Weak Verbs in German

Posted on 07. May, 2012 by in Language

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.

 

Singular Plural
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.

 

Exercise:

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!

  1. (suchen) Ich ____________ das Museum.
  2. (reservieren) Peter ___________ ein Hotelzimmer.
  3. (warten) Sie (Anne und Stefan) __________ auf den Bus.
  4. (mieten) Ihr ___________ ein Auto.
  5. (fragen) Wir _____________ nach der Adresse.
  6. (lernen) Ich ___________ Deutsch.
  7. (reisen) Ich _____________ nach Hamburg.
  8. (brauchen) Er ____________ ein Taxi.
  9. (telefonieren) Du _______________ mit deiner Mutter.
  10.  (bestellen) Tina ___________ ein Glas Wein.
  11. (tanzen) Frau Schmidt, Sie ___________ gut!
  12. (arbeiten) Der Professor _____________ jeden Tag.
  13. (öffnen) Die Professorin ____________ das Fenster.
  14. (kosten) Die Pizza ____________ nur 5 Euro.

 

Note: The key and translation of the exercise will follow in the next post.

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About Sandra

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra

3 Responses to “Weak Verbs in German”

  1. Chris Klein 7 May 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Danke sehr fuer die Uebung! Das hilft mir, denn ich habe nicht so oft die Zeit dafuer, mein Deutsch zu ueben. Aber diese kleine Aktivitaeten sind hilfreich und schnell! Super!

  2. Julito Mora 18 January 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Fantastic! Thanks for the information. Are you going to post a list of the most used weak verbs? I found a list but it is over 1000 and some of the them seem very strange, say… abarbeiten… it seems that is a derivative from arbeiten and I don’t know what to do there.

    Thanks again!

  3. Learning German 20 June 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    Nice explanation. The exercise is icing on the cake.


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