Lesson 17. German Regular and Irregular Verbs

As in English German verbs are not an easy target. They can be divided into a number of groups. However, there are two most important ones:

  • Regular verbs
  • Irregular verbs

Till now we have mostly dealt with regular verbs that have quite a predictable pattern in conjugation. Today we will try to learn to separate regular verbs from irregular ones because it will help us form past tenses.

Traditionally, all verbs in German have three most important forms. These are infinitive, Imperfect (past simple) and Partizip II (participle II). Without giving it too much of a grammar thought all you have to do now is to memorize these forms by heart. So, that if someone wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you a German verb, you name all three forms of the verb without even a moment of hesitation.

Regular verbs belong into the largest group of the German verbs; they are quite easy to memorize because they all use the same pattern to build the forms. You can see this in the table below.

Infinitiv Imperfekt Partizip II
lernen lernte gelernt
arbeiten arbeitete gearbeitet
spielen spielte gespielt

Remember that regular verbs form Present Tense in a simple way, too, as we learned here.

Of course, there are exceptions, or irregularities even among the regular verbs. It goes without saying that you have to memorize all the exceptions.

Infinitiv Imperfekt Partizip II
kennen kannte gekannt
nennen nannte genannt
brennen brannte gebrannt
wenden wandte gewandt
rennen rannte gerannt
denken dachte gedacht
senden sandte gesandt

As you probably understand the most trouble is caused by irregular verbs. Moreover, it gets tougher because there are many groups of irregular verbs in German. Today we will only speak about a few of verbs that have uncommon patterns in building their forms and then next week we will dive into 8 most important groups of the irregular verbs in German.

Infinitiv Imperfekt Partizip II
haben hatte gehabt
sein war gewesen
werden wurde geworden
stehen stand gestanden
gehen ging gegangen
bringen brachte gebracht
tun tat getan


For this lesson’s exercise find in the dictionary 20 regular verbs and build their Imperfekt and Partizip II forms.