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German verbs

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German verbs may be classified as either weak, with a dental consonant inflection, or strong, showing a vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

 gradation (ablaut
Indo-European ablaut
In linguistics, ablaut is a system of apophony in Proto-Indo-European and its far-reaching consequences in all of the modern Indo-European languages...

). Both of these are regular systems. Most verb
A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

s of both types are regular, though various subgroups and anomalies do arise. The only completely irregular verb
Irregular verb
In contrast to regular verbs, irregular verbs are those verbs that fall outside the standard patterns of conjugation in the languages in which they occur. The idea of an irregular verb is important in second language acquisition, where the verb paradigms of a foreign language are learned...

 in the language is sein (to be). However, textbooks for foreign learners often class all strong verbs
Germanic strong verb
In the Germanic languages, a strong verb is one which marks its past tense by means of ablaut. In English, these are verbs like sing, sang, sung...

 as irregular. There are fewer than 200 strong and irregular verbs, and there is a gradual tendency for strong verbs to become weak.

As German is a Germanic language
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

, the German verb can be understood historically as a development of the Germanic verb
Germanic verb
The Germanic language family is one of the language groups that resulted from the breakup of Proto-Indo-European . It in turn divided into North, West and East Germanic groups, and ultimately produced a large group of mediaeval and modern languages, most importantly: Danish, Norwegian, and...


Simple infinitives

The infinitive
In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual description of English, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives...

 consists of the root and the suffix -en. With verbs whose roots end in el or er, the e of the infinitive suffix is dropped.
laufen ("to walk")
lächeln ("to smile")
meistern ("to master")

German prefixes

This is a general view of the most important German prefixes. The example is "legen" (to lay)
ab- legen to lay down to lay down
to abandon sth.
an- legen to lay by/at to attach sth.
to dock
auf- legen to lay up to apply
aus- legen to lay out to lay sth. out
be- legen to lay sth. on sth. to overlay
bei- legen to lay at/by to add
dar- legen to lay there to point sth. out
ein- legen to lay in to inlay
ent- legen dis-lay faraway, outlying
NOTE: entlegen is an adjective and not a verb!
er- legen to achieve-lay to kill/ to conclude successfully
ge- legen to be laid seated, situated, opportune
NOTE: gelegen is an adjective and not a verb!
hin- legen to lay there to put down
nach- legen to lay after to put some more of sth. on
nieder- legen to lay down to put down an object /
to lay down an office /
to lie down also: to go to sleep
über- legen to lay over to think about sth.
um- legen to lay around/over again to allocate, also: to kill
unter- legen to lay under to put under
ver- legen to be shy [adjective] / to lose [verb]
to edit (books, newspaper)
vor- legen to lay previous to sth. to bring sth. before so.
weg- legen to lay away to put away
wider- legen to lay against to disprove
zer- legen to lay sth. in pieces to destroy
zu- legen to lay to sth. to put on / to buy something new
zusammen- legen to lay together to pool sth.

Inseparable prefixes

There are some verbs which have a permanent prefix at their beginning. The most common permanent prefixes found in German are ver-, ge-, be-, er-, ent- (or emp-), and zer-.
brauchen, "to need" – verbrauchen, "to consume" or "to use up"
raten, "to advise", "to guess" – verraten, "to betray"
fallen, "to fall" – gefallen "to be pleasing"
hören, "to hear" – gehören zu "to belong to"
brennen, "to burn" (intransitive) – verbrennen, "to burn" (transitive), to burn completely
beginnen, "to begin" (no form without the prefix)

The meaning of the permanent prefixes does not have a real system; the alteration in meaning can be subtle or drastic. The prefixes ver-, be- and ge- have several different meanings, although ge- is uncommon and often the root verb is no longer in existence. be- often makes a transitive verb from an intransitive verb. Verbs with er- tend to relate to creative processes, verbs with ent- usually describe processes of removing (as well as emp-, an approximate equivalent to ent- except usually used for root verbs beginning with an f), and zer- is used for destructive actions. Ver- often describes some kind of extreme or excess of the root verb, although not in any systematic way: 'sprechen', for example means to 'speak', but 'versprechen', 'to promise' as in 'to give ones word' and 'fallen', meaning 'to fall' but 'verfallen', 'to decay' or 'to be ruined'.

