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German Strong Verbs

Ablaut Classes

Strong-verb vowel patterns in German

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ablaut n. [G, fr. ab away from + Laut sound] (1849)
a systematic variation of vowels in the same root or
affix or in related roots or affixes esp. in the Indo-European
languages that is usu. paralleled by differences in use or
meaning (as in sing, sang, sung, song)

There are seven main ablaut classes or categories found in the conjugation of verbs in modern Germanic languages (German, Dutch, English, etc.). These vowel-shift patterns make it easier to learn how to conjugate strong verbs in German. Some German verbs even follow the identical English vowel pattern: German trinken, trank, getrunken vs. English drink, drank, drunk.

In modern German, classes 3b and 4 are identical. In English, Class 4 verbs have retained an -n in the past participle (broken, spoken) not found in Class 3b.

Use the table below to learn more about German strong-verb patterns and the ablaut classes. Click on a class to see German verbs in that class and the vowel pattern for that category. Also see the alphabetical list below.

Ablaut Patterns in German
Strong-Verb Conjugation Patterns
Click on an ablaut class for details
  Note: Because the ablaut classes are based on the vowel sounds in Proto-Indo-European, Old English, and Old High German, the spelling of the vowels may differ in modern English and German.
German Examples English Examples
 1a. ei - i - i beissen, biss, gebissen
leiden, litt, gelitten
drive, drove, driven
slide, slid, slid
 1b. ei - ie - ie bleiben, blieb, geblieben
schreiben, schrieb, geschrieben
 2. ie - o - o fliegen, flog, geflogen
ziehen, zog, gezogen
freeze, froze, frozen
shoot, shot, shot
 3a. i - a - u/o finden, fand, gefunden
beginnen, begann, begonnen
begin, began, begun
sing, sang, sung
 3b. e - a - o helfen, half, geholfen
befehlen, befahl, befohlen
win, won, won
find, found, found
 4. e - a - o See Class 3b
Same as 3b in modern German
break, broke, broken
speak, spoke (spake), spoken
 5. e/i - a - e essen, aß, gegessen
bitten, bat, gebeten
eat, ate, eaten
give, gave, given
 6. a - u - a graben, grub, gegraben shake, shook, shaken
 7. [x] - ie - [x]* blasen, blies, geblasen fall, fell, fallen
  *Class 7 verbs are uniform in having an ie past tense form, but the other vowels in the infinitive or past participle forms can vary: a/au/ei/o/u. See the chart for details.
 Exceptions Ausnahmen Odd verb patterns
 Mixed Verbs - German verbs that combine weak and strong forms

BACK > Strong Verbs

Ablaut Classes - Alphabetical List
German Strong-Verb Vowel Patterns
a - ie - a (Class 7) ei - i - i (Class 1a)
a - u - a (Class 6) ei - ie - ie (Class 1b)
e - a - e (Class 5) i - a - o/u (Class 3a)
e - a - o (Class 3b/4) ie - o - o (Class 2)
e - o - o (Class 3b/4) [x] - ie - [x] (Class 7)
Ablaut Class Exceptions

BACK > Strong Verbs

MORE > Mixed Verbs
MORE > Verb-Lexikon - All verbs (index)
MORE > More German Grammar

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German Verbs - Contents
Our contents page for everything related to German verbs.

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Example sentences in various tenses.

Regular Verbs - Present Tense
German regular verbs in the present tense - with example sentences.

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