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.

As like as in English, the primary form of a verb is the infinitive. For German, this means that the verb appears typically with the ending “-en” or “-n”. For instance, in the word lernen (to study).

To adjust a verb to the appropriate person, one needs to remove “-en” or “-n”. By doing so, 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” you use almost the same endings as you did for verbs with “-en”. However, there are two little differences which I will explain to you 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, you need to remove the ‘e’ between ‘kling-’ and ‘-le’ for the first person singular ‘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 of German verb conjugation:

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

To illustrate this exception, I use the verb “arbeiten” (to work).

In the same way, as with the verb “lernen”, you need to remove the “-en” of “arbeiten” to get the stem of the verb. The stem is “arbeit”. Now, when one wants to add the endings to the verb stem you face a problem. It is easy to say “ich arbeite”. But the German conjugating system is challenged by the fact that one cannot pronounce the regularly conjugated verb for ‘du, er, sie, es, ihr’ with the standard ending. Therefore, you  need to add an extra “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 of 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, as for the standard verbs. But there would not have been a paragraph about an exception if there wasn’ one! Although, there is no problem when you want to say “ich tanze”, you will quickly figure out that trying to conjugate the second person singular ‘du’ as we did before,
will make us almost tongue-tied. The reason is that when you add “-st” after a ‘z’, this might be tricky to pronounce. 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) and get to know what to do with German verbs with -ieren.

Viel Erfolg und bis bald!

Steffie

 


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