Separable prefixes

Many verbs have a separable prefix that changes the meaning of the root verb, but that does not always remain attached to the root verb. German sentence structure normally places verbs in second position or final position. For separable prefix verbs, the prefix always appears in final position. If a particular sentence's structure places the entire verb in final position then the prefix and root verb appear together. If a sentence places the verb in second position then only the root verb will appear in second position. The separated prefix remains at the end of the sentence.
anfangen ("to start")
1. Root verb in second position: Ich fange die Arbeit an. ("I start the work.")
2. Root verb in final position: Morgens trinke ich Schokolade, weil ich dann die Arbeit anfange. ("In the mornings I drink hot chocolate, because afterwards I begin the work.")

A small number of verbs have a prefix that is separable in some uses and inseparable in others.
1. ("to crash into sth.") – (stress on um)
Ich fahre das Verkehrszeichen um. "I drive against the traffic sign, knocking it over (um) in the process."

2. ("to drive around") – (stress on fah)
Ich umfahre das Verkehrszeichen. "I drive around the traffic sign."

If one of the two meanings is figurative, the inseparable version stands for this figurative meaning:
1. Literal ("to ferry")
Ich setze morgen auf die Insel über "I'll ferry over to the island tomorrow."

2. Figurative ("to translate")
Ich übersetze die Geschichte morgen. "I'll translate the story tomorrow."

Components and word order

Complex infinitives can be built, consisting of more than the original infinitive. They include objects, predicative nouns and adverbial information. These are packed before the original infinitive, if used isolated. (elliptical)
NOT einen Vogel am Himmel plötzlich sehen
BUT plötzlich einen Vogel am Himmel sehen ("suddenly see a bird in the sky")

Pronoun objects are usually mentioned before nominal phrase objects; dative nominal objects before accusative nominal objects; and accusative pronoun objects before dative pronouns. Order may change upon emphasis on the object, the first being more important. This can be viewed as a table:
Usual object order
Pronoun 1 Accusative
Pronoun 2 Dative
Nominal 3 Dative
Nominal 4 Accusative

Ich gebe meinem Vater das Geld ("I give my father the money")
Ich gebe es ihm ("I give it to him")
Ich gebe ihm das Geld ("I give him the money")
Ich gebe es meinem Vater ("I give it to my father")

Ich gebe das Geld meinem Vater ("I give the money to my father")
Ich gebe das Geld ihm ("I give the money to him")

very strange (but still correct)
Ich gebe ihm es ("I give him it")
Ich gebe meinem Vater es ("I give my father it")

Native adverbs, like nicht, leider or gerne, are placed before the innermost verb (see Compound infinitives).

Predicative nouns and predicative adjectives

A predicative adjective can be the positive
Positive (linguistics)
Positive is the form of an adjective or adverb on which comparative and superlative are formed, in English, with the suffixes -ier, -lier, -iest, or -liest, or the forms more/less for polysyllabic adjectives/adverbs. In English, good is a positive adjectival form corresponding to the comparative...

, comparative
In grammar, the comparative is the form of an adjective or adverb which denotes the degree or grade by which a person, thing, or other entity has a property or quality greater or less in extent than that of another, and is used in this context with a subordinating conjunction, such as than,...

 or superlative
In grammar, the superlative is the form of an adjective that indicates that the person or thing modified has the quality of the adjective to a degree greater than that of anything it is being compared to in a given context. English superlatives are typically formed with the suffix -est In...

 stem of an adjective, therefore it has the same form as the adverb
An adverb is a part of speech that modifies verbs or any part of speech other than a noun . Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives , clauses, sentences, and other adverbs....

