I came across an article about the prefix "ver-" and its meaning.

Welche Bedeutung hat das Präfix "ver-" in diesen Verben?

A – eine Handlung bis zum Ende durchführen

B – von einem Ort weg

C – einen Fehler machen

D – in einen Zustand bringen

The problem is, how would I know which one is the case?

For instance:

Sie haben ja einen Koffer dabei. Wollen Sie verreisen?

Bitte stör mich jetzt nicht. Ich verrechne mich sonst wieder und muss wieder von vorne beginnen.

Bei dem Feuer sind leider alle unsere Papiere verbrannt. Jetzt müssen wir alle Dokumente neu ausstellen lassen.

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  • I'm little bit confused. Do you want to know which of the bold verbs match A, B, C, D? Could you link to the article? Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 15:51
  • @JohnSmithers: I want to know, how would one know which meaning has the prefix "ver-", how the three examples match the four cases, for instance. The article has nothing more than what I mentioned, let me know if it's needed.
    – user508
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 16:05
  • 2
    This question is strongly related: What are the origin & possible meanings of the ver- prefix? (possible duplicate?) Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 16:12
  • @HendrikVogt: Um, I don't see any strong relationship between the two, but feel free to vote to close as an exact duplicate if you feel so.
    – user508
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 16:15
  • 3
    Looking at this test I can understand why people think German is hard to learn. Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


If you ask me, this is a terrible test, which does not help you to learn German.

It is nice to know, what the prefix "ver" means and how it changes the meaning of words. If you want to know that, you can have a look at the Duden entry or Takkat's answer in the other question.

But this knowledge does not help you to understand the meaning. You do not take the verb "brennen" and think about the eight possible ways how "ver-" is changing the word and choosing the correct one.

You take the word that means "to burn" and you learn that there is a difference between "being on fire" (brennen) and "burning to ashes" (verbrennen). It's learning vocabulary, that's it. As I said, knowing the way how "ver" changes things is helpful, but only after you learned your vocabulary to deepen the understanding. The way this test puts it, does not work.

The point is, that you do not need to know if the "ver" in "verbrennen" correspond to A, B, C, or D. You have to know what the vocable means. If we were using "budischoben" for "burning to ashes", you would have to learn that word instead of "verbrennen".

For the record: "budischoben" is a nonsense word. I made it up for this example.

Also, be aware that "verrechnen" has two different meanings.


While this is not an exact duplicate of What are the origin & possible meanings of the ver- prefix?, it adresses part of that original question, which has an excellent and exhaustive answer by Takkat.

Your article just phrases the categories differently:

A – eine Handlung bis zum Ende durchführen

B – von einem Ort weg

C – einen Fehler machen

D – in einen Zustand bringen

I'll put these next to the categories Takkat took from Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen (nach Pfeifer):

Die Funktionen von ver- im Nhd. sind vielfältig; vor allem kennzeichnet es ein

  • Beseitigen, Wegschaffen, Aufbrauchen (verrücken, vertreiben, verzehren) [<- Your B is in part here...]

  • Fort-, Zugrundegehen (verdunsten, verklingen, verschwinden) [<- ... and in part here]

  • Irreleiten, Fehlgehen (verführen, verwechseln, sich verzählen) [<- This is your C]

  • Ausdruck der Negation (verbieten, versagen) [<- The article doesn't seem to account for this, right?]

  • resultativen Sinn (verbluten, verpacken, vertilgen), [<- This is your A and D]

dient der

  • Verstärkung (verschließen, versperren) [<- Your article would file this under A and D, probably]

  • Transitivierung intransitiver Verben (verfolgen, verheiraten, verspotten) [<- Your A and D are also here]

  • Hervorbringen verbaler Ableitungen von Adjektiven und Substantiven (verdeutlichen, vergöttern ‘deutlich, zu einem Gott machen’, verarmen, verholzen ‘arm, zu Holz werden’) [<- D again, with aspects of A]

So, what it boils down to probably is this: you'll have to know, or, if you don't, to guess from the context. Both classification lists describe what the nifty little syllable can mean. There is no real rule to tell you which category one particular example belongs to. Have a look at verbs connected with motion: "verreisen", "(sich) verfahren" - a learner who doesn't know and doesn't have any context to help him will be unable to tell that "-ver" in one instance means A, in the other means C.

In a nutshell: the answer to your question is, "you can't tell if you don't already know"

P.S.: What does the article suggest for "verreisen" in its solution? I'm wavering between A and B, maybe even D... hmmm.

  • The correct answer is "B, D, C and A" respectively. Thank you for your answer.
    – user508
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 20:23

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