea of “in various directions“, we get the verb razkazvam, which means to tell a story.
This one doesn’t have a direct German counterpart, but I hope you can see that in essence you’re dealing with the exact same stuff. You have a base verb, modified by a prefix and that modification can be super logical or super twisted.
And it’s actually worse in Slavic languages, because many of them really care about a thing called aspect.
Do you remember the distinction we talked about in part one, between actions that have an inherent end-point and actions that don’t?
Well, aspect is kind of sort of about that. And Slavic verbs often come in pairs.
I just told you that the verb kazvam means to say in Bulgarian. But that’s only half of the pair. The other half is kazha and it depends on what you’re saying.

  • I say something.               – (Az) kazvam neshto.
  • I want to say something. – (Az) iskam da kazha neshto.

The first one is perfective, so it has a built-in end, the second one is imperfective and just refers to the action in general.
If you don’t really understand that, don’t worry. I don’t fully get it either, because German doesn’t care much about aspect.
The reason I brought it up is that Bulgarian and other Slavic languages often use certain prefixes to create these pairs. The perfect example is pravjanapravja which mean to make. And the prefix na- here means… nothing. It’s just a grammar thing that you have to add in certain contexts.
Na- is not the only prefix used that way, so there’s more confusion.
And in other combos, na- CAN actually mean something, which makes for even more confusion.
And there is even more more more confusion because there are verbs like pischa (to write) where the na-version napisvam (which also means to write) is NOT just the perfective counter to pischa, but instead has its own counter  napischaWhich also means to write.


So yeah, in comparison to this German prefixes are actually not that bad.
I’m actually curious how speakers of Slavic languages feel about the German prefix verbs. Do you find them particularly difficult or are they rather familiar, just with different notions. Please leave a comment below, I’d really love to hear your thoughts.
Now, we’ve talked about prefixes in German and also about prefixes in Slavic languages.
What we haven’t talked about yet are prefixes in the other big important branch of the languages of Europe – the languages that are based on Latin. And we don’t have to look at Spanish or French to do that.
We can turn right to English.

Inseparable prefixes in English

We’ve already seen some examples for English prefix verbs like to understand, to overcome or to behave.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
English is at its core a Germanic language. But what’s now England and Wales was once part of the Roman empire. And a thousand years later, it was ruled by French dukes and counts for hundreds of years. And so a lot of its vocabulary is based on Latin. Latin was a HUGE fan of prefix verbs and many of them are an integral part of everyday English.
Here are some examples…

  • induce, produce, conduct, reduce, abduct, obduct, deduce, seduce
  • inject, subject, object, eject, rejectproject
  • insist, desist, assist, persist, exist, consist

There are many more such examples. And it’s not just verbs either.

  • envious, obvious, pervious, previous, devious

Have you ever though of those as prefix versions of one base? I bet, you haven’t.
The reason why prefixes don’t really seem to be a thing in English or Spanish or French is the simple fact that we don’t recognize a base anymore.
You see, in German we have stellen, which has a meaning, and then we see bestellen and verstellen and ausstellen and all the others with all their various meanings and we’re like “What is going on with these verbs and these prefixes… it’s so confusing?”

But that doesn’t happen in English.  ject or duce or sist mean nothing to us and we can’t connect them to anything. And so even if we notice the similarity between subject and project, we don’t think much about it.
But as soon as you know the meaning of the base, you realize that these are EXACTLY like German non-separable prefix verbs. A base verb with a prefix that adds a sense of direction… and then twisted beyond belief.
It’s actually quite fun to do that, so let’s do one example together. We’ll take the base ject.
Ject comes from the Latin verb iacere which meant to throw.
And now let’s see what we can do if we don’t get too hung up on the whole and think of it as placing/put instead:

  • inject    – “place inward” a liquid/substance
  • reject    – “place back” something that’s offered
  • project  – “place forth” an idea
  • object   – “place near” a verb, a beholder
  • subject – “place below” a debate or paper or king

Now you might be like “Dude, these barely make any sense.” but that’s exactly my point.
We have to do just as much mind yoga for those, as we have to do for, say, bestellen, verstellen, anstellen and abstellen because in essence it’s just like Buddha said:

It’s all the same stuff!

