The verb is a very important part of speech; it denotes action or state of being. The noted American historian and poet, Carl Sandburg, once declared that the Civil War was fought over a verb, namely, whether it was correct to say “The United States is” or “The United States are.”
For each of the 501 verbs listed in this book, the student will find the principal parts of each verb at the top of the page. The principal parts consist of:
1. the Infinitive
2. the third person singular of the Past Tense
3. the Past Participle (preceded by ist for sein verbs) 4. the third person singular of the Present Tense
EXAMPLE: ENGLISH: to speak, spoke, spoken, speaks GERMAN: sprechen, sprach, gesprochen, spricht
These are the basic forms of the verb and should be memorized, especially in the case of the irregular or strong verbs, that is verbs which change the stem vowel of the Infinitive to form the Past Tense and whose Past Participle ends in en. More than one-half of the verbs in this book are strong or irregular verbs.
Weak or regular verbs do not change the stem vowel of the Infinitive to form the Past Tense but merely add the ending te (plus personal endings in the second person singular and the three persons of the plural). Past Participles of weak verbs end in t.
EXAMPLE: ENGLISH: to play, played, played, plays GERMAN: spielen, spielte, gespielt, spielt.
Both English and German have strong and weak verbs.
With the exception of a small group of verbs called irregular weak verbs (in some texts called mixed verbs or “hybrids”—see index), verbs in German are either weak or strong. The strong or irregular verbs are not as difficult to learn as it might seem, if it is remembered that most of them can be classified into seven major groups. For example, the verbs bleiben, leihen, meiden, preisen, reiben, scheiden, scheinen, schreien, schweigen, steigen, treiben, verzeihen, weisen all follow the same pattern as schreiben in their principal parts:
schreiben, schrieb, geschrieben, schreibt