Present Tense of German Verbs


Verbs are words that describe an action, state of being, or occurrence. In this lesson you'll learn how to use the present tense of verbs in German.

You'll also learn about the infinitive form of verbs and where it is used. Some common German verbs are also included.

Flashcards and a quiz are included in the lesson to help you learn the present tense of German verbs.


In a dictionary the infinitive form of verbs is shown. Infinitives in German always end in either en, or occasionally just n. To get the stem of the verb, remove the en.

Infinitives are often used together with another verb and in this case they are always placed at the end of a sentence or independent clause. Sometimes an infinitive is preceded by zu.

You'll learn more about how infinitives are used in German in the lesson on modal verbs.

Present Tense

The present tense is used to indicate that an action currently happens, or repeatedly happens. The present tense in German is very common, and is also used where English uses the present progressive tense. An example of the present tense in German is Ich lese, which can mean I read, I am reading, and I do read.

In German, if you want to emphasize that an action is happening right now, you can say Ich lese gerade or Ich lese jetzt.


Most German verbs follow the same pattern in present tense. To conjugate a verb for the present tense, you start with the stem of the verb and add the appropriate grammatical ending.

The following table shows the conjugation of German verbs in the present tense.

sagen say
ich sage I say
du sagst you say (one person familiar)
sie sagt she says
er sagt he says
es sagt it says
wir sagen we say
ihr sagt you say (more than one person familiar)
Sie sagen you say (polite)
sie sagen they say

Note: The polite form of you in German is the same as they and verbs are conjugated the same for both. The only difference is that Sie (meaning you) is always capitalized. The meaning needs to be picked up from the context of the conversation.

Common German Verbs

Regular Verbs

Here are some more common German verbs that have a regular conjugation in the present tense.

arbeiten work
brauchen need
fühlen feel
glauben believe
holen fetch
kaufen buy
kochen cook
leben live
lernen learn
schwimmen swim
Paul swims in the lake.
Paul schwimmt im See.

Irregular Verbs

A few very common verbs are irregular in the present tense. This section covers some of these verbs. See the lesson on Modal Verbs for more examples.


The verb sein means to be, and is very irregular. The conjugation of sein is shown in the following table.

sein to be
ich bin I am
du bist you are (one person familiar)
er ist he is
sie ist she is
es ist it is
wir sind we are
ihr seid you are (more than one person familiar
Sie sind you are (polite)
sie sind they are


The verb haben means to have, and is also very irregular. The conjugation of the verb haben is shown in the following table.

haben to have
ich habe I have
du hast you have (one person familiar)
er hat he has
sie hat she has
es hat it has
wir haben we have
ihr habt you have (more than one person familiar
Sie haben you have (polite)
sie haben they have
She has an apple.
Sie hat einen Apfel.
The boats have white sails.
Die Boote haben weiße Segel.


The verb wissen means to know (facts, knowledge), and is also very irregular. The conjugation of the verb wissen is shown in the following table.

wissen to know
ich weiß I know
du weißt you know (one person familiar)
er weiß he knows
sie weiß she knows
es weiß it knows
wir wissen we know
ihr wisst you know (more than one person familiar
Sie wissen you know (polite)
sie wissen they know

Verbs with a vowel change in the present tense

A few verbs change the vowel in the stem for the second and third person singular forms. The following table shows some of these verbs.

essen (eat) ich esse du isst er/sie/es isst wir/sie essen
geben (give) ich gebe du gibst er/sie/es gibt wir/sie geben
fahren (drive) ich fahre du fährst er/sie/es fährt wir/sie fahren
fallen (fall) ich falle du fällst er/sie/es fällt wir/sie fallen
helfen (help) ich helfe du hilfst er/sie/es hilft wir/sie helfen
lassen (let, leave) ich lasse du lässt er/sie/es lässt wir/sie lassen
laufen (run) ich laufe du läufst er/sie/es läuft wir/sie laufen
lesen (read) ich lese du liest er/sie/es liest wir/sie lesen
nehmen (take) ich nehme du nimmst er/sie/es nimmt wir/sie nehmen
schlafen (sleep) ich schlafe du schläfst er/sie/es schläft wir/sie schlafen
sprechen (speak) ich sprache du sprichst er/sie/es spricht wir/sie sprechen
sehen (see) ich sehe du siehst er/sie/es sieht wir/sie sehen
vergessen (forget) ich vergesse du vergisst er/sie/es vergisst wir/sie vergessen
Sleeping Cat
Die Katze schläft.

Negative statements

To make a statement negative in German, put the word nicht after the verb. The word kein means not a or not any and can also be used to make a statement negative. Kein has the same grammatical endings as ein.


Ich gehe morgen nicht zur Arbeit. I don't go to work tomorrow.
Ich bin nicht müde. I'm not tired.
Hanna braucht keine Hilfe. Hanna doesn't need any help.
Sie trinken kein Bier. They don't drink beer.
(They drink not any beer.)

Asking Questions

To ask a question in German that requires a simple yes or no answer, put the verb at the start of the sentence, followed by the subject.


Geht sie zur Schule? Does she go to school?
Trinkst du Kaffee? Do you drinking coffee?
Ist Max hier? Is Max here?

Another way to ask questions is to start a sentence with a question word. Here are the German question words.

wann when
warum why
was what
wer who
wie how
wo where


Was ist das? What is that?
Wer sind Sie? Who are you?
Wo sind die Schlüssel? Where are the keys?
Warum brauchst du sie? Why do you need them?


Verb Flashcards

Here are some flashcards to help you learn the present tense of the verbs included in this lesson.


Write the German translation for each question.

We see the house.

I need a coffee.

He is a friend.

I have an apple.

She reads a book.

Max and Anna are not here.

Do Paul and Lena drink coffee?


This quiz covers the present tense of German verbs, and will help you learn the verbs included in this lesson and how to conjugate them.