I am in the first level of German and while learning the words raten and beraten I noticed that they actually mean the same but, raten is intransitive while beraten is transitive. I noticed today that the same thing happens with teilen and verteilen and I tried googling but I didn't find anything...

I wonder what is the role of the prefixes be- and ver- and if it is true that they can convert an intransitive verb to a transitive one.

  • 5
    raten and beraten do not mean the same.
    – IQV
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 11:55
  • @IQV pons translates them both as "to advise"
    – user128787
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 12:01
  • 5
    teilen and verteilen are not the same thing too.
    – Eller
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 12:02
  • The trouble is that raten has two meanings: advise and guess.
    – Fabian
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 14:16
  • Even if "raten" means "advise", "raten" and "beraten" cannot be used interchangeably because in the case of "raten" it's about some concrete advise wheras "beraten" means giving advise without mentioning a concrete.advise. If you want to mention what advise has been given you can use a phrase like "Er beriet ihn dahingehend, dass ..." but that's still not exactly the same as "Er riet ihm, ..."
    – RHa
    Commented May 12, 2018 at 19:43

3 Answers 3


In the German language prefixes are very frequently used and they change the meaning of words quite drastically which can also include converting the verb from transitive to intransitive. There is no general rule how this happens and the meaning has to be memorised for each combination of verb and prefix. I will explain it with your example: "raten" can have the two meaning "to advise someone" "jemandem etwas raten" and "to guess something". Then there exist prefixes like "er-", "ver-", "be-", "zu-" etc. which can be combined with "raten" and change the meaning: "etwas (Nominativ) erraten" means "to guess something correctly" "jemanden (Akkusativ) beraten" means "to advise somenone" "jemandem (Dativ) zu etwas zuraten" also means "to advise somenone to do something" "jemanden (Akkusativ) verraten" means "to betray somenone" which is further away from the two original meanings, as the prefix "ver-" typically change the meaning into something opposite or different.


Raten can be used as beraten, eg in Ich rate dir or plural Sie raten dir - "I advise you." "They advise you." However raten is also "to guess".

Teilen is "to share" and verteilen is "to distribute", like in the context of handing out cards.


Prefixes change the meaning of a verb. The change in grammar goes along the change in meaning.

All separable prefixes have a matching preposition and the corresponding verbs work very similar to English's phrasal verbs. You can guess their meaning from the "included" preposition. The purpose of these verbs is often enough creating a verb phrase with two prepositions.

Er stellte es vor eins ab.

Er hat es vor eins abgestellt.

He shut it down before one o'clock.

Stellen means to put, abstellen means to put down/to shut down. This is combined with the preposition vor (in front/before).

Er stellte es ab eins vor.

Er hat es ab eins vorgestellt..

He put it in front from one o'clock on.

Vorstellen means to put in front. This is combined with the preposition ab (down/from).

Please note the order of phrasal and "real" preposition in the English sentence is the opposite of the order of separable prefix and preposition in the German sentence. This leads to much confusion for English speakers learning German (and vice versa).

The meaning of verbs with non-separable prefixes isn't easy to guess, and the prefix be- is the most complicated one.

jemanden raten → to guess someone (from a group)

jemandem (etwas) raten → to advice someone (something)

jemanden beraten → to advice someone

jemanden stellen → to oppose someone

jemanden bestellen → to summon someone

jemanden fragen → to ask someone

jemanden befragen → to survey someone

Do you see a pattern? I don't.

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