Stem-Changing Verbs Song
This week I decided to tackle the stem-changing verbs in German with a song. While the lyrics are great for this song, my singing voice is still less than stellar. Hopefully, the point of the song isn’t lost in my tone-deafness. If you want to listen to the song, you can watch the video below. If you want to download it as an MP3, you can find that along with a worksheet on my Patreon page. If you want to learn more about these verbs and their changes in more depth, you should scroll past the video and learn more from this blog.
The stem-changing verbs are called that because the stem of the verb (the part without -en at the end) changes in some way. The three categories are: a-ä, e-i, and e-ie. There are only a select few verbs that take each of these stem changes, but they all follow a pretty distinct pattern. The only time that this change occurs is with the “du” and “er, sie, es” forms of the verb. All of the other forms are perfectly regular like any other verb would be. Here are a few conjugation examples, so you can see what I mean.
fahren – to drive
ich fahre – I drive
du fährst – you drive
er, sie, es fährt – he, she, it drives
wir fahren – we drive
ihr fahrt – you drive
sie, Sie fahren – they, you drive
geben – to give
ich gebe – I give
du gibst – you give
er, sie, es gibt – he, she, it gives
wir geben – we give
ihr gebt – you give
sie, Sie geben – they, you give
sehen – to see
ich sehe – I see
du siehst – you see
er, sie, es sieht – he, she, it sees
wir sehen – we see
ihr seht – you see
sie, Sie sehen – they, you see
There are a few other weird things that you have to keep in mind when working with the stem-changing verbs. If you have a verb stem that ends with a consonant that would normally require an -e to be added between the stem and the conjugated ending, but the stem changes from “a” to “ä”, you do not add the -e to these forms of the verb. This doesn’t happen very often, but it happens to a pretty common verb, so it is worth noting.
einladen – to invite
ich lade ein – I invite
du lädst ein – you invite
er, sie, es lädt ein – he, she, it invites
wir laden ein – we invite
ihr ladet ein – you invite
sie, Sie laden ein – they, you invite
It gets a bit weirder if the verb stem ends with -t and has a stem change from “a” to “ä”. In words like that, you don’t even add an ending for the “er, sie, es” form of the verb, because it already ends with a -t.
halten – to hold
ich halte – I hold
du hältst – you hold
er, sie, es hält – he, she, it holds
wir halten – we hold
ihr haltet – you hold
sie, Sie halten – they, you hold
If you are using one of these verbs in the command form, you usually keep the stem change for the “du” form of the verb, but you don’t keep the stem change if the verb falls into the category of a-ä. The other command forms are not effected by the stem changes.
fahren – to drive
Fahr! (du) – Drive!
Fahrt! (ihr) – Drive
Fahren Sie! – Drive!
vorlesen – to read aloud
Lies bitte vor! (du) – Please read aloud.
Lest bitte vor! (ihr) – Please read aloud.
Lesen Sie bitte vor! – Please read aloud.
sprechen – to speak
Sprich langsam! (du) – Speak slowly.
Sprecht langsam! (ihr) – Speak slowly.
Sprechen Sie langsam! – Speak slowly.
Don’t forget that if the verb stem ends with an -s or something that sounds like an -s (ß, ss, x, or z), you don’t add an -s to the “du” form of the verb.
essen – to eat
ich esse – I eat
du isst – you eat
er, sie, es isst – he, she, it eats
wir essen – we eat
ihr esst – you eat
sie, Sie essen – they, you eat
lesen – to read
ich lese – I read
du liest – you read
er, sie, es liest – he, she, it reads
wir lesen – we read
ihr lest – you read
sie, Sie lesen – they, you read
And that’s it really. They aren’t too difficult. The most difficult part about them is remembering which verbs have this change. Personally, I just like to pick these up as I go along, but some people like to try and memorize them in some sort of list. I prefer to add new vocabulary in a more natural setting like reading a book, listening to a song, or watching a movie.