And that was kind of the main purpose of this mini-series. I wanted to show you that prefix verbs are more familiar to you than you think. I wanted to show you, that they all work the same, more or less – a base verb  with a directional idea, in all levels of twisted.
And there’s actually a great power in them that you can harness. If you put in the work to build a good, BLURRY idea of the directional quality a prefix has and how it’s being bent, you can create a mental image for many of the meanings you’ll encounter.
Take to reject. If you were to learn English, you could think of someone throwing a present back at someone else.

Often, books and teachers tell you that for many prefix verbs you just have to learn them, because there’s no logic. Or they give you a list of four or five things that a prefix can express. But if you actually put in the time and effort to understand what’s at the core of these four or five things, to understand the directional quality that’s at the core and how it got modified, then you’ll slowly become able to sort of “swim” within prefix verbs with ease.
No, you won’t always be able to guess them and no, not every verb will make sense. But you won’t feel lost and confused.

And that’s pretty much it. This was out little mini series on prefix verbs in general and I really hope you enjoyed our little tour through the languages of Europe. If you’re pumped now, and you want to find out more about German prefixes, you can read one of the articles I’ll link below. Or you wait, till I finish the book about them. This mini series will be part of the introduction (with edits of course) and not only will we discuss all pure prefixes in detail, we’ll also go over like 300 of the most important verbs and words with them and see if there is some logic.
I don’t know how long it’ll take but as you can see here… I am working on it :). I really want this finished, it’s more than time.
Anyway, I really hope you liked this series.  Let me know all your feedback and questions in the comments. Has your perspective on prefixes changed now? Are they a little less intimidating? Can’t wait to read your thoughts.
Have a great week and bis zum nächsten Mal.

further reading:

German Prefixes Explained – “ver-“
German Prefixes Explained – “be-“
German Prefixes Explained – “um-“

German Prepositions Explained – “auf”
German Prepositions Explained – “vor”

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1 month ago

The opening of your article has a slight inaccuracy, but it gave me an eye-opening epiphany…

You referred to “bypass” as a non-separable previx verb.

The inaccuracy is that bypass is separable in English, but that’s also the mind blowing epiphany… Bypass is an English separable prefix verb that works EXACTLY the same as a German separable prefix verb; the separation does NOT change the meaning.

I bypass something.

I pass something by.

These both mean the exact same thing, and are both idiomatic.

I didn’t think English has any of these…


1 year ago

You know some Bulgarian??! That’s so nice to hear!! I’m from Bulgaria so it makes me really happy to know you’ve taken interest in Bulgarian :))

Напиша/napischa/ is more like ‘to write down’.
 – I will write this down – Ще го напиша./Schte go napischa/
 – I write – (Аз) пиша.
 – Did you write down this explanation? – Написа ли това обяснение? /Napissa li tova obyassnenie/
 – Did you write during the lecture? – Писа ли по време на лекцията? /Pissa li po vreme na lektsiyata/

I find the German verb prefixes more english-like, since they’re germanic. I haven’t associated them with the Bulgarian verb prefixes but this could change as I learn more. They’re certainly confusing though and especially so when I first saw them.

The word for presume/assume we use is предполагам. There’s no word изхошдам. There is изхождам but it means to take a dump(im not kidding) or to walk something/somewhere thoroughly.
– Изходих целия град. /izhodih tseliya grad/ – “I walked (through/throughout) the whole city”
– Изходих целия път. /izhodih tseliya pŭt/ – “I walked the whole pathway”
The prefix of предполагам is пред- which means “in front of” and the word полагам means “to put/to lay down” so it becomes literally “to put forth” [as a possibility].

