0

Most grammar references that I have seen state that if a verb stem ends with m or n, and is not preceded with the consonants l or r, then in the Present Tense the 2nd person singular ending becomes -est, and the 3rd person singular and 2nd person plural ending becomes -et. But I see some verbs (kommen, kennen, schwimmen for example) where this is not apparently the case. Is there another rule that I should be aware of? Or is this an example of natural variability in the language and one must just learn these exceptions?

  • 1
    It sound very archaic to me. The Christmas carol "Ihr Kinderlein, kommet" actually makes use of the rule. Do you have another example for a verb where it's supposed to be like this? Können also does not follow this rule. – infinitezero May 1 at 8:41
4

You misinterpreted this rule. Double consonants are a peculiarity of written German. They are used as a marker the previous vowel should be short. For speech matters —and that inserted schwa is just a matter of speech— they are single consonants. The reason for this schwa is avoiding hard to pronounce consonant clusters:

regnen → du regnest, ihr regnet (not: du regnst, ihr regnt)

atmen → du atmest, ihr atmet (not: to atmst, ihr atmt)

With vowel-preceded consonants, this isn't a problem:

klonen → du klonst, ihr klont (-onst and -ont are easy to pronounce)

stemmen → du stemmst, ihr stemmt (-emmst and -emmt are easy to pronounce)

Let's try with some verbs that don't exist (yet).

prülmen → du prülmst, ihr prülmt

sutmen → du sutmest, ihr sutmet. (How do you pronounce sutmst? Or sutmt?)

See how this works? The schwa is needed for pronunciation.

  • Although what counts as "easy to pronounce" is another question. Do foreign speakers really find "prülmst" easy to pronounce? Probably it's actually about the first consonant being a stop. – sgf May 1 at 16:16
  • Ah thanks I can see now the double consonant pattern. And have read up on and more informed about the schwa, the sound of which occurs often in many languages but is a term I had not come across before. Thanks for the feedback. – CJSMelb May 3 at 5:41
  • @CJSMelb: There're actually two schwa-sounds in German. One is the same as in English, you will find it in reduction syllables written with an -e-. The other is Tiefschwa, a reduced variant of the a, you will find it written as -r- or -er- at many syllable ends. – Janka May 3 at 9:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.