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