. One might also use positional phrases or pronominal adverb
Pronominal adverb
A pronominal adverb is a type of adverb occurring in a number of Germanic languages, formed in replacement of a preposition and a pronoun by turning the latter into a locative adverb and the former into a prepositional adverb and joining them in reverse order....

rot sein ("be red")
bekannt werden ("become well-known")
im Rathaus sein ("be in the town hall")

A predicative noun is a nominal phrase in the nominative case.
Ein Arzt sein ("be a doctor")

Note that, if the subject is singular, the predicative noun must not be plural.
Der Schwarm ist eine Plage (singular/singular) ("the swarm is a pest")
Die Bienen sind Insekten (plural/plural) ("the bees are insects")
Die Bienen sind der Schwarm (plural/singular) ("the bees are the swarm")
*Der Schwarm ist die Bienen (singular/plural)
but instead Der Schwarm ist ein Haufen Bienen ("the swarm is a load of bees")
or Die Bienen sind der Schwarm ("the bees are the swarm") (inversion)

3rd person pronouns are handled like any nominal phrase when used in a predicative way.

1st person or 2nd person pronouns are never used as predicative pronouns.

Normally, one makes an inversion
Inversion (linguistics)
In linguistics, grammatical inversion is any of a number of different distinct grammatical constructions in the languages of the world. There are three main uses in the literature which, unfortunately, have little if any overlap either formally or typologically: syntactic inversion, thematic...

 when using a definite pronoun as predicativum.
Der bin ich. (*Ich bin der.) ("I'm the one")
Der bist du. (*Du bist der.) ("You're the one")
Der ist es. (*Es ist der.) ("He's the one")


One can use any kind of adverbial phrase or native adverb mentioned above.
But beware of modal verbs, they change the meaning and phrase of the sentence.

Compound infinitives

Compound infinitives can be constructed by the usage of modal verb
Modal verb
A modal verb is a type of auxiliary verb that is used to indicate modality -- that is, likelihood, ability, permission, and obligation...

s or auxiliary verb
Auxiliary verb
In linguistics, an auxiliary verb is a verb that gives further semantic or syntactic information about a main or full verb. In English, the extra meaning provided by an auxiliary verb alters the basic meaning of the main verb to make it have one or more of the following functions: passive voice,...

s. One places a new infinitive behind the main infinitive. Then this outer infinitive will be conjugate
Grammatical conjugation
In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection . Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, voice, or other grammatical categories...

d instead of the old inner infinitive. Sometimes one must turn the old infinitive into a passive
Passive voice
Passive voice is a grammatical voice common in many of the world's languages. Passive is used in a clause whose subject expresses the theme or patient of the main verb. That is, the subject undergoes an action or has its state changed. A sentence whose theme is marked as grammatical subject is...


Passive infinitive

There are two types of passive forms: static passive and dynamic passive. They differ by their auxiliary words. The static passive uses sein, the dynamic passive is formed with werden (which has a slightly different conjugation from its siblings). In both cases, the old infinitive is turned into its passive participle form.
sehengesehen seingesehen werden ("see – be seen")
plötzlich am Himmel gesehen sein/werden ("suddenly be seen in the sky")
in der Schule seinin der Schule gewesen sein ("be in the school – have been in the school")
dem Lehrer gefallendem Lehrer gefallen haben ("please the teacher – have pleased the teacher")

Note that a complex infinitive cannot be turned into passive form, with an accusative object, for obvious reasons. This restriction does not hold for dative objects.
mir den Schlüssel geben ("to give me the key")
NOT mir den Schlüssel gegeben werden
mir gegeben werden ("have been given to me")

The only exceptions are verbs with two accusative objects. In older forms of German, one of these accusative objects was a dative object. This dative object is removed, whereas the real accusative object stays.
Die Schüler die Vokabeln abfragen ("test the students on their vocab")
NOT Die Schüler abgefragt werden
Die Vokabeln abfragen ("the vocab be tested")

