Taming the Vowel-Changing Verbs 🦁

Dealing with the Vowel-Changing Verbs in German

Posted by Roslyn Green, September 2022

Bildlexikon – Picture Dictionary

helfen – to help

Er hilft seinem Freund.

→ He helps his friend.

fahren – to drive, ride, travel

Er fährt gern BMX.

→ He likes riding a BMX.

essen – to eat

Sie isst gern Eis.

→ She likes eating ice cream.

lesen – to read

Das Kind liest mit einer Taschenlampe.

→ The child is reading with a torch.

Non-Conformist Verbs

The vowel-changing verbs in German remind me of children who misbehave, but only at certain predictable times, like toddlers who always throw a tantrum at the supermarket checkout.

If you focus on when these verbs fail to follow the normal rules, you will be able to use them with ease.

These verbs only “break the rules” in the second and third person singular. Otherwise they are utterly regular, predictable and conformist. They retain the normal endings for regular German verbs; they just have that little vowel mutation in their stem in the second and third person singular.

In English we have a couple of verbs that act like this too. For instance, “I say” becomes “he says” (sez); “I do” becomes “she does” (duz).

Below is a short list of some common verbs that are affected by this little quirk, along with a quiz that will help you to tame them.

Er schläft tief und fest. – He sleeps deeply.

Vowel Change: a becomes ä in…

  • tragen – to wear, to carry (du trägst, er/sie/es trägt)
  • fahren – to drive, to travel (du fährst, er/sie/es fährt)
  • schlafen – to sleep, (du schläfst, er/sie/es schläft)

Vowel Change: e becomes ie in…

  • sehen – to see (du siehst, er/sie sieht)
  • lesen – to read (du liest, er/sie liest)

Vowel Change: e becomes i in…

  • nehmen – to take (du nimmst, er/sie nimmt)
  • helfen – to help (du hilfst, er/sie hilft)
  • essen – to eat (du isst, er/sie isst)
  • sprechen – to speak (du sprichst, er/sie spricht)

For a longer list of the most useful stem-changing verbs, go to this German website. In German, the term for these verbs is Verben mit Vokalwechsel.

You may also like to watch this simple explanation from Deutschlernen mit Heidi on YouTube.

Online Activities

Audio-Quiz: Am Wochenende mache ich gern nichts

Practise conjugating the vowel-changing verbs in a fairly challenging text about a laid-back teenager. The audio is embedded in the quiz and was kindly recorded by Carolina Seez.

School Quizzes 🏫

Posted by Roslyn Green, September 2022

Multiple Choice Quiz: Talking about School Subjects

This quiz provides sentences for describing your timetable and your attitudes to school subjects.

Colour-Coded Flippity Flashcards with a Matching Game

Learn school vocabulary by working through these gender-coded cards. Then click on “Matching” to test your memory.

Crossword: German Words for the Classroom

The clues are in German, but there are pictures to help as well. Click on the light bulb to revise the vocabulary.

Multiple Choice Quiz: My School Day

Select the right sentence to match pictures about your school day, from waking in the morning to sinking into an exhausted sleep at night.

Crossword: Classroom People and Objects

The crossword has a key word, along with pictures to help you decipher the German clues.

A Vocabulary Quiz: In der Schule → At School

Use essential nouns, verbs and adjectives for talking about school in sentences.

A Picture Quiz: What is in my schoolbag?

Learn the names for all the objects in your school bag, along with their genders.

A Pin and Label Quiz with Speaking Clues: Schulsachen School Stuff

The pins are colour coded, so that you learn the genders as well as the names of objects.

A Fill the Gap Quiz: Mein Schultag

This quiz contains vocabulary questions about attitudes to school subjects, events in a typical school day, and some revision of German word order.

A Pin and Label Quiz with Speaking Clues: What is in my schoolbag?

This quiz is embedded below. Just click on the pins to begin labelling. Click on the buttons on each label to hear a description in German.


Regular Verb Conjugation 🗝️

One Rule Above All Others: The Pattern of Regular Verbs

Posted by Roslyn Green, August 2022

The fundamental grammatical rule for speaking and writing correct German is the conjugation of regular verbs in the present tense.

Once you have learned this conjugation pattern, you will be able to apply it to hundreds of previously unknown verbs and be right every time. This will enable you to create hundreds of new sentences, even when using verbs that you have never before encountered.

A Tree of Regular German Verb Endings

Step by Step: Conjugating gehen (to go) as an Example

First, identify the verb stem.
Take off the -en at the end of the infinitive form of the verb. For example, the verb stem of wohnen is wohn. The verb stem of machen is mach.

