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The word "unterhalten" (in the sense of "to entertain / sustain / chat with sb.") is a verb with a non-separable prefix:

"Ich unterhalte mich"
NOT: "Ich halte mich unter."

Typically, these verbs form their Partizip II without the -ge- affix:

"Ich habe mich unterhalten."

Nevertheless, the Duden lists "untergehalten" as a legitimate Partizip II. I wonder how this can be true, and in which regions of the German-speaking world people would say:

"Ich habe mich mit ihm untergehalten."

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    I think "untergehalten" is only possible for the meaning 2b: "etwas halten" (hold in the hand) in the meaning of *to hold sth. under sth." – IQV Jul 27 '17 at 13:29
  • "unterhalten" in the sense of "to hold sth. under sth." is out of the question here; that is a different verb, and not the one the Duden entry links to. The Duden entry I referenced specifically refers to "unterhalten" in the sense of "entertain", "sustain" (which is your 2b) or "chat", and it lists "unterGEhalten" as its Partizip II. – ParaDice Jul 27 '17 at 13:55
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    Except that the Duden entry for the other verb also lists both participle forms, even though in that case "unterhalten" is clearly wrong. I think that's just a bug — merging the participle forms of different entries. – Em1 Jul 27 '17 at 13:58
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    @ParaDice You are right, but as Takkat said in his answer, too, "untergehalten" is only possible for this meaning. I think Em1 is right, that this is just an error in the Duden website. – IQV Jul 27 '17 at 14:04
  • Ich habe diesen Fehler gerade via Kontaktformular beim Duden gemeldet und um Beispiele für die ungewöhnlichen Wortformen gebeten. Mal sehen, wie sie reagieren. – Roland Illig Jul 29 '17 at 15:33
10

unterhalten

These are two different verbs with different meaning but same spelling (see link to the DWDS dictionary)

  1. Only the more common meaning to entertain, chat is non-separable and hence does not have the ge- prefix on inflection.

  2. The other meaning to hold sth. under sth. is separable and inflected to untergehalten.

For all inflections also see: unterhalten (1) and unterhalten (2). The (identical) entries you had found from Duden online (1,2) are wrong.

  • "unterhalten" in the sense of "to hold sth. under sth." is out of the question here; as you say, it is a different verb, and not the one the Duden entry links to. The Duden entry I referenced specifically refers to "unterhalten" in the sense of "entertain", "sustain" (which is your 2b) or "chat", and it lists "unterGEhalten" as its Partizip II. – ParaDice Jul 27 '17 at 13:55
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    Never trust Duden if you have other resources... no just joking but if you look at the other meaning of unterhalten you find the identical table. I would say this is wrong there because we would not say "Am Brunnen habe ich meine Hände unterhalten, damit sie nass werden". – Takkat Jul 27 '17 at 14:02
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    Yeah, I think ParaDice just found a bug in Duden online. Duden has separate entries for both verbs but they confuse the participle forms. – Em1 Jul 27 '17 at 14:02
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    If only Duden would give away free copies of their books to people who trace their bugs... – Takkat Jul 27 '17 at 14:04
  • ... but you need to be quick spotting them. Because whatever is in the Duden becomes common pratice over time. (Or was it the other way round?) – Christian Geiselmann Jul 27 '17 at 16:55
2

Takkats answer is correct. I just want to add some examples, to make it clearer. The Verb »unterhalten« has many meanings. It is not separable in most of them. But there also exists a meaning (#6 in my list) where it is a separable verb. If it is separable, and if you have to use Partizip II, then there will be a -ge- between the two parts.

In the following examples I use:

  • Gegenwart (Präsens)
    separable verbs are split in two words
    This corresponds in most cases to simple present tense in English. In German you have to split separable verbs into its parts. The former second part has to stand on position 2 and is inflected together with the subject (number and person), while the former first part moves to the end of the sentence and is not inflected.

    Ich mache die Tür auf. = I open the door.
    Du machst die Tür auf. = You open the door.
    Wir machen die Tür auf. = We open the door.

