Top 10 German Verbs in the Present Tense

    Today’s German language lesson is the conjugation of the Top 10 Most Used Verbs in German. It is exactly as you would expect it to be. I conjugate the most popular German verbs in the present tense. The end. For those of you who want a bit more information, that is what this blog post is for.

    #1: sein – to be

    The #1 most used verb in the German language is “sein”. It means “to be”, but can also be used to form the present perfect tense (AKA the spoken past tense or Perfekt). This is probably the reason that both “sein” and “haben” are on the top of the list, since both are used to form this tense. Since, however, this video and blog post are about the present tense, let’s take a look at some examples of “sein” in the present tense.

    Example Sentences with “sein” in the Present Tense

    Ich bin Herr Antrim.
    I am Mr. Antrim.

    Du bist der Lehrer, nicht wahr?
    You are the teacher, right?

    Ja, er ist der Lehrer.
    Yes, he is the teacher.

    Diese Frau ist Lehrerin.
    This woman is a teacher.

    Das Fenster ist offen.
    The window is open.

    Wir sind in dem Bahnhof.
    We are in the train station.

    Ihr seid Schüler.
    You are students.

    Die Kinder sind klein.
    The children are small.

    Predicate Nominatives with “sein”

    Did you notice that even though some of the nouns come after the verb and they are masculine nouns, they still retain the definite article “der” instead of changing to “den”? That is because “sein” is used with what is called a “predicate nominative. This means that the subject and the predicate (the part after the verb) is pretty much the same thing. The part after the verb is also nominative.

    There are few other times when this occurs in German, but the easy way of telling if something is a predicate nominative is replacing the verb with an equals sign. If it still makes sense and means about the same as it did with the verb, you are dealing with a predicate nominative and that object or person has to be used in the nominative case.

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    #2: haben – to have

    The #2 most used verb in the German language is “haben”, which means “to have”. This verb is also used to form the present perfect tense, as “sein” was, but that is a topic for another day. This verb is incredibly helpful without using the present perfect tense, because people need to be able to say that they have stuff. It is kind of useful like that. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

    Ich habe einen Hund.
    I have a dog.

    Hast du eine Katze?
    Do you have a cat?

    Hans hat zwei Enten.
    Hans has two ducks.

    Sophia hat einen Goldfisch.
    Sophia has a goldfish.

    Das Haus hat viele Fenster.
    The house has a lot of windows.

    Mein Bruder und ich haben eine Schwester.
    My brother and I have a sister.

    Habt ihr Geschwister?
    Do you have siblings?

    Mein Bruder und meine Schwester haben keine Ahnung.
    My brother and my sister have no idea.

    Accusative Case with “haben”

    You might have noticed that the word “Hund” was preceded by “einen” in the first example instead of the usual “ein”. This is because the dog is in the direct object case known as the accusative case. The same is true of “einen Goldfisch” in the fourth example. Be careful with this rule, however, the only nouns that change in the accusative case are the masculine nouns. If the noun says “der” or “m” next to it when you look it up in the dictionary, it will either become “den” or “einen” in the accusative case.

    #3: werden – to become, will (future tense)

    The #3 most used verb, “werden”, is more than likely on the list for its endevours outside of the present tense and outside of the realm of things that beginner German learners will understand, but it can be used in the present tense, as well. This verb is mostly known for the future tense or the passive voice.

    The passive voice is when the subject of the sentence is not the one doing the action, but is being acted upon by an outside force that may or may not be known. For example: The ball is being hit. (Der Ball wird geschlagen.) While this is in the present tense, it is in the passive voice and might be a bit confusing for beginner level German learners.

    Obviously, the future tense is the one that talks about things that have not yet occurred. The future tense isn’t terribly difficult to formulate. You simply put your other verb at the end of the sentence as an infinitive (the verb with the -en at the end that you see in the dictionary). Several examples below will use werden in the future tense, but I added some present tense examples just to make sure that I followed with the topic of the video.

    Ich werde zur Schule fahren.
    I will drive to school.

    Wirst du zu Hause Frühstück essen?
    Will you eat breakfast at home?

    Ein Welpe wird zu einem Hund.
    A puppy becomes a dog.

    Eine Raupe wird zu einem Schmetterling.
    A caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

    Ein Kind wird zu einem Erwachsenen.
    A child becomes an adult.

    Wir werden nie erwachsen.
    We will never grow up.

    Werdet ihr einen Kuchen mitbringen?
    Will you bring a cake along?

    Die Kinder werden den Kuchen verschlingen.
    The children will gobble up the cake.

    The next verb on the list is “können”. This one was partially covered in a video on October 23 and will be covered in more depth on Friday, November 6th. It is one of the modal auxiliaries. It means “can” or “to be able to”. It can be used with an extra verb or by itself. Here are a few examples to show what I mean.

    Ich kann das. – I can do that.

    Kannst du Deutsch? – Can you (speak) German?

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    Der Mann kann ein Auto aufheben. – The man can lift a car.

    Meine Schwester kann Gitarre spielen. – My sister can play guitar.

    Das Kind kann doch lernen. – The child can learn.

    Mein Bruder und ich können fahren. – My brother and I can drive.

    Könnt ihr 3 Meter hoch springen? – Can you jump 3 meters high?

    Meine Ziegen können eine Dose essen. – My goats can eat a tin can.

    The #5 most popular verb in this list is another modal auxiliary. This one is “müssen” and means “to have to” or “must”. It can also be used to express that you have to go to the bathroom, which I find entertaining, so I will use a few examples of that below. Write your favorites in the comments.

    Ich muss mal. – I have to (go to the restroom).