Next, add the appropriate ending to the verb stem, depending on who is completing the action in the sentence. Here are the regular endings, shown for the verb gehen – to go:

  • ich gehe – I go
  • du gehst – you go (singular)
  • er/sie/es geht – he/she/it goes
  • wir gehen – we go
  • ihr geht – you go (plural)
  • sie gehen – they go

Note 1: The only difference between she goes and they go in German is the verb ending. That means that getting the verb endings correct with these pronouns is especially important to being understood.

Note 2: The formal address (Sie = you) requires the infinitive form of the verb: e.g. Sie machen, Sie gehen, etc. There is only one exception to this rule in the whole German language: sein – to be. To say “you are” to a stranger or acquaintance in a formal situation, you use Sie sind. Of course, sein is far too important to be a regular verb.


If you know how to handle the verbs, you know how to handle the language. Everything else is just vocabulary. – Michel Thomas, language teacher

Ten Starter Quizzes 🔤

Posted by Roslyn Green, August 2022

Translating "get" into German 🫲

To get cold feet – kalte Füße bekommen

The modest little verb get is often criticised by pedants (like me), yet few English speakers could get through the day without using it. It is one of the most common verbs in the language.

The examples below illustrate several of the German verbs you might use to translate the English “get”.

When to get means to receive

  • She always gets good grades. – Sie bekommt immer gute Noten.
  • Did she get the invitation? – Hat sie die Einladung bekommen?
She always gets an A+ in Maths – Sie bekommt immer ein A+ in Mathe.

When to get means to buy, to procure, to gain or to arrange something

  • I’d like to get myself a new car. – Ich möchte mir ein neues Auto kaufen.
  • I need to get an overview of the situation. – Ich muss mir einen Überblick der Situation verschaffen.
  • Can you get me a ticket? – Kannst du mir eine Karte besorgen?
  • Don’t forget to get some bread. – Vergiss  nicht, Brot zu kaufen.

When to get means to fetch or to bring back

  • Can you please get me a coffee? – Kannst du mir bitte einen Kaffee holen?
  • Can I get you anything in the city? – Kann ich dir etwas aus der Stadt mitbringen?
I don’t get it. – Ich verstehe das nicht.

When to get means to understand, to grasp or to comprehend 

  • I get what you’re saying. – Ich verstehe, was du meinst.
  • I just don’t get it. – Ich verstehe das nicht OR Ich kapier[e] das nicht.
  • You just don’t get it, do you? – Du kapierst es nicht, oder? OR Du begreifst es nicht, oder?

When to get means to become
• It’s getting dark. – Es wird dunkel.   
• I’m getting old. – Ich werde [langsam] alt.
• After her illness she got quite thin. – Nach ihrer Krankheit wurde sie ziemlich dünn.

She’s getting tired. – Sie wird müde.

When to get means to do a task or complete something

  • Can you get the phone? – Kannst du den Hörer abnehmen?
  • Can you get the door? – Kannst du die Tür aufmachen?
  • She’s getting the dinner at the moment. – Sie macht gerade das Abendessen. 

When to get means to reach someone

  • I can’t get hold of him (on the phone). – Ich kann ihn nicht erreichen.
  • You can get me at this number. – Du kannst mich unter dieser Nummer erreichen.

When to get means to begin or start something

  • We got talking one evening. – Wir haben angefangen, eines Abends zu sprechen.
  • I haven’t got very far yet. – Ich bin noch nicht sehr weit gekommen.
  • He got to his feet with difficulty. – Er ist mit Schwierigkeit aufgestanden.
That gets to me. – Das geht mir auf die Nerven.

When get is used to express frustration or disappointment

  • That really gets to me. – Das ärgert mich wirklich OR Das geht mir auf die Nerven.
  • That really gets me down. – Das deprimiert mich OR Das macht mich wirklich traurig.

When get has the sense of providing an opportunity

  • I get to practise my German with Moni. – Ich kann mein Deutsch mit Moni üben.

Some Selected Expressions:

  • He’ll never get over it. – Er wird nie darüber hinwegkommen
  • My son keeps getting into trouble. – Mein Sohn bekommt ständig Ärger.
  • We get along well. – Wir verstehen uns gut OR Wir kommen gut aus.
  • Let’s get down to work. – Lasst uns an die Arbeit gehen!
  • I really got a kick out of that. – Ich hatte großen Spaß daran.
  • I’m getting cold feet. – Ich bekomme kalte Füße.
  • You always get me to laugh. – Du bringst mich immer zum Lachen.

Related Online Activities

Another tricky verb: “to put”
How to translate “to put” – another puny but crucial English verb

A quiz about “to get” in German
This quiz offers many more examples of translating the verb “get” into German.

A Useful Resource for All Learners

Linguee – This online phrase dictionary is ideal for identifying an idiomatic translation of an expression or a phrase. 

Post checked: August 2022