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German has regular (also called weak) verbs and irregular (strong) verbs. Regular verbs follow the same pattern, whereas irregular verbs are conjugated differently. Luckily for everyone, most verbs are regular, meaning that you only need to memorise their pattern to know how to conjugate most of them!
Note: for brevity, we will only focus on the present tense.
Regular verbs follow the same pattern, which can be seen on the table below.
As you can see, conjugating is quite simple. You take the infinitive, cut off the verb to its stem and then add the ending appropriate to its subject. The red letter is what you should add to conjugate the verb.
However, there are some exceptions. The table below shows which ending you have to add depending on the the infinitive’s ending (at the top of the table).
You can still see the pattern, even if there are some minor differences. Learning this will help you conjugate verbs easily.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way around irregular verbs. You have to study and memorise them. Once you study German for a while, you will realise that the conjugations “make sense” and sound right, so conjugations may become intuitive. Until you reach that point, you will have to study hard.
So how do you make these endings stick to your head? There is no magical way of learning conjugations; you just have to dedicate it some time and effort. Regardless, there are many things you could (and should) be doing.
For example, say out loud the conjugations as you study them. Yes, it may be strange for your parents to hear you randomly shout “ich lerne” , but speaking out loud helps you memorise what you study – plus you practise your pronunciation too.
Another way to help you memorise is to write the conjugated verbs over and over again. If you do this, make sure you write the conjugated ending in a different colour so it stands out when you read it over. It is a tedious task, but it will help you memorise your conjugations quickly.
Finally, you might have noticed that English and German are sometimes very similar. This is because the two languages are related. You can use this to your advantage; if you are struggling with German, think of how what you want to say sounds in English and germanise it. This can be applied to most aspects of German grammar. However, be careful when you do this, and do not abuse it. A lot of times it will not be useful, and some words are false friends and mean different things in either language. Use your knowledge of English to help you memorise and learn, but do not rely on it to learn German.
German is difficult, but a very interesting language to learn too, so keep up the hard work and enjoy the course.