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German Present Tense

This lesson contains topics:

  1. Simple present tense in German
  2. German present tense conjugation
    1. German regular verb conjugation
    2. Exceptions in the conjugation of regular verbs
    3. German irregular verbs conjugation
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At the end of this lesson, you would be able to:

  1. make simple German sentences in the present tense
  2. conjugate regular and irregular verbs

1. Simple present tense in German

In German, "das Präsens" is the present tense. German has only one way to express the present tense. For example, in English, we have three ways to express the present, i.e. “I eat”, “I am eating” and I do eat”. In German, for these three we only have one form i.e. “Ich esse.”

Additionally, “Ich esse” also gives meanings of the simple future i.e. I’ll eat. We can add a time in the future to explicitly make it a future tense, for example, “Ich esse morgen.” (I’ll eat tomorrow.) Further explanation of future tense is discussed in lesson 28 (Simple Future).

So, the translation of the sentence “Ich esse” can be”:

  1. I eat.
  2. I am eating.
  3. I do eat.
  4. I’ll eat.

The context of the sentence clears the meaning. For example, if person 1 asks, “would you like to eat the cake tomorrow?” Person 2 replies, “Ja, ich esse.” (Yes, I’ll eat.)

Person 1 asks, “are you eating bread?”
Person 2 replies, “Ja, ich esse das Brot.” (Yes, I am eating bread.)

If the question is, “Do you eat bread?” again the answer would be in Präsens. “Ja, ich esse das Brot”, but this time English translation would be “Yes, I eat bread”.

Optionally, the word "gerade" (right now / at the moment) can be added to emphasize the progressive form. For example, "Ich esse gerade" (I am eating/I am eating right now). However, German verbs are inflected, i.e. the ending of the verb changes according to personal pronouns and their singular or plural forms.

We have already learned the conjugation of the German verb “haben” (to have) in the last lesson. Other verbs in German are also conjugated in an almost similar way with minor differences.

2. German present tense conjugation

In the German language, verb endings change more often than in the English language. In English, change only occurs in the third person singular, where we add “-s” ending e.g. "He eats". In German the verb ending changes according to whether the verb is used in the first person, second person, third person, and also to whether it is used in plural form or singular.

Verbs in German can be divided into two main categories.

  1. Regular verbs (Regelmäßige Verben)
  2. Irregular verbs (Unregelmäßige Verben)

2.1 German regular verb conjugation

Though "haben" is not a regular verb, but if you have learned the conjugation of haben, you can now conjugate all the German regular verbs. The majority of German verbs are regular verbs.

German verbs have unique stems (base of the verb). The stem in a regular verb never changes in its conjugation. To find a stem we remove the "-en" or "-n" ending from the infinitive form of a verb. For example, the stem of the verb "haben" is "hab-". We have then used different endings with the stem "hab-" for 1. person, 2. person, 3. person, and also for their singular and plural forms.

Following are some regular verbs and their stems. Stems from other German verbs can be extracted in the same way.

Verb in the infinitive form Stem of the verb
arbeiten (to work)
arbeit-
benutzen (to use)
benutz-
bezahlen (to pay)
bezahl-
brauchen (to need)
brauch-
denken (to think)
denk-
machen (to do / to make)
mach-
studieren (to study)
studier-

In the regular verb’s conjugation, after removing the ending "-en" or "-n" from the stem of the infinitive form of the verb, add the following endings to the verb’s stem.

Singular Plural
1st person
-e -en
2nd person, familiar form
-st -t
2nd person, polite form
-en -en
3rd person
-t -en

For more clarity, see the below examples of verb conjugations.

1st Example: Conjugation of “machen” (to do). Stem of “machen” is mach-

Singular Plural
1st person
ich mache (I do)
wir machen (we do)
2nd person, familiar form
du machst (you do)
ihr macht (you (plural) do)
2nd person, polite form
Sie machen (you do)
Sie machen (you do)
3rd person
er macht (he does)

es macht (it does)

sie macht (she does)

sie machen (they do)

See the below examples of complete sentences with the verb "machen". Please note that each sentence in the German language starts with a capital letter. In the coming examples in this lesson we are not starting sentences with capital letters to differentiate between the polite form “Sie” and “sie” as the feminine personal pronoun, ‘she’.

