The clearest distinction between separable and inseparable verbs is the stress: separable verbs have stressed prefixes, while inseparable verbs have stressed verbs. Unfortunately, this way, you will have to consult a good dictionary to establish whether the verb is separable or inseparable.
Apart from the stress, there are a few specific hints that can help you distinguishing between the two type of compound verbs.
First of all, inseparable verbs can only take certain prefixes:
|Common prefixes for inseparable verbs:
||A few (but only a few!) inseparable verbs take:
|Usually part of inseparable verbs:|
mis (miss, wrong)
Mostly used for separable verbs, yet also common for inseparable verbs:
om (around, over)
|Generally used for separable verbs, but occasionally part of inseparable verbs:|
aan (on, to)
achter (behind, after)
door (through, on)
voor (for, before)
weer (again, re-)
Verbs that begin with prefixes other than the ones mentioned above are always separable. E.g. tegen (against), op (on), or uit (out, off). However, note that separable verbs can also begin with the prefixes listed above.
The challenge lies in determining wether a verb that begins with one of the prefixes listed above, is separable or inseparable. For each prefix in the table, there are a few guidelines to establish whether the verb it is connected to is separable or not. These are outlined on the next page.