Action Words: 10 Commonly Used German Verbs to Get You Up and Running

No matter what language you’re speaking, verbs are essential to communicate anything you want to say.

If you’re a beginner German learner and are still tripping up with learning your verbs, I’ve come up with this handy guide to give you a clearer insight into how to use them.

And I’ve gathered together my top 10 most-used verbs that all beginners should aim to learn from the get-go.


Why Are Verbs Important?

We build our sentences up around verbs. In fact, if we don’t use a verb in a sentence then, technically, we can’t call it a sentence. It’s just a string of words—words that aren’t linked together in any meaningful way.

They express physical actions, states of being and mental action. So, if it weren’t for these handy little words we’d have a hard job describing every thing we ever do! Not only that, but they’re also very useful in clarifying the subjects of our sentences. Take the following example:

The dog was running.

If we didn’t have the two verbs, our sentence would be reduced to “the dog.” First of all, that’s not a complete sentence. Secondly, we now know nothing about what the dog may or may not be doing.

Here’s another example of just how important verbs are:

The dog was running which was very dangerous.

There are two verbs in the above construction. It might be easy to disregard one as a verb—after all, they’re so often taught in our English classes as doing words or action words—you might skip over the “is” and not realize it’s a verb. But, as it’s helping to describe the state of being—or, more precisely, the state of the dog running—it’s one for our list of verbs.

With that in mind, here are some of the verbs all beginners will need when they start out learning German…

10 Common German Verbs All Beginners Should Learn

1. Sein (to be)

How to conjugate sein:

I am — ich bin

You are (singular, informal) — du bist

He/She/It is — er/sie/es ist

We are — wir sind

They are — sie sind

You are (plural, informal) — ihr seid

You are (plural and singular, formal) — Sie sind

Examples of sein in sentences:

Er ist mein Bruder. Wir sind Geschwister.
He is my brother. We’re siblings.

Seid ihr zu Hause oder in der Schule?
Are you all at home or school?

Sind wir alle zwanzig Jahre alt?
Are we all twenty years old?

Mir ist heiß.
I feel warm.

2. Gehen (to go)

How to conjugate gehen:

I — ich gehe

You (singular, informal) — du gehst

He/She/It — er/sie/es geht

We — wir gehen

They — sie gehen

You (plural, informal) — ihr geht

You (singular and plural, formal) — Sie gehen

Examples of gehen in sentences:

Gehen wir alle zusammen?
Are we all going together?

Jeden Tag gehe ich einkaufen.
I go shopping everyday.

3. Sehen (to see)

How to conjugate sehen:

I — ich sehe

You (singular, informal) — du siehst

He/She/It — er/sie/es sieht

We — wir sehen

They — sie sehen

You (plural, informal) — ihr seht

You (singular and plural, formal) — Sie sehen

Examples of sehen in sentences:

Ich sehe den Mann.
I see the man.

Sehen Sie die Katze?
Do you see the cat?

4. Essen (to eat)

How to conjugate essen:

I — ich esse

You (singular, informal) — du isst

He/She/It — er/sie/es isst

We — wir essen

They — sie essen

You (plural, informal) — ihr esst

You (singular and plural, formal) — Sie essen

Examples of essen in sentences:

Isst er gerne Käse?
Does he like to eat cheese?

Ich esse immer Sandwiches bei der Arbeit.
I always eat sandwiches at work.

5. Schlafen (to sleep)

How to conjugate schlafen:

I — ich schlafe

You (singular, informal) — du schläfst

He/She/It— er/sie/es schläft

We — wir schlafen

They — sie schlafen

You (plural, informal) — ihr schlaft

You (singular and plural, formal) — Sie schlafen

Examples of schlafen in sentences:

Schläft sie während des Tages?
Does she sleep during the day?

Wir schlafen heute Nacht im Gästezimmer.
Tonight we’re sleeping in the guestroom.

6. Trinken (to drink)

How to conjugate trinken:

I — ich trinke

You (singular, informal) — du trinkst

He/She/It — er/sie/es trinkt

We — wir trinken

They — Sie trinken

You (plural, informal) — Ihr trinkt

You (singular and plural, formal) — Sie trinken

Examples of trinken in sentences:

Trinken Sie lieber Bier oder Wein?
Do you prefer to drink beer or wine?

Ihr trinkt sehr viel Apfelsaft.
You all drink a lot of apple juice.

Ich trinke keinen Kaffee.
I don’t drink coffee.

7. Fahren (to go/to drive)

How to conjugate fahren:

I — ich fahre

You (singular, informal) — du fährst

He/She/It — er/sie/es fährt

We — wir fahren

They — sie fahren

You (plural, informal) — ihr fahrt

You (singular and plural, formal) — Sie fahren

Examples of fahren in a sentence:

Fahren sie morgen nach Frankreich?
Are they going to France tomorrow?

Ich fahre normalerweise mit dem Auto, aber heute fahre ich mit dem Zug.
I normally drive but today I’m going by train.

Wir fahren nach Polen und danach weiter nach Dänemark.
We’re driving to Poland and then on to Denmark afterwards.

8. Kaufen (to buy)

How to conjugate kaufen:

I — ich kaufe

You (singular, informal) — du kaufst

He/She/It — er/sie/es kauft

We — wir kaufen

They — sie kaufen

You (plural, informal) — ihr kauft

You (single and plural, informal) — Sie kaufen

Examples of kaufen in a sentence:

Kaufst du das Kleid?
Are you buying the dress?

Sie kaufen Bücher.
They’re buying books.

Die blaue Hose kaufe ich nicht.
I am not buying the blue trousers.

9. Spielen (to play)

How to conjugate spielen:

I — ich spiele

You (singular, informal) — du spielst

He/She/It — er/sie/es spielt

We — wir spielen

They — sie spielen

You (plural, informal) — ihr spielt

You (singular and plural, formal) — Sie spielen

Examples of spielen in sentences:

Spielt ihr morgen zusammen?
Are you playing together tomorrow?

Spielst du gerne Tennis?
Do you like to play tennis?

Wir spielen nicht gerne Schach.
We do not like to play chess.

10. Schreiben (to write)

How to conjugate schreiben:

I — ich schreibe

You (singular, informal) — du schreibst

He/She/It — er/sie/es schreibt

We — wir schreiben

They — sie schreiben

You (plural, informal) — ihr schreibt

You (singular and plural, formal) — Sie schreiben

Examples of schreiben in sentences:

Ich schreibe dir einen Brief.
I’m writing a letter to you.

Seit März schreibt er seinen Roman.
He’s been writing his novel since March.

Sie schreibt ihm nicht.
She does not write to him.


So now hopefully you’ll be able to drop these verbs into all your written and spoken German without any problems at all!

Now all that’s left to do is to get out there and use them, which is just as important as learning them.

This can be done by keeping a daily journal or speaking with a language partner every week.

Or, you could immerse yourself in native materials to help you internalize the language better. The FluentU program, for example, has put together full language lessons using authentic videos using interactive subtitles, multimedia flashcards and transcripts and exercises that let you choose, type or speak your answer.

Once you’ve mastered verbs in the present tense (as they all are in the examples above) you’ll be able to advance onto past and future tenses—Excited?!

You should be.

After studying German and Philosophy at The University of Nottingham, Laura Harker relocated to Berlin in 2012. She now works as a freelance writer and is also assistant editor at Slow Travel Berlin.

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