I will give you some words that might fit your analogy. I’m not fully sure about the word roots though.
 избавям /izbavyam/ – I rescue, I save; из- + бавя “I slow down”
 изключвам /izklyuchvam/ – I exclude; из- + ключ “key”
 определям/opredelyam/ – I define, I determine; о-(result of action) + пре-(covers the whole subject of speaking) + деля “I divide”
 увличам /uvlicham/ – I captivate; у-(intensifies) + влека “I drag”
 разкривам /razkrivam/ – I reveal; раз-(opposite) + крия “I hide”
разправям /razpravyam/ – I tell, I argue; раз- + правя “I do”
показвам /pokazvam/ – I show; по-(result of action?) + казвам “I say”
The prefixes have many meanings so the ones here aren’t representative of every situation. I chose these words because their root sounded unusual in that meaning.
Source for the explantions of the prefixes. (in Bulgarian)

Thanks for the awesome lessons! :)

1 year ago

Hi! I loved the mini series. We have a lot of these prefix verbs and nouns things in Italian and I like how if you break it apart and check the meaning in Latin or Ancient Greek it reveals deep stuff about the meaning of a word. Like you understand more about the concept like how people used to see that in ancient times and then evolved. I always been interested in the “privative alpha” thing or the fact that putting an A or alpha in Greek before a word makes it a negation, like why would that be ? Language is so interesting, much more than meets the eye right?:)Love how this blog focuses on these aspects as well. Thanks

1 year ago

You’re welcome!

Kannada is one of the Dravidian languages. So the root of the language is not Indo-European. However, a bunch of rulers took on Sanskrit as the court language and over centuries the languages mixed. So Kannada = Dravidian + Sanskrit. Kind of. There is also some later admixture of Urdu/Persian due to trade and Islamic rulers. So Sanskrit and Urdu are the only links that Kannada has to Indo-European languages.

Sanskrit loan words are much more common in literary/formal language than the everyday spoken language. The everyday-use verbs usually have a Dravidian root.

Going = HOguvudu
Going in = Ozhage hOguvudu
Going away = Horatu hOguvudu
(All Dravidian words)

The directional quality is expressed by a separate word, either an adverb or a preposition. For example, horatu is a modified form of the verb horaDuvudu = to leave/depart. The words can also be smushed together into a compound word, horatuhOguvudu, but does that make horatu a prefix? I’m not sure.

In contrast, if we take Sanskrit-based verbs
to expect = nireekshisuvudu
to determine = nirdharisuvudu

It would have nireeksha and nirdhaara (the sanskrit verbs) + –uvudu the Kannada verb ending for the infinitive.

The nir is a prefix indicating ..something. Sometimes it negates. I don’t know what it’s negating here though, because I don’t know enough Sanskrit to recognize eeksha or dhara as independent verbs.

This is getting long :’) Overall, there are some prefix verbs here and there but we don’t really play around with the prefixes or separate them. The meaning derivation logic is also long lost because people hardly speak like this or know Sanskrit.

Maybe that explains why German prefix verbs, while familiar, are always *just* out of reach to me XD and separable prefixes are a nightmare!

Thanks for the other language suggestions. Finnish 15 cases, aaaaah no thankyou. Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it!

1 year ago

South Indian here. Prefix verbs are generally really difficult for me to wrap my head around, and here are some ramblings about why:

All the Indian languages seem to be overrun with Sanskrit words, just as the European languages are rife with Latin influences. Aaaaand… Sanskrit is an offshoot of the Indo-European branch. So Sanskrit and Latin are rather related.

My mothertongue Kannada is therefore a very VERY distant relative of German. Most German language logic seems vaguely familiar and like, ‘ah, duh, of course it makes sense’ but I don’t know how or why, and can’t pinpoint exact similarities.

So far I’ve found equivalents for the German cases (Dativ, especially) and for the concept of compound words. We use these very often in everyday spoken Kannada. Most of the heavy lifting is done by suffixes in Kannada – gender, number, tense, aspect, literally everything. You can keep tacking on word endings and accrue whole sentences within a single word.

Surprisingly however, the whole idea of prefixes seems to have disappeared in Kannada. Especially separable prefixes and/or phrasal verbs. The only words I could find are whole Sanskrit non-separable-prefix words with Kannada grammar endings tacked on. So those don’t count. I want to grab Kannada by the shoulders, give it a shake and demand “What did you do with the prefix verbs!?” Did they never exist, or did they disappear, and why? Or are prefixes a purely Sanskrit-Latin-IndoEuropeanLanguage- obsession?

Any thoughts on this phenomenon? Are there other languages like this? Hungarian is similar with the accruing endings, I’ve heard.

Also, loving this website. Thank you for making learning German not-boring and demystifying the language!

