Copular verbs in German grammar

(Specifics of copulas in German grammar)

Table of contents – copular verbs

On this page you will find the following:

  1. What are copular verbs?
  2. Further explanations and exercises

What are copular verbs?

In grammar, copula stands for connecting and describes the so-called copulative or copular verbs (in German: Kopulaverben). They connect the subject with the predicative expression in a sentence and, thus, form the predicate. Besides, copulas cannot appear without such a predicative expression. German grammar has only few verbs of this type; the most common ones are ‘sein’ (to be), ‘bleiben’ (to stay), and ‘werden’ (will).

  • Compare the following sentences that illustrate the typical use of the German copular verbs:
    • Example of ‘werden’:
      • „Michaela wird einmal Bäckerin.“ (Michaela will be a baker one day.)
        • Here, a noun is the predicative nominal.
    • Example of ‘bleiben’:
      • „Wir bleiben hier.“ (We are staying here.)
        • This utterance shows an adverb as the predicative expression.
    • Example of ‘sein’:
      • „Die Aussicht ist schön.“ (The view is beautiful.)
        • The predicative expression is an adjective here.
  • Some other verbs exist that may take over the function of a copula. Such a verb is then used similarly and follows the same rules as a copulative verb:
    • Examples are:
      • nennen (to call), schimpfen (scold), finden (find), heißen (call)
        • „Die Schüler finden das Theaterstück langweilig.“ (The students find the play boring.)
        • „Sie nannte ihn einen Dummkopf.“ (She called him a fool.)
    • Examples of a variant of this type of verbs, which require an additional preposition to be present in the sentence:
      • gelten als (to be considered as), sehen als (see as), betrachten als (regard as), bezeichnen als (call, refer to as), anerkennen als (recognize as), erweisen als (prove to be)
        • „Wir bezeichnen das Unglück mal als Pech.“ (We just call this disaster bad luck.)
          • The preposition ‘als’ is necessary here.
        • „Die Autofahrer betrachten die hohen Spritpreise als Abzocke.“ (Drivers see the high gas prices as a rip-off.)
          • Likewise, the preposition ‘als’ cannot be omitted.
      • halten für (to think)
        • „Sie hält ihn für einen Nichtsnutz.“ (She thinks he is a loser.)
          • This verb demands the preposition ‘für’.
        • „Petra hielt Markus für klug.“ (Petra thought Markus was smart.)
          • Again, ‘für’ as a preposition is needed.

Further explanations relating to the ‘Copular verbs’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Copulative verbs (copulas) in German grammar’ and may therefore help you too:

  • The predicate (sentence core)
  • Prepositions in German grammar