I must relearn some of the more basic parts of German (especially the different aspects of verbs.)

Is there any helpful method, pattern or rule to memorizing when the past participle ends in ‑t versus ‑en?

If not, I would even settle for a well-formulated online introduction to this topic, so that I can refresh my German.


1 Answer 1


The difference between strong (past participle with ‑en) and weak (past participle with ‑t) verbs is that strong verbs constitute a relatively small, closed class, whereas the number of the weak verbs is large and always growing. This is because new verbs inflect weakly: gemanagt, gebloggt, gedopt, gebootet, getwittert.

The overwhelming majority of weak verbs inflect completely regularly; preterite and past participle are both formed with ‑t.

leben, lebte, gelebt
warten, wartete, gewartet

Two common irregular weak verbs are bringen and denken. These have a different stem in past forms.

denken, dachte, gedacht
bringen, brachte, gebracht

Then there are Rückumlautverben (Wikipedia) and modal verbs (Präteritopräsentien, Wikipedia), which show a different vowel.

nennen, nannte, genannt
müssen, musste, gemusst

Strong verbs always have alternating vowels known as Ablaut (see Wikipedia). These must be memorised. The ending is -en in the past participle; the preterite has no ending.

sehen, sah, gesehen
kommen, kam, gekommen
finden, fand, gefunden
nehmen, nahm, genommen
schreiben, schrieb, geschrieben

There are lists of strong and irregular weak verbs all over the Internet, for instance on deutschlernerblog.de. What's great about that page is that there are several different lists for different CEFR levels. Wikipedia has an overview over the different kinds of irregular verbs. (They also have their own list of strong verbs, but grouping them into Ablautklassen is useful only for historical purposes and not for language learners.)

Recommended strategy: Start memorising strong and irregular weak verbs and assume that every other verb is weak and regular.

Note that derived verbs usually follow their base. So if you have correctly memorised weisen, wies, gewiesen, you also know how aufweisen, beweisen, hinweisen, verweisen, vorweisen etc. are formed. This is how the list linked above gets from 170 strong and irregular verbs to 1100.

weisen, wies, gewiesen
aufweisen, wies auf, aufgewiesen
beweisen, bewies, bewiesen

However, beware of homophones!

fehlen, fehlte, gefehlt (weak)
befehlen, befahl, befohlen (strong)

  • Thank you and I apologize if my question is too close to the related question that was already answered. Both your answer and the link were helpful.
    – tom
    Sep 22, 2019 at 10:35
  • Also learn, that für a few words there are regional differences: In most parts of Germany: »Der Fernseher ist eingeschaltet. Sie hat die Suppe versalzt. Der Kerl ist abgehauen und hat dabei gewinkt.« But in Austria: »Der Fernseher ist eingeschalten. Sie hat die Suppe versalzen. Der Kerl ist abgehaut und hat dabei gewunken.« Sep 22, 2019 at 16:06
  • 2
    @Hubert "Sie hat die Suppe versalzt." seriously? That should always be "Sie hat die Suppe versalzen." Sep 22, 2019 at 17:15

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