A similar post has been put out on this before but I didn’t feel that it gave me a solid understanding of the answer here.

I am wondering how you can know when a separable verb like aufbauen or aufstehen etc. should be combined and when not.

The previous answer alluded to the presence of a “relative clause”. In a sentence like

Wie Daniel Ek Spotify aufbaute und die Angriffe von Apple und der Musikindustrie kontert

why is aufbaute one word? It sounds wrong as two, but can anyone give me a rule?

  • Why not consult a grammar book?
    – Eller
    Jan 20, 2016 at 14:28
  • Of course I tried that - I am consulting two grammar books and have looked online too. I can't find an explanation.
    – Louis G
    Jan 20, 2016 at 15:01

1 Answer 1


It’s rather simple. If the two fragments of the word are next to each other in the way they would be in an infinitive, then connect them into one word. Otherwise, leave them apart. This also gives you a hint to the pronunciation: If they are written together, pronounce it as one word, otherwise as two.

In essence, you need to remember that only the inflecting part of a separable verb is considered the ‘true’ verb. While German word order is essentially free, the finite verb always needs to occupy a certain position which is the second in main clauses and the final in subordinate ones.

The non-verb part then should be put at the very end of the sentence in main clauses and just before the verb in subordinate clauses.

Put together, this means that in infinitives, participles and subordinate clauses (the first two always take the complete verb, as a whole; in the latter, separable part is last but to the verb) the verb is connected, as a finite verb in main clauses it is not.

Ich lege jetzt auf.

Er sagt, er lege auf.

Er sagt, dass er auflege.

Ich habe aufgelegt.

Ich werde auflegen.

Ich will auflegen.

Ich sage das, weil ich auflege.

‡: There is one exception that only really happens in spoken language: To strongly emphasise the separated fragment of a verb, it can be pulled into a main clause’s first position with the finite part second. However, these are still two words and emphasised as such:

»Was wollen Sie weglegen?« »Auf lege ich!«


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