Daniel N.
Daniel N.
1 year ago

Now, as a native Slavic speaker (Croatian, that is), we don’t think much about prefixes. It’s just a part of the verb. You simply have to remember which prefix is used to make a verb perfective, but prefixes often make a change in meaning, often unpredictable.

One thing we should think about is why there are so many instances where prefixed German verb is a literal counterpart of the Slavic verb. Are these things actually part-by-part translations?

vor-stellen pred-staviti before-put = “introduce, represent”

It seems a lot of these things are simply part-by-part translations from Latin:

German (-stell-) and Slavic (-stav-) languages: who was first?
However, could there be inherited elements as well?

2 years ago

I am a Russian speaker, and in Russian we don’t really think too much about prefixes. You just kind use them. What you said about the prefix -ras was an insight fir me, actually. We have a verb -rasskasyvat’ (to tell a story), and it makes much more sense if you think about it as going in many directions. Russian makes Germany easier for me though in terms of cases. We have cases in Russian, and they are very close in meaning to the German ones. It must be intense for an English speaker. Btw Emmanuel, I’ve heard a theory that if a language stays isolated from other languages it tends to complex cases and conjugations (like Russian or German) and when it mixes up with other languages (like English) it kinda just throws away all the complicated stuff. What are your thoughts on it?

2 years ago

I’d like to take this opportunity of posting my first comment on the site to thank those of you who were able to pay a little extra. Thanks to you, broke folks like me can afford to study Deutsch :) danke sehr!

2 years ago

Prefix verbs don‘t really bother me – I don‘t see the problem if one learns them like vocab. Then they just become part of my language.

This being said, I found it impossible to know what prefix to use to change the meaning of the same verb stem. The more German I study, the more German books I read, the easier that becomes – one gets a „feeling“
for the prefixes. That is not to say I always choose the right prefix, bit seriously, I see prefix verbs just as vocab now.

WHAT DOES DRIVE ME NUTS, is not knowing which of the separable prefixes are non-separable.

Fahren über.
Setze über

Ok, perhaps we all know that translate is never late trans, but you get the picture. I really need to find a way to know when a separable prefix stays attached.


2 years ago

Hey, ich liebe deinen Blog. Ich komme aus Bulgarien. Mir gefällt es besonders hier, dass du mit Bulgarisch verglichen hast. Dein Blog hilft mir mein Deutsch zu verbessern und gleichzeitig mein Englisch nicht zu verlernen. Weiter so!

JC Gadler
JC Gadler
2 years ago

Looking forward for your book. thanks.

2 years ago

Hi, I’m a highschool student from Turkey, I just want to thank Emanuel and all the people who’ve provided me this sponsored membership by heart. I wouldn’t afford it because foreign currency is really really high here. So I sent an e-mail and then he offered me a one-year membership. This was truly beyond my expectations, I really thank you. And I’d like to do the same when I can to the ones who cannot.

2 years ago

Hi Emanuel, the team and members – thank you so much for granting my access to the membership. I am truly appreciated by your kindness!! Viele Grüße aus Vietnam – Trung

2 years ago

A Russian native learning German on top of English here. Well, I perceive German prefixes as totally equivalent to what we have in Russian, apart from the separation story which still feels a bit weird but I become more and more able to get the yet-unsaid prefix before it is actually said. Double prefixes are pretty natural for me too, like, for example, in the word “подвыгореть”, where “под” prefix adds the sense of incompleteness.

2 years ago

Could you make a list of noun suffixes from verb roots? Such as kommen – Kunft, liegen – Lage, schreiben – Schrift? I couldn’t find such a list anywhere in the web and someone could really use it.

2 years ago
Reply to  sciencecw

AT , you can enter wildcard for a prefix slot – for example*nehmen

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Uh no what I mean is the noun form of a verb. It’s not easy to guess them if you don’t know them in the first place. Like kunft vs kommen.

