German Language Blog

Key: German weak verbs Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Grammar, Language

My last post was about German weak verbs. In addition to the explanation how to conjugate weak verbs in German, I gave you an exercise where you had to fill in the blanks with the correct conjugated forms of the verbs used in the example sentences. Following you find the key to the exercise, the English translations of the sentences, and some further notes to some verb meanings.


1. suchen – to look for: Ich suche das Museum. – I am looking for the museum.

The German word “suchen” has three common English equivalents, these are: to look for, to search, and to seek. So, if you need to know the German meaning of any of the three English verbs you can always opt for German “suchen”.

2. reservieren – to book: Peter reserviert ein Hotelzimmer. – Peter books/is booking a hotel room.

The German verb “reservieren” can either be translated as to reserve or to book (which again can also me translated as “buchen”). Further, in German you do not distinguish between simple and progressive tenses, thus, you can use the German Präsens Tense for both Simple Present and Present Progressive.

3. warten – to wait: Sie (Anne und Stefan) warten auf den Bus. – They are waiting for the bus.

The German sentence “Sie warten auf den Bus” is ambiguous because it can either be translated as “You are waiting for the bus” or as “They are waiting for the bus”. Which meaning this sentence has indeed is only recognizable in the speech situation.

4. mieten – to rent: Ihr mietet ein Auto. – You rent/are renting a car.

5. fragen – to ask: Wir fragen  nach der Adresse. – We ask for the address.

The most common English translation of the German verb “fragen” is to ask, but this German verb can also be translated as to question, which again can be translated as “hinterfragen”, in order to intensify the meaning of ‘asking’.

6. lernen – to learn: Ich lerne Deutsch. – I learn/am learning German.

As mentioned above, the German language does not distinguish between simple and progressive forms. Thus, “Ich lerne Deutsch” can either mean that you are doing it actively at the moment of speaking or it can also mean that this is general, current action. Mind: When you would like to say that ‘you have been learning German for x years now’ you simply use the Präsens tense sentence and insert the particular time that you have learned German, e.g. “Ich lerne (jetzt) seit zwei Jahren Deutsch.” = “I have been learning German for two years (now).”

7. reisen – to travel: Ich reise nach Hamburg. – I travel/am travelling to Hamburg.

8. brauchen –to need: Er braucht ein Taxi. – He needs a taxi.

9. telefonieren – to phone; to call: Du telefonierst mit deiner Mutter. – You are calling your mother.

10. bestellen – to order: Tina bestellt ein Glas Wein. – Tina orders/is ordering a glass of wine.

11. tanzen – to dance: Frau Schmidt, Sie tanzen gut! – Frau Schmidt, you are dancing well!

12. arbeiten – to work: Der Professor arbeitet jeden Tag. – The professor works every day.

In German, we distinguish between male and female job titles. All you have to do to make an occupation feminine is to replace the masculine article “der” with the feminine article “die” and add the ending –in to the masculine form of the noun, e.g. der Lehrer -> die Lehrerin (teacher), der Jounalist -> die Journalistin (journalist), der Verkäufer -> die Verkäuferin (sales assitant).

13. öffnen – to open: Die Professorin öffnet das Fenster. – The (female) professor opens the window.

14. Kosten – to cost Die Pizza kostet nur 5 Euro. – The pizza is just 5 Euros. / The pizza costs just 5 Euros.

The German verb “kosten” has, at least, two English equivalents: to be and to cost, thus, for me as a German, it is still quite tricky when to use one or the other. But to keep things simple, when you would like to ask “How much is that/it?”, the correct German phrase is “Wie viel kostet das?”

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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

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


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