Formation of the Präsens of modal verbs

(Conjugation of ‘wollen, können, dürfen, müssen, sollen, mögen’ in the present tense)

What are the German modal verb forms in the Präsens?

The German language offers six different modal verbs, which are ‘können, sollen, mögen, müssen, wollen, dürfen’ (What are modal verbs?). All of them have irregular forms in the Präsens (present tense) and should be mastered by learners of German because of their importance in the language, especially in spoken language. Above all, the Konjunktiv 2 and indicative forms occur pretty frequently. On the contrary, others (such as those of the Konjunktiv 1) are heard only occasionally.

Examples of sentences with modal verbs in the Präsens:

  • „Ich mag überhaupt keinen Blumenkohl.“ (I don’t like cauliflower at all.)
    • mögen (like)
  • „Wir sollten mal wieder einen Kaffee trinken gehen.“ (We should go for a coffee again sometime.)
    • sollen’ (shall, should) in Konjunktiv 2 Präsens
  • „Die Sekretärin muss noch eine wichtige E-Mail schreiben.“ (The secretary still has to write an important email.)
    • müssen (have to, must)
  • Könntest du mich am Samstag zum Bahnhof fahren?“ (Could you take me to the station on Saturday?)
    • können’ (can, could) also in Konjunktiv 2 Präsens
  • Wollt ihr noch etwas Kuchen?“ (Would you like some more cake?)
    • wollen (want)
  • Darf man hier eigentlich rauchen?“ (Is it actually allowed to smoke here?)
    • dürfen (may, be allowed to)

Conjugation of modal verbs in the Präsens (present tense)

On the whole, the conjugation of German modal verbs is irregular, but this is not a problem when learning, as all have the same endings. Only the regular (standard) endings of the 1st and 3rd person singular are omitted; the others correspond to those of weak (regular) verbs.

The table shows all conjugation forms in the Präsens indicative. To refresh your knowledge, see the explications about the indicative, Konjunktiv, and imperative. Consider:

  Regular ending (suffix) können (conjugated) müssen (conjugated) wollen (conjugated) sollen (conjugated) dürfen (conjugated)
1st person singular (ich) -e¹ kann muss will soll darf
2nd person singular (du) -st kannst musst willst sollst darfst
3rd person singular (er/sie/es) -t¹ kann muss will soll darf
1st person plural (wir) -en können müssen wollen sollen dürfen
2nd person plural (ihr) -t könnt müsst wollt sollt dürft
3rd person plural (sie/Sie) -en können müssen wollen sollen dürfen

¹ These two endings are dropped for all modal verbs.

Conjugation of ‘mögen’ in the Präsens (present tense)

The verb ‘mögen’ is unique in German, as its form in the Konjunktiv 2 (subjunctive mood) is probably used more often than its indicative form (realis mood). Here, it represents a very polite variant. For this reason and its particular spelling, both moods or modes are listed in the table.

Note the change of the consonant ‘g’ to ‘ch’ in all grammatical persons when forming the Konjunktiv 2. Compare:

  Pronoun mögen (conjugated in the Präsens indicative) mögen (conjugated in the Präsens Konjunktiv 2)
1st person singular ich mag chte
2nd person singular du magst chtest
3rd person singular er/sie/es mag chte
1st person plural wir mögen chten
2nd person plural ihr mögt chtet
3rd person plural sie/Sie* mögen chten

* This is the polite form.

Further explanations related to the ‘Präsens of modal verbs’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Verb forms of the Präsens of German modals (‘wollen, mögen, können,’ etc.)’ and may help you learn: