Weak Verbs in the Present Tense
A verb is an action word that describes what something or someone does, is or happens to them.
I dance a lot.
She works at the weekend.
Verbs have a base form. This is the form shown in a dictionary. The base form is called the infinitive. In English, the infinitive is the verb with to in front of it, e.g. to play, to cook
You can now learn even more on this topic with the help of a fun animation and a grammar quiz. Simply check out our Free Time and Hobbies Module in level A1.
German Present Tense
The German Present Tense is a pretty self-explanatory title. It’s used when you want to talk about something that is true at the moment, something that happens on a regular basis and what is happening now.
The English language has two forms to deal with the present tense. One for things that are happening at the moment and the other for things that happen all the time. With the German present tense, however, you use one form for both of these situations.
- Things that are happening at the moment:
- Things that happen regularly or as a habit:
Wir gehen jetzt ins Kino. ⇨ We’re going to the cinema now.
Ich spiele oft Tennis. ⇨ I often play tennis.
The -ing trap
In English, we use the -ing ending very regularly. It is this that can create a lot of confusion for beginners when using the German present tense as this form doesn’t exist in German.
I’m playing football.
Ich bin Fußball spielen. ⇨ WRONG
Ich spiele Fußball. ⇨ CORRECT
Weak Verbs ending in -en, -eln and -ern
In this blog we will show you weak verbs which may also be called regular verbs. Weak verbs are very structured in the present tense and often follow fairly straight forward rules. Knowing these rules can really help when forming a sentence and knowing which form of the verb you need to use.
All German verbs are made up of two parts, the stem and the ending. The stem is the unique and main part of the verb and is formed by chopping the ending off the infinitive.
Nearly all weak verbs end in -en in their infinitive form. The stem of these verbs is formed by chopping the ending -en off the infinitive.
Only a few verbs end in -eln and -ern. Their stem is formed by just chopping off the ending -n.
machen (to make, to do) ⇨ mach (stem) -en (ending)
spielen (to play) ⇨ spiel (stem) -en (ending)
angeln (to fish) ⇨ angel (stem) -n (ending)
wandern (to hike) ⇨ wander (stem) -n (ending)
The ending of verbs can change depending on the subject pronoun that comes before the verb. With each of these pronouns, the ending of the verb is replaced by the appropriate new ending for the sentence.
Verbs ending in -eln or -ern have nearly the same endings as verbs ending in -en. The only difference is the plural wir and sie / Sie form that only ends in -n.
Below you can see how weak verbs are formed in the present tense according to their subject pronouns.
Table: Weak Verbs ending in -en, -eln and -ern
|Verb Stem||Ending||Completed Form|
|ich||spiel / angl / wander||-e||ich spiele / ich angle / ich wandere|
|du||spiel / angel / wander||-st||du spielst / du angelst / du wanderst|
|er / sie / es||spiel / angel / wander||-t||er spielt / er angelt / er wandert|
|wir||spiel / angel / wander||-en / -n / -n||wir spielen / wir angeln / wir wandern|
|ihr||spiel / angel / wander||-t||ihr spielt / ihr angelt / ihr wandert|
|sie / Sie||spiel / angel / wander||-en / -n / -n||sie spielen / sie angeln / sie wandern|
This is the basis of verb construction across the whole German language. Knowing this rule will help you with forming the verb.
Note: The -e of verbs ending in -eln is chopped off in the ich form to make pronunciation easier.
angeln: ich angle ⇨ I’m fishing
sammeln: ich sammle ⇨ I’m collecting
Ich mache viel Sport. ⇨ I do a lot of sports.
Spielst du gerne Tennis? ⇨ Do you like playing football?
Er sammelt Briefmarken. ⇨ He collects stamps.
Wir wandern viel. ⇨ We hike a lot.
Kocht ihr gerne? ⇨ Do you like cooking?
Sie spielen gerne Computerspiele. ⇨ They like playing computer games.
Here is a list of what we thought are the most commonly used German weak verbs.
|brauchen (to need)||hören (to hear)||machen (to do, to make)|
|erzählen (to tell)||kaufen (to buy)||sagen (to say)|
|fragen (to ask)||lachen (to laugh)||spielen (to play)|
|glauben (to believe, to think)||legen (to lay, to put)||suchen (to search, to look for)|
|holen (to get, to fetch)||lieben (to love)||wohnen (to live)|
Good to know: While it’s grammatically incorrect, many Germans chop off the -e at the end when speaking in the ich form.
“Ich spiel viel Fußball.” instead of “Ich spiele viel Fußball.”
|Although the ending of weak verbs is important, you will get it wrong from time to time. Do not worry as although it may sound a little weird to a native German, you will be understood and they will still have great respect for you as you gave it your best shot. Remember, learning a language is all about being able to communicate in that language, not to get everything spot on first time. Learn and enjoy!|
Weak Verbs whose Stem is ending in -d, -t, -m and -n
Weak verbs whose stem ends in -d, -t, -m and -n add an extra -e before the ending in the du, er / sie / es and ihr form. This was done to make the pronunciation easier.
du redest (you talk, you are talking)
er arbeitet (he works, he is working)
ihr atmet (you breathe, you are breathing)
du öffnest (you open, you are opening)
Table: Weak Verbs whose Stem is ending in -d, -t, -m and -n
|Verb Stem||Ending||Completed Form|
|ich||red / arbeit / atm / öffn||-e||ich rede / ich arbeite / ich atme / ich öffne|
|du||rede / arbeite / atme / öffne||-st||du redest / du arbeitest / du atmest / du öffnest|
|er / sie / es||rede / arbeite / atme / öffne||-t||er redet / er arbeitet / er atmet / er öffnet|
|wir||red / arbeit / atm / öffn||-en||wir reden / wir arbeiten / wir atmen / wir öffnen|
|ihr||rede / arbeite / atme / öffne||-t||ihr redet / ihr arbeitet / ihr atmet / ihr öffnet|
|sie / Sie||red / arbeit / atm / öffn||-en||sie reden / sie arbeiten / sie atmen / sie öffnen|
Er redet viel. ⇨ He talks a lot.
Arbeitest du viel? ⇨ Do you work a lot?
Exception: This rule doesn’t apply to verbs that have a l, r or h before the -m or -n stem. But don’t panic yet. There are only a few verbs whose stem ends in -d, -t, -m and -n. The most important ones are:
|antworten (to work)||lernen (to learn)|
|arbeiten (to work)||öffnen (to open)|
|atmen (to breathe)||reden (to talk)|