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Verbs in German (weak/strong/mixed)

In this section, we will discuss the use of verbs in German.

Verbs in German

A verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as “arbeiten, kochen, spielen”.

German verbs are usually given in dictionaries in the form of the infinitive, which ends in – en or – n, such as, “arbeiten, spielen, wandern”. If we take off this – en or -n, we obtain the basic core of the verb, which is called the root, e.g. “arbeit- , spiel- , wander-“.

Verbs are a very important part of a sentence. They help to tell what the sentence is about and what action is being done. In German, verbs have a different structure than in English. Verbs in German are divided into three groups:

  1. weak: These verbs follow a set pattern when they conjugating. That’s why these verbs may also be called regular verbs.
  2. strong: These verbs change according to different patterns when they conjugating.
  3. mixed: Their forms follow a mixture of the patterns for weak and strong verbs.

All German verbs belong to one of these groups. In the German language, verbs have different forms depending on what noun or pronoun they are used with and their tense.

Weak verbs are called regular verbs, while strong and mixing verbs are called irregular verbs. The main difference between these is the way in which the past tense is formed:

Weak verbs form their past tense by adding – te to the root:kauf-enkauf-te
Strong and mixed verbs form their past tense by changing the vowel of the root:flieg-enflog

Regular Verbs in German (regelmäßige Verben)

German verb endings change, depending on who or what you are talking about. Ich (I) takes -e, du (you) takes -st, “Er” (he, masculine), “sie” (she, feminine) and “es” (it, neuter) take the same ending-t, in “wir” (we) the verb doesn’t change. “Ihr” takes -t, just like er/sie/es. Just like with “wir” (we), the verb also doesn’t change when used with “sie“(they) and “Sie” (you).

The following table shows the conjugation of the verb “studieren” (to play) according to personal pronouns in the present tense (Indikativ Präsens).

Pronounstudieren
ichstudiere
dustudierst
er/sie/esstudiert
wirstudieren
ihrstudiert
siestudieren
Indikativ Präsens (Simple Present)

As you can see in the table above, in the German language, there are only have four different verb endings-e-st-t and -en in the present.

Strong Irregular Verbs in German (unregelmäßige Verben)

Most German verbs are weak i.e. regular. 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 learn their three most important forms, the principal parts, i.e. the infinitive, the past tense and the past participle by heart.

a ä
auäu
oö
e (pronounced long)ie
e (pronounced short)i
Vowel Changes of Irregular Verbs in German

The only difference is that for irregular verbs, the vowels in the stem change for the “du” and “er/sie/es” forms. The following table shows the conjugation of the verb “essen” (to eat) according to personal pronouns in the present tense (Indikativ Präsens).

Pronounessen
ichesse
duisst
er/sie/esisst
wiressen
ihresst
sieessen
Indikativ Präsens (Simple Present)

Mixing Irregular Verbs in German

Although mixed verbs follow the same pattern as weak verbs when they conjugating in the present tense, vowels in the stem change in the past tense. That’s why “mixing verbs” are also called an irregular verb.

The following table shows the present and past tense conjugations of the weak verb “studieren” (to study) and the mixed verb “kommen” (to come).

weak
Present
weak
Past
mixed
Present
mixed
Past
Pronounstudierenstudierenkommenkommen
ichstudierestudiertekommekam
dustudierststudiertestkommstkamst
er/sie/esstudiertstudiertekommtkam
wirstudierenstudiertenkommenkamen
ihrstudiertstudiertetkommtkamt
siestudierenstudiertenkommenkamen

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