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Usage of "an"

So, I'm having a bit of difficulty in working out when to use the word "an", particularly when it occurs at the end of certain types of sentence. I know that "an" has a number of translations, and I can see how and why it is used in sentences such as "die Heizung ist an" or "er is an der Tür". What I don't seem to be able to work out, is what role it plays in sentences such as "ruf mich an". Why do we need it here? What does it add to the meaning of the sentence? Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks!

November 20, 2017



This is a special grammar point in German and something, which is hard to explain.

Mark Twain wrote in his essay 'The awful German language' about this issue:

The Germans have another kind of parenthesis, which they make by splitting a verb in two and putting half of it at the beginning of an exciting chapter and the other half at the end of it. Can any one conceive of anything more confusing than that? These things are called "separable verbs." The German grammar is blistered all over with separable verbs; and the wider the two portions of one of them are spread apart, the better the author of the crime is pleased with his performance. A favorite one is reiste ab -- which means departed. Here is an example which I culled from a novel and reduced to English:

"The trunks being now ready, he DE- after kissing his mother and sisters, and once more pressing to his bosom his adored Gretchen, who, dressed in simple white muslin, with a single tuberose in the ample folds of her rich brown hair, had tottered feebly down the stairs, still pale from the terror and excitement of the past evening, but longing to lay her poor aching head yet once again upon the breast of him whom she loved more dearly than life itself, PARTED."

However, it is not well to dwell too much on the separable verbs. One is sure to lose his temper early; and if he sticks to the subject, and will not be warned, it will at last either soften his brain or petrify it.

Source: https://www.cs.utah.edu/~gback/awfgrmlg.html

Search in google for "German grammar compound verbs" or "German grammar separable verbs" or someting like that.

In short: In German exist verbs with prefixes, which change the meaning of a fullverb.

I. e. 'kommen' (come) is not 'ankommen' (arrive)

- Er kommt gleich. ('He's comming soon', kommen, 2. pers. sing.)
- Er kommt gleich an. ('He arrives soon', an-kommen, 2. pers. sing.)

In case of a compound verb, the main verb stays at the normal position, but the prefix have to be at the end of the sentence. But there may be some more rules.

Here some links for your convenience:


Thanks! And thanks for the Twain quote!

  • 1616

InuzukaShino - Hallo, I haven't seen you for a while in the German discussions. Danke für die Links. Susan


Oh, I am astonished, that someone notices this! :-)

You are very welcome!

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