How to conjugate German verbs in the present tense When you start German lessons, after a while you learn how to conjugate verbs. For English speakers that sounds strange, as in English there is no difference, except in the third form singular, where we add an ‘s’. So, the verb ‘play’ gets conjugated: I play, you play, he/ she/ it plays, we play, you play, they play. In German, however, the verb endings are different. You take the verb in its infinitive, remove the ‘en’ ending (which leaves you with the stem of the verb), then add an appropriate ending. Let’s stay with ‘play’,  to play in German is ‘spielen’. Remove the ‘en’ leaves you with ‘spiel’. That’s the stem. Then you add different endings according to I, you, he, she , it ,we, you (plural) and they. regular verbs   irregular verbs So, do these rules apply to all German verbs? What about new words? Especially those English verbs that have been Germanised? Yes, the rules apply to those verbs, too, and where there might be some doubts, the Duden (Germany’s equivalent to the Oxford English dictionary, gives the rules. How about these – commonly known as ‘Denglish’ because there is a perfectly good German word already, but the German version of the English word is cool in many people’s eyes.

bookmarken – to bookmark (or markieren in ‘proper’ German)
ich bookmarke
du bookmarkst
er/sie/es bookmarkt
wir bookmarken
ihr bookmarkt
sie/ Sie bookmarken

voten – to vote (or wählen in ‘proper’ German)
ich vote
du votest
er/sie/es votet
wir voten
ihr votet
sie/Sie voten

checken – to check  (überprüfen)
ich checke
du checkst
er/sie/es checkt
wir checken
ihr checkt
sie/ Sie checken

twittern – to tweet
ich twittere
du twitterst
er/sie/es twittert
wir twittern
ihr twittert
sie/ Sie twittern

googeln – to google
ich google
du googelst
er/sie/es googelt
wir googeln
ihr googelt
sie/ Sie googeln

adden – to add (hinzufügen)
ich adde
du addest
er/sie/es addet
wir adden
ihr addet
sie/Sie adden

But my favourite at the moment is liken – to like
The German Facebook like button says ‘gefällt mir’ but when Germans want to say that they have liked something, it’s easier to use the English verb ‘to like’ instead of saying “Ich habe auf ‘gefällt mir’ gedrückt” (I clicked on ‘like’) According to the German Huffington Post the Duden has decided on a strict German conjugation rule. I have not been able to find a confirmation on Duden’s website, but apparently it is:
ich like
du likst
er/sie/es likt
wir liken
ihr likt
sie/Sie liken

Isn’t German great???

 

If you want more help on present tense verb conjugation, check out my Udemy or Skillshare course.

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2 Responses to How to conjugate German verbs in the present tense

  1. Chris says:

    I have a question. How important is it to use the German traditional verb vs the Denglish version? Especially in a professional/work environment? My default would be to always use the most respectful(Sie instead of du) and traditional words unless specifically told otherwise. Also, how much of that applies on the ‘street’?

    A side tid bit to this question. I was fortunate to get to visit the company DGZfP (https://www.google.com/maps/place/DGZfP/@52.4250267,13.5414843,15.21z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0xf8c70628894174e3!8m2!3d52.4286793!4d13.5349417) and we stayed at the Dorint hotel (https://www.google.com/maps/place/Rudower+Chaussee+15,+12489+Berlin,+Germany/@52.4250267,13.5414843,15.21z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x47a8462fc01dfc4d:0x311280462889e8ce!8m2!3d52.43161!4d13.5346842). At the time I didn’t speak a drop of German(this has been an big inspiration in me learning as I hope to go back). We had a really good time and our hosts were very hospitable. It bugged me that I couldn’t communicate back with them at all in their language. I would assume the proper would have been used at all times in their office. Now the fun part. On our last night us 3 Americans went walking around on our own. The third place we ended up was in a very small bar. Let’s just say it looked like there was a whole lot more ‘du’ going on there than ‘Sie’. Most of the patrons were dressed like they had come from a painting job. We politely ordered one drink and left. It might have totally been a cultural misunderstanding but the looks were more of ‘get out of our bar’. From what I’ve learned I’m not sure what would have been the correct term to use had I been able to speak any German. Regardless I had a great time and it only encouraged me to learn the language. Thanks.

    • Hi Chris,
      You’ve asked 2 question where there are no proper answers 😉
      1. traditional or Denglish verb: I think especially in the workplace, where they possibly also have English contacts, the Denglish version is used more. It seems to be a personal preference which verb the Germans use, so you, as an English speaker can safely use any Denglish verbs.
      2. Du or Sie: It’s a little bit of a minefield, so I always tell my students to start with ‘Sie’. It is a lot easier to move from ‘Sie’ to ‘du’ than the other way round. The worst thing that could happen if you said ‘Sie’ when a ‘du’ was ok is that they might laugh. But using ‘du’ when you should use ‘Sie’, for example at a job interview, could cost you the job. Using the formal you is a mark of respect and if it’s not needed, they will tell you. On the ‘street’ it could well be different, as online. More people use the informal you online but not everybody. It is a lot of hit and miss. Just like in that pub. I can only guess, but i probably would have addressed the bartender with ‘Sie’ and if they didn’t use it, quickly moved to ‘du’ afterwards.
      The joys of the German language ☺

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