Perfect infinitives

The perfect infinitive is constructed by turning the old infinitive into the passive participle form and attaching the auxiliary verb
Auxiliary verb
In linguistics, an auxiliary verb is a verb that gives further semantic or syntactic information about a main or full verb. In English, the extra meaning provided by an auxiliary verb alters the basic meaning of the main verb to make it have one or more of the following functions: passive voice,...

s haben or sein after the verb.
  • sehengesehen haben (transitive) ("see" – "saw/have seen")
  • einen Vogel seheneinen Vogel gesehen haben (transitive) ("see a bird –" "saw/have seen a bird")
  • laufengelaufen sein (intransitive) ("walk – walked/have walked")
  • einen schnellen Schritt laufeneinen schnellen Schritt gelaufen sein/haben ("walk at a fast pace" – "walked/have walked at a fast pace")

Note that the perfect infinitive of an intransitive verb is created the same way as the static passive infinitive of a transitive verb.

One can also build perfect infinitives of passive infinitives, both static and dynamic. Since the passive is intransitive, having no accusative object, one must use the auxiliary sein:
  • sehen ("to see")
  • gesehen worden sein ("to have been seen")
  • gesehen geworden sein ("to have been being seen")

sein is used as an auxiliary verb, when the verb is:
  • intransitive,
  • indicates a movement from one place to another, or
  • describes the alteration of a state

haben is used, when
  • actually any other case, but could be described more specifically

Future infinitives

The future infinitive is more theoretical, because this infinite is only used in finite form. One keeps the old infinitive and appends the verb werden, which in the present tense means 'to become'.
nach Italien fahrennach Italien fahren werden ("to drive to Italy" – "to be about to drive to Italy")

The future infinitive can also be built by a perfect infinitive, which is used in the future perfect.
den Baum gefällt habenden Baum gefällt haben werden "to have felled the tree" – "to be about to have felled the tree")

Infinitives with modal verbs

Modal verbs are verbs that modify other verbs, and as such, are never found alone. Examples may include the following: "may", "must", "should", "want", or "can". Such verbs are utilized by placing the modal infinitive behind the old (passive or perfect) infinitive, without changing any other word. Some modal verbs in German are: können, dürfen, müssen, brauchen, wollen, mögen, lassen.
dorthin fahren können ("to be able to drive there")
nach Rom fahren lassen ("let someone drive to Rome")

Accusativus cum infinitivo

Similar to Latin, there is an accusative and infinitive
Accusative and infinitive
In grammar, accusative and infinitive is the name for a syntactic construction of Latin and Greek, also found in various forms in other languages such as English and Spanish. In this construction, the subject of a subordinate clause is put in the accusative case and the verb appears in the...

 (ACI) construction possible. To construct it, one places a certain infinitive behind the last infinitive, then adds an accusative object before the inner complex infinitive. This can be done in two ways:
  • Simple ACI
    • Subject – Verb – Object – Infinitive: "Ich sehe dich stolzieren" I see you strutting
  • Complex ACI
    • Subject – Verb – Object – Compound infinitive: "Ich lasse dich ein Haus bauen" I let you build a house

The Infinitive with zu

The infinitive with zu has nothing to do with the gerundive, although it is created in a similar way. One simply puts the word zu before the infinitive, perhaps before the permanent prefix, but after the separable prefix.
zu lesen ("to read")
Ich lerne zu lesen ("I learn to read")
zu verlassen ("to leave")
Ich habe beschlossen, dich zu verlassen ("I've decided to leave you")
wegzuwerfen ("to throw away")
Ich habe beschlossen, das Buch wegzuwerfen ("I've decided to throw away the book")

The infinitive with zu extended with um expresses purpose (in order to...). The subject of the main clause and the verb in the infinitive must be identical.
Ich habe ein Meer überquert, um dich zu treffen – "I have crossed an ocean to meet you."


