I’m learning German, and I’m curious about these separated words that actually go together! Like ‘aufpassen’ (to pay attention), which when used in a sentence is used as ‘pass auf ‘ (pay attention). Why is that? How can I identify them? Thanks!
They’re really weird !
As learner I used to compare them to phrasal verbs in English, but instead of having the two parts (main verb and particle/preposition) one after the other, the Präfix goes to the end of the sentence.
And about the meaning, the structure is also similar: I mean, there are many of them that have the same “main verb” but change the meaning when they change the Präfix/preposition/particle.
In English you have for e.g. get up and get over with, both with “get”. And in German you have “zumachen” and aufmachen", both with “machen”.
Like Yan said, they’re a bit like English phrasal verbs, only in German the particle (the prefix, which is usually a preposition) goes at the end of the sentence.
You can have the same “main verb” with different prefixes, and the prefixes themselves usually have some broad meaning: for example, if you have a verb with the prefix “vor-” it will probably have something to do with the idea of doing something before (vorbereiten=prepare, vorhaben=plan).
Identifying them while reading is not very hard: if there is a conjugated verb a dangling preposition at the end, it is most likely a separable verb and the preposition is the prefix.
If you want to study them you have to be careful because not all verbs with prefixes are separable. For example, the following prefixes are never separated: be-, emp-, ent-, er-, ge-, miss-, ver-, & zer-.
And be careful with some verbs that look the same but have different meanings if they are separable or not:
- Ich fahre den Baum um. → I knock the tree down with my car.
- Ich umfahre den Baum. → I drive around the tree.
I hope this has made it a bit clearer!