Everything about German Verbs
Verbs are the most important part of learning German. Learn More.

Learn the German Present Tense

The Present Tense (or das Präsens in German) is easily the most important verb tense to learn. It is very similar to the present tense in English. It is a fully conjugated tense, which means that you will need to remember how an individual verb is conjugated to use it properly. Luckily, German follows a lot of highly regular patterns that should make things easy for those new to the German language.

When to use the German Present Tense

  1. Actions occurring now.
    • Er rennt schnell. — He runs fast.
  2. Actions occurring in the near future (this happens in English too, just less often).
    • Wir gehen morgen. — We will go tomorrow.
  3. Actions that are continuous and ongoing.
    • Ich esse Fisch. — I am eating fish. (like right this instant)

Regular Verbs

In German, the regular verbs all follow a very predictable pattern. Simply remove the -en or -n ending and add one of the following six endings:

Examples of sagen (-en ending) and handeln (-n ending)

 say 
sagen volume_up volume_up
ichsage volume_up volume_up
dusagst volume_up volume_up
ersagt volume_up volume_up
wirsagen volume_up volume_up
ihrsagt volume_up volume_up
siesagen volume_up volume_up
 trade 
handeln volume_up volume_up
ichhandele volume_up volume_up
duhandelst volume_up volume_up
erhandelt volume_up volume_up
wirhandeln volume_up volume_up
ihrhandelt volume_up volume_up
siehandeln volume_up volume_up

Some verbs will follow the regular pattern but add an extra -e- between the root and the ending to make the second and third person conjugations easier to pronounce (while annoying to remember this is really helpful when speaking!)

 find 
finden volume_up volume_up
ichfinde volume_up volume_up
dufindest volume_up volume_up
erfindet volume_up volume_up
wirfinden volume_up volume_up
ihrfindet volume_up volume_up
siefinden volume_up volume_up

Another class of regular verbs drops the s in the second person to make it easier to spell or pronounce. Here’s a good example (if you think about it, not dropping the s on a verb like this would be pretty stupid)

 have a name 
heißen volume_up volume_up
ichheiße volume_up volume_up
duheißt volume_up volume_up
erheißt volume_up volume_up
wirheißen volume_up volume_up
ihrheißt volume_up volume_up
sieheißen volume_up volume_up

Irregular verbs

The key irregular verbs to remember are the auxiliary verbs.

Auxiliary Verbs conjugated in the Present Tense in German

 be 
sein volume_up volume_up
ichbin volume_up volume_up
dubist volume_up volume_up
erist volume_up volume_up
wirsind volume_up volume_up
ihrseid volume_up volume_up
siesind volume_up volume_up
 have 
haben volume_up volume_up
ichhabe volume_up volume_up
duhast volume_up volume_up
erhat volume_up volume_up
wirhaben volume_up volume_up
ihrhabt volume_up volume_up
siehaben volume_up volume_up
 will 
werden volume_up volume_up
ichwerde volume_up volume_up
duwirst volume_up volume_up
erwird volume_up volume_up
wirwerden volume_up volume_up
ihrwerdet volume_up volume_up
siewerden volume_up volume_up

Of these verbs the pattern seen with haben is repeated for many other verbs where there is a simple vowel change in the second and third person.

Examples of vowel change verbs conjugated in the Present Tense in German

 see 
sehen volume_up volume_up
ichsehe volume_up volume_up
dusiehst volume_up volume_up
ersieht volume_up volume_up
wirsehen volume_up volume_up
ihrseht volume_up volume_up
siesehen volume_up volume_up
 speak 
sprechen volume_up volume_up
ichspreche volume_up volume_up
dusprichst volume_up volume_up
erspricht volume_up volume_up
wirsprechen volume_up volume_up
ihrsprecht volume_up volume_up
siesprechen volume_up volume_up
 hold 
halten volume_up volume_up
ichhalte volume_up volume_up
duhältst volume_up volume_up
erhält volume_up volume_up
wirhalten volume_up volume_up
ihrhaltet volume_up volume_up
siehalten volume_up volume_up

The final group of irregular verbs that you should remember are the modal verbs. These are some of the most important and most used verbs in German. Luckily, they all follow the same pattern.

Modal Verbs conjugated in the Present Tense in German

 be able 
können volume_up volume_up
ichkann volume_up volume_up
dukannst volume_up volume_up
erkann volume_up volume_up
wirkönnen volume_up volume_up
ihrkönnt volume_up volume_up
siekönnen volume_up volume_up
 should 
sollen volume_up volume_up
ichsoll volume_up volume_up
dusollst volume_up volume_up
ersoll volume_up volume_up
wirsollen volume_up volume_up
ihrsollt volume_up volume_up
siesollen volume_up volume_up
 want 
wollen volume_up volume_up
ichwill volume_up volume_up
duwillst volume_up volume_up
erwill volume_up volume_up
wirwollen volume_up volume_up
ihrwollt volume_up volume_up
siewollen volume_up volume_up
 have to 
müssen volume_up volume_up
ichmuss volume_up volume_up
dumusst volume_up volume_up
ermuss volume_up volume_up
wirmüssen volume_up volume_up
ihrmüsst volume_up volume_up
siemüssen volume_up volume_up
 be allowed 
dürfen volume_up volume_up
ichdarf volume_up volume_up
dudarfst volume_up volume_up
erdarf volume_up volume_up
wirdürfen volume_up volume_up
ihrdürft volume_up volume_up
siedürfen volume_up volume_up
 like 
mögen volume_up volume_up
ichmag volume_up volume_up
dumagst volume_up volume_up
ermag volume_up volume_up
wirmögen volume_up volume_up
ihrmögt volume_up volume_up
siemögen volume_up volume_up

Speaking in the Present Tense

Germans typically drop the “e” at the end of the present tense verbs whenever they are speaking in the first person, especially in informal settings. So instead of “Ich habe hunger.” → I am Hungry. You would say “Ich hab hunger.” (notice the missing “e”)

References

  1. The Present Tense (das Präsens) - dartmouth.edu
  2. The Present Tense in German (Präsens) - germanveryeasy.com
  3. The Present & Preterite Tenses - germanforenglishspeakers.com