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As I understand it, if a verb is a weak verb, I can extrapolate every form of that verb using basic grammar rules. All I need to know is the verb's infinitive form.

But for non-weak verbs, I need to know if the stem changes, how it changes, and in what situations.

Right now, I am looking at a book of verbs which has a huge list of conjugations, but most of them can be reliably deduced, right? So what is the least amount of information one needs to be able to deduce everything about a verb?

It looks to me like you need to know: the infinitive form, every form the verb takes in the present tense (for verbs like sein), the past participle, the imperfect stem, and whether the perfect is formed with sein or haben (in addition to the meaning of the verb, of course).

But I am sure I am missing something!

  • There are four conjugations of verbs in German: weak, strong, weak irregular and totally irregular. Strong verbs actually follow rules, they just aren't that simple as for the weak verbs. The only verbs you need to learn one-by-one are weak irregular ones (only a few dozen are common) and the very few totally irregular verbs as sein. – Janka Dec 16 '16 at 5:42
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    Oh, and don't try to think about the rules for the strong conjugation too much. Germans get them wrong all the time. I had to think whether it was backenich buk or ich bok, and then I remember for waschen, it's ich wusch and choose ich buk. – Janka Dec 16 '16 at 5:49
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    To encourage you even more, please see the small table on that page: germanforenglishspeakers.com/verbs/verb-types The mixed (weak irregular) list is comprehensive, the difference between "9" and "few dozens" lies in the prefixes ("an-, ab-, be-, zer-, ver-," etc.) that can be applied to these nine. The few modals mostly follow the rules for the weak verbs but have a vowel change, too. Categorize them as totally irregular. – Janka Dec 16 '16 at 6:17
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    The usual format for listing the main forms of verbs is singen/sang/gesungen. This doesn't always allow you to deduce every form; for instance the conjunctive is sänge, which is predictable but not totally predictable, and some rare verbs like sein have even more irregular forms. But it's close enough that it's not worthwhile naming any more forms when characterizing a new verb. – Kilian Foth Dec 16 '16 at 7:22
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    You might also want to know the pair (Verb, Preposition), since without the second entry it is useless in some cases. – c.p. Dec 16 '16 at 8:48
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The English Wiktionary has conjugation tables for many German verbs, which can be seen by editing the page. For laufen, the definition is:

{{de-conj-strong|lauf|lief|gelaufen|s||läuf||a|||a}}

This information is used by this template:

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Template:de-conj-strong

By clicking the Edit link, you can see (buried in lots of {braces}) how the tables are generated.

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