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?

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    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. May 1, 2019 at 8:41

1 Answer 1


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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 at 9:58

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