Separable verbs in the present tense in German

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Separable verbs in the present tense

Separable verbs are made up of a prefix + verb stem.

einkaufen : ein + kaufen

(to go shopping)

In a standard sentence in the present tense, the conjugated verb stem comes after the subject. The prefix comes at the end of the sentence.

einkaufen →  Ich kaufe im Asia-Markt ein. einkaufen, Präsens

to go shopping → I go shopping at the Asian shop.

aufstehen → Tim steht immer spät auf. aufstehen, Präsens

to get up → Tim always gets up late.

ankommen →  Wann kommt Anna in Berlin an? ankommen, Präsens

to arrive → When will Anna arrive in Berlin?

These are the most important separable verbs to know: einkaufen (to go shopping), aufstehen (to get up), anfangen (to start), mitkommen (to come with), abholen (to collect), ankommen (to arrive), mitnehmen (to take with), fernsehen (to watch TV), anrufen (to call), vorbereiten (to prepare).

Ich nehme meine Badehose mit. mitnehmen, Präsens

I’m taking my swimming trunks with me.

Caroline bereitet das Frühstück vor. vorbereiten, Präsens

Caroline is preparing the breakfast.

Kommt Rüdiger auch mit? mitkommen, Präsens

Is Rüdiger also coming along?

Note: a separable verb sometimes has a similar meaning to the same verb without the prefix. However, sometimes the meaning is very different.

Ich kaufe ein Auto.

I buy a car.

Ich kaufe Obst und Gemüse ein. (= etwas im Supermarkt kaufen)

I buy fruit and vegetables. (einkaufen implies buying something at the supermarket)

Er fängt den Ball.

He catches the ball.

Er fängt mit dem Studium an. (= das Studium beginnen)

He is starting the course.


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