In this section, we will discuss the use of verbs in German.
Verbs in German
Verbs are the action words in a sentence that describe what the subject is doing. As you know, the subject is used as the nominative case in German.
A verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence and form the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as come (kommen), have (haben), walk (gehen), etc.
German verbs are usually given in dictionaries as infinitive that ends in “-en” or “-n”, such as helfen (help), spielen (play), wandern (hike). If you take off these, you obtain the essential core of the verb called the root, e.g. helf, spiel, wander.
The root carries the basic meaning of the verb and can usually be worked out from the infinitive and change depending on the verb tense and who or what you are talking about.
All German verbs fit into one of three patterns: schwache oder regelmäßige (regular or weak), starke oder unregelmäßige (irregular or strong) or gemischte (mixed).
➡️ weak: These verbs follow a set pattern when they conjugate. That’s why these verbs may also be called regular verbs.
➡️ strong: These verbs change according to different patterns when they conjugate.
➡️ mixed: Their forms follow a mixture of the patterns for weak and strong verbs.
Weak verbs are called regular verbs, while strong and mixing verbs are generally called irregular verbs.
Regular Verbs in German (regelmäßige Verben)
The conjugation of the verb “machen” (to make) in the present tense (Indikativ Präsens) is shown in Table 1.1:
As you can see in Table 1.2, there are only four different verb endings in German: -e, -st, -t and -en in the present. This is because these verbs follow a pattern in personal pronouns when conjugating.
Strong Irregular Verbs in German (unregelmäßige Verben)
Most German verbs are weak, i.e. regular. However, there are far fewer strong verbs, and there is no way of telling from the infinitive of a verb whether it is weak or strong.
That’s why German learners should learn which verbs are strong and their three most important forms, the principal parts, i.e. the infinitive, the past tense and the past participle, by heart.
Strong verbs change their vowels in the conjugation of the root pronouns “du” and “er/sie/es” in the present, and this can’t be predicted easily:
Vowel changes in strong verbs are shown in table 1.3:
Table 1.4 shows the conjugation of the verb “essen” (to eat) according to personal pronouns in the present tense (Indikativ Präsens):
Mixing Irregular Verbs in German
Mixing verbs also follow a set pattern like weak verbs when they conjugate in the present tense:
The main difference between mixed and weak verbs is how the past tense is formed. Mixed verbs are conjugated in the present tense as regular verbs. On the other hand, they are conjugated like strong verbs, which change their vowels in roots in the past tense.
Table 1.6 shows the present and past tense conjugations of the weak verb “studieren” (to study) and the mixed verb “kommen” (to come):