Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Separable Verbs and household chores

You can tell if a verb is separable by looking at the prefix. Then look in a grammar book and see if the prefix is in a long list of separable prefixes. Have you fallen asleep yet? There is a much easier answer. If you hear the verb and the emphasis is on the prefix then it is separable. So if you hear abwaschen and notice the emphasis on the ab then you know it is separable. This means that you say Ich wasche ab not ich abwasche. Of course it is much better to hear the sentence a few times and recognise that it means I wash up.

Why do we use the adverb 'up' when we are washing pots. Ab is normally translated into English as 'from' or 'off' but now you know in this sense it also means up. Similarly if you want to say 'I dry up' you would say ich trochne ab. I dry the dishes is ich trochne das Geschirr ab. If you want to tidy your room then we can say tidy the room or we can tidy the room up. In German the adverb is auf and the sentence is ich räume mein Zimmer auf.

Learning German makes you think about the use of English adverbs. Often they are nonsense but because we are used to them they are accepted. If a word looks strange in a foreign language then don't worry about it - there are plenty of strange words in English.

Bis bald

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