Singular Plural
1st person
ich mache Hausarbeit

(I do homework / I am doing homework)
wir machen Hausarbeit

(we do homework / we are doing homework)
2nd person, familiar form
du machst Hausarbeit

(you do homework / you are doing homework)
ihr macht Hausarbeit

(you do homework / you are doing homework)
2nd person, polite form
Sie machen Hausarbeit

(you do homework / you are doing homework)
Sie machen Hausarbeit

(you do homework / you are doing homework)
3rd person
er/es/sie macht Hausarbeit

(he/she/it does homework
he/she/it is doing homework)
sie machen Hausarbeit

(they do homework/they are doing homework)

Die Hausarbeit is a combined noun. It is a combination of Das Haus (home) and Die Arbeit (work). Please see lesson 3 to learn more about nouns and their combinations.

2nd Example of the regular verb conjugation: Conjugation of "studieren" (to study). The stem of studieren is "studier-".

On small screens, please drag following tables right or left to view the full width.
Singular Plural
1st person
ich studiere Biologie

(I study biology)
wir studieren Biologie

(we study biology)
2nd person, familiar form
du studierst Biologie

(you study biology)
ihr studiert Biologie

(you study biology)
2nd person, polite form
Sie studieren Biologie

(you study biology)
Sie studieren Biologie

(you study biology)
3rd person
er/es/sie studiert Biologie

(he/she/it studies biology)
sie studieren Biologie

(they study biology)

2.2 Exceptions in the conjugation of regular verbs

2.2.1 The verb's stem ends in the letter -d or -t

Verbs, in which stems end in the letter "-d" or "-t", the ending "-est" is added to the second person singular, and the ending "-et" is added to the third person singular. For example, see the following following conjugation of the verb "arbeiten".

The stem of arbeiten is "arbeit-".

On small screens, please drag following tables right or left to view the full width.
Singular Plural
1st person
ich arbeite

(I work)
(I am working)
wir arbeiten

(we work)
(we are working)
2nd person, familiar form
du arbeitest

(you work)
(you are working)
ihr arbeitet

(you (plural) work)
(you are working)
2nd person, polite form
Sie arbeiten

(you work)
(you are working)
Sie arbeiten

(you work)
(you are working)
3rd person
er / sie / es arbeitet

(he / she / it works)
(he / she / it is working)
sie arbeiten

(they work)
(they are working)

2.2.2 The verb's ends in the letter -s or -ß

Verbs, in which stems end in the letter "-s" or "-ß", the ending "-t" is added to the second person singular. For example, in the verb "wissen" and "heißen". There are only a few verbs whose stems end in "-s" or "-ß".

Following is the conjugation of "wissen":

On small screens, please drag following tables right or left to view the full width.
Singular Plural
1st person
ich weiß

(I know)
wir wissen

(we know)
2nd person, familiar form
du weißt

(you know)
ihr wisst

(you know)
2nd person, polite form
Sie wissen

(you know)
Sie wissen

(you know)
3rd person
er / sie / es weiß

(he / she / it knows)
sie wissen

(they know)

Conjugation of "heißen":

"Heißen" is an important verb. It is used to mention names and meanings. For example, ich heiße Thomas. (My name is Thomas). Wie heißen Sie? (What is your name?). The literal meaning of heißen is “be called” or “to mean”.

On small screens, please drag following tables right or left to view the full width.
Singular Plural
1st person
ich heiße

my name is
wir heißen

(our name is / we are called)
2nd person, familiar form
du heißt

(your name is)
ihr heißt

(your name is)
2nd person, polite form
Sie heißen

(your name is)
Sie heißen

(your name is)
3rd person
er / sie / es heißt

(his / her / its name is)
sie heißen

(they are called / their name is)

Some examples of the verb "heißen":

Wie heißt der Hund? (What is the name of the dog?)

