German irregular verbs with vowel change "a / au" ➔ "ä / äu"

After starting your German journey, meeting irregular verbs in the present tense usually takes a little time. This article discusses everything about verbs changing from “a” to “ä.” 

German irregular verbs in the present tense

In German, some verbs show a significant irregularity in the present tense. Most of the affected verbs are words you will have to use regularly; hence, it is crucial to internalize them.

The four groups of German irregular verbs in the present tense are:

  1. a ➔ ä
  2. au ➔ äu
  3. e ➔ i
  4. e ➔ ie


In the following, we will discuss the first and the second group.


Recommended study materials on the topic:

  1. A-Grammar: Practice German grammar German (incl. answers)
  2. German self-study book for A1-B1  (incl. answers)
  3. German verb tables book 
  4. German beers training book (incl. answers)


What happens with an irregular verb?

German irregular verbs with a vowel change in the present tense all follow the same rules. The affected letters are always the vowels in the verb stem (infinitive: fahren ➔ verb stem = fahr_). Also, the shift is only for the second and third persons singular (du, er, sie, and es). 

For example:
ich fahre
du fährst
er fährt
sie fährt
es fährt

wir fahren
ihr fahrt
sie fahren


Other verbs that include irregular verbs

If you have an irregular verb inside a verb with a separable or non-separable prefix, it will always stay irregular.

For example:
raten (to guess). = ich rate – du rätst
beraten (to consult) = ich berate – du berätst


Irregular verbs in other times

Concerning irregular verbs, you can be sure that if a verb is already performing a vowel shift in the present tense, it is most certainly also an irregular verb for past tenses like Perfekt.

fahren:  er fährt – er fuhr – er ist gefahren 


List of German irregular verbs a ➔ ä

backen (to bake) ➔ er bäckt 

blasen (to blow) ➔ er bläst

braten (to roast) ➔ er brät

fahren (to drive, go by) ➔ er fährt

fallen (to fall) ➔ er fällt

fangen (to catch) ➔ er fängt

graben (to dig) ➔ er gräbt 

geraten (to fall into) ➔ er gerät

halten (to hold) ➔ er hält

laden (to load) ➔ er lädt

lassen (to let) ➔ er lässt

raten (to guess) ➔ er rät

schlafen (to sleep) ➔ er schläft

schlagen (to hit) ➔ er schlägt

tragen (to carry, wear) ➔ er trägt

wachsen (to grow) ➔ er wächst

waschen (to wash) ➔ er wäscht

List of German irregular verbs au ➔ äu

laufen (to run) ➔ er läuft
saufen (to drink for animals, to booze) ➔ er säuft

Irregular verbs

After reading this article, I hope you finally understand how to use this group of verbs which you should internalize because you will need to use them frequently. If you want to know more about verbs, check out how to conjugate German verbs

Bis bald!


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