There are three persons, two numbers and four moods (indicative, conditional
Conditional mood
In linguistics, the conditional mood is the inflectional form of the verb used in the independent clause of a conditional sentence to refer to a hypothetical state of affairs, or an uncertain event, that is contingent on another set of circumstances...

, imperative and subjunctive) to consider in conjugation
Grammatical conjugation
In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection . Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, voice, or other grammatical categories...

. There are six tenses in German: the present and past are conjugated, and there are four compound tenses. There are two categories of verbs in German: weak and strong. Some grammars use the term mixed verbs to refer to weak verbs with irregularities. For a historical perspective on German verbs, see Germanic weak verb
Germanic weak verb
In Germanic languages, including English, weak verbs are by far the largest group of verbs, which are therefore often regarded as the norm, though historically they are not the oldest or most original group.-General description:...

 and Germanic strong verb
Germanic strong verb
In the Germanic languages, a strong verb is one which marks its past tense by means of ablaut. In English, these are verbs like sing, sang, sung...


Below, the weak verb kaufen 'to buy' and the strong verb singen "to sing" are conjugated.
  Weak verbs Strong verbs
ich kaufe kaufte singe sang
du kaufst kauftest singst sangst
er kauft kaufte singt sang
wir kaufen kauften singen sangen
ihr kauft kauftet singt sangt
sie kaufen kauften singen sangen

Conditional endings (except for sein "to be")
  • All tenses and verbs: -e, -est, -e, -en, -et, -en

sein "to be" is irregular in the conditional mood
  • Present conditional: sei, seist, sei, seien, sei(e)t, seien
  • Past conditional: wäre, wärst, wäre, wären, wär(e)t, wären

The (e)s are inserted when the stem of the verb ends in:
-chn -d, -dn, -fn, -gn, -t, -tm

The second person singular ending is -t for verbs whose stems end in:
-s, -ß, -x, -z

beten "to pray": weak transitive verb
  • Past Participle: gebetet
  • Present: bete, betest, betet, beten, betet, beten
  • Past: betete, betetest, betete, beteten, betetet, beteten

singen "to sing": strong transitive verb
  • Past Participle: gesungen
  • Present: singe, singst, singt, singen, singt, singen
  • Past: sang, sangst, sang, sangen, sangt, sangen

Some strong verbs change their stem vowel in the second and third person singular of the indicative mood of the present tense.

lesen "to read": strong transitive verb
  • Past Participle: gelesen
  • Present: lese, liest, liest, lesen, lest, lesen
  • Past: las, last, las, lasen, last, lasen

The other tenses are described in the Sentences section, because they include construction of sentences.

Auxiliary verbs

werden "to become" (strong)
Present Past
ich werde wurde
du wirst wurdest
er wird wurde
wir werden wurden
ihr werdet wurdet
sie werden wurden
  • Past participle: geworden

haben "to have" (mixed)

Compare the archaic English
Early Modern English
Early Modern English is the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period to 1650. Thus, the first edition of the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare both belong to the late phase of Early Modern English...

Present Past Present Past
ich habe hatte I have had
du hast hattest thou hast hadst
er hat hatte he hath had
wir haben hatten we have had
ihr habt hattet you have had
sie haben hatten they have had

  • Past participle: gehabt

sein "to be" (strong)
Present Past
ich bin war
du bist warst
er ist war
wir sind waren
ihr seid wart
sie sind waren
  • Past participle: gewesen

Modal verbs

  • müssen "to be required; must"
  • sollen "to be supposed to; should"
  • wollen "to want (with resolve)"
  • mögen "to like"
  • können "to be able; can; to be possible"
  • dürfen "to be allowed; may"

