1. Non-Separable Prefixes
  2. Separable Prefixes
  3. Dual Prefixes

In German, there are many words called prefixes that can be put before a verb to alter its meaning.

Some prefixes are always joined with the verb - these are unseparable prefixes. Most of the prefixes, though, are separable, and can stand apart from their verb in different conjugations.

Non-Separable Prefixes

Rule 1: For some verbs with prefix, the verb and the prefix remain inseparable even when conjugated. They are called non-separable verbs.

Inseparable verbs start with:

  • be-
  • emp-
  • ent-
  • er-
  • ge-
  • miss-
  • ver-
  • zer-

Here's an example with the verb erfinden:



Ich erfinde etwas Neues.

I invent something new.

Rule 2: The past participle of inseparable verbs is formed without "ge."



Ich habe die Prüfung bestanden.

I passed the exam.

Separable Prefixes

Rule 3: Verbs with separable prefixes are the most common in German and are called separable verbs. When conjugated, the verb and the prefix are separated, and the prefix is put at the end of the sentence or clause.

Here's the list of the common separable prefixes:

  • ab-
  • an-
  • auf-
  • aus-
  • bei-
  • ein-
  • los-
  • mit-
  • nach-
  • her-
  • hin-
  • vor-
  • weg-
  • zu-
  • zurück-



Ich stehe an der Kasse an.

I'm standing in line at the cash register.

Rule 4: In the past participle, we add "ge" between the prefix and the verb:



Ich habe an der Kasse angestanden.

I waited in line.

Dual Prefixes

Rule 5: Some prefixes can be separable and inseparable depending on the verb. These are:

  • durch-
  • hinter-
  • über-
  • unter-
  • um-
  • wieder-
  • wider-

Tip: If the emphasis is on the second syllable, the verb is inseparable. If we stress the prefix, it is a separable verb.



Er schaut sich um.

He looks around.

Sie umarmt ihn.

She hugs him.