German Language Stack Exchange is a bilingual question and answer site for speakers of all levels who want to share and increase their knowledge of the German language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Usually, when I have to conjugate a verb with a prefix (not necessarily separable!) in Perfekt, I automatically associate the same auxiliary verb, say

[verschwimmen, ich bin verschwommen] because of [schwimmen, ich bin geschwommen.]


[anmachen, ich habe angemacht] because of [machen, ich habe gemacht]

I'm almost sure that the following statement is not entirely true but my verb-repertoire, so far, hasn't being enough to find an exception to the following statement:

Adding a prefix to a verb doesn't change its auxiliary.

If it doesn't hold, can somebody state a weaker rule (i.e. more hypothesis), so that it does hold?

share|improve this question
kommen and bekommen would be a counterexample, though they are very different in meaning and might no even have the same etymological origin. – Wrzlprmft Aug 29 '13 at 19:39
befallen (haben) and fallen (sein) would be a counterexample of verbs which almost certainly share their etymological origin. – Wrzlprmft Aug 29 '13 at 19:46
up vote 3 down vote accepted

In general, the statement is not true. E.g., reflexive verbs always form haben perfect, so if you derive a reflexive verb from a non-reflexive sein perfect verb, the auxiliary changes:

Er ist in die falsche Richtung geschwommen. Er hat sich völlig verschwommen.

(Same with sich verlaufen, sich verfahren, sich verrennen. Verschwimmen unrelatedly also means to become blurred, non-reflexive, with sein perfect.)

In some cases, a prefix changes the meaning of a verb from expressing a state to expressing a transition or the other way round, also causing a change in the auxiliary:

Sie ist erst nach Mitternacht eingeschlafen. Deshalb hat sie insgesamt nur fünf Stunden geschlafen.

Die vermeintliche Leiche hat noch gezuckt. Der Bestatter ist zusammengezuckt, als er das bemerkt hat.

A prefix can also transform an intransitive verb with sein perfect into a transitive one:

Ich habe meine neuen Schuhe eingelaufen. Dazu bin ich jeden Tag ein paar Kilometer in ihnen gelaufen.

(There are also unrelated intransitive uses of einlaufen: Das Hemd ist eingelaufen. Das Schiff ist in den Hafen eingelaufen.)

Canoo lists rules when to use sein or haben. From this, you can in fact conclude that the auxiliary of prefixed verbs is quite unrelated to the auxiliary used with the base verb, except for very few cases like loswerden, eingehen where the original auxiliary is retained in spite of the normal rules.

share|improve this answer
That link you provide is great! – c.p. Aug 30 '13 at 9:45

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.