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German Verbs in Present Tense (Präsens)

1. Introduction

Learning German is far from easy. Those unending words and that strange thing called declension are really scary. Still, German verbs are simple when compared with verbs in a Romance language. Most German verbs are regular even in irregularities. So let's start with the Present Tense (Präsens).

2. Personal Pronouns

Let me remind the personal pronouns. Note that the word "sie" has different meaning from "Sie". While the former means "she" or "they", the latter means "you" (plural and singular) in formal situations.

Table 1. Personal Pronouns

GermanEnglish

ich

I

du

you (singular informal)

er

he

sie

she

es

it

wir

we

ihr

you (plural informal)

sie

they

Sie

you (formal)

3. Regular Verbs

Most verbs are regular. Regularity means the conjugation is predictable if we know some basic rules. Table 2 shows the general case, represented by the verb "wohnen" (to reside) and three special cases: arbeiten, heißen and sammeln (to work, to be called and to collect, respectively)..

Table 2. Regular Verbs

Translation: to reside, to work, to be called, to collect

Translation: to reside, to work, to be called, to collect

We can see that all the regular verbs follow similar patterns. The conjugation is formed by the stem and an affix:

  • The stem is obtained by cutting the "-en" or "-n" termination of the verb in infinitive. The latter case happens when the verb ends in "-n" and not "-en" (eg. "sammeln".


  • The affixes are the ones described in the second column of Table 2.


  • The conjugation for the third person singular is the same for all three genders.


  • There are conjugations which are coincident with the infinitive of the verb. It is the case of the first and third persons plural plus the formal second person (wir, ihr, sie/Sie). This is true for all verbs expect the verb "sein"(to be).


The verb "wohnen" is the general example of a regular verb. Yet, there are some verbs for which the conjugation is a little different:

  • "arbeiten" represents the verbs ending in "-den", "-ten", "-men" or "-nen". The latter two cases occur when the ending follows a consonant (e.g. "atmen", to breathe). All the conjugations have "e" in the affix..


  • "heißen" represents the verbs ending in "-sen", "-zen" and "-ßen". The "s" on the second person affix is removed for avoiding the terminations like "ßst". This turns the conjugations of the second and third persons equal.


  • "sammeln" represents the few verbs which infinitive does not end in "-en". As said before, for wir, ihr, sie/Sie the conjugation is equal to the infinitive, so the affix is "-n" instead of "-en". For verbs ending in "-eln" the penultimate "e" is omitted in the first person conjugation.

4. Irregular Verbs

4.1. General Cases

Most languages have irregular verbs, and German is not an exception. Yet, we can find some patterns to know the conjugation with low effort. Only the conjugation of the singular persons suffer changes:

  • The affix follows the adequate pattern shown in table 2, depending on the infinitive ending.
  • A vowel in the next to the last syllable of the stem will change. The most usual changes are:
  • • a → ä
  • • e → i
  • • e → ie


Table 3 shows the conjugation of verbs referred above plus the verb "nehmen" (to take) which has the change eh → im. The conjugation of the plural persons is regular.

Table 3. Irregular Verbs A

Translation: to drive, to speak, to see, to take

Translation: to drive, to speak, to see, to take

There are some verbs in which the change of stem adds to change of the affixes. Table 4 shows three of these cases. Verb "halten" (to stop) is irregular in the third person singular. "Essen" (to eat) and "lesen" (to read) are examples of verbs ending in -sen with change in the stem.

Table 4. Irregular Verbs B

Translation: to stop, to eat, to read

Translation: to stop, to eat, to read

4.2. Auxiliary verbs

The verbs "sein"(to be), "haben" (to have) and "werden" (will) are the most irregular of all, having special features. The verbs "haben" and "werden" are irregular in the second and third persons singular. In opposition, "sein" is completely irregular, and the only way is knowing its conjugation by heart.

Table 5. Auxiliary Verbs

translation: to be, to have, will

translation: to be, to have, will

4.3. Modal Verbs

The conjugation of modal verbs follows a pattern of affixes different from the other verbs. The affix for the first and third person singular is absent. Additionally to the modal verbs, "wissen" (to know) also follows this specific pattern. The stem of these verbs also changes in the singular conjugations.

Table 6. Modal Verbs and "Wissen"

Translation: may, can, to like, must

Translation: may, can, to like, must

ought, to know, to want

ought, to know, to want

5. List of Common Verbs

The following table is a list of the most common verbs and their correspondent model described in the present hub.

