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German Regular Verbs
Present Tense Verb Conjugations

Introduction

Part of Lesson 4b of German for Beginners

Also see: Past Tense Conjugations of regular verbs

The regular German verbs follow a predictable pattern in the present tense. Once you learn the pattern for one regular German verb, you know how all German verbs are conjugated. (Yes, there are irregular verbs that don't always follow the rules, but even they will usually have the same endings as the regular verbs.) The majority of German verbs are regular, even though it may not seem that way, since many commonly used verbs are strong (irregular) verbs.

The chart below lists two sample regular German verbs. All regular German verbs will follow the same pattern. We have also included a helpful list of the more common stem-changing verbs. These are verbs that follow the normal pattern of endings, but have a vowel change in their stem or base form (hence the name "stem-changing"). The verb endings for each pronoun are indicated in bold type.

The Basics
Each verb has a basic “infinitive” (“to”) form. This is the form of the verb you find in a German dictionary. The verb “to play” in English is the infinitive form. (“He plays“ is a conjugated form.) The German equivalent of “to play” is spielen. Each verb also has a stem form, the basic part of the verb left after you remove the -en ending. For spielen the stem is spiel- (spielen - en). To conjugate the verb — that is, use it in a sentence—you must add the correct ending to the stem. If you want to say “I play” you add an -e ending: “ich spiele” (which can also be translated into English as “I am playing”). Each “person” (he, you, they, etc.) requires its own ending on the verb. This is called “conjugating the verb.”

If you don't know how to conjugate verbs correctly it means your German will sound strange to people who understand the language. German verbs require more endings for the various “persons” than English verbs. In English we use only an s ending or no ending for most verbs: “I/they/we/you play” or “he/she plays.” German has a different ending for almost all of those verb situations: ich spiele, sie spielen, du spielst, er spielt, etc. Observe that the verb spielen has a different ending in most of the examples in the chart below. If you want to sound intelligent in German, you need to learn when to use which ending. That's why we have this chart for you!

SPIELEN / TO PLAY
Present Tense - Präsens
Deutsch English Sample Sentence
SINGULAR
ich spiele I play Ich spiele gern Basketball.
du spielst you (fam.)
play
Spielst du Schach? (chess)
er spielt he plays Er spielt mit mir. (with me)
sie spielt she plays Sie spielt Karten. (cards)
es spielt it plays Es spielt keine Rolle. (It doesn't matter.)
PLURAL
wir spielen we play Wir spielen Basketball.
ihr spielt you (guys) play Spielt ihr Monoploy?
sie spielen they play Sie spielen Golf.
Sie spielen you play Spielen Sie heute? (Sie, formal "you," is both singular and plural.)
Verb Stem Ends in -d or -t
Connecting -e examples
Applies only to du, ihr, and er/sie/es
arbeiten
to work
er arbeitet Arbeitest du heute?
finden
to find
du findest Findet ihr das?
Also see related verb links/pages below.

Now let's look at another kind of German verb, a stem-changing verb. Technically, sprechen (to speak) is a strong verb, not a regular verb. But in the present tense the verb sprechen is regular except for a stem change from e to i. That is, the verb changes its stem vowel, but the endings are the same as for any other regular verb in the present tense. Note that all stem changes only occur with the singular pronouns/persons du and the third person singular (er, sie, es). The first person singular (ich) and all the plural forms do NOT change. (Other stem-changing verb patterns include a to ä and e to ie. See the examples below.) Stem vowel changes are indicated below in red and a lighter background. Note that the verb endings remain normal.

SPRECHEN / TO SPEAK
Present Tense - Präsens
Deutsch English Sample Sentence
SINGULAR
ich spreche I speak Ich spreche am Telefon.
du sprichst you (fam.) speak Sprichst du am Telefon?
er spricht he speaks Er spricht mit mir. (with me)
sie spricht she speaks Sie spricht Italienisch.
es spricht it speaks Es spricht laut. (loudly)
PLURAL
wir sprechen we speak Wir sprechen Deutsch.
ihr sprecht you (guys) speak Sprecht ihr Englisch?
sie sprechen they speak Sie sprechen Italienisch.
Sie sprechen you speak Sprechen Sie Spanisch? (Sie, formal "you," is both singular and plural.)
QUIZ on the present tense.
Other Stem-Changing Verbs
fahren drive, travel er fährt, du fährst
geben to give es gibt, du gibst
lesen to read er liest, du liest
   Note: These stem-changing verbs are strong (irregular) verbs, but they have regular verb endings in the present tense. See Strong Verbs for more about irregular German verbs.

Quiz: Present Tense
A self-scoring quiz on German verbs in the present tense.

In future lessons we'll go over the past tense forms of regular and irregular verbs. If you want to look at irregular verbs in the simple past and present perfect, see our German Strong Verbs pages.

German Strong (Irregular) Verbs
The principal parts and conjugations of German irregular verbs, including haben and sein.

Verb Review 1
Part One of a 3-part look at the ins and outs of German verbs. With self-scoring quiz.

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Related Pages

German Regular Verbs in the Past Tense
The principal parts and conjugations of German regular verbs in the simple past and present perfect.

German Strong (Irregular) Verbs
The principal parts and conjugations of German irregular verbs, including "haben" and "sein."

German Verbs - Contents
Links to all of our verb resources and lessons on German verb conjugation.

English-German Glossaries
All of the annotated glossaries on this site - from aerospace to travel.

German Grammar
All of the grammar resources on this site.


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