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Using the Verb
Auxiliary Verbs
Strong and Irregular Verbs
Inseperable and Seperable Verbs
Modal Auxiliaries
The Subjunctive and Imperative
Conjugating Weak Verbs

Some Terms | Infinitive | Verb Stem | Past Participle | What Verbs Do | Simple Tense | Compound Tense | Present Tense | Simple Past Tense | Perfect Tense | Future Tense | Conditional Tense | Pluperfect Tense

This section focuses on the conjugation of the weak verb. In German as in English there are weak, strong, and irregular verbs. The conjugation of a verb is how you make it fit the subject. In English the verb to run would be said I run, He runs. As you can see the verb changes which is what conjugation is.
First of all we must get aquainted with some terms:
The form that you find in a dictionary is the infinitive. In English this appears with to infront of it:
kaufen - to buy
füllen - to fill
The infinitive usually ends in -en but can also end in -eln, -ieren and -ern:
lächeln - to smile
studieren - to study
flüstern - to whisper
Another term is the stem of the verb which comes before the infinitive ending. Other endings are added to this to form other parts of speech:
The past participle is formed by adding a ge- prefix and an -(e)t suffix to the stem of the verb:
Examples: gelebt, gekauft, gewartet, geredet.

Note: Verb stems ending in -d, -t, -chn, -ckn, -dn, -fn, -gn, or -tm keep an e between the stem and the t ending:
Verbs ending in -ieren do not get a ge- prefix:
Verbs indicate what is happening by who or what, and also when - present, past or future, and sometimes if something might happen, ex: I should die if that happened to me. All of these endings are tenses. There are two kinds of tenses:
Simple Tenses: the verb is only one word: I fill, I filled
Compound Tenses: need an additional verb which is called an auxiliary verb which can also function on its own: I have filled, I had filled
Present Tense: (I live, you live, etc...)
To form the present tense endings are added onto the verb stem:
leben - to live warten - to wait
ich lebe I live ich warte I wait
du lebst you live du wartest you wait
er/sie/es lebt he/she/it lives er/sie/es wartet he/she/it waits
wir leben we live wir warten we wait
ihr lebt you live ihr wartet you wait
sie leben they live sie warten they wait
Sie leben you live Sie warten you wait

Verb stems ending in -d, -t, -chn, -ckn, -dn, -fn, -gn, or -tm keep the e in the third person singular and second person plural and singular. See warten as an example.

Unlike English there is only one form of present tense. I live and I am living would both be Ich lebe.
Simple Past Tense: (I lived, you lived, etc...)
This form is also known as the imperfect tense. This one is formed by adding a t to the present tense:
leben - to live warten - to wait
ich lebte I lived ich wartete I waited
du lebtest you lived du wartetest you waited
er/sie/es lebte he/she/it lived er/sie/es wartete he/she/it waited
wir lebten we lived wir warteten we waited
ihr lebtet you lived ihr wartetet you waited
sie lebten they lived sie warteten they waited
Sie lebten you lived Sie warteten you waited

This is not only used to describe completed actions but also continuing or unfinished actions:
Ich wartete schon, als sie kam. - I was already waiting when she came.
It corresponds with a number of English equivalents. Note how the one German sentence has four English equivalents:
Das Kind spielte, während seine Eltern redeten. - The child played while his parents talked./ The child played while his parents were talking./ The child was playing while his parents talked./ The child was playing while his parents were talking.
Perfect Tense: (I have lived, you have lived, etc...)
This tense is formed by using the present tense of haben as an auxilliary verb and the past participle of the verb:
leben - to live warten - to wait
ich habe gelebt I have lived ich habe gewartet I have waited
du hast gelebt you have lived du hast gewartet you have waited
er/sie/es hat gelebt he/she/it has lived er/sie/es hat gewartet he/she/it has waited
wir haben gelebt we have lived wir haben gewartet we have waited
ihr habt gelebt you have lived ihr habt gewartet you have waited
sie haben gelebt they have lived sie haben gewartet they have waited
Sie haben gelebt you have lived Sie haben gewartet you have waited

In a sentence with a perfect the tense the past participle is sent to the end of the sentence or clause.
Ich habe es ihr gestern abend gesagt. - I told her so yesterday evening.
Ich habe Ihnen das Buch letzte Woche geschickt. - I sent you the book last week.
Future Tense: (I shall live, you will live, etc...)
This form uses the present tense of werden as an auxilliary verb with the infinitive:
leben - to live warten - to wait
ich werde leben I shall live ich werde warten I shall wait
du wirst leben you will live du wirst warten you will wait
er/sie/es wird leben he/she/it will live er/sie/es wird warten he/she/it will wait
wir werden leben we shall live wir werden warten we shall wait
ihr werdet leben you will live ihr werdet warten you will wait
sie werden leben they will live sie werden warten they will wait
Sie werden leben you will wait Sie werden warten you will wait

The infinitive goes to the end of the sentence:
Ich werde dich morgen sehen. - I shall see you tomorrow.
Although it is worth noting that German often renders a future meaning with a present form:
Ich rufe dich gleich wieder. - I'll ring/call you right back.
Ich bin um 2 Uhr wieder da. - I'll be back at two.
Conditional Tense: (I should live, you would live, etc...)
This form uses another tense of werden as an auxiliary verb with the infinitive:
leben - to live warten - to wait
ich würde leben I should live ich würde warten I should wait
du würdest leben you would live du würdest warten you would wait
er/sie/es würdet leben he/she/it would live er/sie/es würdet warten he/she/it would wait
wir würden leben we should live wir würden warten we should wait
ihr würdet leben you would live ihr würdet warten you would wait
sie würden leben they would live sie würden warten they would wait
Sie würden leben you would wait Sie würden warten you would wait

Again as with the perfect and future the infinitive goes to the end of the sentence:
Ich würde lieber zu Hause bleiben. - I should rather stay at home.
Pluperfect Tense: (I had lived, you had lived, etc...)
This form uses the simple past of the verb haben as an auxiliary verb with the past participle:
leben - to live warten - to wait
ich hatte gelebt I had lived ich hatte gewartet I had waited
du hattest gelebt you had lived du hattest gewartet you had waited
er/sie/es hatte gelebt he/she/it had lived er/sie/es hatte gewartet he/she/it had waited
wir hatten gelebt we had lived wir hatten gewartet we had waited
ihr hattet gelebt you had lived ihr hattet gewartet you had waited
sie hatten gelebt they had lived sie hatten gewartet they had waited
Sie hatten gelebt you had lived Sie hatten gewartet you had waited

The pluperfect is used to describe an action that is completed before another action has begun:
Ich hatte schon hunderte von Briefmarken gekauft, als er mir seine Sammlung schenkte. - I had already bought hundreds of stamps when he presented me with his collection.
Er hatte die Arbeit gemacht, aber der Alte hat nie bezahlt. - He had done the work, but the old man never paid.
Lesson Twelve - Using the Verb -->