German Grammar Exercises

There are more verb endings in German than in English, and these verb endings are often repeated. Like most European languages, German has a different ending for every subject or “person”. So, in German, “I play” becomes “ich spiele”, “You Play” is “du spielst”, and “he/she/it plays” becomes “er/sie/es spielt”. In the plural, most verbs, except in the 2nd person ends with “en”, as in “wir spielen (we play)” and “ihr spielt (You play)”. Learning this pattern for a verb makes it easier to learn the pattern for all regular German verbs.

To explain it more clearly, in order to form the present tense and conjugate verbs in German, we first have to identify the stem by removing the suffix “en”, which occurs on almost all infinitives. For example, to conjugate the verb “spielen”, we take out the stem by removing the suffix = “spiel”. So, according to person and number, we add the ending, as in “ich spiele”, “wir spielen”, and so on. Whenever a stem ends with a sibilant – s, z, tz, ß, ss – “t” is added to the singular second person. When it ends with d, t, or consonant + n (except in r + n), “est” is added in the second person singular, while “et” is added for the singular third person and plural second person.

The above examples of conjugation of the present tense in German apply only to regular/weak verbs. In strong/irregular verbs, the stem endings follow a different pattern. For example, the verb “essen (to eat)”, when conjugated becomes “ich esse (I eat), “er/sie/es isst (he/she/it eats)”, “wir essen (we eat), “ihr esst (you eat – plural)”, and “Sie essen (you eat – formal form).

Just like the French verbs “être (to be)” and “avoir (to have)”, referred to as auxilliaries (such as to have, will, would, shall, should, can, could, in English), play a special role in French, the German “sein (to be)” and “haben (to have)” also follow an unpredictable pattern. For example,

• Conjugation of “haben” becomes “ich habe (I have)”, “du hast (you have – informal)”, “er/sie/es hat (he/she/it has)”, “wir haben (we have), “ihr habt (you have – plural)”, “Sie haben (they have), and “Sie haben (you haben – formal form).

• And for “sein”, “ich bin (I am)”, “du bist (you are – informal)”, “er/sie/es ist (he/she/it is)”, “wir sind (we are), “ihr seid (you are – plural)”, “Sie sind (they are), and “Sie haben (you sind – formal form).

You can see that the suffixes for “we”, “they” and the formal “you” are the same, and that the different forms of the verb “sein (to be)” are used in accordance with whom and what you’re talking about.