Unit 2: Cases, Present Tense

4. Present Tense of Regular Verbs

“Regular” verbs are simply those which follow the most common pattern of conjugation. Some grammar books refer to these verbs as “weak” verbs. Taking spielen (to play) as an example, the present tense is formed as follows:

Person Singular Plural
1st ich spiele (I play) wir spielen (we play)
2nd du spielst (you play) ihr spielt (you play)
3rd er/sie/es spielt (he/she/it plays) sie/Sie spielen (they/you play)

For our purposes the third person singular and plural forms are the main ones. Thus, the ending –t indicates singular and the ending –en plural.

Exception: Should the stem of the verb end in –t or –d, for example warten (to wait) and finden (to find), the stems of which are wart- and find-, then the verb is conjugated as follows:

Person Singular Plural
1st ich warte/finde wir warten/finden
2nd du wartest/findest ihr wartet/findet
3rd er/sie/es wartet/findet sie/Sie warten/finden

Compare the spielen example above. You should see the only differences then are in the singular, second and third person, where an –e– is added before the personal endings –st and –t. Attempt pronunciation of these verb forms to understand why the –e– is inserted.

Remember that the German present tense can be translated variously: “he does play,” “he is playing,” “he plays,” or even – depending on time information given in context – “he will play,” “he has played,” or “he has been playing.” Note that all of these translations still share the meaning that the action is taking place at the “present moment” (although that can be defined by a specific future time reference) – whether the action is ongoing, starting, finishing, or only momentary is what you need to interpret from context. In any case, German present tense never indicates a completed, past event.


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