Which one is correct and why?

  1. Fangt endlich an, Verantwortung zu übernehmen.
  2. Fangt endlich an, Verantwortung überzunehmen.

I have learned {zu+infinitive} and I think second one is correct, because of the role of zu in trennbare verb-zu is between two part of verbs - for example in this sentence: {Er versucht, das Fenster aufzumachen.} but in the answer key, first one is correct. Could you please explain this?

1 Answer 1


Which one is correct?

Version 1 is correct because übernehmen is not a separable verb (in German: trennbares Verb).


Separable verb means that the prefix is trennbar (separable) from the stem of the verb. There are some prefixes that are never separable (like ent-), others are always separable (like auf-). Über-, however, belongs to the prefixes that are sometimes separable, sometimes not, depending on the particular verb.

In the latter case, you can tell from the stress whether the prefix is separable from the stem: Inseparable verbs are stressed on the syllable following the prefix, while separable verbs are stressed on the first (i.e., the prefix is stressed). Otherwise, you can learn them by heart.

Separable and inseparable verbs can be homonyms, for example the verb umfahren with the meaning to go around sth. and stress on -fah- is indivisible (zu umfahren), while the homonymous verb umfahren with the meaning to knock sth. over and stress on um- is divisible (umzufahren).

Whether a verb is divisible is also important for the construction of the Präteritum and Perfekt tense.

Separable verbs

Among the always divisible prefixes are ab-, an-, auf-, aus-, ein-, mit-, nach-, weg-, zu-, and some more.

For example the verb aufmachen with the meaning to open:

  • Er machte das Fenster auf.
  • das Fenster aufzumachen
  • Ich habe das Fenster aufgemacht.

An example for a separable verb with the not unambiguous prefix über- is übergehen with the meaning to pass to so. and stressed on über-:

  • Der Besitz ging auf ihn über.
  • Der Besitz ist auf ihn übergegangen.
  • Fangt endlich an überzugehen!

Inseparable verbs

Verbs with the prefixes be-, ent-, er-, ver-, zer-, and some others always belong to this category.

For instance verstehen (to understand, stressed on -ste-):

  • Ich verstand die Regel.
  • Ich habe die Regel verstanden.
  • Die Regel zu verstehen

Also to this category belongs übernehmen:

  • Ihr übernahmt Verantwortung.
  • Ihr habt Verantwortung übernommen.
  • Verantwortung zu übernehmen

Further reading:

  • I just noticed that übergehen works in both ways: "zu übergehen" and "überzugehen", but they mean different things.
    – miep
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 7:07

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