11 Section 1-11

111: Present Tense—Regular Verbs

So far, you have learned how to conjugate the verbs sein and haben, the two most important verbs in the German language. Both of them are irregular, and their conjugations had to be memorized. Most other verbs in German are not irregular and have a set pattern of endings.

What is verb conjugation in English?  Putting certain endings on verbs so that they match up with their subjects!

As a native English speaker, you may not realize that you conjugate verbs every day when speaking.  Compare the following sentences:

  • I play basketball. (No ending on “play”)
  • She plays basketball. (-s at end of “play”)

If you grew up learning English, you probably don’t notice that you automatically do this; you naturally can sense what sounds correct when speaking.

 

Below are some common regular verbs in their infinitive form (aka. unconjugated form. All German infinitives end in en (99% of all verbs) or -n (<1%).

You have already memorized a few phrases that had conjugated verbs in them. You may have wondered why the ending of the verb changed in different sentences.

  • Ich komme aus Berlin.            I come from Berlin.
  • Er wohnt in England.             He lives in England.
  • Sie heißt Sophia.                     She is called Sophia.

The infinitive (unconjugated form) of each verb has two parts. We will use the verb lernen as an example.

          Stem: lern

          Ending: –en

In German, the following verb endings are used for the present tense of regular verbs.

ich→-e

wir→en (same as infinitive)

du→st

ihr→ -t

er/sie/es→ -t

sie/Sie -en (same as infinitive)

How to conjugate a German verb.

           Step 1: Take off the ending (-en or -n).

           Step 2: Add a new ending that matches the subject.

Let’s try it with a few verbs from the list.

Conjugate reisen for “ich.”

Conjugate singen for “du.”

Step 1: Take off the –en→ reis-

Step 1: Take off the –en → sing

Step 2: Add the new ending→ e

Step 2: Add the new ending→ st

Conjugated verb: Ich reise.

Conjugated verb: Du singst.

Click the link to watch me reteaching this.

Ex. A: Verben. Use the steps for conjugating verbs to complete the tables below.

Conjugate spielen forwir.”

Conjugate machen for “du.”

Step 1:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 2:

Conjugated verb:

Conjugated verb:

Conjugate bleiben forer.”

Conjugate schwimmen forSie.”

Step 1:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 2:

Conjugated verb:

Conjugated verb:

Conjugate fragen forihr.”

Conjugate joggen forsie” (sing.)

Step 1:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 2:

Conjugated verb:

Conjugated verb:

Conjugate gehen forich.”

Conjugate schreiben for “er.”

Step 1:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 2:

Conjugated verb:

Conjugated verb:

Video. Easy German: Conjugation of Regular Verbs “sagen,” “machen,” “hören. Watch to see some examples of these verbs conjugated.

Ex. B: Now try conjugating some verbs for all forms. Fill in the tables below.

  1. kochen—to cook

ich

wir

du

ihr

er/sie/es

sie/Sie

2. fotografieren—to take pictures

ich

wir

du

ihr

er/sie/es

sie/Sie

3. wandern—to hike (think „wander” around)

ich

wir

du

ihr

er/sie/es

sie/Sie

4. hören—to hear, listen to

ich

wir

du

ihr

er/sie/es

sie/Sie

The present tense in German is equivalent to three different ways of expressing the present tense in English. The sentence “Ich lerne Deutsch” could be translated as follows.

  1. I learn German.
  2. I am learning German.
  3. I do learn German.

COMMON MISTAKE: As English speakers, we tend to translate word-for-word into German. This can lead to mistakes in German, because German does not have the present progressive tense (i.e. is learning, am dancing, are playing). Often, that results in the following mistake:

                   ENGLISH→I am playing.

                   WRONG Ich bin spielen.←WRONG

                   CORRECTIch spiele.

Whenever you want to translate something into German that has is/am/are + verb+ing in English, reword it so that it sounds simpler.

  • He is hiking.
  • REPHRASE TO He hikes.
  • Translates to Er wandert.

Ex. C: Auf Deutsch! Translate the following sentences into German. Rephrase into simpler English if necessary.

  1. We are living in Germany.
  2. He is writing a book.
  3. I am learning German.
  4. She is sarcastic.
  5. They are hiking.
  6. You guys are studying computer science.

Studieren vs. lernen:

The verbs studieren and lernen are often confused because they sound so much like verbs in English.

       

Beispiele:

  • Ich lerne Japanisch.                                      I am learning Japanese.
  • Wo studierst du?                                          Where do you go to college?
  • Er lernt für ein Deutschquiz.                      He is studying for a German quiz.
  • Sabine studiert Musik.                                 Sabine is majoring in music.

Ex. D: Using the subjects listed below, talk with a partner about whether you are majoring in these subjects or just learning them this semester (or in your free time.)

A: Was studierst du?

B: Ich studiere _________ (und ________.)

B: Was lernst du?

A: Ich lerne _________.

A/B: Ich studiere _________. Ich lerne _______, ________ und __________.

