How to start learning German? What verbs should you learn first to build your first sentences in German? We have compiled a selection of the ten most common verb constructions that you will need at first.

In almost any language, the verb is the most important part of speech. The verb conveys intention, desire, movement, and more. Without a verb, it is impossible to formulate any thought logically. 

I want, I can, I will… 

Undoubtedly, the more verbs a person knows, the richer his oral speech. But when we learn a foreign language, it is very difficult to memorize thousands of verbs, and often it is not necessary (well, if you are not a linguist, of course). We did not take the liberty of writing about words that are not worth learning, since everything is worth learning. However, we have identified for you the 10 most important and necessary groups of verbs that you simply must know!

Disclaimer: we also did not consider the usual semantic verbs, such as arbeiten, wohnen, verstehen – they need to be taught when they first come across on your way. Punkt!

1. The verbs HABEN (to have) and SEIN (to be)

“To have” and “to be” are the most important verbs in any language, as they convey two important meanings:- I am, this is … – existence,– I have, he has … – belonging. In German, in addition to the semantic function, both verbs also perform an auxiliary function: tenses and verb constructions are built with their help.

Examples:

  • er hat viele Freunde – he has many friends
  • Was wollen Sie haben? — What do you want?
  • er ist zu Hause – he is at home
  • es ist kalt – cold

2. Verbs MACHEN and TUN (to do)

In English there is a verb DO which corresponds to the German TUN. So DO in English is auxiliary, that is, it helps to form grammatical forms (for example, Present Simple). In German, such a function was abolished, and the verb itself is semantic and denotes the process of doing something . The most-most important expressions:

  • Was machst du? – What are you doing?
  • das macht nichts – it’s nothing, nothing (answer to “thank you”)
  • einen Antrag machen – to propose (to marry)
  • es tut mir leid – I’m sorry, I’m sorry
  • viel zu tun haben – to be very busy
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Modality is a complex category that expresses a desire to do something, an obligation, an obligation, a permission. Here they are:

  • können – to be able (to be physically able)
  • dürfen – to be able (to have permission, permission) 
  • mögen (möchten) – to love
  • wollen – want (or have plans for the future) 
  • sollen – to be due (in a mild form, a recommendation)
  • müssen – to be due (period) 
  • lassen – allow 

Modal verbs differ from regular verbs in all respects:- their non-standard temporary forms;- those that are not used with zu (in infinitive constructions).  You can postpone the study of these verbs for a long time, but in the end you still can’t get away from it. Read more about German modal verbs here.

4. Verb WERDEN to become

It must be known without fail, since it forms the German future tense with the infinitive of any semantic verb.

  • Ich werde Deutsch lernen.  – I will learn German.

The future tense is very important, isn’t it? In addition to the future, WERDEN shows the process of changing one to another, or rather becoming:

  • es wird dunkel – it’s getting dark 
  • die Tage werden länger [kürzer] – the days are getting longer [shorter]
  • Was will er werden? What does he want to become [be]?

And with the help of this verb, Passiv is formed in German :

  • das Haus wird gebaut – the house is under construction

5. The verb GEBEN (to give)

What is so special about it, you ask, because it is an ordinary semantic verb? Not really! In the meaning of GIVING, this is really just a useful semantic verb. But there is a peculiarity: GEBEN forms a special language form es gibt – exists / exist , that’s why we singled it out separately. The es gibt construction is extremely important! It is used in relation to everything that is , that is, exists:

  • es gibt viel Interessantes – there are many interesting things
  • gut, dass es dich gibt  – it’s good that you are

IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: Es gibt + Akkusativ – that is, the addition will always be in the accusative case, and in addition, it is important to understand that even if there are many objects, the verb form will still be gibt (since the subject is es anyway ):

  • es gibt einen Mann – there is one person
  • es gibt viel zu tun – a lot of work
  • Was gibt es da zu lachen? – What’s so funny?

6. Verb GEHEN (to go) 

One of the many verbs of motion, but that’s not the only reason why it’s so important. And also because it forms a very important structure – es geht.  This is how they talk about business, and it is very common:

  • Wie geht es dir? – How are you?
  • Es geht mir gut/schlecht. Things are going well/badly.
  • Es geht. – Will do (neutral answer).
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7. Receiving verbs – KRIEGEN, BEKOMMEN, ERHALTEN

Agree, getting something is always important, and sometimes very nice.   BEKOMMEN is the first verb from this group, which is taught to beginners in German. Ich bekomme ein Geschenk.  – I’m getting a present. But the most common verb in the spoken language is KRIEGEN – to receive, acquire and, by the way, conquer.

  • Hunger kriegen – get hungry
  • kinder kriegen – to have children
  • Ich habe es gekriegt. – I got it.

As can be seen from the examples, the range of application of this verb is extremely wide.

8. Verb Schaffen

Its main meanings are: ” create, create” , ” cope ” and ” work “. In writing, the meaning differs according to the forms of the verb in the past tense. The one that creates and copes has the forms schuff – geschaffen  (irregular verb), and the one that works –  schaffte – geschafft (regular verb). We are interested in schaffen – schuf – geschaffen , since there are a lot of useful colloquial expressions with it. Here are just a few of them:

  • Wir schaffen es / wir werden das schaffen – We can handle it / we will do it.
  • Wast du mit ihm zu schaffen? – What is your relationship with him?
  • Ich habe damit nichts zu schaffen – this does not concern me; before that I don’t care
  • Die Liebe kann Wunder schaffen. “Love can work miracles.

9. Basic verbs of feeling

SEHEN – see, HÖREN – hear, FÜHLEN (SICH) – feel (oneself). What is special about them? Nothing. They are simply very important, because without them we cannot express our feelings: 

  • Man wird ja sehen – it will be seen there
  • Wann sehen wir uns? – When will we see [meet]?
  • Wenn ich recht sehe … – If I’m not mistaken …
  • I ch sehe das so, dass … – In my opinion / I believe that …
  • Wie ich es gehört habe … – As I heard …
  • Ich fühle mich nicht wohl. – I don’t feel well.

10. Knowledge verbs: WISSEN and KENNEN

Both of these verbs are translated into English by the verb know, but they are not interchangeable, and depending on the context, only one of them will be used in the German sentence. For example, you should use the verb  wissen if you have some factual information,  or you heard / read it, etc., or if the sentence uses the words  es, das, nicht, etwas, nichts, viel, wenig, genug.  In addition, KENNEN requires after itself an addition in the accusative case (Akk.), i.e. “I know (whom? what?)”. 

  • Ich weiß es (das) – I know this … (rather an exception, since  das  and es do not carry the specifics of the addition) 
  • Ich kenne ihn (not Ich weiß ihn). – I know him (who? – him).
  • Soviel ich weiß  … – As far as I know …
  • Das kennen wir (schon)! – We know it! ( colloquial )

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