Advent Calendar 15 – Together or Not

“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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3 years ago

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).

Abgasstufe EsZett
Abgasstufe EsZett
3 years ago

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)


3 years ago

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

3 years ago
Reply to  aaron

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

3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Doesn’t one HAVE things “gemeinsam”? As in “die Eigenschaften meine Omas haben gemeinsam sind: bla bla bla.
(The characteristics both of my grandmothers have in common are: bla bla bla)

3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Die Eigenschaften, DIE meine Omas (eine Jüdin und eine Italienerin) gemeinsam haben, sind ihre (großen) Nasen und ihre (besondere) Beziehung zum Essen. DIE being the relative pronoun. Oder?

3 years ago

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
3 years ago
Reply to  aoind

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.

3 years ago

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.

3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Funny you should ask…

Professor mailed me today to say: 105 outta 105 – almost wet my pants!

Still waiting for the results on the essay though – close to biting my fingernails…

Right now I’m working on my German speech to be delivered on Tuesday.

Translating a speech I’ve made in English or Swedish FUNKTIONIERT NICHT! Had to THINK it and WRITE it auf Deutsch. The speech is fine, I’m just having trouble giving it a good twist at the end. Not as easy as one would think, in a Fremdsprache.

Thank you very much for asking.

3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

The speech has to be 5 – 6 minutes. Got it written and am rehearsing. Speaking in front of a crowd is not a problem, writing anything, including a speech, is not a problem. However – it is nearly impossible to write anything entertaining auf Deutsch – when one is this new at it – the word order makes getting that last screwy twist in at the end sehr schwierig.

It is impossible for me to speak about anything as cut and dry as, “Mein Aufenthalt in Hamburg” oder “Mein Hund, Sniff” – I was born with an innate need to entertain. The Speech is due tomorrow afternoon, the speech will be great, despite my ridiculous American accent – the question is if I will get the audience to relax and take the “ride” with me.

Rohrkrepierer ‐ KOOK & HECKLER
Rohrkrepierer ‐ KOOK & HECKLER
3 years ago
Reply to  Amerikanerin

Eine kleine Frage bitte : Ihrer Meinung nach, was betrachten Sie als schwieriger als Fremdsprache zu meistern – Schwedisch oder

Lernen viele in Schweden Deutsch? Von Schwedisch “verstehe ich nur Bahnhof” dh gar nichts

Hose soll höchstens “tote” nicht nass!

“tote Hose” Kennen Sie die schon?

Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.
Es kommt mir spanisch vor.

Rede übermorgen :
Anfang gut! Zweifelsohne!
Ende gut!
Sowie die deutsche Mutti immer sagt : Es wird geschafft, Wir schaffen das!!

3 years ago

Abgasstufe ess-zett –

Sie dürfen mich gern duzen!

Schwierig zu sagen, welche Sprache ist schwieriger zu lernen. Eine Sprache zu lernen ist wie ein Kind zur Welt zu bringen: man vergisst schnell den Schmerz und macht es noch einmal! Haha!

Es scheint, dass es mir leichter ist, Deutsch zu lernen, als ein Englischmuttersprachler, der kein Schwedisch spricht. Aber ich kann nicht sagen ob es schwieriger ist, Deutsch zu lernen als Schwedisch zu lernen. Es gibt MEHR auf Deutsch als auf Schwedisch zu lesen/hören, weil es gibt über 100 Miljonen Deutschsprecher und nur zirka 9 Miljonen, die Schwedisch sprechen.

Es gibt leider nicht so viel, die in Schweden Deutsch lernen.

Kenne Die Toten Hosen UND Die Rote Rosen auch – sie (Rote Rosen) hat ein sehr lustiges Weihnachtsleid gesungen (“Weihnachtsmann vom Dach” soll es heißen).

Danke für die Glückwunsch zur Rede Morgen – sehr schwierig lustig auf Deutsch zu sein, weil ich beherrsche noch nicht Deutsch so gut.