Modal verbs are inflected irregularly. In the present tense, they use the endings of the strong verbs. In the past tense, they use the endings of the weak verbs. In addition, most modal verbs have a change of vowel in the singular.
müssen sollen wollen mögen können dürfen
Present Past Present Past Present Past Present Past Present Past Present Past
ich muss musste soll sollte will wollte mag mochte kann konnte darf durfte
du musst musstest sollst solltest willst wolltest magst mochtest kannst konntest darfst durftest
er muss musste soll sollte will wollte mag mochte kann konnte darf durfte
wir müssen mussten sollen sollten wollen wollten mögen mochten können konnten dürfen durften
ihr müsst musstet sollt solltet wollt wolltet mögt mochtet könnt konntet dürft durftet
sie müssen mussten sollen sollten wollen wollten mögen mochten können konnten dürfen durften

When a modal verb is in use, the main verb is moved to the end of the sentence.

For example:

Ich kann das Auto fahren. ("I can drive the car.")
Ich soll die Karten kaufen. ("I'm supposed to buy the cards.")
Er muss der Mutter danken. ("He must thank the mother.") Note: danken is a dative verb which is why die Mutter becomes der Mutter. For further information, please read the section about Dative verbs.

Dative verbs

Some verbs are dative verbs. When used, these verbs change the case of the direct object to dative. Many have in common that they change the direct object. Dative verbs include (but are not limited to):

Reflexive verbs

Some verbs require the use of a reflexive pronoun
Reflexive pronoun
A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that is preceded by the noun, adjective, adverb or pronoun to which it refers within the same clause. In generative grammar, a reflexive pronoun is an anaphor that must be bound by its antecedent...

. These verbs are known as reflexive verbs. In English, these are often slightly modified versions of non-reflexive verbs, such as "to sit oneself down".

Imperative conjugation

There is an imperative for second person singular and second person plural, as well as for first person plural and second person formal.

The endings for second person singular informal are: -(e), -el or -le, and -er(e).

The endings for second person plural informal are: -(e)t, -elt, and -ert.
Fahren (wir/Sie)!Fahr(e)!Fahrt!

The imperative of first person plural and second person formal is identical to to the infinitive.

This subtopic is strongly related to the construction of German sentences
German sentence structure
German sentence structure is somewhat more complex than that of many other European languages, with phrases regularly inverted for both questions and subordinate phrases.-Main Sentence:...


Verbal nouns and verbal adjectives

This section details the construction of verbal noun
Verbal noun
In linguistics, the verbal noun turns a verb into a noun and corresponds to the infinitive in English language usage. In English the infinitive form of the verb is formed when preceded by to, e.g...

s and verbal adjectives from the main infinitive. The processes are the same both for simple and complex infinitives. For complex infinitives, adverbial phrases and object phrases are ignored, they do not affect this process; except something else is mentioned.

Past participle

There are some irregularities when creating the past participle form.

Weak verbs form their past participles with ge- plus the third person singular form of the verb.
  • fragen (er fragt) → gefragt
  • passen (es passt) → gepasst
  • antworten (er antwortet) → geantwortet
  • hören (er hört) → gehört
  • fühlen (er fühlt) → gefühlt

Verbs with inseparable prefixes, or foreign words ending in -ieren or -eien do not have ge- added to the verb.
  • probieren (er probiert) → probiert
  • prophezeien (er prophezeit) → prophezeit

For irregular verbs, the infinitive ending -en remains.
  • gelaufen
  • gegeben
  • gegangen
  • geworfen

The separable prefix remains in place.
  • weggetragen
  • umverteilt

NOTE Ich habe den Baum umgefahren (I drove over – crashed into – the tree)
NOTE Ich habe den Baum umfahren (I drove around the tree)

The past participles of modal and auxiliary verbs have the same form as their infinitives. But if these verbs are used alone, without an infinitive, they have a regular participle.
Ich habe den Chef besuchen dürfen (Chef = boss) (I was allowed to see the boss)
Ich habe zum Chef gedurft (unusual) (I was allowed in to the boss)

