2. Verbs with Inseparable Prefixes

Some verbs appear both with and without prefixes, and the meanings of the verb change quite considerably with the prefix. The inseparable prefixes are: be-, ent-, emp-, er-, ge, miß-, ver-, and zer-. Examples of some verbs in this category are:

With prefix Without prefix
begehen (to commit) gehen (to go)
empfangen (to receive fangen (to catch)
enthalten (to contain) halten (to hold)
erhalten (to receive) halten (to hold)
gefallen (to please) fallen (to fall)
mißverstehen (to misunderstand) stehen (to stand)
verstehen (to understand) stehen (to stand)
zerfallen (to fall to pieces) fallen (to fall)

Note how the prefix has changed the meaning. Only in the case of miß– and zer can we always attach a meaning to the inseparable prefix, i.e., “mis-“ and “to pieces” respectively. Quite often however the addition of ent– to a verb lends the meaning “away from,” e.g. entnehmen = to take away, remove; entkleiden = to remove clothes, undress. And often the addition of a be turns an intransitive verb transitive, e.g., bewohnen = to inhabit (something).

As mentioned at the end of Unit 3, the conjugations of verbs with inseparable prefixes simply follow the same forms as the root verb. For example, verstehen (to understand), bestehen (to exist; to insist),  gestehen (to confess), and entstehen (to be created, to develop, to form) all share the same endings and forms as stehen (to stand):

Die Frau versteht die Kinder.
The woman understands the children.

Die Frauen verstanden die Kinder.
The women understood the children.

These prefixed verbs are found in dictionaries as separate entries, not under the root verb.

Last revised on September 5, 2017.