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What role does the prefix "her-" play in sentences like "er ging neben mir her" or "er lief hinter mir her"? Can we omit "her-" here and if yes, will the meaning change? Thanks in advance.

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  • Wiktionary: de.wiktionary.org/wiki/hergehen: "[1] in Verbindung mit einer Präposition oder einem Adverb: gehen, wobei die relative Position zu einer anderen Person / einem Objekt mehr oder weniger konstant beibehalten wird". Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 21:04

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Karl geht hinter Ernst.
Karl walks behind Ernst.

but

2.

Karl geht hinter Ernst her.
Karl follows Ernst.

In the first example you get only information about the locations of both men. Ernst is in front of Karl, and both of them are walking in the same direction. But this might be completely incidental. There is no causal connection between Karl and Ernst. They do not belong together. It is possible, that none of them notices the other, because they could be pedestrians passing through a crowded shopping mall.

In the second example they belong together. There is a reason, why Karl walks where he walks. He follows Ernst, and he is aware of his presence. It is very likely, that also Ernst is aware of Karl.

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