 

 

Ex. E: Studieren vs. lernen. Form complete sentences using the cues below. Don’t forget to conjugate the verb!

         Beispiel: du/lernen/Musik

                    →Du lernst Musik.

  1. er/studieren/deutsche Literatur
  2. Johann/lernen/Spanisch und Englisch
  3. du und ich/lernen/Deutsch
  4. ihr/studieren/an der Universität von Nordalabama
  5. ich/lernen/Mathe und Chemie
  6. Martin und Christian/studieren/Psychologie und Soziologie
  7. sie (sing.)/lernen/Chinesisch
  8. Sie/studieren/in Deutschland

Nach vs. zu

The verbs reisen, gehen, fliegen, kommen, and joggen are verbs of motion. You can use them to say where you plan to go.

  • To say that you are going to a city, state, country, or home, use the preposition nach.

Wir reisen nach Dänemark.  (country)

Er fliegt nach Hause.  (home)

  • To say that you are going to see a person or a business with a proper name, use the preposition zu.

Wir gehen zu Lena.  (person)

Der Student joggt zu Aldi.  (store’s proper name)

  • To say that you are at home (i.e., not going home) use the expression “zu Hause.”

Morgen bleiben wir zu Hause.(at home)

Ich arbeite zu Hause. (at home)

COMMON MISTAKE!!!

Students often confuse the word das Haus with the phrases „zu Hause“ and „nach Hause.“  Whenever you are talking about a house, use “das Haus.”  If you are talking about going home or being at home, use “nach Hause” or “zu Hause.”  The –e at the end of these phrases comes from German several centuries ago.  It is only used in these two phrases.

image

Ex. F: Nach vs. zu. Choose nach or zu for the following sentences.

  1. Meine Familie reist nächstes Jahr ________ Europa.
  2. Meine Schwester reist _________ Spanien, aber mein Bruder bleibt _________ Hause.
  3. Ich gehe _________ Johanna.
  4. Der Student joggt __________ Hause.
  5. Frau Blechschmidt fliegt ___________ nach Utah.
  6. Der Mann arbeitet _________ Hause.
  7. Bleibst du _________ Hause, oder gehst du __________ Wal-Mart?
  8. Lena und Martin reisen im Sommer __________ Italien.
  9. Viele Studenten gehen oft _________ Starbucks.

Ex. G: Wohin gehen Sie? Using the cues provided, make sentences. Decide whether it is best to use nach or zu. Don’t forget to conjugate the verb for the subject.

        Beispiel: Bettina/gehen/Lucas

                    →Bettina geht zu Lucas.

image
  1. er/reisen/Polen
  2. sie (pl.)/gehen/Hause
  3. wir/bleiben/Hause
  4. ihr/kommen/Alex
  5. die Professoren/gehen/Aldi
  6. ich/fliegen/Irland
  7. mein Vater/reisen/Houston

Verbs with stems ending in -d or -t.

If a verb’s stem ends in -d or -t, often an extra “e” gets added to its conjugation in the du and er/sie/es form to make it easier to pronounce.

  • arbeiten          Du arbeitest.      Er arbeitet.

If this extra -e- were not added between the stem and the ending, it would be very hard to pronounce.

INCORRECT→ Du arbeitst. Er arbeitt. ←INCORRECT!!

  • finden              Er findet Deutsch cool.
  • schneiden       Ihr schneidet das Papier.
“Nora & Jonas – Zeichnen” by jonasginter is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

 

 

Er zeichnet und sie zeichnet; sie zeichnen.

 

 

 

 

Click the link to see me reteaching this.

Ex. H: Wie findest du Geschichte? Ask your classmates their opinions on the following subjects.

 

          A: Wie findest du Informatik?

          B: Ich finde Informatik schwierig.

 

  1. Biologie
  2. Psychologie
  3. Geschichte
  4. Deutsch
  5. Englisch
  6. Informatik
  7. Mathematik
  8. Musik
  9. Geographie

Ex. I: Wo arbeitet er? Use the cues below to make sentences about where the following people work.

      Beispiel: Matthias/Target

                  →Matthias arbeitet bei Target.

  1. Lena/Wal-Mart
  2. Kevin/McDonald’s
  3. Elena/Burger King
  4. du/Starbucks
  5. wir/Lowe’s
  6. ihr/Pizza Hut

Ex. J: Verbkonjugationen! Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the conjugated verb. Make sure to look at the subject to see which verb ending it should match up with. (Watch out! “Sein” is also included!)

  1. Der Student __________ sehr gut. (singen)
  2. Ich __________ Basketball, Golf und Tennis. (spielen)
  3. Du ___________ heute. (arbeiten)
  4. Wir ___________ Deutsch. (lernen)
  5. Ich ___________ Deutsch und Spanisch. (studieren)
  6. _________ du morgen zu Andreas? (gehen)
  7. Sie (pl.) __________ sehr egoistisch und exzentrisch. (sein)
  8. Ihr __________ Italienisch interessant. (finden)
  9. Markus und ich __________ in Berlin. (wohnen)
  10.  _________ ihr immer so pessimistisch? (sein)
  11. Ich ________ in Eile! (sein)

Verbs with stems that end in an “s” sound.

