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Separable Verbs and Related Prepositions, Part I

It is pretty unusual in English to have the same word with a completely different meaning occur twice in the same sentence. But as you will learn today, in German it is a fairly commonplace occurence.

 

Separable verbs often start with prefixes that are identical to prepositions. Here is a partial list of separable verbs that start with prefixes that on their own are prepositions, followed by examples of one of the verbs and the preposition:

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Preposition: ab (from, off, starting, beginning, away)
Separable verbs: abbrennen (to burn down); abgeben (to turn in, to hand over); abkürzen (to shorten); abnehmen (to lose weight, to take something off); abschließen (to finish, to lock something)

 

Nimm mal die Brille ab! Er hat ganz rote Augen.

Take off the glasses! He has really red eyes.

Caption 31, Pastewka - Cantz fährt betrunken Auto

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Ab nächster Woche geht das Fitnessprogramm wieder los.

Beginning next week, the fitness program will get going again.

Caption 36, Claudia Schiffer - Nach der Babypause

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Using the verb abnehmen and the preposition ab, you can construct a sentence such as the one below. Can you tell from the sentence structure which ab is part of the verb and which is the preposition?

 

Ab diesem Zeitpunkt nehme ich die Sonnenbrille ab.
From this moment on, I'm taking off my sunglasses
.

 

Preposition: an (at, upon, on, to, towards)
Separable verbs: anerkennen (to recognize); andeuten (to hint at, to suggest); angeben (to indicate, to state, to brag); anklagen (to accuse); anschauen (to watch); anstellen (to hire, to employ); anweisen (to instruct); anwenden (to use); sich anziehen (to dress)

 

Dieser gibt an, wie die Hühner gehalten werden.

This indicates how the chickens are kept.

Caption 11, Bioeier - Wie funktioniert der Erzeugercode?

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Behindert werden an dieser Stelle weder der Verkehr noch die Fußgänger.

Neither the traffic nor the pedestrians are impeded at this point.

Caption 29, Richter Alexander Hold - Richtig parken

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Er gibt an dieser Stelle an, was er getan hat.
At this point, he states what he has done.

 

Preposition: auf (onto, upon, on, to, at, up)
Separable verbs: aufatmen (to breathe a sigh of relief); aufbleiben (to stay up, to stay open); aufführen (to perform); aufklären (to inform, enlighten, clear up); auflockern (to liven up); aufnehmen (to record, to take a picture); aufpassen (to look out, to take care); aufräumen (to clean up); aufschlagen (to open up); aufwachsen (to grow up)

 

Achtung, Luise, pass auf!

Attention, Luise, watch out!

Caption 59, Bretten - Das Peter-und-Paul-Fest

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Sie waren die Schnellsten auf dem Acker.

They were the fastest on the field.

Caption 18, Barfuß unter Schafen - Schäferwettrennen

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The verb aufpassen generally means "to watch out" for something, but combined with the preposition auf and a person, it means "to take care":

 

Pass auf dich auf, hm?

Take care of yourself, hm?

Caption 16, Lilly unter den Linden - Kapitel 4: Die Grenze

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Further Learning
See if you can come up with some other sentences that contain a separable verb and a preposition that is identical to the verb's prefix and have your teacher check your work. You can also look for more examples of separable verbs used with the same prefixes as prepositions on Yabla German.

"For" is not always "für"

The German accusative preposition für is often translated to the English preposition "for":

 

Hier gibt es viele verschiedene Sachen für die Familie und für die Kinder zu sehen.

Here there are many different things for the family and for the children to see.

Caption 8, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

However, the English preposition "for" may also be translated to German as aus:

 

Aber aus irgendeinem Grund wollte Pandora im Haus bleiben.

But for some reason Pandora wanted to stay in the house.

Captions 33-34, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Büchse der Pandora

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Or as zum:

 

Fast jedes Ei, das zum Verkauf in Supermärkten gedacht ist, muss mit einem Zahlencode gekennzeichnet sein. [Kennzeichnung von Hühnereiern]

Almost every egg that is intended for sale in supermarkets must be marked with a number code. [Identification of chicken eggs]

Captions 9-10, Bioeier - Wie funktioniert der Erzeugercode?

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Or as seit:

 

Und seit wie lange schon? -Seit sechzehn Jahren.

And for how long already? -For sixteen years.

Caption 6, Frisbee - Karlsruher Weihnachtsturnier

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Remember too that foreign words in general may be translated differently according to context. Just because "for" translates to seit in the above example does not mean that seit always translates back to "for":

 

Aber seit ich in Berlin lebe, arbeite ich als Kellnerin und Barista in Cafés.

But since I've lived in Berlin, I've worked as a waitress and barista in cafés.

Caption 16, Berlin - Judith und die „Brezel Bar“

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Further Learning
Search on Yabla German for the English word "for" to see examples of how this preposition can be translated to German in different contexts.


 

For vs. für

The English preposition "for" and the German accusative preposition für are not only similarly spelled, but are often interchangeable too — the problem arises in cases where they are not. Let's first take a look at some examples where "for" can be directly translated as für. If something is intended for someone:

 

Was kann ich für dich tun?

What can I do for you?

Caption 2, Berlin - Judith und die „Brezel Bar“

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

When indicating quantity or money:

 

Für Geld machen Sie alles?

For money you'll do anything?

Caption 62, Klebt, schmeckt, macht dick - Die Süßigkeitenmesse

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For stating a length or period of time:

 

Stattdessen wird sie in einen tiefen Schlaf fallen für viele Jahre.

Instead, she will fall into a deep sleep for many years.

Caption 30, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Dornröschen

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Some English expressions with "for" also use für when translated to German: für nichts or für umsonst (for nothing); für immer (for always or forever); für nächstes Mal (for next time).

On the other hand, the English "for" may also be translated as aus, seit, or zu, with expressions like "for some reason" (aus irgendeinem Grund), "for a long time" (seit langem), and "for sale" (zum Verkauf):

 

Aber aus irgendeinem Grund wollte Pandora im Haus bleiben.

But for some reason Pandora wanted to stay in the house.

Captions 33-34, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Büchse der Pandora

 Play Caption

 

Er ist Ungar und spielt schon seit langem mit uns zusammen.

He is Hungarian and plays with us for a long time already.

Captions 24-25, Deutsche Bands - Cabanossi

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Fast jedes Ei, das zum Verkauf in Supermärkten gedacht ist...

Almost every egg that is intended for sale in supermarkets...

Caption 9, Bioeier - Wie funktioniert der Erzeugercode?

 Play Caption

 

It's important to remember that prepositions are not always directly translatable; just because "for" is translated as zu in one case does not mean that zu is always translated into English as "for."

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Further Learning:

Imagine a typical use of the word "for" in an English sentence, then translate it into German and search Yabla German for a similar expression to see how it is translated there. Did you get it right?

Vocabulary

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