Advent Calendar 15 – Together or Not


Hallo Leute,

Epic Advent Calendar, door number ___ , 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 :).

for members :)

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I think I get it – “zusammenarbeiten” is basically “to cooperate” and zusammen arbeiten is to work together, like at the same workplace.

Zusammenwachsen = grow into one entity / zusammen wachsen = both grow at the same time, in the same place, because of the same experience.

Zusammendrucken = like crushing something / zusammen drucken = both pushing at the same time and in the same direction


Am I on the right track?

#8. Could it also be zusammengewachsen as in grown together, into each other, grown into/become ONE entity? Sure, they both grew at the same time while working on these projects together but perhaps they also grew closer to each other, as a team?

I find marking the yellow, as if I was going to copy and paste it, allows me to see what the yellow text says – brilliant way to do it, can’t be seen (not on my screens anyway) until I actively highlight the text.


That was much harder than I was expecting but I’m very glad you brought it up. Not something I’d ever properly thought about. Couple of questions: Thomas’s “moving together with” the model – do you mean “moving in with”? I don’t think moving together with has a particular meaning. And this couple’s light switch that must be pressed together – should that be switchES that must be pressed together or definitely just one switch that two people must press at the same time? And would it make a difference in German? Cheers. Just 10 sleeps to go now (9 for you with your Christmas Eve jumping the gun shenanigans!)

just me
just me

Thank you for asking about #6. I was like ?? electric couplings? As in transferring energy between circuits? Or, no, he wouldn’t do the kinky sex thing, would he? Total confusion.


Great post! I’ve always wondered if gemeinsam and zusammen as adverbs are interchangeable, not the separable prefix form, but the adverb form.


So, for instance, could you say: Marian und Thomas wollen morgen gemeinsam laufen. Does the meaning change at all?

Abgasstufe EsZett
Abgasstufe EsZett

Gruß Gott Herr Magister,
alles unten ist nicht ernst gemeint.

A Dun Cow is sitting here an seinem Computer “mitsammen” somewhat dunfounded.

OK “dun anyone”? As British English still common perhaps?

War ganz am Anfang ein kleines Wortspiel –oder??/
Es war “FAST” über meinen Horizont vorbei hinweg gesaust!
Ein dumm oder “dun” Witz.

:+) !!

Damit wurde auch the gray area (bei mir relativ klein) oder Abstand zwischen den Ohren gemeint.

“is an exploration of the gray area between what is a prefix and what isn’t. Dun dunn dunnnn”.

Mit Gänsefüßchen WEGEN geschütztem Uhrheberrechts versehen! § 31 IV UrhG

Ohren kann man sowieso als ein körperliches prefix beschreiben.

Na, so ungefähr:

positiv dun
komparativ dunn

superlativ dunnnn (am dunnnnsten)

dun -(vom Netz geklaut)

of a dull grayish-brown color.
“a dun cow”
synonyms: grayish-brown, brownish, mousy, muddy, khaki, umber

“a dun cow”

Ahah! Eine blöde Kuh! Aber das ist etwas anders!

Does anyone still use this word as a color?

Dunnage is packing material.
to dun is to demand

Frage: Ist “mitsammen” südlicher Dialekt oder überall verwendet?
Ist es nur als Umgangssprache zu betrachten?

Und aus der Haupthimmelsrichtung Südens kommt gleich Wolfgang Ambros zum Auftritt in die Musikbox.

Text an der Kasse!
Deutsch im Lied ist wienerische Mundart ( Wien Vienna} und ist hammerhart!!

Langsam Wachsen Wir Zusammen (zamm)



This is pretty interesting and something I hadn’t thought about much before. It also seems to fit into the German dichotomy of “directional” and “not directional” (accusative and dative, for cases). When zusammen is used as a prefix, like you said there’s the connotation of two things coming together (directional) whereas when zusammen is an adverb, we’re just placing two things next to each other (not directional).