  • Zukunft (Futur 1)
    the verb is used in its dictionary form (infinitive)
    In most cases this corresponds to simple future tense. In German you have to use a form of werden as auxiliary verb at position 2, which has to inflected with the subject. But the main verb will be used in its connected form, and as infinitive. This infinitive sometimes is also called the »dictionary form«, because it is the basic form of a verb which is listed in a dictionary.

    Ich werde die Tür aufmachen. = I will open the door.
    Du wirst die Tür aufmachen. = You will open the door.
    Wir werden die Tür aufmachen. = We will open the door.

  • Vergangenheit (Perfekt)
    past participle is needed
    This German tense can correspond to different forms of past tense in English. Here, in my examples, I always use simple past tense. In German this tense is build with a form of haben or sein as auxiliary verb at position 2, and again it's this auxiliary verb that is inflected. The full verb again stands at the end of the sentence in a compound form, but it is not infinitive. It is »Partizip Perfekt« or »Partizip II« (past participle). And the rule for all separable verbs is: squeeze the syllable -ge- between the two parts:

    Ich habe die Tür aufgemacht. = I opened the door.
    Du hast die Tür aufgemacht. = You opened the door.
    Wir haben die Tür aufgemacht. = We opened the door.


1. jemanden unterhalten = to entertain somebody

not separable

  • Gegenwart (Präsens)

    Der Künstler unterhält das Publikum.
    The artist entertains the audience.

  • Zukunft (Futur 1)

    Der Künstler wird das Publikum unterhalten.
    The artist will entertain the audience.

  • Vergangenheit (Perfekt)

    Der Künstler hat das Publikum unterhalten.
    The artist entertained the audience.

2. sich unterhalten = to be amused

not separable

  • Gegenwart (Präsens)

    Barbara besucht ein Kabarett und unterhält sich prächtig.
    Barbara visits a comedy show and is very amused.

  • Zukunft (Futur 1)

    Barbara wird ein Kabarett besuchen und wird sich prächtig unterhalten.
    Barbara will visit a comedy show and will be very amused.

  • Vergangenheit (Perfekt)

    Barbara hat ein Kabarett besucht und hat sich prächtig unterhalten.
    Barbara visited a comedy show and was very amused.

3. sich mit jemanden unterhalten = to talk with somebody

not separable

  • Gegenwart (Präsens)

    Walter unterhält sich mit Michael.
    Walter talks with Michael.

  • Zukunft (Futur 1)

    Walter wird sich mit Michael unterhalten.
    Walter will talk with Michael.

  • Vergangenheit (Perfekt)

    Walter hat sich mit Michael unterhalten.
    Walter talked with Michael.

4. jemanden unterhalten = to support somebody (with money)

not separable

  • Gegenwart (Präsens)

    Herr Steiner unterhält drei Geliebte.
    Mr. Steiner has three lovers (and supports them with money).

  • Zukunft (Futur 1)

    Herr Steiner wird drei Geliebte unterhalten.
    Mr. Steiner will have three lovers ...

  • Vergangenheit (Perfekt)

    Herr Steiner hat drei Geliebte unterhalten.
    Mr. Steiner had three lovers ...

5. etwas (eine Beziehung) unterhalten = to maintain (a relationship)

not separable

  • Gegenwart (Präsens)

    Der Präsident unterhält Beziehungen zu Russland.
    The president maintains connections to Russia.

  • Zukunft (Futur 1)

    Der Präsident wird Beziehungen zu Russland unterhalten.
    The president will maintain connections to Russia.

  • Vergangenheit (Perfekt)

    Der Präsident hat Beziehungen zu Russland unterhalten.
    The president maintained connections to Russia.

6. etwas unterhalten = to hold something under

This one is separable!

  • Gegenwart (Präsens)

    Das Gerät hat ein Leck! Du hältst eine Tasse unter.
    The device has a leak. You hold a cup under it.

  • Zukunft (Futur 1)

    ... Du wirst eine Tasse unterhalten.
    ... You will hold a cup under it.

  • Vergangenheit (Perfekt)

    ... Du hast eine Tasse untergehalten.
    ... You held a cup under it.

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