How to conjugate German verbs

How to conjugate German verbs

If you want to start building short sentences in German, you need to understand how to conjugate German verbs. This way, you can make sure that the message which you are trying to send is adequately understood. But what might sound a bit tricky at first, can quickly turn out as an easy task. Let’s get to know more as follows.

Similar to English, also in German the primary form of a verb is the infinitive in which the verb appears typically with the ending “-en” or “-n” for instance in lernen (to study).

In order to adjust a verb to the appropriate person, we need to remove “-en” or “-n” by which we receive the so-called stem of the verb. As for our example “lernen” this would be “lern”.

Now, the verb stem receives the appropriative ending for every person:

Regular German verb conjugation with ending “-en”

Singular Ending
ich lerne -e
du lernst -st
er lernt -t
sie lernt -t
es lernt -t
Plural
wir lernen -en
ihr lernt -t
sie lernen -en
Sie lernen  -en

Regular German verb conjugation with ending “-n”

If the infinitive of the verb which you would like to conjugate has the ending “-n” then you will almost use the same endings for the verb as you did for “-en”. But there are two little differences which we will explain with the verb “klingeln” (to ring). While we added an “-en” for ‘wir, sie’ and ‘Sie’ for “lernen“, we will only need to add an “-n“ for “klingeln”.

Also, for this verb group, we need to remove the ‘e’ between ‘kling-’ and ‘-le’ for ‘ich’ which makes the verb become “kling()le”. All of the other persons will stay the same as for the verbs ending with “-en”.

 

Singular Ending
ich kling()le -e
du klingelst -st
er klingelt -t
sie klingelt -t
es klingelt -t
Plural
wir klingeln -n
ihr klingelt -t
sie klingeln -n
Sie klingeln   -n

 

Exceptions

There are two exceptions to this system:

1. The verb stem ends with “-d” or “-t”

In order to explain this exception, we will use the verb “arbeiten” (to work).

As we already did above, we also need to remove the “-en” of “arbeiten” to get the stem of the verb which is “arbeit”. Now, we add the endings to the verb stem as stated above but there is a problem. One can easily say “ich arbeite” but the conjugating system is confronted with a problem as one simply cannot pronounce the regularly conjugated verb for ‘du, er, sie, es, ihr’ and therefore we need to add an additional “e” as follows:

 

Singular Ending
ich arbeite -e
du arbeitest est
er arbeitet et
sie arbeitet et
es arbeitet et
Plural
wir arbeiten -en
ihr arbeitet et
sie arbeiten -en
Sie arbeiten   -en

 

2. The verb stem ends with “-s”, “-ss”, “-ß” or “-z”

As an example for this exception, we will use the verb “tanzen” (to dance). Here, we also need to remove the “-en” of “tanzen” to get the stem of the verb which is “tanz”.

In this case, we can easily add the endings of each person the same way, we did above. But this paragraph was not about an exception if everything would work out regularly: Although, we can easily say “ich tanze”, we will quickly figure out that trying to conjugate the second person singular ‘du’ as we did before,
will make us almost tongue-tied. This is because adding “-st” after a ‘z’ might be tricky to pronounce and therefore the ending for ‘du’ becomes “-t” for these verbs:

Singular Ending
ich tanze -e
du tanz( )t ( )t
er tanzt -t
sie tanzt -t
es tanzt -t
Plural
wir tanzen -en
ihr tanzt -t
sie tanzen -en
Sie arbeiten  -en

Now, as you mastered the basics of German verb conjugation, you can deepen your knowledge by downloading the free worksheet for German verb conjugation (including answers).

 

Viel Erfolg und bis bald!

Steffie

 

 

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