I’ve been putting off learning how to conjugate verbs (that is, make them work with the pronoun. For example: I walk_, she walks) all week. Today, though, I learned the word for “walk” – gehen. That brings my arsenal of regular (that is, conjugation rule-abiding) verbs up to a total of three: trinken – “to drink”, kommen – “to come”, and gehen – “to walk”.
In the grand scheme of things it’s a tiny number, but it’s enough to make me uncomfortable knowing that I don’t 100% understand how to use them. And so, with much hesitance, today I am officially dipping my toes in the deep and frigid waters of conjugation. Lucky for me, conjugating regular verbs in the present tense is shaping up to be about as painless as learning conjugations can be. Thank you, Germany!
As far as I can tell, here’s how it works:
Every regular verb (and ever irregular verb, for that matter, but I’ll worry about that later) has a dictionary form which translates into English as to (verb), eg, to talk. In German, these verbs generally end with -en. Gehen, trinken, kommen, etc.
To begin conjugating a word, remove the -en ending, and replace it with the one that corresponds to the pronoun that you want to use. Those endings are:
- Ich (I): – e
- Du (You informal): – st
- Es/Sie/Er (It/She/He): -t
- Wir (We): -en
- Ihr (Y’all): -t
- Sie (They or You formal): -en
In the case of gehen, when we take away –en we get the root geh. When conjugated in the present tense, this becomes
- Ich gehe
- Du gehst
- Es/Sie/Er geht
- Wir gehen
- Ihr geht
- Sie gehen
You probably noticed that in reality there are only four endings, that are just reused for different pronouns. It can be confusing to listen to/read if you don’t know your pronouns that well yet (I’m working on it!) but it sure is easy for memorizing forms of the verb.
Of course, not all verbs are this well behaved (regular). But from what I’ve seen, even the ones who break the rules don’t break them that much. More on those…when I’m forced to.
I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.