Table 7. List of Verbs

verbmeaning in englishmodel

arbeiten

work

arbeiten

bilden

build

arbeiten

bleiben

stay

wohnen

braten

bake

fahren

bringen

bring

wohnen

denken

think

wohnen

dürfen

may

dürfen

essen

eat

essen

fahren

drive

fahren

fallen

fall

fahren

fangen

catch

fahren

finden

find

arbeiten

fliegen

fly

wohnen

geben

give

sprechen

gehen

go

wohnen

haben

have

haben

halten

stop

halten

helfen

help

sprechen

kennen

know

wohnen

kommen

come

wohnen

können

can

können

laden

invite

fahren

laufen

run

fahren

machen

make

wohnen

mögen

like

mögen

müssen

must

müssen

raten

advice

fahren

rufen

call

halten

sagen

say

wohnen

schlafen

sleep

fahren

schreiben

write

wohnen

schwimmen

swim

wohnen

sehen

see

sehen

sein

be

sein

senden

send

arbeiten

singen

sing

wohnen

sollen

ought

sollen

sprechen

speak

sprechen

stehen

stand

wohnen

steingen

climb

wohnen

stehlen

steal

sehen

tragen

carry

fahren

treffen

meet

sprechen

trinken

drink

wohnen

vergessen

forget

essen

wachsen

grow

fahren

waschen

wash

fahren

werden

will

werden

wissen

know

wissen

wollen

want

wollen

wohnen

reside

wohnen

ziehen

pull

wohnen

6. Quizz

Let's make a short quiz to make sure you have learnt. In each question you should choose what you think is the right answer.

German Verbs in Present Tense

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Ich____ (sprechen)
    • sprech
    • spriche
    • spreche
    • sprechst
  2. Du ___(sehen)
    • sehest
    • seht
    • siehst
    • sihst
  3. Er___(können)
    • kann
    • kannt
    • könn
    • könnt
  4. Sie___(lesen)
    • lest
    • lesst
    • list
    • liest
  5. Es____(bleiben)
    • bleibt
    • bleibst
    • blibt
    • bleibet
  6. Wir____(wissen)
    • weissen
    • wissen
    • wisst
    • wissn
  7. Ihr___(sammeln)
    • sammelt
    • sammelet
    • sammlet
    • sammeln
  8. Sie____(bilden)
    • bildt
    • bilden
    • bilde
    • bild
  9. Ich____(arbeiten)
    • arbeite
    • arbeiten
    • arbite
    • arbiete
  10. Du____(heißen)
    • heißest
    • heisst
    • hißt
    • heißt
  11. Er___(fahren)
    • farht
    • fährt
    • fahren
    • fähret
  12. Sie___(dürfen)
    • dürft
    • darft
    • darf
    • darfen
  13. Ihr___(mögen)
    • mogt
    • magt
    • mögt
    • möget
  14. Sie___(sollen)
    • sollen
    • söllt
    • sollt
    • söllen
  15. Du___(helfen)
    • helfst
    • helfest
    • hilfst
    • hilft
  16. Du____(sein)
    • bist
    • sist
    • ist
    • sein
  17. Er____(wohnen)
    • wohnst
    • wöhnt
    • wohn
    • wohnt
  18. Ihr___(haben)
    • haben
    • habt
    • habet
    • hat
  19. Er___(essen)
    • isst
    • ist
    • esst
    • est
  20. Sie____(nehmen)
    • nehmt
    • nihmt
    • nimmt
    • nehmet
  21. Ihr____(sehen)
    • sehen
    • seht
    • sieht
    • siht
  22. Du___(schlafen)
    • schlafst
    • schlafest
    • schläfst
    • schlafest
  23. Er___(treffen)
    • trifft
    • triffst
    • trefft
    • trift
  24. Es___(sein)
    • sein
    • sind
    • ist
    • seid
  25. Ihr___laufen
    • lauft
    • läuft
    • läufet
    • laufen
  26. Ihr____(sein)
    • seid
    • sind
    • sein
    • seit

Answer Key

  1. spreche
  2. siehst
  3. kann
  4. liest
  5. bleibt
  6. wissen
  7. sammelt
  8. bilden
  9. arbeite
  10. heißt
  11. fährt
  12. darf
  13. mögt
  14. sollen
  15. hilfst
  16. bist
  17. wohnt
  18. habt
  19. isst
  20. nimmt
  21. seht
  22. schläfst
  23. trifft
  24. ist
  25. lauft
  26. seid

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 7 correct answers: Very low result.

If you got between 8 and 15 correct answers: I would study a little more, before I try the quizz another time.

If you got between 16 and 20 correct answers: Not bad. Please read the article one more time.

If you got between 21 and 23 correct answers: Almost there. Take a look on the tables and try to see what failed, and try again.

If you got between 24 and 26 correct answers: Very good.

7. Conclusion

Everything to know about the present tense (indicative mode) in German has been shown in this hub. I hope you like it. Please give suggestions. Soon, I will continue with other subject about the German language.