20.2.2 Verbs that lose their semantic value

In the following you'll find some examples:

gehen - ausgehen
  Ich gehe in die Schule. = I go to school.

  Mir geht das Geld aus. = I run out of money.
  Heute Nacht gehen wir aus. = Tonight we go out.

fangen - anfangen
  Ich fange ihn. = I catch him.

  Ich fange an. = I start.

beten = anbeten
  Er betet. = He prays.

  Er betete sie an. = He adored her.

drücken = ausdrücken
  Er drückt sich gewählt aus. = He expresses himself very nicely.

All verbs that start with ver- are of the type that change the meaning totally.

raten - verraten
  Rate mal! = Guess!

  Er verriet ihn. = He betrayed him.

sagen - versagen
  Ich sage es dir. = I tell you.

  Ich versage es mir.= I don't permit myself.
  Er hat versagt. = He failed.

Stehen - verstehen
  Ich stehe. = I stand.

  Ich verstehe. = I understand.

You see sometimes the English translation of the verb with preposition is very different to the verb without the preposition. Sometimes the translations are quite close (to stand = to understand). But since there is not really a rule the only way to get through this jungle is to learn the verbs by heart (one by one).

Quite often the German version of specifying events is with a verb with preposition whereas the English would describe the facts rather with an adjective or an adverb.

brennen - abbrennen
  Das Haus brannte. = The house was burning.

  Das Haus brannte ab. = The whole house burnt down.

sehen - übersehen, einsehen, wegsehen, ansehen
  Ich sah ihn. = I saw him.

  Ich übersah ihn. = I didn't notice him.
  Ich sah es ein. = I accepted it.
  Ich sah weg. = I looked away.
  Ich sah ihn an. = I looked at him.

machen - wegmachen, sauber machen
  Ich mache es. = I do it.

  Ich mache es weg. = I put it away.
  Ich mache es sauber. = I clean it.

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