Learn how to conjugate regular and irregular verbs in German in the present tense

While many aspects of German grammar make the language more difficult than the Romance languages such as French, Spanish and Italian, the German verb conjugation in the present tense is actually easier than in the Latin based languages. Why?

First, most infinitives (basic form of the verb) in German end on “en”. You do not need to learn several different infinitives and categories of verbs. Then, if you remove the — en at the end, you’re left with the stem/root of the verb. You should always concentrate on the stem or root of the verb to identify whether the verb is regular or irregular. If the stem stays the same, it is, by definition, a regular verb. If the stem changes, it is an irregular verb.

Let's look at regular verbs first.

e.g. spielen (infinitive), spiel (stem)

Regular verbs have the same stem and the following endings:

NB. for “wir and “sie/Sie” the verb goes back to the infinitive form. When meeting an adult for the first time and in a formal setting, such as a business context or work environment, use "Sie" (so our formal you). Use "du" (so our informal you) only for people you know well like friends and family and when native speakers offer you to drop the "Sie" and use the "du" instead.

Applied to the verb “spielen” — to play, the conjugation is as follows:

Other examples of regular verbs would be

Kommen (to come) Wohnen (to live, to reside)

ich komme ich wohne

du kommst du wohnst

er/sie/es kommt er/sie/es wohnt

wir kommen wir wohnen

ihr kommt ihr wohnt

sie/Sie kommen sie/Sie wohnen

Second, irregular verbs have a different stem in the singular form but revert back to the original stem in the plural.

e.g. in fahren (to drive/go by mode of transport), the original stem has an “a”, whereas the “du/er/sie/es” have an “ä”. That is the stem change of the verb)

Other examples of irregular verbs are

Lesen (to read) Sprechen (to speak)

ich lese ich spreche

du liest du sprichst

er/sie/es liest er/sie/es spricht

wir lesen wir sprechen

ihr lest ihr sprecht

sie/Sie lesen sie/Sie sprechen

NB. there are some patterns on how to identify irregular verbs, but it's best to memorise them as you're progressing through your German course.

The only irregular verb that doesn’t follow any pattern and which you just need to memorise is “sein” (to be)

On our blog, you will also find posts on the ten most useful verbs in German, reflexive verbs in German and how to use them, separable verbs and when they split, how to express preferences in German, the German future tense, the German perfekt tense. We also have an article on the most common phrases in German and one that explains the difference between language levels a1, a2, b1 etc.

You might also be interested in my Ultimate Guide to Learning German. Check it out to learn how to learn German fast.

If you have any questions or comments, please email me. You will find more information about my German language school here.

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