I have a doubt with the usage of 'durchbrechen'. It is one of those verbs that can be either trennbar or untrennbar. I believe it has the same meaning, but has mainly a nuance between the literal vs. the figurative way to use.

For example, in www.dwds.de I found:

(1) Sein altes Wesen, seine wahre Natur brach durch.

(2) Der Düsenjäger hat die Schallmauer durchbrochen.

My doubt results in seeing that in both sentences above the use is metaphorical, but one is separated and the other is not. I realize, however that if (1) were to be written in perfekt it would be (Sein altes Wesen, seine wahre Natur ist durchgebrochen) and not 'hat durchgebrochen'.

When do you make it trennbar and when untrennbar? Is there a logic to it really?

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    Your two examples use different tenses (as you know). Perhaps it would be better to use Der Düsenjäger durchbrach die Schallmauer as this makes the difference clearer? – Christian Geiselmann Feb 28 '18 at 11:26

Not a full answer, but here is an interesting observation:

(1) Die Einbrecher durchbrachen die Tresorwand.

(2) Die Einbrecher brachen durch die Tresorwand

Example 1 focuses on the wall that is being breached. I imagine the burglars however still staying at the outside.

Example 2 focuses on the burglars and their shifting position in space. They personally pass through the hole in the wall.

Example 2 would refer to your Seine wahre Natur brach durch. This also can be seen as his nature passing through whatever border or wall there was.

Unfortunately this model is not helpful anymore with your fighter jet, as one probably would see the jet passing through the Schallmauer (an imaginary wall). Or is it just that we see the jet as a burglar that breaches the wall but does not pass? Hm...

I suppose, we are here at the borderline of logic ans usage. Some expressions are just the common way to say something, without everything being deducted from overarching logic. One could well say Der Düsenjäger brach durch die Schallmauer, but one simply is used to Der Düsenjäger durchbrach die Schallmauer. Also, rhythm may play a role here. Der Düsenjäger durchbrach die Schallmauer has more rhythmic energy than the somehow wobbly Der Düsenjäger brach durch die Schallmauer. But this is a very subjective consideration now.

  • That is a useful observation for a non-native German speaker. – Adria Millas Luque Feb 28 '18 at 11:39

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