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Heiraten vs. Verheiraten

It's quite easy to make mistakes with German words that sound nearly the same but have different prefixes and thus different meanings. For example, some verbs using the root verb lassen (to let, to leave):

 

Der Witzleben ist doch vor zwei Jahren vom Führer entlassen worden.
Witzleben was let go by the Führer two years ago.
Caption 23, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944

 

Sie verlassen den amerikanischen Sektor.
You are leaving the American Sector.
Caption 1, 25 Jahre Mauerfall: Radtour durch die Geschichte

 

The verb entlassen can mean "to be fired" or "to be let go," but it can also mean "to be released" as in released from prison. Depending upon its context, the verb verlassen can mean "to leave" or "to abandon."

 

But what about German words with different prefixes that can be translated as the same word in English? It can be even more confusing to keep these straight. A very good example of this are the verbs heiraten and verheiraten.

 

Ich weiß, eines Tages, da heiraten wir.
I know someday we'll marry.
Caption 32, Monsters of Liedermaching: Für immer

 

Using the example below with verheiraten and the subject reflected as the direct object (example 1: wir/uns, example 2: sie/sich), we arrive at the same meaning: 

 

Ich weiß, eines Tages, da verheiraten wir uns.
I know someday we'll marry.

 

Ich weiß, eines Tages, da verheiraten sie sich.
I know someday they'll marry.

 

Both of the examples could use "get married" instead of "marry". The verb verheiraten, when used without a reflective direct object, has a different meaning, however: 

 

Die Großmutter wollte den Sohn auf jeden Fall verheiraten.
The grandmother wanted badly to get her grandson married off. 

 

Another easily confused pair are geheiratet and verheiratet: 

 

Mein Bruder Martin hat letztes Jahr geheiratet.
My brother Martin got married last year.
Caption 19, Die Wohngemeinschaft: Besuch

 

Der König freute sich, dass seine Tochter endlich verheiratet war.
The King was delighted that his daughter finally got married.
Caption 37, Märchen, Sagenhaft: König Drosselbart

 

Both geheiratet and verheiratet can be translated as "got married," but there's a big difference in how you use the words. The word geheiratet is a past participle of the verb heiraten. The word verheiratet, on the other hand, is an adjective which stems from the verb heiraten. Thus you can can say: Ich habe geheiratet ("I got married") or Ich bin verheiratet ("I am married") but not vice-versa! A good way to remember the difference is that the prefix ge- ist one of the most common prefixes used in past participles of German verbs. 

 

Further Learning
Look for variations of heiraten and verheiraten on Yabla German to see them in a real-world context, and take a look at this article on the topic!

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