Forum Rocket German German Vocab Verb Prefixes Changing Meanings and Other Questions

Verb Prefixes Changing Meanings and Other Questions



A few more quick questions.

1. What is the difference between writing “Fahren” and “Gehen”? Is the difference that “Fahren” is only used for driving?
2. What is the difference between writing “Muss ich sofort bezahlen” and “Muss ich bezahlen”? I get the same result when I translate.
3. What is the difference between “Unterzeichnen” and “Unterschreiben“?
4. Why do we sometimes write “an” in front of “rufen” when writing that someone is being called e.g. “Anrufen”
5. What is the difference between “los” and “laufen”? I thought they both means run
6. Why do we write “keine ahnung” and not “kein ahnung”? I though you only write “keine” when something is countable.
7. What is the difference between writing “Wir halten an” and “Wir halten”? I get the same result when I translate.
8. Why do we write “Nächsten Monat“ and not“ nächste Monat“? Is it because the month is a masculine noun in the accusative case?
9. Why do we write “Jeden Tag” and not “Jede tag”? Is it because the day is a masculine noun in the accusative case?
10. When do you write “von” and when do you use “vom”?
11. What is the difference beween “Geschäft“ and “Laden”?
Big thanks!


Hallo RexV!

Here are the answers to your questions:

1. In general, gehen means "to go" and fahren means "to drive," but fahren is also used in situations where we aren't talking about cars - or even about vehicles. For example, Ski fahren is "to go skiing." So it is possible that in some situations, we would translate fahren as "to go" in English, because in English we don't have that added "to drive" meaning. As you build up your vocabulary, you will come across more places where fahren is used in this sense.

2. As you will have already seen in some of the answers to other questions on the forum, it can be tricky to use a translation program to figure out what sentences in the language that you are learning mean, as you will receive very general translations and the translation program may even skip some words entirely. The best way forward is to look at and pick apart the sentences piece by piece, so that you see their differences and learn the vocabulary as you go. Here, if we look at the sentences Muss ich bezahlen? and Muss ich sofort bezahlen?, what can we see that is different?

The answer is that one sentence contains sofort and the other one does not. If we look up sofort, we see that it means "immediately"; so the translation program skipped this word when providing you with the translation. The first sentence means "Do I have to pay?" and the second, containing sofort, therefore means "Do I have to pay immediately?"

3. Like in English, German has many words that have more or less the exact same meaning; unterschreiben and unterzeichnen are simply two of these: they both mean "to sign."

If you are unsure in the future with words like this that have the same prefix, you can remove the prefix (here, this would be unter) and look up the verb behind it (here, this would be schreiben and zeichnen) to see if there is any great difference between two verbs. 

4. With rufen and anrufen, we have a verb without a prefix and a verb with a prefix. Adding a prefix onto a verb generally gives it a slightly different meaning or makes it more precise. So while rufen can be used to mean both "to call" and "to shout," anrufen is generally used just for "to call" in the sense of phone calls. You can learn more about prefixes on verbs in Level 2, Module 12, Lessons 12.5 and 12.6. If you are not there yet, then don't worry about them for now! 

5. When you come up against two words that seem to mean the same thing, the best first step to take is to check them out in a dictionary to see if you can find a more precise definition, or search them on a platform that gives you matching phrases so that you can see them translated in context. You can also look at their form for any hints that that might give - since laufen ends in -en, it is clearly a verb, while los does not have an -en or -n ending - this tells us that it is not a verb. To answer your question, laufen is indeed a verb meaning "to run," but los, which has a few different meanings, is often used as an interjection meaning "Go!" 

6. We write keine Ahnung (careful of the capitalization) and not "kein Ahnung" because kein changes to agree with the gender, number and case of the noun it is paired with, just like ein does. Check out Level 1, Module 6, Lesson 6.9 "Talking About Something Negative" to learn about kein.

7. This is another situation where we have a verb without a prefix (halten) and a verb with a prefix (anhalten). Again, if you haven't got as far as the lessons on these sorts of verbs (see the answer to Question 4 above), don't worry about these for now. Just remember that adding the prefix gives the verb a slightly different meaning or makes it more precise. So here, halten can mean "to keep / to hold / to stop (archaic)," while anhalten is slightly more specific and means "to stop / to halt."

8. Without a full sentence, the question of why it should be nächsten Monat and not nächste Monat is difficult to answer; if you are using the phrase as at the start of a sentence (e.g. "Next month, I am going to..."), however, then you are right: it is nächsten Monat because Monat is a masculine noun and here it is in the accusative.

9. Here again without a full sentence it is a bit difficult to give a concrete answer, but if you are using jeden Tag in the same way as Monat in Question 8 above, then the answer is the same as Question 8.

10. Vom is a contraction of von + dem and is used whenever these two words are combined.

11. The words Geschäft and Laden can both be translated as "store" or "shop," but Geschäft can also be used to mean "business" or "transaction."

I hope that answers your questions!

Bis später,


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