Let's assume there is a sentence with an enumeration:

It proposes and analyses possible scenarios…

In a German version I would write it as:

Es schlägt vor und analysiert mögliche Szenarien…

The thing I'm not sure about is, how to use here a separable (trennbare) verb.

Should I write it as in the example above, or it's better to adjust a sentence structure to be more «German»:

Es schlägt mögliche Szenarien vor und analysiert sie…

What will be the rule in case there is an enumeration of multiple separable verbs with different prefixes? E.g.:

Er schlägt vor und schreibt auf dieses Buch.

1 Answer 1

  • Es schlägt mögliche Szenarien vor und analysiert sie …
  • Er schlägt dieses Buch vor und schreibt darauf

are the word orders to go with.


Es schlägt vor und analysiert mögliche Szenarien … Er schlägt vor und schreibt auf dieses Buch.

aren't possible word orders if mögliche Szenarien/dieses Buch are supposed to be the object of vorschlagen because of two reasons:

  1. In this kind of enumeration, no part of the sentence might be placed between the first verb and the conjunction: sie züchtet seit kurzem und verkauft Fische1,

  2. Vorschlagen is a separable verb, whose object would have to be placed between stem and prefix.

To fix problem (1), one could place vor behind the object. However, that's impossible as is would implicitly render the second verb analysieren *voranalysieren.

Furthermore, even if it wasn't for reason (1), vorschlagen would appear to have no object because of reason (2) if the separated prefix occurs directly after the stem, making the sentence translate to: It suggests [missing: what it suggests]. It analyzes possible scenarios.

How this kind of enumeration can be used

This implies that it is possible to enumerate verbs in front of a common object in two cases:

  1. They aren't separable verbs: Sie liest und schreibt Bücher (example taken from your comment)

  2. Not recommended in formal language: They are separable verbs that split off the same prefix: Es stellt und schlägt mögliche Szenarien vor – here you have vorstellen and vorschlagen that both split off vor

1 Example by DavidVogt, thanks for the comment

  • Thanks. But at the same time, is She reads and writes booksSie liest und schreibt Bücher correct or not? If not, do I understand it correctly, that in German it's impossible to enumerate several verbs and only then to provide an object?
    – Mike
    Jun 7, 2020 at 18:38
  • @MikeB. tanks for giving a counterexample – Sie liest und schreibt Bücher is indeed correct and shows that the problem is that in case of separable verbs, the prefix has to come after the object, but on the other hand that would interfere with the second verb if it hasn't the same prefix coincidentally. I'll add it in my answer Jun 7, 2020 at 18:45
  • The problem has nothing to do with separable verbs per se: Sie züchtet und verkauft seit kurzem Fische is fine, but sie züchtet seit kurzem und verkauft Fische is not (or at least Fische is interpreted as object of the second verb only).
    – David Vogt
    Jun 7, 2020 at 19:04
  • @DavidVogt However, it's the coincidence of the facts that (1) no part of the sentence can be placed between the first verb and und plus (2) that the prefix can neither be placed after the common object which renders it impossible to use separable verbs in this kind of enumeration (the question being "how to write separable verbs in enumeration"). I updated my answer accordingly, thanks for the annotation! Jun 7, 2020 at 19:46
  • 1
    Two things I’d like to note: 1) If the subject performing the actions is already established, switching to passive voice can also solve the problem: »Es werden mögliche Szenarien vorgeschlagen und analysiert …« 2) »Es stellt und schlägt mögliche Szenarien vor«: This sounds really weird, similar to joke sentences like: »Ich heiße Heinz und Sie herzlich willkommen«. Is that just me? My brain interprets »vor« exclusively as a part of »schlägt« and then gets confused because »Szenarien stellen« doesn’t make sense.
    – besc
    Jun 7, 2020 at 20:07

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