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ver-/vər/ is an unstressed Germanic prefix that derives verbs from other verbs, nouns or adjectives. This process is productive. There are some typical semantic patterns:


  • if X is a verb: to damage, spoil, destroy or remove by X (e.g. verbrandento burn) or to X in an undesired way (e.g. verdrinkento drown);
  • if X is a noun: to fill/cover with X or to turn into Xverchromento chrome, to chromium-plate;
  • if X is an adjective: to be/become/make (more) Xverkortento shorten.

However, the meaning of many ver- verbs is idiosyncratic. Examples of verbs with non-transparent semantics are vervangenver-catchto replace, verstaanver-standto understand and verzoekenver-searchto request. In some cases, the root does not exist as an independent verb in contemporary Dutch, as in vergetenver-?to forget.

[+] Morphosyntactic properties

ver- is an inseparable verbalizing prefix.

[+] Subcategorization

Verbs with the prefix ver- are often transitive, regardless of the transitivity of the base. For example, klappento clap, to talk is intransitive, while verklappento blab, to tell a secret is transitive. However, there are a number of intransitive ver- words such as verblijvento stay, to live, to remain, vervallento decay, verdwalento lose one's way, verongelukkento die in an accident, vereenzamento grow lonely. Some ver- verbs are inherently reflexive; examples are zich versprekento make a slip of the tongue, zich vergapen aanto stare at, zich vergissen into err in. The latter two take prepositional objects in addition to the reflexive pronoun (for vergapen this is obligatory, for vergissen it is optional).

[+] Stratum

The prefix attaches to Germanic verbs, nouns and adjectives (kopenbuy> verkopento sell, huishouse > verhuizento move house, armpoor > verarmento become poor) as well as to non-Germanic verbs and nouns (though not to non-Germanic adjectives). Examples are: galloperento gallop > zich vergalopperento act too hastily.

[+] Input and input restrictions

ver- only rarely attaches to prefixed verbs; two exceptions are vervolmakento perfect and possibly veronderstellento suppose, to assume; the verbal bases volmaken and onderstellen are taken as archaic. Verbs with the prefix combination ver-ont- as in verontrustento alarm or verontschuldigento excuse make a special group. Intermediate forms without ver- are often missing (*ontrusten), while there are systematic links to nouns or adjectives with on- (onschuld/onschuldiginnocence/innocent, onrust/onrustigrestlessness/restless).

[hide extra information]

What we observe here is that the expected sequence ver-on- is replaced by ver-ont-. This can be seen as the effect of a tendency towards isomorphism: ont- is a verbalizing prefix and hence signals the verbal nature of the complex word, whereas on- appears in nouns and adjectives only. Thus, by using ont- instead of on- there is a systematic formal indication of the verbal nature of the complex words (this has been called "systematization", cf. (Van Marle 1978).

Auxiliary verbs are not available as input for ver- (*verzullento ver-shall). Neither are particle verbs (*verafzeggento ver-cancel). On the other hand, complex nominal or adjectival bases are unproblematic: verafgodento idolize, vereenzamento become lonely).

There are a few instances in which the stem is an adjective in comparative degree: verbeterento improve, verslechterento worsen, to deteriorate, verergerento worsen, verouderento age. This contradicts the general tendency for inflectional morphology to appear outside rather than inside derivational morphology.

If the stem is an irregular verb, the derived verb is also irregular (kijkento look > keeklooked, zich verkijkento misjudge > verkeekmisjudged).

Some ver- verbs have bases of uncertain category status. For example, vermoordento murder could be derived from the noun moordmurder or from the verb stem moordmurder. In some cases, the meaning can disambiguate the structure: versnoepento spend (money) on sweets correlates with its base in a way that suggests a deverbal derivation from snoepto eat sweets rather than the noun snoepsweets.

Some verbs have a base that is not or no longer an independent word of Dutch. Examples are verdwijnento disappear, vergaderento assemble, to meet and vervelento bore. An interesting case is veralgemeniserento generalize, whereby the adjective algemeengeneral takes the prefix ver- and the verbal suffix -iseer, giving the result a deverbal appearance, whereas *algemeniseren does not exist (in fact, the verb originally lacked -iseer, the older form is veralgemenento generalize). Another special case is verdonkeremanento embezzle, which appears to be derived from the phrase donkere maandark moon.

[+] Productivity

Derivation by means of ver- is productive. New ver- verbs have a predictable meaning. With a verbal base X, a ver- verb means to X in an undesired way. These verbs are intransitive or obligatorily reflexive. Nominal bases produce transitive ver-verbs with the meaning to turn into X, while for deadjectival derivations the verb means to become (more) X.

[+] Phonological properties

Ver- is always unstressed. If the verb stem begins with a vowel, /r/ sometimes becomes ambisyllabic and forms both the coda of the first and the onset of the second syllable (e.g. veranderen/veŗandərən/to change)'.

[+] Morphological potential

Ver- verbs participate in many word formation processes. For example, they can be the base for nominalizations (verblijfstay, accommodation, vergunningpermit, licence) or adjectivizations (vergelijkbaarcomparable, vergeeflijkforgivable). Which derivations are possible depends on the root. Participles of ver- verbs lack the participial prefix ge- (verlopenexpired, verbondenconnected).

Some ver- verbs have antonyms with ont- (verstoppento block - ontstoppento deblock, vergrendelento bolt, to lock - ontgrendelento unbolt, to unblock).

A repetition of the action denoted by a ver- verb can occasionally be expressed by her-, whereby the latter prefix replaces the former: veroverento conquer - heroverento reconquer, vernieuwento renew - hernieuwento renew once more.

[+] Other interesting properties

There are a small number of forms that look like the participles of ver- verbs, while these verbs do not actually exist. Examples are:

Example 1

verslaafd addicted
verbolgen enraged

Such forms have been discussed under the name of "participium praeverbale" ((Rijpma 1978: 77).

  • Marle, J. van1978Veranderingen in woordstructuurKoefoe, G.A.T. and J. van Marle (ed.)Aspecten van taalveranderingGroningenWolters-Noordhoff127-176
  • Rijpma, E. & Schuringa, F.G1978Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenWolters-Noordhoff
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