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In German, there are two basic forms of verbs: weak verbs and strong verbs. Weak verbs or regular verbs are those that follow a set pattern of rules and retain the same stem vowel throughout. These verbs are called weak verbs because you might think of them as being simply too weak to alter the patterns they follow – when they are conjugated.
Strong verbs, on the other hand, do not follow a set pattern of conjugation, that is, the stem vowel will change when you, for example, form the past form of a strong verb.
When you are a native speaker of English you have already come across strong and weak verbs in your mother language. As mentioned above, German weak verbs are nothing else than English regular verbs (e.g. walk-walked-walked), and German strong verbs are nothing else than English irregular verbs (go-went-gone), so to speak.
Lucky you, most German verbs fall into the category of schwache Verben (weak verbs). When you would like to conjugate these verbs, all you have to do is to loop of the ending –en, e.g. the German weak verb “leben” (to live). As a result, you get the word stem “leb-“. Now, you only have to add a particular ending to the stem.
|1st person||ich leb-e(I live)||wir leb-en(we live)|
|2nd person||du leb-st / Sie leb-en*(you live)||ihr leb-t / Sie leb-en*(you live)|
|3rd person||er/sie/es leb-t(he/she/it lives)||sie leb-en*(they live)|
* As you can see, the German personal pronoun “sie” has two English equivalents. It can mean you (both singular and plural in formal language) and they. No matter which meaning “sie” has in German, the following verb is ALWAYS conjugated on the basis of the same pattern, namely –en.
From the table above, you can derive the pattern endings of German weak verbs and attach them to any other German weak verb.
And now it’s your turn. Below you can find some sentences where you have to fill in the correct conjugated forms of German weak verbs. Good luck!
Note: The key and translation of the exercise will follow in the next post.