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Lesson Transcript

Chuck:This is Advanced Focus Lesson 4.
Judith: Willkommen!
Chuck:Welcome to another Advanced Focus Lesson. Here, we’ll improve your understand of German vocabulary by analyzing verb prefixes.
Judith: When you’ll understand how a German word came to be, you’ll find it a lot easier to remember this word and to use it correctly.
Chuck:So, which prefix are we looking at today?
Judith: Today we shall look at the German prefix [zer-].
Chuck:That sounds like a very destructive prefix, but before we dive into the lesson, I’ll remind our listeners about the free vocabulary trainer in the learning center.
Judith: Yes, you can practice your vocabulary right there, in the learning center of GermanPod101.com. We’ve even added the words from the lessons already, so you don’t need to enter them yourself.
Chuck:For this lesson, you can find not just the words we mentioned here, but also useful words that use the prefix [zer-].
Judith: I hope you’ll use this tool to improve your German by leaps and bounds, but let’s speak German now.
Judith: [Die Vorsilbe “zer-” spaltet sich nicht ab].
Chuck:Unlike the other prefixes we covered, this one is not split off.
Judith: [Außerdem hat sie nur eine Bedeutung, nämlich die des Kaputtgehens oder Zerstörens].
Chuck:Only one meaning. “To break down” or “smash up”. Often, one word can even mean both, depending on the context. [Judith, was sind Beispiele für diese Vorsilbe]?
Judith: [Zum Beispiel “zerlegen”].
Chuck:“To disentail”.
Judith: [zerlegen besteht aus “zer-” und “legen”].
Chuck:“To put”. We roughly get “to put apart”, but in English we’d say “disentail”. [Und wie wäre es mit noch einem Beispiel]?
Judith: [zerfallen].
Chuck:“To fall apart”.
Judith: [Oder zerbrechen].
Chuck:“To break into pieces”.
Judith: This is one of the words that can be both active and passive. If I say [Ich habe die Vase zerbrochen] with an object like that, this means that “I broke the vase”. However, if I say [Die Vase ist zerbrochen], this means that “The vase broke”.
Chuck:In one case I’m actively involved, in the other I’m not. And in one case I’m the subject and the other the vase is. The trivial tags of two meanings is the object. This is called transitivity in linguistics. If there’s an object in the sentence, something is done to the object to make it kaput. If there is no object that object is going “kaputt” seemingly on its own.
Judith: And there’s another very interesting feature of these sentences. When there’s an object, the verb will use the auxiliary [haben] for the perfect tense. But, when there’s no object, the verb uses the auxiliary [sein].
Chuck:Amazing, I never paid attention to that before.
Judith: You learn something new every day. Every day that you listen to GermanPod101 that is.
Chuck:And then, you have to make sure you won’t forget it again. Just review the PDFs from the past lessons, occasionally. That’s a refresh of memory.
Judith: Okay. [Okay, also bis nächste Woche]!
Chuck:See you next time!


Please to leave a comment.
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GermanPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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GermanPod101.com Verified
Friday at 07:10 AM
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Hi Haley,

Thank you for posting!


If you have any questions, please let us know.

Kind regards,


Team GermanPod101.com

Wednesday at 04:24 AM
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Ich habe nicht das Wort zerquetschen erkannt. Ich mag, wie dieses Word klingt.

GermanPod101.com Verified
Thursday at 12:02 PM
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Hallo Ronn,

Danke für den Kommentar und die Frage!

Yes, you can say "Die Vase wurde zerbrochen." if it was broken by someone. If you wanted to say it broke but unsure how and by whom, if by anyone, you would say "Die Vase zerbrach."

It would sound more natural to say "Ich habe die Vase zerbrochen" than "Die Vase wurde von mir zerbrochen", however it would be grammatically correct either way.

Vielen Dank!


Team GermanPod101.com

GermanPod101.com Verified
Thursday at 11:58 AM
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Hallo Vanessa und Salivia,

Vielen Dank für die Geschichte, Vanessa.

Salivia, vielen Dank für die Korrektur!


Vielen Dank!


Team GermanPod101.com

Thursday at 10:32 PM
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Please help me clear something up in my mind please.

Is the following correct?

Die Vase wurde zerbrochen. Can I use the past tense of werden?

The vase got (became) broken.


Die Vase wurde von mir zerbrochen.

The vase got (was) broken by me.

Many, many thanks!


Saturday at 05:34 AM
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Vielen Dank!

Friday at 09:45 AM
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Nice efford! But may I correct your little story?

Mein Abend war schlecht.

Als ich für das Abendessen das Gemüse zerhackte und den Salat zerriss, zerkratzte die böse Katze meine Füße.

Dann als mein Mann und ich die Möbel des Babys zerlegten, zerfielen sie.

Wir mussten die Stücke zerbrechen um sie weg werfen zu können. (we had t break it into pieces in order to be able to throw them away)

I don't really know what you want to say with the last sentence :sad:

Friday at 12:12 AM
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Let's see how many of these words I can work into a little story.

Meine Abend war schlecht. Als ich zerhackte die Gemüse und zerriste das Salat für Abendessen, die böse Katze zerkratzte meine Füße. Dann als mein Mann und ich zerlegten die Möbel des Babys, sie zerfallten. Wir müßten die in Stücke zerbrechen, sie wegzuwerfen. Ich bin zerrissen, wie ich weniger Tage wie dieser haben kann.

(My evening went poorly. While I was chopping the vegetables and ripping up the lettuce for dinner, the bad cat was clawing at my feet. Then when my husband and I were dismantling the baby's furniture, it all fell apart. We had to break it into pieces to throw it away. I am torn about how to have fewer days like this.)

Wednesday at 08:41 AM
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Sorry for the technical glitch. It's fixed now!

Cecile R
Tuesday at 09:09 PM
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Me neither. This lesson is broken. :sad: