Wir könnten deine Hilfe wirklich gut gebrauchen.

For some reason I have trouble with these words. I have trouble with a lot of the verbs that start with a “ge-” prefix. What even does this prefix tend to mean? It confuses me because normally it’s the specific form of a verb like “gebraucht” but in this case it’s a completely different verb.


We could really use your help.Great question! Of the two sources I consulted, Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage does not list ‘ge’ as an inseparable verb prefix. German Essentials for Dummies lists it, but says there is ‘no English equivalent.’ Nouns can be derived from verbs with a “ge” prefix (Hammer) however. German seems very nimble and willing to repurpose words (verbs to nouns, nouns to adjectives, etc.) to perform different functions.


It is indeed difficult to explain the effect of “ge-” on a verb in general. I would say it changes the aspect of the verb in time and/or perspective.
Most of the time it is simply active / passive:

Ich schlage (I hit) vs. I werde geschlagen (I am hit).
The passive can then (just like in English) become an adjective
ein geschlagener Ball = a ball, that has been hit

Now to the case of “brauchen/gebrauchen”
brauchen = to need
es braucht = it needs
es wird gebraucht = it is needed but also it is used
es wurde gebraucht = it was needed but also it was used
ein gebrauchtes Auto = a used car
and now back to active
gebrauchen = to use
Ich gebrauche = i use

Unfortunately, the above sentence is not a really clear-cut example.
I am quite sure that most people would say (and a lot would write):
“Wir könnten Deine Hilfe wirklich gut brauchen”
which is not 100% correct because it literally means
“We could really need your help” and the “could/need” combination is not good.
However, the difference in usage is so small, that people tend to be sloppy.

Now take:
“Wir brauchen deine Hilfe wirklich” (We really need your help)
Just like in English, it is much less polite und a real call for help.

“Wir gebrauchen deine Hilfe wirklich” (We really use your help)
Just like in English, it would be a strange sentence, not wrong but fitting only in very special situations.

Rather lengthy explanation, but it is the best I can do.
Maybe someone else can make it clearer.