×

4 Day Flash Sale
Get a huge 60% off
- limited time only

See Offer!

Average Rating: 4.7

German Verb Stems

Welcome to this free German lesson on verb stems!

In order to conjugate a verb, you first need to identify the verb stem. The stem is the part of the verb that, in most cases, remains constant. In German, you usually find the stem by taking the infinitive of the verb and removing the –en, or -n ending.

German verbs can fall in three categories:

  • Weak (regular)
  • Strong (irregular)

Weak verbs are regular verbs and their stem never changes.
Strong verbs change their stem. The stem may only change in the past tense conjugation or in the present tense as well.

Let's see these two groups in more detail.
 

German Weak Verbs


As we've seen, weak verbs are entirely regular, and the good news is that the majority of German verbs fall in this category. To find their stem, you simply remove the -en or -n ending. Here are a few example verbs.
 
Verb Stem
machen (to do) mach-
suchen (to search) such-
brauchen (to need) brauch-
bezahlen (to pay) bezahl-
kaufen (to buy) kauf-
segeln (to sail) segel-
arbeiten (to work) arbeit-

Now let's see a few example sentences.

Ich suche meine Schuhe. Hast du sie gesehen? - I'm searching for my shoes. Have you seen them?
Die Pflanze braucht Wasser. - The plant needs water.
Er macht gerade Abendessen. - He is making dinner.
Mein Bruder arbeitet bei Siemens. - My brother works at Siemens.

Verbs whose stem ends in a -d or a -t, like arbeiten, add an -e before all conjugation endings for pronunciation purposes. From this we have arbeitet (arbeit + e + t ending for third person singular).

German Strong verbs

Strong verbs are irregular verbs, so their stem can sometimes change depending on the tense. Let's take gehen, to go, as an example: its stem in the present tense is regular, geh-, but in the simple past tense it becomes ging-. Sometimes it's the stem in the past participle that changes, and other times the verb has an irregular stem in the present tense.
 
Verb Stem (present tense / past tense / p.p.)
gehen geh- / ging- / gegangen
kommen komm- / kam- / gekommen
denken denk- / dach- / gedacht
sehen seh-, sieh- / sah- / gesehen

Er kommt sofort. - He is coming immediately.
Er kam sofort. -He came immediately.
Er ist sofort gekommen. - He has come immediately.

Finally, a few verbs are totally irregular in the present tense, like sein (to be) and wissen (to know).
 

Subject pronoun Conjugation in the present tense (sein / wissen)
Ich bin / weiß
Du bist / weißt
Er/sie/es ist / weiß
Wir sind / wissen
Ihr seid / wisst
Sie sind / wissen
Das ist alles, was ich weiß. - This is all I know.
Wissen Sie, wo der Bahnhof ist? - Do you (formal) know where the train station is?
Wir sind glücklich. - We are happy.

When you have the stem by itself, have a look at the table of verb endings for each tense and add the appropriate ending, according to who is performing the action.

Here are a few recommended German lessons to try next!

Bis bald!
Paul Weber
Paul Weber
Rocket German

Over 1,200,000 people love Rocket Languages

Here's what Rocket Languages members have to say:

Andrei Freeman - Pennsylvania, USA

Andrei
Freeman

Pennsylvania, USA

Rudi Kopp - USA

Rudi
Kopp

USA

Carmen Franceschino - Pennsylvania, USA

Carmen
Franceschino

Pennsylvania, USA

Kelly Scali - Chicago, USA

Kelly
Scali

Chicago, USA

Mark Waddel - Auckland, NZ

Mark
Waddell

Auckland, NZ

William McGill - Florida, USA

William
McGill

Florida, USA

Probably the best language tool I've come across. Actually love it more than Rosetta Stone and Duolingo

Try our award-winning online German course for FREE 受賞歴ありの英語学習ソフトウェアを無料でお試しください Pruebe nuestro galardonado software del idioma inglés GRATIS

(And see how easy it actually is to learn German... even if you've tried and failed before) (そして英語学習がどれだけ簡単か、肌で感じてみてください…今までに失敗したことのある人でもそれが分かるでしょう) (Y vea qué tan fácil es en realidad aprender inglés… aún si lo ha intentado y fallado antes)