How to use a german verb

What is a verb?

Verbs indicate an action such as "Deutsch lernen", a process such as "schlafen" or a state such as "sein". German verbs have to be conjugated. You change the ending depending on the person, whether it is singular or plural and which tense you use. 

Without verbs, a sentence hardly makes sense. What a "verb" is is easily explained. There are different types of verbs: full verb, auxiliary verb and modal verb. A full verb can stand alone (e.g. ich esse, I eat), while an auxiliary verb always stands together with another verb.

Learn more about verbs: Modal verbs, reflexive verbs, separable and inseparable verbs, transitive verbs as well as the passive, imperative and subjunctive in German grammar. 

 
Important German verbs (1).jpg

Example sentences with the most important German verbs:

Ich sage, was ich meine.

Sie stellt im Matheunterricht viele Fragen.

Wir schwimmen im Meer.

Das Kind sieht eine Katze.

Die Mädchen gehen in die Stadt.

Wir laufen durch den Park.

Ihr steht an der Straßenecke.

Sie singt die ganze Zeit.

Ich liege auf dem Bett.

Die Kinder spielen auf der Straße.

Sie zeigen ihren Freunden ihr neues Haus.

Wir wandern in den Hügeln.

Er denkt oft an seinen Lieblingsfilm.

Sie sehen gern fern.

Sie schreibt ihre eigenen Geschichten.

Wir werfen den Ball im Kreis herum.

In meiner Freizeit lese ich gern.

Sie kauft einen neuen Mantel.

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Conjugate German verbs in the different tenses: present (Präsens), present perfect (Perfekt), simple past (Präteritum), past perfect (Plusquamperfekt), future (Futur I) and future perfect (Futur II).

"Haben und Sein" can be full verbs and auxiliary verbs. Learn the difference in order to use these two verbs correctly.

Ich habe Kopfschmerzen gehabt.  I have had a headache.

Ich bin im Kino gewesen. I have been to the cinema.

The modal verbs are dürfen, können, mögen, müssen, sollen und wollen. They are used to change the content of the statement. 

Ich kann ein Buch lesen.  I can read a book.

Ich muss ein Buch lesen. I have to read a book.

Reflexive verbs are used with a reflexive pronoun like "sich", which means "itself". There are different types of reflexive verbs

Ich dusche mich. I take a shower.
Er rasiert sich. He shaves.

There are two types of participles: Partizip I (present participle) and Partizip II (past participle). The German participles are used in compound tenses, as adjectives and to form participial clauses.

Der Mann lief singend durch den Park. 
The man ran through the park singing. 

By adding a prefix, the meaning of a verb can be changed - come, arrive, get. There are separable verbs (ankommen) and inseparable verbs (bekommen).
Ich komme an. I arrive.

Ich bekomme ein Geschenk. I get a present.

Transitive verbs have a direct object (accusative object). Intransitive verbs have no object.

Der Maler beschreibt das Bild. 
The artist describes the painting. (describe - transitive).
Der Hund läuft schnell. The dog is running fast. (run- intransitive)

The passive describes an action or state; the person or thing. The person acting is unknown or assumed to be already known or is unimportant.

Das Fenster wird geschlossen. (prozessuales Passiv) The window is being closed. 
Das Fenster ist geschlossen. (statisches Passiv) The window is closed.

We use the subjunctive to talk about an imagined or theoretical scenario. We also use it when we express a sentence in indirect speech.

Ich wünschte, ich hätte ein neues Auto.

I wish I had a new car.
Er sagte, er sei ihr Nachbar. He said he was her neighbour.

There are exceptions to this rule. The following sentences explain where your verbs should be placed:

Ich mag den Hund. (I like the dog.)
This sentence shows us the classic verb position. In all main clauses, the verb (to like) is in second place between the subject (I) and the direct object (dog).


Ich mag den Hund und ich gebe ihm das Essen. (I like the dog and I give him the food).
Two independent clauses connected by and (and), but the composition of the clauses does not change the position of the verbs in the two clauses. They are still second to the subject.

Ich gebe dem Hund das Essen, weil er Hunger hat.   (I give the dog the food because he is hungry).
This sentence consists of two sentences, just like the previous example, but the last part of the sentence is a subordinate clause with the conjunction "because". This conjunction places the verb in the second sentence at the end of the sentence. The rule for subordinate clauses is: conjunction first, verb last. "Because" always moves the verb to the end of the sentence.


Weil ich ein Haustier wollte, kaufte ich einen Hund. (Because I wanted a pet, I bought a dog).
This sentence begins with a subordinate clause, and the conjunction "because" moves the verb to the end of the sentence. Now the "verb to verb" rule applies.  After a verb and a comma, we immediately need the verb from the next sentence. So in the example above, our verb comma verb is wanted, bought.


Ich habe einen Hund gesehen (I saw a dog.)
For the German Present Perfect Tense, you need a form of haben or sein as well as a Past Participle. The form haben or sein is in the second position, as in all simple sentences. However, the past participle is placed at the end of the sentence.

Verbs are (usually) in the second position of a main clause.

backen bäckt or backt backte or buk hat gebacken to bake befehlen befiehlt befahl hat befo