Separable & Inseparable Prefixes

Separable Prefixes

ab- auf- bei- mit- vor- weg- zurück-
an- aus- los- nach- vorbei- zu- zusammen-

These prefixes are added to the infinitive and change the meaning of the verb. Kommen is to come, but ankommen is to arrive. When conjugated, the prefix goes to the end of the sentence. Er kommt um fünf Uhr an means "he is arriving at 5." But Er kommt um drei Uhr means "he is coming at 3." With modals, the infinitive goes to the end of the sentence as usual, but the prefix remains attached. Ich will jetzt ausgehen means "I want to go out now."

Verbs with Separable Prefixes

abholen to pick someone up
zuhören to listen to
ankommen to arrive
mitnehmen to take with
anrufen to call up
einsteigen to board
aufhören to stop
vorbeikommen to come by
aufstehen to get up
anzünden to light (candles)
ausfüllen to fill in (the blanks)
ausgeben to spend
ausgehen to go out
anziehen to put on clothes
aussehen to look like, appear
ausziehen to take off clothes
einkaufen to shop
ansehen to look at, watch
einpacken to pack up
aufräumen to tidy up (clothes)
fernsehen to watch TV
ausleeren to empty
austragen to deliver
aufmachen to open
vorschlagen to suggest
zumachen to close
wegstellen to put away
anmachen to turn on
einschlafen to fall asleep
ausmachen to turn off
anfangen to begin
abräumen to clear (the table)
aufwachen to wake up
zurückkommen to come back
auswandern to emigrate
vorstellen to introduce
weggehen to go away
aufwischen to mop up
abtrocknen to dry (dishes)
abwischen to wipe clean
mitkommen to come with
einladen to invite
anschauen to look at
zusehen to observe

Inseparable Prefixes

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

These prefixes always remain attached to their infinitives. The inseparable prefixes are unstressed syllables, as compared to the separable prefixes which can stand alone as different words. Some examples of verbs with inseparable prefixes are besuchen - to visit, erzählen - to tell, gewinnen - to win, and versprechen - to promise.

Unter and über can function as separable prefixes, but they are much more commonly used as inseparable prefixes. When prefixes are stressed, they are separable; when they are not stressed, they are inseparable. The stress on the following verbs in not on the prefix, so they are all inseparable: unterhalten - to entertain, unternehmen - to undertake, überholen - to overtake, and übersetzen - to translate.

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