Separable verbs (1)

In German it is possible to add a prefix to a simple verb, thus forming a verb with a new meaning.

prefix  + verb = new verb
fern + sehen = fernsehen
ein + kaufen = einkaufen


Many of these new verbs are separable. So, for a simple statement in the present, the original simple verb is conjugated and comes in second position in the sentence. The prefix comes at the end of the sentence.

Diagram of the grammar problem
null DW

Lisa kauft ein.

Lisa kauft im Supermarkt ein.

Lisa kauft immer im Supermarkt ein.


You can often tell if a verb is separable by its prefix.

  • Verbs with certain prefixes, for example: ab-, an-, auf-, aus-, ein-, mit-, nach-, weg-, zu-  are always separable.
  • In contrast, verbs with certain prefixes, for example:  be-, ent-, er-, ver-, zer- are not separable.
  • Verbs with prefixes like durch-, über-, um-, unter- can be separable or inseparable.


You can also recognize separable verbs by their pronunciation. With separable verbs, the prefix is always stressed.

einkaufen: separable

verkaufen: not separable


Grammatical terms in German:

das trennbare Verb: Separable verbs have a prefix that can be separated in the sentence, and which then comes at the end.