Present participle

To create the basic form of a present participle, you attach the suffix -d to the infinitive of the verb.
laufenlaufend ("walk" – "walking")
töpferntöpfernd ("make pottery" – "making pottery")
lächelnlächelnd ("smile" – "smiling")
verratenverratend ("betray" – "betraying")
aufbauenaufbauend ("establish" – "establishing")

Future participle or gerundive

A gerundive-like construction is fairly complicated to use. The basic form is created by putting the word zu before the infinitive. This is also the adverb.
zu suchen ("to be looked for")
Der Schlüssel ist zu suchen ("the key needs to be looked for")
zu verzeichnen ("to be recorded")
Ein Trend ist zu verzeichnen ("A trend is to be recorded")

The adjective is more complicated. Instead of the infinitive, one uses the present participle, and then declines it corresponding to gender, number, case and article of the nominal phrase.
Der zu suchende Schlüssel ("the key to be looked for")
Ein zu lüftendes Geheimnis ("a secret to be revealed")

Agent nouns

Agent noun
Agent noun
In linguistics, an agent noun is a word that is derived from another word denoting an action, and that identifies an entity that does that action. For example, "driver" is an agent noun formed from the verb "drive". The endings "-er", "-or", and "-ist" are commonly used in English to form agent...

s (e.g. photographer from photograph in English) are constructed by taking the infinitive, removing the ending and replacing it by -er, -ler or -er(er). If the person is a woman, the endings have an extra -in on them. Please note that in the feminine form a second syllable er is omitted, if the infinitive ends on ern or eren.
  • infinitive: fahren "to drive"
    • agent noun, masculine: Der Fahrer "the (male) driver"
    • agent noun, feminine: Die Fahrerin "the (female) driver"

  • infinitive: tischlern "to join (carpentry)"
    • agent noun, masculine: Der Tischler "the (male) joiner"
    • agent noun, feminine: Die Tischlerin "the (female) joiner"

  • infinitive: verweigern "to refuse"
    • agent noun, masculine: Der Verweigerer "the (male) refuser"
    • agent noun, feminine: Die Verweigerin "the (female) refuser"

This form is hard to build for complex infinitives, therefore it is unusual:
  • infinitive: weggehen "to go away"

does not usually become der Weggeher or die Weggeherin, but instead Derjenige, der weggeht ("the one going away")

or even

schnell zum Flughafen fahren um die Maschine noch zu erwischen ("to quickly drive to the airport to just catch the flight")
  • does not become: Der Schnell-zum-Flughafen-um-die-Maschine-noch-zu-erwischen-Fahrer ("the quickly-driving-to-the-airport-to-catch-the-flight-driver")


The normal gerund noun is generally the same word as the infinitive. The gerund does not have a plural, and its gender is neuter.
arbeitenDas Arbeiten ("to work" – "working")
NOTE Die Arbeiten is not the feminine plural of the gerund Arbeiten,
it is the plural of Die Arbeit.

There is another kind of gerund that (sometimes) implies disapproval of the action. The ending of this form is -erei ( -lerei or erei ). It does not have a plural, and its gender is feminine.
arbeitenDie Arbeiterei ("to work" – "this silly working")
laufenDie Lauferei ("to run" – "this silly running")

The above form means a loose, vague abstractum of the verb's meaning. It is also often used to designate a whole trade, discipline or industry:
die Meierei – (once) "a milk-processing enterprise"

Cf. also Hitlerei, Fleischerei (butcher's establishment) which do not spring from verbs.

Similar to the form presented above, one may place the prefix ge- (after the separable prefix), if the verb doesn't have a permanent prefix, and then attach the ending -e ( -el, -er ). This noun indicates the same disapproval as the other one. It is a singularetantum, too, and it is neuter.
fahrenDas Gefahre ("to drive" – "silly driving")
laufenDas Gelaufe ("running" – "silly running")

These forms are very hard to build for complex infinitives; therefore they are very unusual. When they occur, all object phrases and adverbial phrases are put before the gerund noun.
gesehen werdenDas Gesehen-Werden ("to be seen" – "being seen")


Although there are six tenses in German, only two are simple; the others are compound and therefore build on the simple constructions. The tenses are quite similar to English constructions.

