According To The Textbook The Crucial Element In Language Is Essential German Grammar: A 5-Minute Crash Course on German Verbs

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Essential German Grammar: A 5-Minute Crash Course on German Verbs

German verbs are perhaps the most complex topic in all of German grammar. However, since learning grammar rules is one of the fastest ways to improve your German speaking skills, you should be eager to learn how to use them! Adding movement to your sentences (and using the right tense) will allow you to speak good German very quickly. So let’s take a look at the main element of German verbs.

The infinitive form of the verb

In English, the infinitive form of a verb is the base form of the verb that comes before ‘to’. For example, ‘walk’, ‘sleep’, etc. In German, this is the form you’ll find in a dictionary. Most German verbs end in -en in the infinitive form. For example ‘finden’ which means ‘to find’.

German verb endings

German verbs have more forms than the infinitive, and these forms consist of different endings added to the root. Although the root may vary, it is based on the infinitive form. Verb endings vary depending on who or what is doing the action and whether it is in the past, present, or future.

Weak, strong and mixed verbs

To determine the endings of a verb, you need to know whether the verb is weak, strong or mixed. Weak verbs (also known as regular verbs) change their form according to a certain pattern. Strong and irregular verbs vary according to different patterns, while mixed verbs follow a mix of patterns used for weak and strong verbs.

Verbs and “Doer”

As mentioned, the endings of German verbs change depending on who or what is doing the action. English verbs do this to some extent by adding -s when talking about he, she or o. For example… ‘I/you/we see a dog’… but ‘he/she/it sees a dog’. In German, this is more pronounced. Let’s take an example using the verb ‘finden’…

  • I find – ‘ich finde’
  • You find –‘du findest’ (where ‘you’ is for familiar/informal situations)
  • He finds – “er/sie/es findet”
  • We find – ‘wir finden’
  • You find: ‘ihr findet’ (where ‘you’ is for the familiar plural, as in ‘you guys’)
  • You find–‘Sie finden’ (this is the singular and plural for the formal ‘you’.)
  • They find – ‘sie finden’

Verb tense

German verb tenses don’t exactly match English, so you’ll need to learn each one and take some time to think about which tense to use. The main times are:

  • Present tense–This is used to describe what is happening now. It is also used to talk about things that happen regularly (eg habits) and something that will happen in the very near future.
  • Perfect Time–This is used to talk about past events, usually a one-time action.
  • Perfect Time–It is also used to talk about things that happened in the past, but in this case it is used to describe what happened before, repeated actions, and how things are.
  • Future tense–As the name suggests, this is used to talk about something that will happen in the future.
  • Conditional–Tense is used when you want to talk about something that would happen if certain conditions existed.
  • Pluperfect Tense–This tense is used when talking about a point in the past tense, something that has already happened.
  • Subjunctive–This form is used to express uncertainty or speculation. The subjunctive can be used in the present tense and the plural tense.

If we take our example of ‘finden’ using the first person singular (ich), the verb would change to:

  • present tense –‘ich finde’
  • Present Subjunctive – ‘ich finde’
  • Perfect Tense –‘ich habe gefundan’
  • Perfect Time – ‘ich fand’
  • Future tense –‘ich werde finden’
  • Conditional–‘ich wurde finden’
  • Pluperfect – ‘ich hatte gefundan’
  • Pluperfect Subjunctive–‘ich hatte gefunden’

* The u in Wurde contains umlauts (two dots over the letter) in this example.

** a in hatte contains umlauts in this example.

Other verbs

Other verbs you should learn include:

  • Reflexive verbs–Used when the subject and object are the same (eg I washed myself).
  • Imperative verbs–Verb form used when giving instructions (e.g. Listen!).
  • Passive tense–The subject of the sentence is not the “doer,” but the form you use when it is affected by the action (eg, “I was pushed”).

As you can see, German verbs are a pretty complicated subject with a lot of moving parts. As always, the best idea is to take things one step at a time. Focus on one aspect you are working on and study it well before moving on. With this overview of German verbs, you are now aware of the basic concepts and can use this as your guide to work on the details. You’ll soon be able to form German verbs in any situation, taking your German skills to amazing new levels! Have fun and enjoy speaking German!

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