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10 Most Useful German Verbs and their English Translation

Beginners in German should learn the following ten German words which can be used in many different contexts and are therefore very useful when trying to construct sentences in the language.

So here are the ten most useful German verbs with their English translation

  • machen (to make or do-which of course covers most actions)

  • fahren (to go by all modes of transport, except for flying, for which we have “fliegen”)

  • heißen (to be called/call oneself, i.e. ich heiße Jens)

  • kommen (to come)

  • spielen (to play, to act in the sense of role playing)

  • sprechen (to speak; irregular verb)

  • gehen (to go, but can also be used as in “wie gehts dir/Ihnen?” (how are you?) and as synonym for funktionieren (to function, to work in a technical sense. Be careful with using it as "how are you" since it takes the dative case in German!)

  • mögen (to like (irregular); careful, though, as it’s mostly used to express preferences with nouns rather than verbs (for the latter we use any conjugated verb and the adverb “gern”), e.g. “ich mag Tennis” (I like tennis)

  • können (can, to be able to (irregular), e.g. “kannst du/können Sie mir helfen?” (Can you help me please?)

  • wiederholen (to repeat, especially useful for students up to intermediate level for asking “kannst du/können Sie das bitte wiederholen?” (Can you repeat that please?)

If you already know some German you might wonder why "arbeiten" is missing. You're right- Germans love to work. But it didn't quite make my top ten as it cannot be used in any other context than the actual work you do or don't do, rather than in the English sense of "the computer doesn't work" (the latter would be "Der Computer funktioniert/geht nicht").

If you’re interested to learn more common phrases in German, just follow the link to our blog. There we also have posts on how to say "please" and "than you" in German, false friends in German and English, how to say busy in German, give you tips on how to avoid the most common mistakes in German and how to quickly improve your German, you learn about the conjugation of German verbs in the present tense, we give you an explanation of the future tense 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 perfekt tense, and many other topics. We also have posts suitable language learners more generally, such as a comparison between online dictionaries like Linguee,, dict.leo and Collins, and a review of the apps Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, Busuu, and Quizlet. So check out our blog.

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

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