How to Use Separable Verbs in German
Separable verbs are not hard to understand, however learning to use them takes practice and time.
For the purposes of this first section, we'll use two separable verbs in the present tense – so we'll use them to talk about now.
A separable verb (in German: ein trennbares Verb, plural: trennbare Verben) is a verb that requires you to do three things :
remove the prefix from the verb
conjugate what's left
tack the prefix on to the end of the sentence.
That's the entire rule.
Das ist alles.
That's what most of you understand, all of you who read this first section.
Here's what will set you apart from all the rest: learn to actually use these verbs in German. Learn to separate that prefix, conjugate the stem (what's left) and tack it on at the end 100% of the time.
Understanding a rule is one thing. Practice is something entirely different.
Üben wir! (Let's practice!)
Here are two very good verbs: einatmen and ausatmen.
Einatmen means to breathe in or to inhale.
Ausatmen means to breathe out or to exhale.
Now we apply the rule. Let's use it with “ich.”
remove the prefix from the verb – atmen ein
conjugate what's left – ich atme
tack the prefix on to the end of the sentence – ich atme ein.
That happens to be the sentence “I breathe in.”
“Ich atme ein.”
Now do the same thing with ausatmen.
You should end up with:
Ich atme aus.
Ich atme ein. Ich atme aus.
Over the next two weeks you'll have more practice with separable verbs. If you'd like guided practice with trennbare Verben for the entire month of February, check out die gute Stube, an online community for German learners to practice their writing, reading, and speaking together.