Exploring the German verb GREIFEN and its variations

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The verb greifen means to grab. It gets conjugated as follows:

  • ich greife
  • du greifst
  • er/ sie/ es greift
  • wir greifen
  • ihr greift
  • sie/ Sie greifen

The perfect tense goes with ‘haben’ and the past participle is ‘gegriffen’, and in the imperfect tense it’s ‘ich griff’.

But there are 10 prefixes which change the meaning, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

  • angreifen – to attack
    der Angriff – the attack
  • aufgreifen – to take up (a topic), ein Thema aufgreifen
  • begreifen – to understand/ grasp
    der Begriff – concept/ term
  • durchgreifen – to take vigorous action
  • ergreifen – to seize
  • herausgreifen – to single out, etwas als Beispiel herausgreifen, to choose something as an example
  • übergreifen – to encroach/ overlap
  • um sich greifen – to spread/ escalate (Careful: not one word, but three!)
  • vergreifen – to make a mistake/ to assault somebody
    “Sie vergreifen sich im Ton!” “Don’t take that tone with me!”
  • zugreifen – to grab/ seize. To help yourself when talking about food. If you’re about to say ‘Help yourself (to the food) or ‘tuck in’ to a friend, say “Greif zu!”. To a group of friends “Greift zu!” and formally to one or more people “Greifen Sie zu!”
    der Zugriff – access

Two more ways for ‘greifen’, one musical: einen Akkord greifen – to fret a chord (on the guitar)

and one idiom: nach Strohhalmen greifen – to clutch at straws

A few nouns and an adjective start with ‘Greif’

  • der Greifarm – grappler/ gripper arm
  • der Greifvogel – bird of prey
  • die Greifschwanzratte – pogonomys (no, I hadn’t heard of that type of rodent either)
  • etwas Greifbares – something tangible
  • greifbar – tangible/ catchable

Did I grab your attention with these verbs or nouns? Which one do you think might be useful to you?

What can you do with these words to remember them?

You can bookmark this post or make a vocabulary list with them. You can do that with any paper or electronic notebook. Or you could buy my notebook which I designed specially for German vocab learners. It has space for vocabulary lists and sentences. You can even choose one of two colours ☺

Red notebook Orange notebook

If you want to know about German verb conjugation in the present tense, check out my online course German tenses 1 – the present tense

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