    Musst du auf die Toilette? – Do you have to go to the toilet?

    Er muss, wo selbst der Kaiser zu Fuß hingeht. – He has to go where even the emporer goes on foot.

    Meine Mutter muss zur Arbeit. – My mother has (to go) to work.

    Das Kind muss mal aufs Klo. – The child has to go to the bathroom.

    Wir müssen den Hund spazieren führen. – We have to walk the dog.

    Müsst ihr so laut essen? – Do you have to eat so loudly?

    Deine Eltern müssen dich füttern. – Your parents have to feed you.

    #6 on my list is “sagen”, which means “to say”. This is used just before quotes, like it is in English. Here are some great examples from films.

    Ich sage, “Ich bin Batman.” – I say, “I am Batman.”

    Sagst du, “Es gibt eine Chance”? – Are you saying there’s a chance? (Originally: “So, you’re saying there’s a chance?”)

    Bugs Bunny sagt, “Is’ was, Doc?” – Bugs Bunny says, “What’s up, Doc?”

    Mary Poppins sagt, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. – Mary Poppins says, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

    Das Kind sagt, “Gott segne jeden von uns.” – The child says, “God bless us, every one.”

    Wir sagen, “Sein Name war Robert Paulson.” – We say, “His name was Robert Paulson.”

    Sagt ihr nicht, “Erst die Arbeit, dann das Vergnügen”? – Don’t you say, “Work before pleasure”?

    Marty und Doc sagen “1.21 Gigawatt”. – Marty and Doc say “1.21 Gigawatts”.

    #7 on the list is “machen”, which means “to do” or “to make”. It is usually one of the first verbs a German learner learns, because it is pretty vague and therefore, is applicable in many situtations. For example:

    Ich mache meine Hausaufgabe. – I am doing my homework.

    Was machst du? – What are you doing?

    Hans macht nichts. – Hans is doing nothing.

    Seine Frau macht alles. – His wife does everything.

    Das macht €12. – That comes to €12.

    Wir machen das Essen. – We are making the meal. (Personally, I would say “kochen”, “to cook”, but it can be done with “machen”)

    Macht ihr nie Fehler? – Don’t you ever make mistakes?

    Was machen Sie von Beruf? – What do you do for a living?

    The #8 most used verb in German can be a bit tricky. The verb “geben” means “to give” in most situations, but if you pair it with the pronoun “es” (it), you end up with “there is” or “there are” in English. It is also an irregular verb, which means that it takes a stem change from e-i in the du- and er, sie, es-forms.

    Ich gebe meiner Mutter eine Karte zum Geburtstag. – I am giving my mother a card for her birthday.

    Wie viel Geld gibst du für das Rockkonzert aus? – How much money are you spending on the rock concert? (ausgeben-to spend, separable prefix verb)

    Der Mann gibt seiner Frau eine Halskette. – The man gives his wife a necklace.

    Sie gibt dem Hund den Ball. – She gives the dog the ball.

    Es gibt 80 Millionen Menschen in Deutschland. – There are 80 million people in Germany.

    Wir geben viel Geld aus. – We are spending a lot of money.

    Wem gebt ihr euer Geld? – Whom do you give your money?

    Die Kinder geben kein Geld. – The children give no money.

    The #9 most used verb in German is “kommen”, which means “to come”. When you add the preposition “aus” before a location, you can say your place or origin. It is a pretty easy verb to add to your vocabulary. For example:

    Ich komme aus den USA. – I come from the USA.

    Woher kommst du? – Where are you from?

    Er kommt aus der Schweiz. – He comes from Switzerland.

    Sie kommt aus Österreich. – She comes from Austria.

    Das Kind kommt aus Liechtenstein. – The child comes from Liechtenstein.

    Wir kommen aus Luxemburg. – We come from Luxembourg.

    Kommt ihr aus Belgien? – Are you from Belgium?

    Diese Leute kommen aus Polen. – These people are from Poland.

    The last one on our list of the top 10 most used verbs in German is another modal auxiliary, “sollen”, which means “should”, “to be supposed to”, or “ought to”. It is used just like the other modals. If you need to use another verb with it, you push that verb to the end of the sentence as an infinitive. Here are some examples:

    Ich soll nach Hause gehen. – I should go home.

    Du sollst deine Hausaufgaben machen. – You should do your homework.

    Der Mann soll netter sein. – The man should be nicer.

    Die Frau soll sich entspannen. – The woman should relax.

    Das Kind soll still sein. – The child should be quiet.

    Wir sollen ins Kino gehen. – We should go to the movies. (We are supposed to go to the movies.)

    Sollt ihr nicht ins Bett gehen? – Shouldn’t you go to bed?

    Sie sollen Ihre Arbeit machen. – You should do your work.

    That is it. We have covered the top 10 most used verbs in the German language in the present tense (with the exception of “werden”). I hope you learned some grammar and some vocabulary from this blog post and you have a better understanding of how to form sentences with some of the most popular vebs in the German language.

    What’s next:

    Next week’s video will be another Lyrical Analysis video. We will be dissecting “Traum” by Cro to teach you some grammar. The following week, I will continue my new verb conjugation series and teach you the top 11-20 verbs in German in the present tense.

    If you want a PDF file with all of these verbs conjugated for you, you can download it here.

    If you want to know where I got my list of verbs, you can find it here.

    Herr Antrim

    Herr Antrim is a German teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. In 2011 he started his successful YouTube Channel "Learn German with Herr Antrim". In 2015 he created this website to enhance the German language lessons he was providing on YouTube. He is now the author of his own e-book, "Beginner German with Herr Antrim". He has also been featured on numerous blogs and other sites.