Learning a new language can be a challenging yet rewarding endeavor. For those diving into the intricacies of the German language, one aspect that often leaves learners perplexed is irregular verbs, or as they are called in German, “starke Verben.”

While irregular verbs form a relatively small group out of the approximately 200 strong verbs in the German language, many of them are part of the fundamental vocabulary. These strong verbs stand out due to their unique characteristic of vowel changes within the verb stem during conjugation. In the present tense, only the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms undergo changes, while the plural forms are conjugated similarly to regular verbs.

Understanding the Structure

Before we delve into the specific irregular verbs, let’s get a grasp of their structure. Irregular verbs in German can be identified by their stem changes in the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms. The table below illustrates this structure:


Vowel Changes from ‘e’ to ‘i’

Some strong verbs in German exhibit a stem vowel change from ‘e’ to ‘i’ in the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms. Below is a list of such verbs:

  • abnehmen; (du / er, sie, es nimmt…ab)
  • ausbrechen;
  • brechen;
  • erschrecken;
  • essen (du / er, sie, es isst);
  • fressen (du / er, sie, es frisst);
  • geben;
  • gelten (er, sie, es gilt);
  • helfen;
  • messen (du / er, sie, es misst);
  • nehmen (du nimmst; er, sie, es nimmt);
  • quellen;
  • schmelzen (er, sie, es schmilzt);
  • sprechen;
  • stechen;
  • sterben;
  • treffen;
  • treten (du trittst, er, sie, es tritt);
  • verderben;
  • vergessen (du / er, sie, es vergisst);
  • werfen;
  • zunehmen

Vowel Changes from ‘e’ to ‘ie’

Another group of strong verbs in German undergo a stem vowel change from ‘e’ to ‘ie’ in the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms:

  • befehlen;
  • empfehlen;
  • geschehen (nur 3. Person möglich !!!);
  • lesen (du / er, sie, es liest);
  • sehen;
  • stehlen

Vowel Changes from ‘a’ to ‘ä’

Some strong verbs change their stem vowel from ‘a’ to ‘ä’ in the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms:

  • backen;
  • blasen (du / er, sie, es bläst);
  • fahren;
  • fangen;
  • graben;
  • halten (du hältst / er, sie, es hält);
  • laden (du lädst / er, sie, es lädt);
  • lassen (du / er, sie, es lässt);
  • schlafen;
  • schlagen;
  • tragen;
  • wachsen (du / er, sie, es wächst);
  • waschen

Vowel Changes from ‘au’ to ‘äu’

Finally, there are strong verbs in which the stem vowel changes from ‘au’ to ‘äu’ in the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms:

  • laufen;
  • saufen

Key Irregular Verbs Overview

Here is a summary table of the most important irregular verbs in German:


In conclusion, understanding irregular verbs in German is essential for anyone looking to master the language. While they may seem complex, with practice and dedication, you can become proficient in using them correctly. Keep this guide handy as a reference, and you’ll find yourself navigating the intricacies of German grammar with ease.


1. What are irregular verbs in German?

Irregular verbs in German, also known as “starke Verben,” are verbs that exhibit unique changes in their stem vowels during conjugation.

2. How many irregular verbs are there in German?

There are approximately 200 irregular verbs in the German language, with various patterns of vowel changes.

3. Is it necessary to memorize all irregular verbs?

While memorizing all irregular verbs can be helpful, focusing on the most common ones will be sufficient for everyday communication.

4. Can you provide examples of irregular verbs in sentences?

Certainly! Here’s an example: “Ich trage meine Jacke” (I am wearing my jacket). “Trage” is the 1st person singular form of the irregular verb “tragen.”

5. How can I practice using irregular verbs in German?

To practice, create sentences and dialogues using irregular verbs, or consider using language learning apps and resources designed for German learners.