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German Verb Conjugation:
The Present Tense (Präsens)

Regular German verb endings and stem-changing verbs

Plus: 50 Common German Verbs

German Verb Guide > Lesson 4.2 > Present Tense

Learning how to conjugate verbs is essential for learning any language, including German. It may not be anyone's favorite thing, but if you want to avoid what I call "Tarzan German," you need to deal with the grammar of verbs.

While over the centuries English gradually dropped most of its verb endings (except for the -(e)s ending in the 3rd person singular), German and most other languages have a different ending for just about every "person" — first ("I") through third (he / she /it). But once you've learned this pattern for one verb, you know the pattern for all "regular" German verbs.

Look at the following English vs. German comparison:

1st erste I play ich spiele
2nd zweite you play
(thou playest)*
du spielst
3rd dritte he/she/it plays er/sie/es spielt
1st erste we play wir spielen
2nd zweite you play ihr spielt
-- you (formal) play Sie spielen**
3rd dritte they play sie spielen
*Old English made a distinction between "you" and "thou" that has been lost in modern English. The endings for "thou" were the same as those for German du, and the two pronouns are close relatives.

**The pronoun Sie (formal "you") has a plural conjugation even though it can refer to one or more persons.

We can see that German has more verbs endings than English, but another thing the chart above shows us: some of the German verb endings are repeated. We find the -en ending being used for wir, sie (pl.) and Sie. In fact, the only pronoun in the plural that takes an ending other than -en is ihr (you guys). Also, both er and ihr take a -t ending.

Learn these endings for spielen and you've learned the endings for 95% of German verbs. While there are some exceptions that we cover elsewhere, if you know the above endings, you pretty much have the present tense licked.

Even the group of German verbs known as "stem-changing" still uses the same endings as spielen and the other regular verbs. We show you how that works in Lesson 4.2 ("Introduction to the Present Tense Indicative") of our German for Beginners course. (The first part of that lesson deals with the important irregular verbs "haben" and "sein".)

Anyone working on the German verbs in the present tense will also find our new 50 Common German Verbs chart invaluable. On that page you'll find 50 of the most-used verbs in German and English with sample sentences in the present tense. After you feel familiar enough with the present tense of regular verbs, try our self-scoring Present Tense Verb Quiz 1.

NEXT > Lesson 4.2 | 50 German Verbs | Verb Quiz

Related Links

Lesson 4.2
Lesson 4.2 is an "Introduction to the Present Tense Indicative" of regular and stem-changing verbs. Part of our online German for Beginners course.

German Verb Guide
Our complete guide to conjugating German verbs.

50 Common German Verbs
From "antworten" to "zeigen" — a helpful guide to the most frequently used regular German verbs in the present tense.

German Present Tense Verb Quiz 1
A self-scoring quiz on the German present tense verb conjugations.

German Grammar Guide - Verbs
All of the articles and references on this site that deal with verbs.

Verb Reviews 1-3
A three-part look at German verbs and various tenses - with quizzes.

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