In the following, I’d like to present to you four tricks that could help you mastering German irrgular verbs.
1. The Difference between Weak and Strong Verbs
Of course, most of you know that there are actually three kind of verbs: Weak, strong and mixed verbs. Well, that also the main reason why you say “du läufst” instead of “du laufst”.
What is a Strong Verb?
Well, a strong verb’s stem changes. Based on the conjugation, as well as in the two past tenses. So, some of these stem changes in the present tense simply involve adding an “ä” or an “ö” in place of an “”a or an “o”. Other stems in the present tense undergo a complete change. Unfortunately, you simply have to recognize strong verbs by learning them by heart. Nevertheless, there is an example:
|ich fahre||ich gebe|
|du fährst||du gibst|
|er/sie/es fährt||er/sie/es gibt|
|wir fahren||wir geben|
|ihr fahrt||ihr gebt|
|sie fahren||sie geben|
2. Learn the Past Tense of Strong Verbs
Although you might think that you have mastered German irregular verbs by knowing how to conjugate them in the present tense – I have to disappoint you. Unfortunately, their forms in the past tense are as irregular as the ones in the present tense. Well, at least there is one rule: All strong verbs in German use -en at the end of their stem to form the Particip II.
- “Ich habe gewonnen.” (I have won.)
- “Ich habe begonnen.” (I was beginning.)
3. Understand the Principles of Mixed Verbs
So, a mixed verb is a verb that combines some characteristics of weak verbs and strong verbs. Well, almost all mixed verbs are regular in the present tense, but in the past tense, they combine the ending of a weak verb (–t for Particip II, and –te for Präteritum) with the vowel change of a strong verb. In the following, I’d like to present to you the most common mixed verbs.
- “haben, hatte, gehabt” (to have, had, was having)
- “kennen, kannte, gekannt” (to know, known, was knowing)
- “wissen, wusste, gewusst” (to know, known, was knowing)
- “denken, dachte, gedacht” (to think, thought, was thinking)
- “bringen, brachte, gebracht” (to bring, brought, was bringing)
- “rennen, rannte, (bin) gerannt” (to run, ran, was running)
- “nennen, nannte, genannt” (to call, called, was calling)
- “brennen, brannte, gebrannt” (to burn, burned, was burning)
4. Mind the “-ieren” Verbs
Basically, an “–ieren” verb is one of a handful of verbs, many of which came to German through French, that end in “–ieren”. These verbs follow the pattern of weak verbs, except in one way. In the Particip II form, instead of putting “ge-” at the beginning, you simply put a “–t” on the end.
- “Diskutieren” (to discuss) is formed in the past as “Ich habe diskutiert” (I was discussing).
- “Existieren” (to exist) is formed in the past as “Ich habe existiert” (I was existing).
- “Fotografieren” (to photograph) is formed as “Ich habe fotografiert” (I was photographing).