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Common German Verbs

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Importance of German Verbs

As you may have already guessed, understanding the meaning and function of German verbs is very important in being able to speak this language correctly. In particular, verbs can be a tricky subject due to the rules that they must follow. Some are considered regular while others are conjugated (transformed) in an irregular way. Some are only used alongside other German verbs as so-called modal verbs while reflexive verbs can only be used with pronouns.

At Lingoda, our native German teachers have a working knowledge of these rules and through live online sessions, learning German verbs is easy. With their help, learning these and countless other varieties will be effective and a great deal of fun!

Still, let us take a look at how the different types of German verbs work before looking at some of the most common that are important to know.

Regular Verbs

Regular German verbs are those which follow a specific pattern of change (depending upon the speaker) when used in the present tense. To look at it another way, once you know the way that one verb is conjugated, you will know how to conjugate all of the other regular verbs. So, these tend to be the easiest to understand. However, it should also be known that regular verbs are actually not the most common when speaking German. Some regular verbs are:

Regular verbs Present Past Perfect
arbeiten (to work) Fabian arbeitet in Berlin. Fabian arbeitete in Berlin. Fabian hat in Berlin gearbeitet.
lermen (to learn) Amélie lernt Deutsch sehr schnell. Amélie lernte sehr schnell Deutsch. Amélie hat Deutsch sehr schnell gelernt.
spielen (to play) Nelson spielt Waldhorn in einem Orchester. Nelson spielte Waldhorn in einem Orchester. Nelson hat Waldhorn in einem Orchester gespielt.
kaufen (to buy) Felix kauft Kaffee online. Felix kaufte Kaffee online. Felix hat Kaffee online gekauft.

Irregular Verbs

Irregular German verbs are sometimes called “strong” verbs and as you may have guessed, their endings will not follow specific rules during conjugation. So, practice makes perfect in this case. As there are no general rules involved, it is best to learn these through conversing with a native speaker or using a handy chart. Some examples of irregular verbs will include:

Irregular verbs Present Past Perfect
brechen (to break) Javier bricht die Regeln. Javier brach die Regeln. Javier hat die Regeln gebrochen.
essen (to eat) Jessica isst gerne Eis. Jessica aß gerne Eis. Jessica hat gerne Eis gegessen.
fallen (to fall) Charlotte fällt vom Fahrrad. Charlotte fiel vom Fahrrad. Charlotte ist vom Fahrrad gefallen.
fahren (to drive) Stefan fährt zu seiner Tante. Stefan fuhr zu seiner Tante. Stefan ist zu seiner Tante gefahren.

Modal Verbs

A modal verb expresses a need or a possibility that could occur into the future. These can be termed as being auxiliary, as they can be used alongside other German verbs. In other words, they express a condition or a desire. In the German language, these naturally have their own form of conjugation. A few examples are:

Modal verbs Example
dürfen (may/ is allowed) Stefan darf an Weihnachten ganz viel Schokolade essen.
(Stefan is allowed to eat a lot of chocolate on Christmas eve.)
können (can/ to be able to) Taner kann gut singen.
(Taner can sing well.)
müssen (must/ have to) Gergely muss heute zum Bürgeramt gehen.
(Gergely has to go to the citizen’s registration office today.)
wollen (to want) Britta will nach Paris reisen.
(Britta wants to travel to Paris.)

Reflexive Verbs

A reflexive German verb can be thought of as a verb that “mirrors” the action of the speaker. To put it in another way, reflexive verbs express one’s action (an example can be the phrase “we are enjoying ourselves). Of course, Germans will conjugate these verbs differently. The pronouns used with these verbs are:

Reflexive verbs Example
sich freuen (to enjoy) Camille freut sich über ihr Lieblingseis.
(Camille is enjoying her favorite ice cream.)
sich wundern (to wonder) Joe wundert sich über das gute Wetter.
(Joe is wondering about the good weather.)
sich bewerben (to apply) Alessia bewirbt sich um ein Praktikum in New York.
(Alessia is applying for an internship in New York.)
sich kümmern (to take care) Federico kümmert sich um die Hunde seines Freundes.
(Federico is taking care of his friend’s dogs.)

Dative Verbs

The function of a dative verb is to show what is known as the indirect object of a verb. An example of this is the sentence “She gave the postman a letter.” In this case, the direct object is the letter (what she gave to him) and the indirect object is the postman. A handful of dative verbs in German are:

Dative verbs Example
helfen (to help) Könntest du mir bitte helfen?
(Could you please help me?)
folgen (to follow) Ich kann dir nicht folgen.
(I‘m not following you.)
antworten (to answer) Donovan hat mir nicht geantwortet.
(Donovan has not answered me.)
begegnen (to meet someone) Laura ist ihr schon mal begegnet.
(Laura has met her before.)
passen (to fit) Das Kleid passt ihr wie angegossen.
(The dress fits her like it was poured on.)


Top 25 German Verbs

1. sein (to be)
2. haben (to have)
3. werden (to become)
4. können (can)
5. müssen (must)
6. wollen (to want)
7. mögen (to like to)
8. wissen (to know)
9. machen (to make)
10. sollen (should or ought to)
11. heißen (to be called)
12. sagen (to say)
13. gehen (to go)
14. sehen (to see)
15. geben (to give)
16. kommen (to come)
17. lassen (to allow)
18. finden (to find)
19. bleiben (to stay)
20. nehmen (to take)
21. bringen (to bring)
22. denken (to think)
23. tun (to do)
24. liegen (to lie)
25. stehen (to stand)