2 years ago

As a native Russian speaker (and a quite fluent English one) I personally find it sometimes rather confusing how the meaning of the root in German changes because of the prefix. Some words are easier to remember (‘cuz they have quite the literal translation to Russian, for example, even with the similar prefix), others are just a pure pain. Take, for example, “nehmen” – original “to take”, then you have “Aufnahme” – “recording” (oookay?..), “Ausnahme” – “exception”, and, all of a sudden, “Annahme” with the meaning of “assumption” (and yes, in Russian it would be four different words as well). *sounds of burning brain cells*

Russian has a hell of a grammar (I would say, not even all the native speakers can speak or write it absolutely correctly), but somehow I can’t that easily remember an example of such a mind-blowing word formation. Or maybe I’ve just naturally got used to it. :)

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Well, technically Bulgarian is a South Slavic language, and Russian is an East Slavic one, so they are not that close grammatically nowadays anymore (like, for example, Bulgarian got rid of cases except for vocatives, while Russian still have its “official” six cases – though linguists say there are even more :O). Though they still have quite a lot of common roots, so I can technically understand Bulgarian a bit. :)

I had to briefly check Wikipedia about Bulgarian verbs, and I could say I see at least some similarities with Russian here: Russian verbs are also inflected for person, number and gender, and also have lexical aspect, voice, tenses, several moods and non-finite verbal forms. But on the other hand, they don’t have evidentials form at all. I would say, Russian stays between Bulgarian and German here in terms of grammar’s craziness. :D Honestly, grammar in German is like a candy after all this madness: the only problem is to remember the right meaning of the verb based on the new prefix (because as I said earlier… sometimes it feels quite random, and unfortunately I don’t know Latin to find some parallels there).

Speaking about annehmen: “nehmen” (as to take) mainly translates to Russian as “взять” [vzyat’] or “брать” [brat’], and annehmen (as assume) will be “предполагать” [predpolagat’]. They don’t have any similarities in roots at all. :) Somehow it feels that when you add a new prefix to a verb in Russian, you will probably get a word with a different meaning, but with a more or less strong connection to the original one; while in German… well… maybe if you are lucky enough. :D

2 years ago
Reply to  Lisio

Now I’m curious what the “literal” or basic meaning behind предполагать is.

“Annehmen” just doesn’t seem to me like such crazy mind-yoga, even though most English speakers wouldn’t know that it’s etymologically parallel to “assume.” The sort of prior meaning is “accept,” which is very close to “take,” and “assuming” something is “accepting” it as a basis for further thinking/acting.

2 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

I was curious enough to check, and at least two etymology dictionaries say that the word “предполагать” was made as a calque from the German word “voraussetzen”. I can’t say for sure if it’s really so, but I can really see a similar pattern between them. :)

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Greetings from Bulgaria, 6 months later after the article :)

Emmanuel, thanks for this explanation, I was really sure that my German teacher is wrong that there is no logic in the non-separable prefixes with verbs!
Anyway, it is still a real headache to *see* the hidden logic in bekommen, vergessen , etc (pardon my latin).

As a native Bulgarian speaker I find Bulgarian verbs pretty logical as all prefixes !really! have a distinct meaning. I hope it enriches your basic Bulgarian.

For example the “na-” prefix is much the same as “nad-“, meaning “over-” . It gives the overall meaning of “finishing” something , “finalizing” it or “making it permanent”.

Pisha – write something.
Na-pisha – finish the letter/book you started.

Pravia – do something
Na-pravia – finish your doing and make your final piece-of-the-art available to the universe

Kazha – say something to someone (potentially needing correction for their wrong-doings)
Na-kazha – finally punish that same naughty person for that wrong-doings after telling them 20 times already.

The same goes as well for “naglejdam” which is “oversee”/ “überwachen” – to constantly watch for and overall ensure the good health of a child / subordinate

Hope that helps :)

Speak Like Yohdah
Speak Like Yohdah
2 years ago
Reply to  Lisio

Lisio, I get tripped up on those “nehmen” and “Nahme” variations, too, and I have lots of strange ways of remembering them.

I think of “auf” as “up” or “upward”. For aufnehmen, literally “upward + to take”, I think about being a big fan of a hobby, knitting for example. In English we sometimes say, “I m ‘taking up’ knitting,” meaning I am choosing knitting as my new hobby. And because I’m so excited about knitting, I want to learn as much as possible about it, so I will record any television show I can find about it. So there’s the “to record” aspect, albeit at quite a stretch… but whatever works to get it into my brain, right?? And the spelling of nehmen with an “a” creates the noun form of the word, hence “die Aufnahme.”