Grammatical conjugation
In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection . Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, voice, or other grammatical categories...

 includes three persons, two numbers, two moods and two tenses. The subjunctive mood is quite complicated to build; even many native speakers have problems with that matter.
English native speakers should note that these tenses do not carry aspect information. There are no progressive tenses in standard German. Das Mädchen geht zur Schule may mean "The girl goes to school" as well as "The girl is going to school". A sentence like Das Mädchen ist zur Schule gehend is still – theoretically – correct, but nobody speaks this way (by the way, Das Mädchen ist gehend zur Schule is completely wrong). One must use an adverb
An adverb is a part of speech that modifies verbs or any part of speech other than a noun . Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives , clauses, sentences, and other adverbs....

 to make a visible difference aside from the context. In colloquial German, there does exist a progressive form, but it is only used with intransitive verb
Intransitive verb
In grammar, an intransitive verb is a verb that has no object. This differs from a transitive verb, which takes one or more objects. Both classes of verb are related to the concept of the transitivity of a verb....

s, for example, am Essen sein meaning "to be eating".
  • Present
    Present tense
    The present tense is a grammatical tense that locates a situation or event in present time. This linguistic definition refers to a concept that indicates a feature of the meaning of a verb...

     (Präsens) – It is the present-conjugated form of the infinitive. It is the most important tense in German. The Present tense is mainly used for present progressive, as well as for historical past. It is also very common to use it with a future meaning.
    Example: Ich kaufe das Auto. ("I buy the car")
  • Preterite
    The preterite is the grammatical tense expressing actions that took place or were completed in the past...

     (Präteritum) – It is the past-conjugated form of the infinitive. This past tense is mainly for written German and formal speech.
    Example: Ich kaufte das Auto. ("I bought the car")
  • Perfect (Perfekt) – It is the present-conjugated form of the perfect infinitive. The most important tense in spoken German to explain what happened in the past. Note that to express things like I have been waiting for 3 hours now, present tense is used: Ich warte jetzt schon seit 3 Stunden hier (literally, I wait now already since 3 hours here).
    Example: Ich habe das Auto gekauft. ("I (have) bought the car")
  • Pluperfect / past perfect (Plusquamperfekt) – It is the past-conjugated form of the perfect infinitive. It can be thought of the perfect form of the Preterite. Used to describe what had already happened in the past.
    Example: Ich hatte das Auto gekauft. ("I had bought the car")
  • Future
    Future tense
    In grammar, a future tense is a verb form that marks the event described by the verb as not having happened yet, but expected to happen in the future , or to happen subsequent to some other event, whether that is past, present, or future .-Expressions of future tense:The concept of the future,...

     (Futur I) – It is the present-conjugated form of the future infinitive. Mainly for describing the future, but also for assumptions. This tense is used in spoken and written German, but Germans prefer the Präsens with future meaning instead.
    Example: Ich werde das Auto kaufen. ("I will buy the car")
  • Future perfect
    Future Perfect
    -Album Credits:*Produced by T-Bone Burnett*All Songs Written by Autolux*Engineered by Mike Piersante*Mixed by Dave Sardy*Mastered by Stephen Marcussen *Artwork by Carla Azar-Vinyl releases:...

    (Futur II) – It is the present-conjugated form of the future infinitive of the perfect infinitive. Used to refer to things that will have happened, that is be past, in the future. This tense is not really common German. Usually, perfect is used instead.
    Example: Ich werde das Auto gekauft haben. ("I'll have bought the car")

In the third person singular and plural conjugations future perfect can also be used to express an assumption and refers to something that is assumed to have happened in the past.
Er wird das Auto gekauft haben ("He'll (surely) have bought the car")
Sie werden das Auto gekauft haben ("They'll (surely) have bought the car")

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