Der Hund heißt Bello. (The dog’s name is Bello.)

Was heißt das? (what does this mean?)

Was heißt das auf Deutsch? (What does this mean in German?)

Was heißt das auf Englisch? (What does this mean in English?)

Was heißt der Hund auf Englisch? (What's the dog in English?)

Wie heißt die Stadt? (What is the name of the city?)

Die Stadt heißt Berlin. (The name of the city is Berlin/The city is called Berlin.)

2.3 German irregular verbs conjugation

Based on conjugation, round about 200 German verbs are called irregular verbs. The irregularity of a verb means that its stem changes during conjugation. In the present tense (das Präsens), normally the irregular verb’s stem deviates in the second-person and third-person conjugation, but sometimes also in the first-person singular. The most common stem changes in the second-person and third-person are:

Some verbs conjugate regularly in the present tense (das Präsens), but their conjugations in other tenses are irregular, thus they are placed in the irregular category, e.g. the verb bleiben (to stay).

Some commonly used irregular verbs are:
essen (to eat)
sprechen (to speak)
sehen (to see)
geben (to give)
helfen (to help)
lesen (to read)
nehmen (to take)

Conjugation of the irregular verb “essen” (to eat): Please pay attention to the stem change in the second-person singular and third-person singular.

On small screens, please drag following tables right or left to view the full width.
Singular Plural
1st person
ich esse

(I eat)
(I am eating)
wir essen

(we eat)
(we are eating)
2nd person, familiar form
du isst

(you eat)
(you are eating)
ihr esst

(you eat)
(you are eating)
2nd person, polite form
Sie essen

(you eat)
(you are eating)
Sie essen

(you eat)
(you are eating)
3rd person
er / sie / es isst

(he / she / it eats)
(he / she / it is eating)
sie essen

(they eat)
(they are eating)

The following is the conjugation of another irregular verb “sprechen” (to speak):

Singular Plural
1st person
ich spreche

(I speak)
(I am speaking)
wir sprechen

(we speak)
(we are speaking)
2nd person, familiar form
du sprichst

(you speak)
(you are speaking)
ihr sprecht

(you speak)
(you are speaking)
2nd person, polite form
Sie sprechen

(you speak)
(you are speaking)
Sie sprechen

(you speak)
(you are speaking)
3rd person
er / sie / es spricht

(he / she / it speaks)
(he / she / it is speaking)
sie sprechen

(they speak)
(they are speaking)

Vocabulary building

mein-auto Car illustration

person illustration

Er heißt Ludwig Schäfer. (His name is Ludwig Schäfer.)

Er hat ein besonderes Auto, aber heute diskutieren wir nicht über sein Auto. Heute kennenlernen wir Herrn Ludwig Schäfer. (He has a special car, but today we are not discussing his car. Today we get to know Mr. Ludwig Schäfer.)

Er wohnt in Bonn und arbeitet in Köln. (He lives in Bonn and works in Cologne.)

Seine Arbeitszeiten sind von neun bis siebzehn Uhr. Er ist fleißig und verdient viel Geld. (His working hours are from nine to five o'clock. He is hardworking and earns a lot of money.)

Eine Stunde macht er Pause. Manchmal von zwölf bis eins und manchmal von eins bis zwei Uhr. (He does a break for an hour. Sometimes from twelve to one and sometimes from one to two o'clock.)

Herr Jäger und Herr Schäfer essen zusammen in der Pause. (Mr. Jäger and Mr. Schäfer eat together during the break.)

Herr Schäfer trinkt viel Cola und isst gerne Bratwurst mit Käse und Brötchen. (Mr. Schäfer drinks a lot of cola and likes to eat bratwurst with cheese and bread rolls.)

Er mag auch die Pizza. Ab und zu bestellt er zwei Pizzas. Eine für sich selbst und eine für Robert Jäger. (He also likes the pizza. From time to time he orders two pizzas. One for himself and one for Robert Jäger.)

