Unit 6: Conjunctions, Comparatives

6. Verb Formation

Word Formation

These sections of the textbook help improve your speed during the skimming phase of reading and help you gradually build vocabulary.

In Unit 5 we dealt with the formation of nouns from verbs and common adjectives. Now we will look at the formation of verbs from adjectives and their different forms. For example:

breit (broad, wide) verbreiten (to broaden, widen)
ganz (whole) ergänzen (to make whole, complete)
größer (bigger) vergrößern (to make bigger, increase)
länger (longer) verlängern (to make larger, lengthen)
klar (clear) erklären (to make clear, explain)
rot (red) erröten ( to make red, blush)

As you can see we have used a simple adjective in its comparative form to make a verb by adding a prefix and the infinitive ending –n or –en.

Formation of Nouns from More Verbs

German also changes verbs into nouns by capitalizing the word and adding a noun ending. Thus, using some of our examples from above:

verbreiten (to broaden) Verbreiterung (widening)
ergänzen (to make whole) Ergänzung (completion)
vergrößern (to make bigger) Vergrößerung (enlargement)
verlängern (to make larger) Verlängerung (lengthening)
erklären (to make clear) Erklärung (explanation)

Compare these -ung nouns with the kind of nouns you learned how to read in Unit 4, Verbs as Nouns, which were nouns formed directly from infinitive verb forms. For example, whereas Vergrößerung (feminine) refers to a photographic enlargement as an object – thus as the end product of the act –, Vergrößern (neuter) refers to the act of enlarging a photo. The neuter, infinitive-form nouns always refer specifically to the act, action, or process itself. Similarly, compare Erklären (the act of explaining) with Erklärung (the explanation itself).

As you seek to expand your vocabulary, always look closely at a word to see if a part of it is familiar to you. This will give you some indication as to the word’s general meaning, and often the context in which it appears will enable you to choose a precise meaning.

One way to increase your vocabulary is to group related words together. Thus, using one of our examples, breit (broad, wide), we would group it with die Breite (breadth, width), verbreitern (to make broader / to widen), and Verbreiterung (widening) etc. This can be one of the more stimulating ways of learning vocabulary.


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A Foundation Course in Reading German Copyright © 2014 by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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