The German Verb ‘Sprechen’ (To Speak) Posted by Constanze on Nov 10, 2020 in Grammar, Language
Guten Tag! In this ‘back to basics’ post, we’re going to look at the conjugation of the German verb sprechen – to speak. A very appropriate verb for your language learning! 🙂
Sprechen is an irregular German verb, meaning that both its endings and its stem will sometimes change. Here are a few conjugations of the verb sprechen. There are more, but for the purposes of keeping it simple, we will look at just three that cover the present, past, and future.
Sprechen – to speak, talk, say
Ich spreche – I speak/am speaking
Du sprichst – You speak/are speaking (informal)
Er/sie/es spricht – He/she/it speaks / is speaking
Wir sprechen – We speak/are speaking
Ihr sprecht – You speak/are speaking (plural)
Sie sprechen – You speak/are speaking (formal)
sie sprechen – They speak/are speaking
* Remember that the difference between the last two, Sie sprechen and sie sprechen, is the capitalisation (or not) of the word sie. However, if ‘Sie sprechen’ comes at the beginning of a sentence, it may still mean ‘they speak’, as then ‘sie’ is the first word of the sentence and needs to be capitalised! Most times, the context of the sentence will tell you whether it is one person, or a group of people, being spoken about, but sometimes if there is little to no context, it can be ambiguous. See below for an example. *
Ich spreche Deutsch.
I speak German.
Du sprichst meine Sprache.
You’re speaking my language.
Wir sprechen nur Englisch.
We only speak English.
Sie sprechen mit Frau Stiglmeier.
< Written down, this could either mean ‘You are speaking to Frau Stiglmeier’, or ‘They are speaking to Frau Stiglmeier’ due to the first word needing to be capitalised – A good example of ambiguity when using Sie/sie! However, if you were to phone someone and the person on the other end of the phone said, ‘Guten Tag, Sie sprechen mit Frau Stiglmeier’, you can be sure that this is the formal ‘you’ (‘Sie’) being used! >
Compound past tense
This tense is used in conjunction with the verb haben-to have.
Ich habe gesprochen – I spoke/have spoken
Du hast gesprochen – You spoke/have spoken (informal)
Er/sie/es hat gesprochen – He/she/it spoke / has spoken
Wir haben gesprochen – We spoke/have spoken
Ihr habt gesprochen – You spoke/have spoken (plural)
Sie haben gesprochen – You spoke/have spoken (formal)
sie haben gesprochen – They spoke/have spoken
Ich habe genug gesprochen.
I have said/talked enough.
Habt ihr schon mit Sandra gesprochen?
Have you spoken to Sandra yet? (plural – addressing more than one person)
Er hat viel darüber gesprochen.
He spoke a lot about it.
This tense is used in conjunction with the verb werden- to become.
Ich werde sprechen – I will speak
Du wirst sprechen – You will speak (informal)
Er/sie/es wird sprechen – He/she/it will speak
Wir werden sprechen – We will speak
Ihr werdet sprechen – You will speak (plural)
Sie werden sprechen – You will speak (formal)
sie werden sprechen – They will speak
Wir werden langsamer sprechen.
We will speak more slowly.
Ich werde mit ihm sprechen.
I will speak to him.
I hope this has been useful. What other verbs would you like to recap?
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