Formation of the German Präsens

(Regular Present verb forms)

Table of contents – Präsens

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Conjugation rule
  2. Regular conjugation forms
  3. Deviating conjugation forms
  4. Further explanations and exercises

What is the rule for forming the Präsens?

On the whole, the formation of the German Präsens (which is the tense for the Present) is not very complicated as the conjugation of the verb follows a rather simple pattern. It is just one word combining principal part and suffix. However, the terminations are regular, but need to be learned even if they remain unchanged for all verbs (whether strong or weak ones). Nevertheless, modal verbs as well as the verb ‘sein’ (to be) are exceptions to this. Also, strong verbs change their base vowel when forming the Präsens. Now the rule in detail:

Conjugation of the Präsens

Principal part of the verb (word stem) + suffix (see finite verb forms)

Example sentences

  • „Ihr habt aber ein tolles Auto.“ (You do have an awesome car.)
    • ‘habt’ is a combination of the stem and termination ‘hab+t’ and is conjugated in the 2nd person plural.
  • „Emily lächelt sehr schön.“ (Emily smiles beautifully.)
    • ‘lächelt’ is a combination of ‘lächel+t’ and is conjugated in the 3rd person singular.
  • Gibst du mir bitte das Salz?“ (Would you please pass me the salt?)
    • ‘gibst’ is split into ‘gib+st’. In this case, a strong verb is conjugated in the 2nd person singular, and so the base vowel changes from ‘-e-’ to ‘-i-’.

Attention: Modal verbs (‘können, wollen, müssen’, etc.) have other terminations:

  • „Ich muss bald nach Hause.“ (I’ll have to go home soon.)

Regular conjugation forms of the Präsens

Most of the German verbs use the normal (regular) terminations in the Präsens which are listed in the table. The verb ‘machen’ (to make) with its corresponding verb stem ‘mach’ is used as an example for illustration:

Lots of additional verbs as ‘singen’ (to sing), ‘kaufen’ (buy), ‘kommen’ (come), ‘schreiben’ (write), ‘lernen’ (learn) etc. belong to this group.

  Pronoun Finite suffix in the Präsens Conjugated verb in the Präsens
1st person singular ich -e mache
2nd person singular du -st machst
3rd person singular er/sie/es -t macht
1st person plural wir -en machen
2nd person plural ihr -t macht
3rd person plural sie / Sie* (polite form) -en machen

* This is the honorific.

Deviating conjugation forms in the Präsens

Some verbs show a slightly different conjugation pattern which means they deviate from the standard conjugation. In detail:

Dropping of ‘-s-’ (Principal part ends in a sound like ‘s, ss, ß, z, tz, x’)

If the principal part of a verb ends in one of these terminations, the 2nd person singular coincides with the 3rd person. This means the finite suffix of the 2nd person loses its ‘-s-’. However, this only occurs in rare cases. The table shows the example verb ‘reisen’ (to travel) with its principal part ‘reis’:

Additional verbs that follow the same rule are ‘sitzen’ (to sit), ‘fassen’ (grasp), ‘mixen’ (mix), ‘reißen’ (tear), ‘rasen’ (speed) etc.

  Pronoun Finite suffix in the Präsens Conjugated verb in the Präsens
1st person singular ich -e reise
2nd person singular du -t reist
3rd person singular er/sie/es -t reist
1st person plural wir -en reisen
2nd person plural ihr -t reist
3rd person plural sie / Sie* (polite form) -en reisen

Adding an ‘-e-’ (Principal part ends in ‘d, t, m, n’)

In these cases an ‘-e-’ is inserted between the principal part and the finite suffix due to reasons of pronunciation. This affects the 2nd and 3rd person singular as well as the 2nd person plural. The example verb here is ‘warten’ (to wait) with its principal part ‘wart’:

Similar verbs are ‘finden’ (to find), ‘heiraten’ (marry), ‘mieten’ (rent), ‘reden’ (talk), ‘öffnen’ (open), ‘atmen’ (breathe), ‘zeichnen’ (draw) etc.

  Pronoun Finite suffix in the Präsens Conjugated verb in the Präsens
1st person singular ich -e warte
2nd person singular du -est wartest
3rd person singular er/sie/es -et wartet
1st person plural wir -en warten
2nd person plural ihr -et wartet
3rd person plural sie / Sie* (polite form) -en warten

Dropping of ‘-e-’ (Base form ends in ‘-eln’ or ‘-ern’)

Verbs occasionally end in ‘-eln’. If that is the case, the ‘-e-’ of the end of the verb stem¹ is dropped in the 1st person singular even before adding the finite suffix. Moreover, the ‘-e-’ disappears from the termination in the 1st and 3rd person plural², which also applies to verbs with base form endings in ‘-ern’. The example verb ‘klingeln’ (to ring) shows this with its stem ‘klingel’:

Additional verbs belonging to the group of ‘-eln’ are ‘lächeln’ (to smile), ‘basteln’ (do handicrafts), ‘sammeln’ (collect), ‘angeln’ (fish), ‘googeln’ (google) and to the group of ‘-ern’ are ‘erinnern’ (to remember), ‘jammern’ (moan), ‘ändern’ (change), ‘feiern’ (celebrate).

  Pronoun Finite suffix in the Präsens Conjugated verb in the Präsens
1st person singular ich -e (but -e- is dropped from its stem) klingle (not: klingele¹)
2nd person singular du -st klingelst
3rd person singular er/sie/es -t klingelt
1st person plural wir -n klingeln²/ändern²
2nd person plural ihr -t klingelt
3rd person plural sie / Sie* (polite form) -n klingeln²/ändern²

* This is the honorific.

Further explanations related to the topic ‘Präsens in the German language’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Formation of the German Präsens (Present)’ and may be helpful: