Advent Calendar 15 – Together or Not

Written By: Emanuel Updated: July 7, 2022

“Together or not”

Hallo Leute,

Epic Advent Calendar, door number 15 , and today I want to talk a bit about on-off relationships and what to do if you find yourself in one.
Nah, kidding… today we’ll do a little exercise about spelling.
Now, I know spelling is one of the most boringest things ever but don’t click away just yet. This exercise will be wicked fun, I promise.
Because it’s only about spelling on the surface. What it really is about is an exploration of the gray area between what is a prefix and what isn’t. Dun dunn dunnnn.

We all know about German prefixes. Some are non separable (ver-, be-,… ) , others are separable (auf, an, …) and then there are a few others like um- that can be either, depending on context.
I think, most of you have at least heard of this.
But what many of you probably aren’t really aware of, is that there’s another option.
Words that can be a separable prefix or an independent adverb.
Here’s what I mean:

  1. Wir haben zusammengearbeitet.
  2. Wir haben zusammen gearbeitet.

The first sentence means that we were working together, in the sense that we worked as a team toward a common goal.
The second one on the other hand merely means that we were together while working. But maybe we worked on different things.
So the question whether it’s spelled as one word or not really matters sometimes.
And that’s what we’ll train today :).

Actually, this question comes up for quite a few words, like auseinander (apart), durcheinander (in disarray) and hinterher (behind, after) or many of the da-words.
But today, we’ll stick with zusammen today, because there are loads of legit prefix verbs with it and it’s the best one to see the difference in meaning.

So… basically, what you have to do is to decide whether zusammen is part of a prefix verb or not. I’ll give you the English sentence as well as the German translation AND I’ll also give you the base verb. So you really just have to put in the correct form and decide whether it’s together or separate. Like…

  • Thomas, can you please fold your clothes?
    Thomas, kannst du bitte deine Wäsche zusammenlegen? (legen)

Here, the question was whether it is zusammen legen or zusammenlegen (it’s together).
So as rough rule of thumb, if zusammen is about really joining two things together, then it is probably a prefix.  If it is just about doing something with a partner, then it’s gonna be two words.

To see the solution, just mark the yellow text. Viel Spaß :)


  1. Thomas and Maria want to go running together tomorrow.
    Thomas und Maria wollen morgen zusammen laufen. (laufen)
  2. I added together all costs.
    Ich habe alle Kosten zusammengerechnet. (rechnen)
  3. I thought we wanted to watch the movie together.
    Ich dachte, wir wollten den Film zusammen gucken? (gucken)
  4. The coffee kitchen is the place where all information flows together.
    Die Kaffeeküche ist der Ort, wo alle Informationen zusammenlaufen. (laufen)
  5. Thomas is happy that he is moving together with the model.
    Thomas freut sich, dass er mit dem Model zusammenzieht. (ziehen)
  6. The couple’s light switch always has to be pressed together.
    Den Pärchenlichtschalter muss man immer zusammen drücken. (drücken)
  7. The carriage horse is happy, that it’ll pull the carriage together with its BFF.
    Das Kutschpferd freut sich, dass es die Kutsche heute mit seinem BFF zusammen zieht. (ziehen)
  8. During the project we have grown together.
    Während des Projekts sind wir zusammen gewachsen. (wachsen)
  9. We have to work together to pull that off.
    Wir müssen zusammenarbeiten, um das zu schaffen. (arbeiten)
  10. The grannies meet up once a week to sew together.
    Die Omis treffen sich einmal in der Woche um zusammen zu nähen. (nähen)
  11. Thomas tied Marias shoelaces together.
    Thomas hat Maria die Schnürsenkel zusammengebunden. (binden)


And, how’d you do? Did you get a bit of a feel for it? If you struggled, then don’t worry. This particular question is one where even native speakers stop and think only to then get it wrong sometimes.
And that’s it for today. Let me know in the comments how you did and what questions you have.
Have a great day and bis morgen :).

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