Some Dutch verbs have a complex structure, e.g.: oversteken, voorstellen, plaatsvinden, aankomen. Verbs which are structured like this are called separable verbs, because the first element, the so-called prefix, can be separated from the verb. The prefix of each of these verbs (over-, af-, plaats- and aan-) are also words in their own right (mainly prepositions or adverbs but also nouns or adjectives).
In these verbs the prefix carries the main stress. In the infinitive these stressed prefixes are joined to the verbs, but in their finite forms (the conjugated form of the verb) they are separated from the verb and occur towards the end of the sentence, usually in the final but sometimes in the penultimate position.
Look at the examples below. In each first sentence the infinitive of the separable verb appears (so the verb is not separated). In each second sentence the prefix has been separated from the verb and appears in final or penultimate position.
Note that in the formation of the past participle, the prefix and the verb become one word again; -ge- is inserted between the prefix and the verb. Something similar happens in subclauses, where the finite verb moves to the end of the subclause and blends with the separable prefix (see Sentence structure). This is illustrated below.
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