Verb is a part of speech that expresses an activity, state or a process. The verbs are written in lower-case and are conjugated for persons and numbers. They are also used in various tenses and moods e.g. present/future/past tense, subjunctive/imperative mood.

Most often the verb is placed at the second position in the sentence, except for if there are other verbs in the sentence or the sentence is a subordinate clause, in which case the word order depends on the other parts of the sentence.

Construction and groups of verbs

Verbs are written in lower case
  • Translation
  • Jan is going to school.
  • Translation
  • I wrote you a message.
Conjugation of the verb for person and number

The base (unconjugated) form of the verb is the infinitive (Infinitiv). In order to conjugate a verb for person, an appropriate suffix has to be added to the verb stem. The example shows the conjugation of the verb gehen (the verb stem is geh).

Person gehen (Präsens)
ich gehe
du gehst
er/sie/es geht
wir gehen
ihr geht
sie/Sie gehen
Division of verbs into groups

It is also common to divide the verbs into the following groups (a verb may belong to more than one of the following groups):

  • infinitive (Infinitiv)
  • full verb (Vollverb)
  • auxiliary verb (Hilfsverb)
  • modal verb (Modalverb)
  • Present participle (Partizip I/Partizip Präsens)
  • Past participle (Partizip II/Partizip Perfekt)
  • regular verbs (schwache Verben)
  • strong verbs (starke Veben)
  • irregular verbs (unregelmäßige Verben)
  • [in]transitive verbs ([in]transitive Verben)
  • reflexive verbs (reflexive Verben)
  • reciprocal verbs (reziproke Verben)
  • [in]separable verbs ([nicht] trennbare Verben)
Infinitive (Infinitiv)

A verb in its base, unconjugated form (most often used in sentences with more than one verb and in that case it is placed at the end of the sentence).

  • Translation
  • Wolfgang has to study today.
  • Translation
  • We want to go on vacation together.
  • Translation
  • I am going to sleep soon.
Main verb (Vollverb)

Verb that can appear in a sentence on its own.

  • Translation
  • I am jogging.
Auxiliary verb (Hilfsverb)

Verb used together with another verb in order to build a sentence in a given tense or mood (e.g. in the past tense or in the passive voice). There are three auxiliary verbs in German: haben, sein, werden.

  • Translation
  • Lisa bought a new bike.
  • Explanation
  • The auxiliary verb haben.
  • Translation
  • We went home early.
  • Explanation
  • The auxiliary verb sein.
  • Translation
  • Your order is being processed.
  • Explanation
  • The auxiliary verb werden in a passive sentence.

Modal verbs almost always appears in a sentence with another verb. It can be used on its own, but it rarely happens and it would have to be used in some context, e.g. as a reference to the previous sentence. These are the modal verbs: dürfen, können, mögen, wollen, sollen, müssen .

  • Translation
  • I want to eat a pizza.
  • Translation
  • 🤔 Can I smoke here? 👉 No, you can't.
  • Explanation
  • In the answer, the verb dürfen is on its own but it refers to the question. Otherwise "You cannot" on its own wouldn't make much sense.
Present participle (Partizip I/Partizip Präsens)

Verb form with the suffix -d appended to the infinitive. It expresses an activity being performed during which another activity is performed. The Partizip I describes under what circumstances the latter activity was performed.

  • Translation
  • She left the room crying.
Past participle (Partizip II/Partizip Perfekt)

Verb form used to build sentences in certain tenses/moods, e.g. in the past tense Perfekt and in the passive voice. For regular verbs, the form of the Partizip II is created by adding the prefix ge- and the suffix -t to the verb's base.

  • Translation
  • She baked an apple strudel.
Regular verbs (schwache Verben)

Verbs that have an regular form in the following tenses: Präteritum (verb's base + -te) and Perfekt (the form of Partizip II is regular: ge- + verb stem + -t) e.g. machen - machte - gemacht.

If the base of the verb begins with a prefix which doesn't get the prefix ge- in the Paritizip II but apart from that the conjugation is regular, then the verb is also consider to be regular e.g. besuchen - besuchte - besucht.

  • Translation
  • I lived in Berlin for two years.
Strong verbs (starke Veben)

Verbs that technically have an irregular conjugation, but it is "less irregular". Their Partizip II form ends with -en instead of ending with -t and their Präteritum form is irregular. Most often their forms of Präteritum, Partizip II require a change of one or two letters in the verb stem e.g. (a 👉 u, ie 👉 ei). fahren - fuhr - gefahren or bleiben - blieb - geblieben. Additionally, sometimes in the tense Präsens in the third person singular (er/sie/es) an umlaut is added to the verb e.g. fahren - er fährt.

  • Translation
  • I washed the sheets.
Irregular verbs (unregelmäßige Verben)

Verbs that have an irregular tense form Präteritum and an irregular participle Partizip II.

  • Translation
  • Yesterday I was at birthday party.
[in]transitive verbs ([in]transitive Verben)

Transitive verbs are those that can refer to the accusative object (Akkusativobjekt). They can be used to build a sentence with the passive voice. On the other hand, intransitive verbs are those that cannot refer to an object in the the accusative case Akkusativ and cannot form the passive voice.

  • Translation
  • I am eating a hamburger (Passive: The hamburger is being eaten by me.)
  • Explanation
  • The verb essen (to eat) is transitive.
  • Translation
  • I am ill. (Passive: not possible)
  • Explanation
  • The verb sein (to be) is intransitive.
Reflexive verbs (reflexive Verben)

In German, reflexive verbs are those with the reflexive pronoun sich (oneself), which is inflected together with the verb for person.

  • Translation
  • I am happy with the gift.
Reciprocal verbs (reziproke Verben)

Verbs describing mutual actions. They can be used with the reflexive pronoun sich or with the reciprocal pronoun einander (each other).

  • Translation
  • Joachim and Lara love each other.
[in]separable verbs ([nicht] trennbare Verben)

Separable verbs have a prefix which can be separated from the verb stem and usually moves to the end of the sentence (it is also important to place the prefix of a separable verb correctly in its Partizip II form). When it comes to inseparable verbs, they also have a prefix but it cannot be separate from the verb stem.

  • Translation
  • I am signing a lease.
  • Explanation
  • The verb unterschreiben has a prefix unter, but it is inseparable, so the prefix stays together with the verb stem.
  • Translation
  • The train leaves at eight.
  • Explanation
  • The verb ab|fahren has the prefix ab, which is separated from the verb's base and is placed at the end of the sentence.
  • Translation
  • The train left at eight.
  • Explanation
  • The verb ab|fahren has the prefix ab, which is separated from the verb's base and is used to build the Partizip II (ab + ge- + verb stem + -en 👉 abgefahren) form.