In the German dictionary I refer to often, there is the conjugation of verbs only for (du) and (er) as below (for word Können). in German dictionary : dedic.naver.com

I know the conjugation for ich is kann. Is it because I can deduce the 1st person conjugation from kannst or kann? If so, what is the exact rule? just remove 'st' from 'kannst'?

In the example below, I cannot deduce 'Ich lese' from 'Du liest' or 'Er liest'. enter image description here


1 Answer 1

  • There are around 200 irregular verbs in German (unregelmäßige Verben or starke Verben) and they usually have changes within their roots only for personal pronouns du and er/sie/es. That's probably the reason why you normally find the conjugation for 2nd- and 3rd-person pronouns only.

  • Now, whether an exact rule exists or not, there are actually 5 "categories" of irregular verbs:

The first 4 categories only have changes within 2nd- and 3rd-person pronouns (du, er/sie/es).

  1. i instead of e

helfen: ich helfe - du hilfst - er/sie/es hilft

geben: ich gebe - du gibst - er/sie/es gibt

-others: sprechen, essen, sterben, werfen, a.o.

  1. ie instead of e

sehen: ich sehe - du siehst - er/sie/es sieht

lesen: ich lese - du liest - er/sie/es liest

-others: stehlen, empfehlen, befehlen, a.o.

  1. ä instead of a

fahren: ich fahre - du fährst - er/sie/es fährt

halten: ich halte - du hältst - er/sie/es hält

-others: fangen, schlafen, waschen, a.o.

  1. äu instead of au

laufen: ich laufe - du läufst - er/sie/es läuft

saufen: ich saufe - du säufst - er/sie/es säuft

The irregular verbs in 5th category have unpredictable changes in their roots and they can also be irregular for ich, wir, ihr, sie/Sie:

  1. Special cases

haben: ich habe - du hast - er/sie/es hat

sein: ich bin - du bist - er/sie/es ist - wir sind - ihr seid - sie/Sie sind

wissen: ich weiß - du weißt - er/sie/es weiß

-others: werden, Modal Verbs (können, wollen, dürfen, sollen, mögen, müssen), a.o.

  • 3
    Nice answer! I just wonder how the plural versions wir/ihr/sie fit in.
    – Arsak
    Jun 14, 2017 at 7:07
  • 5
    @Marzipanherz, plural pronouns don't usually change their conjugations rules even on starke Verben. That means, you should always use wir root+en, ihr root+t and sie/Sie root+en. Just in some cases as shown in 5th categorie they might change, but those are few cases that you will easily learn and remember.
    – juliancadi
    Jun 14, 2017 at 7:46
  • @J.Caicedo Thanks for the nice answer. That helps. And I gather the dictionary should better have shown the confjugation for 'Ich' when it's an irregular verbe. (because plural form is easy? :) )
    – Chan Kim
    Jun 14, 2017 at 8:33
  • 2
    @ChanKim, you'll find all forms in the one-and-only official dictionary: duden.de/rechtschreibung/halten Jun 14, 2017 at 12:15
  • 1
    @ChanKim Given the special behavior of können, I would've expected to have a separate entry for the 1st person singular following this answer. So, yes, they should've shown it, especially as the otherwise deduced könne is an existing word form with another meaning (Konjunktiv I)
    – Chieron
    Jun 14, 2017 at 15:15

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