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Verbs: present tense

Tenses show when something happens – the past, present or the future.

Present tense verbs

The present tense is what we use to talk about things which are happening right now and things which always happen, for example: ‘I’m eating a sandwich’ and ‘I eat a sandwich for lunch’.

The vast majority of verbs are ‘weak’ or ‘regular’, which means they all follow the same pattern.

Weak or regular verbs

For weak/regular verbs take off the ‘en’ to find the stem and add the following:

Spielen* (To play)

Verb Ending Meaning
ich spiele e I play
du spielst st You play (singular, informal)
er/sie/es/man spielt t He/she/it/one plays
wir spielen en We play
ihr spielt t You (plural) play
sie/Sie spielen en They/you (formal) play

Sie spielt jeden Tag Federball -> She plays badminton every day.

Verb examples

Below is a list of verbs with their English translation.

Verb examples with English translation

Verb Translation Verb Translation
abspülen To wash up schwimmen To swim
arbeiten To work kaufen To buy
kochen To cook senden To send
bauen To build kommen To come
bekommen To get singen To sing
lachen To laugh spielen To play
leben To live/exist springen To jump
bringen To bring lernen To learn
buchstabieren To spell lieben To love
danken To thank lügen To lie/fib
denken To think machen To make/do
duschen To shower meinen To think
trinken To drink studieren To study
erklären To explain nutzen To use
fragen To ask überraschen To surprise
frühstücken To eat breakfast regnen To rain
gehen To go reisen To travel
sagen To say verlieren To lose
gewinnen To win verstehen To understand
glauben To believe versuchen To try
hassen To hate scherzen To joke
schicken To send warten To wait
heißen To be called weinen To cry
hoffen To hope wohnen To live/reside
hören To hear zahlen To pay
informieren To inform schneien To snow
joggen To jog streiten To argue

Examples in sentences

  • Ich glaube, dass du die Wahrheit sprichst -> I believe that you are telling the truth.
  • Mein Vater schickt mir oft Briefe -> My father often sends me letters.
  • Meine Eltern warten auf uns -> my parents are waiting for us.
  • Wann reist er nach Indien? -> When is he travelling to India?
  • Ihr sagt zu viel und hört nicht zu! -> You say too much and don’t listen!

Exceptions

If the stem ends in ‘d’ or ‘t’ add an extra ‘e’ before the ending in the third person singular. For example:

  • Finden -> er findet – he finds.
  • Warten -> sie wartet – she waits.

If the stem ends in ‘s’ you only add ‘t’ in the second person singular. For example:

  • Heißen -> du heißt -> you are called.

Strong or irregular verbs

Most strong/irregular verbs have exactly the same endings as regular verbs, and the only changes are in the ‘du’ and ‘er/sie/es/man’ forms.

 

Example using the verb ‘fahren’ (to go)

Pronoun Regular ending Fahren Regular? Why?
ich -e fahre Yes
du -st fährst No vowel change
er/sie/es/man -t fährt No vowel change
wir -en fahren Yes
ihr -t fahrt Yes
sie/Sie -en fahren Yes

Next to each verb you can see the du and er/sie/es/man forms. Everything else will follow the same pattern.

 

Useful vocabulary: common strong verbs

German infinitive English du form er/sie/es/sie form
essen To eat isst isst
fahren To go (by vehicle) fährst fährt
fallen To fall fällst fällt
halten To stop/hold hältst hält
helfen To help hilfst hilft
lassen To let/have sth done lässt lässt
lesen To read liest liest
nehmen To take nimmst nimmt
schlafen To sleep schläfst schläft
sehen To see siehst sieht
sprechen To speak sprichst spricht
tragen To wear trägst trägt
vergessen To forget vergisst vergisst
waschen To wash wäschst wäscht
werden To become wirst wird
wissen To know weißt weiß

 

Modal verbs

See the section on modal verbs which are ‘special’ in several ways.

  • Er isst gern Kuchen -> He likes eating cake.
  • Es hilft mir, wenn du abspülst -> It helps me when you wash up.
  • Liest du mir eine Geschichte vor? -> Will you read me a story?
  • Er sieht abends gern fern -> He likes watching TV in the evening.

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