Herr Ludwig Schäfer wohnt in Bonn aber kommt aus Saarbrücken. (Mr. Ludwig Schäfer lives in Bonn but comes from (originally from) Saarbrücken.)

Saarbrücken ist die Hauptstadt von Saarland. (Saarbrücken is the capital of Saarland.)

Saarland ist ein Bundesland in Süd-West Deutschland, neben Frankreich. (Saarland is a state in south-west Germany, next to France.)

Viele Leute in Saarland können Französisch sprechen, aber ihre Muttersprache ist Deutsch. (Many people in Saarland can speak French, but their mother tongue is German.)

Der Dialekt von Saarland ist rheinfränkisch, aber in Bonn und Köln spricht Herr Schäfer Hochdeutsch, oder mindesten versucht. (The Saarland dialect is Franconian, but in Bonn and Cologne Mr. Schäfer speaks Standard German, or at least tries.)

Jetzt wissen wir, wo Saarbrücken ist und wo Herr Schäfer wohnt. (Now we know where Saarbrücken is and where Mr. Schäfer lives.)

Wortschatz (vocabulary) und Erklärungen (explanations)

besonder (especial / customized)
ein besonderes Auto (a special car)
We have discussed adjective endings after the indefinite article in the previous lesson. Click here to revise.

diskutieren (to discuss)
Wir diskutieren über ein besonderes Thema. (We are discussing a special topic.)
Sie diskutieren alles sehr gut. (You discuss everything very well.)

kennenlernen (to get to know somebody or something)

wohnen (to live)
Ich wohne in Berlin. (I live in Berlin.)
Meine Eltern wohnen in Hamburg. (My parents live in Hamburg.)

die Arbeitszeiten (working hours)

verdienen (to earn)
Der Mechaniker verdient viel Geld. (The mechanic makes a lot of money.)
Der Bäcker verdient nicht viel. (The baker doesn't earn much.)

die Stunde (hour), die Minute (minute)
Bitte warten Sie eine Minute. (Please wait a minute.)

die Pause (break, pause)

Manchmal (sometimes )

von (from, of)

bis (to, up to, until)
von Berlin nach München (from Berlin to Munich)
von eins bis zwei Uhr (from one to two o'clock)

zusammen (together)
Wir arbeiten zusammen. (We work together.)
Wir wohnen zusammen. (We live together.)

trinken (to drink)
Mein Hund trinkt viel Milch und er ist dick. (My dog drinks a lot of milk and he is fat.)

gern (with pleasure, gladly)
Ich fahre gern. (I like to drive.)

die Bratwurst (bratwurst, sausage)

mit (with)

der Käse (cheese), das Brötchen (bread rolls, rolls)
Jan und Julia essen Honig mit Butter und manchmal mit Brötchen. (Jan and Julia eat honey with butter and sometimes with bread rolls.)

mag (to like to)
"mag" is conjugated form of modal verb "mögen". We will discuss modal verbs and their conjugations in the next lesson.
Dann warum benutzen Sie die Modalverben jetzt? (Then why are you using the modal verbs now?)
Sie wollen Deutsch lernen oder? (You want to learn German right?)

ab und zu (from time to time, now and then)

bestellen (to order)
Ich bestelle das Essen für Sie. (I am ordering the food for you.)
Bitte bestellen Sie auch zwei Colas. (Please also order two colas.)

für sich selbst (for himself, for herself)

die Hauptstadt (capital)
Berlin ist die Hauptstadt von Deutschland. (Berlin is the capital of Germany.)

neben (near, next to)

können (can)
"können" is a modal verb

sprechen (to speak)
Wir können Deutsch, Englisch und Französisch sprechen. (We can speak German, English and French.)
Bitte sprechen Sie deutlich. Wir können nicht verstehen. (Please speak clearly. We cannot understand.)

das Hochdeutsch (standard German)
German has many dialects. "Hochdeutsch" is the standardized dialect of German.

versuchen (to try, to attempt)
Verstehen Sie was ich spreche? (Do you understand what I'm talking?)
Ein bisschen, aber ich versuche. (A little bit, but I'm trying.)

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