Separable verbs

Summary: separable verbs

In German you can add a prefix to a simple verb, forming a verb with a new meaning.

Prefix + verb = new verb
ab + fahren = abfahren
zurück + fahren = zurückfahren

Many of these new verbs are separable. This means that for a simple declarative sentence in the present, the original simple verb is conjugated and is the second idea in the sentence. The prefix is at the end of the sentence.

Der Zug fährt um 9:45 Uhr ab.


In combination with a modal verb, the separable verb is at the end of the sentence in the infinitive. In this case, the prefix is not separated.

Du musst nicht umsteigen.


In the present perfect, a past participle is formed from the separable verb by placing -ge- between the prefix and the verb stem.

Ich bin schon seit einigen Jahren nicht mehr weggefahren.


You can often tell whether a verb is separable from its prefix.

  • Verbs with the prefixes e.g. ab-, an-, auf-, aus-, ein-, mit-, nach-, weg-, zu- are always separable.
  • By contrast, verbs with the prefixes be-, ent-, er-, ver-, zer- are not separable.
  • Verbs with the prefixes 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.

aufstehen: separable

verstehen: not separable


Grammatical terms in German:

Das trennbare Verb: Separable verbs have a prefix that can be separated and then comes at the end of the sentence.