Also, on signs outside of German hospitals, there are signs for “Notaufnahme”, or “emergency reception,” in other words the “A&E” or “Emergency Room” section of the building. The reception desk [or intake and admittance] process in person evolves in my mind to reception on my television or radio, which can also be stretched to recording an image [hence, a photograph] and/or recording some sound or video. That helps the wider meanings of “die Aufname” stay clear in my mind.

For “die Ausnahme”: I go to the verb form “ausnehmen” and see it literally as “outward + to take.” I think of many movies I have watched, where the funny mistakes [also known as ‘bloopers’ or ‘out-takes’] are shown only during the credits. So an “out-take” is an “exception.”

For “die Annahme”: I go to the verb form “annehmen” and see it literally as “next to me + to take.” An idea of somebody or something moving close to me and staying there. Hence ‘adoption’, to take a child next to me and make them part of my family. And ‘assumption’, to take my ideas of the world and hold them tight to me. ‘Acceptance’ and ‘receiving”: willingly taking a person or thing into my group or environment.

Yes, I promised my methods were strange… but whatever works to get the concepts into your own brain is the right way to memorize it!

I’m fairly new to this blogsite, so some of these ideas might already be discussed elsewhere.

Speak Like Yohdah
Speak Like Yohdah
2 years ago

My shortcut for “ver”: I think of it as “to become”.

Since kaufen = to buy, verkaufen= to become bought, i.e. to sell.
Likewise lieben = to love, verlieben = to become loved, i.e. to fall in love.
It’s not foolproof but it gets me “halb Miete” [halfway there] many times when I am forced to guess the meaning.

This series of prefixes has helped me a LOT, thank you for writing it. I’m starting to get an intuitive feeling for many of the separable verbs.

P.S. the above link to “German Prefixes Explained: “auf” ” is mistakenly linking to the “vor” explanation.

2 years ago

Shame because post WW2 France and Germany reconciled after centuries of hostility setting the stage for decades of peaceful cooperation among so many EU countries … UK governments failed that test with half-hearted support at best and finally betrayed the cause of peace by leaving Europe. The referendum appealed to base motives … in many cases to anti immigrant racism and anti European sentiments. Members of my own family and many friends embraced British “superiority”. I am ashamed of that.

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri
2 years ago
Reply to  Roger

Hello Roger
Que je suis heureux que vous êtes parmis nous .
Quand à Brexit et Brexitiers, on n’est pas à la fin d’histoire .
Bojo et acolytes ne serons pas toujours là. La paix et la solidarité gagnerons de nouveau . Rira bien celui qui rira le dernier .
Keep hope alive.

2 years ago
Reply to  Roger
2 years ago

The link to the prefix ‘auf’ comes up as ‘vor’. You may have put the ‘vor’ prefix article under ‘auf’ as well as ‘vor’ by mistake, unless my laptop is playing funny games.
Just joined up and yes, great insight and quite fascinating! Some very creative comments too!

2 years ago

The en in enjoy isn’t a verb prefix as there is no verb “to joy.“ Now, it is a prefix wrt enjoin, entangle, ensnare, etc.

In enjoy the en is a prefix that turns a noun into a verb. We also add ize or ise suffixes to turn nouns into verbs.

Enverben or verbize.

2 years ago
Reply to  Joseph

Joy can be used as a verb meaning to take pleasure or delight in something. For example, you could joy in the knowledge that a loved one is marrying their soulmate. That’s a fairly archaic use, but it’s grammatically correct and might still be used in certain types of literature.

Enjoy and rejoice are closely related. The ‘en’ has a sense of bringing in or making, thus the definition of taking pleasure or delight in – same as ‘joy’ (which, when used as a verb, would always come as a phrase ‘joy in’). The ‘re’ of course means ‘again,’ so rejoice is essentially doubling down on the joy. So it’s the strongest of the 3 words, but also somewhat archaic. I’m a literature nerd though, so it’s interesting to see the different meanings of these words in Shakespeare and the like.

2 years ago
Reply to  coleussanctus

Habakkuk 3:18 KJV. :)

2 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Yep! I’m fairly new to this site but I’ve been catching up on older articles. I’ve seen your name here and there in the comments and I always find yours interesting :)