Chapter 4 │ German Verbs

This post is also available in: German

In this chapter I will teach you all about German verbs! Helping verbs, main verbs, compound verbs and many more explained easy!

What is a verb?

A verb is a word that expresses an action or a state of being (i.e. to go, to drive, to be). The lessons in this chapter are about the use, the formation and irregularities of the verbs "haben" and "sein", modal verbs, reflexive verbs, compound verbs, participles, the passive voice, the imperative, the subjunctive 1 & 2 and verbs with complements.

The conjugation and the use of the different tenses is explained in Chapter 3: German Tenses.

German Verbs: Overview​

Verbs: 4.01. Sein and Haben

Sein and Haben
The verbs „sein“ ( = to be ) and „haben“ ( = to have ) are important verbs in German. They are used in different situations and as helping verbs to form compound tenses like the perfect tense.
Example: „Du bist nett.“ - „Er hat ein Haus.“

Verbs: 4.02. The Present Participle

German Verbs Present Participle
The present participle shows that something happend, is happening or will happen at the same time. Present participles are used as adjectives in place of clauses.
Example: „Der telefonierende Mann fährt Auto.“

Verbs: 4.03. The Past Participle

Past Participle
The past participle is also known as the perfect participle and participle 2. The past participle is used in place of clauses or as an adjective. It is also used to construct the perfect tense, the past perfect tense, the future perfect tense ( = future 2 ), and the passive form.
Example: „Du bist nach Hause gegangen.“

Verbs: 4.04. Verbs with Prefixes (Compound Nouns)

In German we can create more verbs by adding prefixes to existing verbs. This changes the meaning of the verb. When conjugated, some verbs are separated from their prefix ⇒ separable verbs. For other verbs, the verb and prefix stay together even after conjugation ⇒ inseparable verbs. The prefix determines which of these groups a verb belongs to.
Example: „Ich stehe jeden Morgen um 6 Uhr auf.“

Verbs: 4.05. Modal Verbs

Modal Verbs
There are 6 modal verbs: „können“, „wollen“, „möchten“, „sollen“, „müssen“ and „dürfen“. Modal verbs change the meaning of the sentence. There is a difference between whether someone „must“ do something or someone „can“ do something.
Examples: „Ich kann kein Englisch sprechen.“

Verbs: 4.06. The Verb "werden"

The verb „werden“ can be used in different situations. Together with a noun, an adjective and to construct the future tense, all process passive forms, and some subjunctive forms.
Example: „Ich werde später Polizist.“

Verbs: 4.07. The Verb "lassen"

The verb „lassen“ can be used as a main verb and as a modal verb with a second verb in the infinitive form.
The meaning of „lassen“ changes in the different uses.
„Sich lassen“ in the third person is also an alternative for the passive voice.
Example: „Ich lasse mein Auto in der Garage stehen.“

Verbs: 4.08. Reflexive Verbs

German Reflexive Verbs
What is a reflexive verb? Learn the different reflexive pronouns and the difference between true and partial reflexive verbs. Learn when to use the pronouns in accusative and when in dative case.
Example: „Ich wasche mich jeden Tag.“

Verbs: 4.09. The Imperative

The Imperative
The imperative is used for demands and commands. Someone is personally talking to one or more people.
The imperative only exists in the „you“ forms: du, ihr, and the polite Sie.
Example:Geh jetzt ins Bett!“

Verbs: 4.10. The Subjunctive 1 (Konjunktiv 1)

Subjunctive 1
There are 3 potential moods of verbs (indicative, imperative, and subjunctive). The subjunctive 1 is a special conjugation of verbs. We use it for indirect speech and in specific expressions. We mainly find the subjunctive 1 in the news.
Example: „Mein Lehrer sagt, Deutsch sei gar nicht schwer.“

Verbs: 4.11. The Subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv 2)

There are 3 potential moods of verbs. (indicative, imperative, and subjunctive) The subjunctive 2 is also called the form of possibility and describes the unreal world.
Example: „Ich wäre so gern ein Millionär.“

Verbs: 4.12. The Passive Voice

In German grammar we have two types of passive voice. The status passive and the process passive. They are different in meaning, construction and usage. In active voice, the person that does something (the subject) is important. In passive voice the action is important.
Example: „Die Suppe wird gekocht.“

Verbs: 4.13. Verbs with Complements

The conjugated verb requires complements so the sentence is a grammatically correct statement. Complements can be singular words, phrases, or an entire clause. Complements are divided into the following groups: Nominative Complements, Accusative Complements, Dative Complements, Genitive Complements (extremely rare) and Prepositional Complements.
Example: Der Mann gibt dem Kind den Ball.“

Verbs: 4.14. Verbs with "es"

Verbs with es
The pronoun „es“ has many different functions in German. It can be used as a pronoun standing for a single word, for a clause, and for an entire sentence. Also, there are many specific expressions that use „es“.
Example: „Wie geht es dir? – „Mir geht es gut.“

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