Verbs whose stems end in -ß or -z, often don’t add the “s” from –st when conjugated for “du.”

            Beispiel: du/heißen→Du heißt.

(NOT „Du heißstbecause „ß” is the same as “ss.” That would give us “Du heissst”—too many of the letter “s”!)

            Beispiel: du/tanzen→Du tanzt.

(NOT „Du tanzst“ because „z“ already makes an „s“ sound.)

Click to watch me reteaching this.

Gern + infinitive

To say that you like to do something, add gern to the conjugated verb.

             Ich zeichne.      BUT        Ich zeichne gern.

                   (I sketch.)                          (I like to sketch.)

        Erika spielt Tuba.      BUT        Erika spielt gern Tuba.

                 (Erika plays tuba.)                     (Erika likes to play tuba.)

        Mein Bruder tanzt.     BUT         Mein Bruder tanzt gern.

                 (My brother dances.)                  (My brother likes to dance.)

image

Officially, the word gern is an adverb that means “gladly,” but we translate it in common English to mean “like to.”

Just as we negate adjectives by putting nicht in front of them, we do the same for adverbs. To negate gern, we put the word nicht in front of it.

          Ich tanze nicht gern.            (I don’t like to dance.)

Click the link to watch me reteaching this.

image image

Ex. K: Was machst du gern? What do you like to do?

         A: Was machst du gern?

         B: Ich ___(conjugated VERB)________ gern.

         A: Was machst du nicht gern?

         B: Ich ___(conjugated VERB)________ nicht gern.

Ex. L: Partnerarbeit. Now ask your classmates what they do and don’t like to do, using the verbs below.

           Beispiel: reisen

                     A: Reist du gern?

                     B: Ja, ich reise gern. ODER Nein, ich reise nicht gern.

  1. kochen                              8. zeichnen
  2. wandern                           9. lernen
  3. tanzen                              10. joggen
  4. arbeiten                           11. fotografieren
  5. schreiben                        12. singen
  6. malen                               13. studieren
  7. spazieren                         14. schwimmen

Ex. M: Kleiner Absatz! Using your answers from Ex. F, write a brief paragraph about the people you interviewed and what they like to do (or not do.) Write 7-8 sentences.

          Beispiel: Angela kocht nicht gern. Sie wandert sehr gern…usw.

 

 

Here are some sports, instruments, and games you might enjoy playing. Most of them are very similar to English.

The verb spielen can be used with sports, instruments, and games.

 

Ex. N. Was spielen Sie gern? Was spielen Sie nicht gern?

         Ich spiele gern ___________. Ich spiele nicht gern __________.

 

Ex. O: Konjugieren wir Verben! Fill in with the correct form of the verb in parenthesis. Don’t forget to look at the subject first and then decide which verb ending you will need. (Watch out! Sein and haben will show up as well, but they are irregular!)

  1. Wir _____________ Deutsch. (lernen)
  2. Meine Schwester ___________ in Minnesota. (wohnen)
  3. Der Student _____________ gern. (malen)
  4. ______________ du gern Musik? (hören)
  5. Ich __________ Rockmusik interessant. (finden)
  6. Ihr __________ zu Hans. (gehen)
  7. Die Frau _____________ nach Deutschland. (reisen)
  8. Die Bücher ____________ sehr interessant. (sein)
  9. Astrid ___________ gern im Herbst. (fotografieren)
  10. Michael und Philipp ______________ in Berlin. (wohnen)
  11. Ich ___________ aus Florence. (kommen)
  12. Du _______________oft Sport. (machen)
  13. Wir ___________ in Eile. (sein)
  14. Ihr ____________ immer zu spät. (kommen)
  15. Meine Mutter und mein Vater_____________ Golf. (spielen)
  16. Herr Steiner, _____________Sie heute? (arbeiten)
  17. Ja, und meine Frau ____________ morgen. (arbeiten)
  18. _____________ du gern? (kochen)
  19. Nein, ich ______________ nicht gern. (kochen)
  20. Die Studenten _____________ morgen Physik. (haben)
  21. Du und ich ______________ an der Universität von Nordalabama. (studieren)

 

Ex. P: Was machen diese Menschen? Write a complete sentence to describe what these people are doing. Some pictures may have more than one possible answer.

       Beispiel: image

                    →Er wandert.

  1. image                            4. image
  2. image                          5. image

 

5. image                           6. image

 

EXTRA PRACTICE: Germanzone.org’s website has plenty of conjugation practice.

The following exercises have the verbs already conjugated; you will need to supply the correct subject pronoun to match up with the conjugation.

Click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page to see some extra practice conjugating regular verbs in the present tense. You can set your level for easy, medium, or hard.

Ex. Q: Video. Nicos Weg. Folge 6. Das ist Nico. Watch the video and do the online activities associated with it. You will hear several new words in this video.

Video. Easy German: Introduce Yourself in German

 

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German 101 by Rebecca Linam is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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