Could a native German speaker explain to me why the following verbs are irregular

tragen trug getragen
betragen betrug betragen
auftragen trug auf aufgetragen
beitragen trug bei beigetragen

but magically the following one

beauftragen beauftragte beauftragt

is regular?

  • 5
    It's not really a question for a native speaker but maybe for a linguist. As a native speaker I never ever thought of this issue before. And as a person who learnt (or try to learn) some language I can only tell you to accept it as it is. But yes, it is not logical. At least not to me. Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 13:33
  • +1, cuz I never thought I would find this interesting. This site is a pest :D Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 9:31

3 Answers 3


I respectfully disagree. There is logic; the verb beauftragen is constructed from the noun Auftrag with the prefix be-, and the noun element Auftrag is not affected by the variation of the verb.

Similarly: beeinflussen from Einfluss, beinhalten from Inhalt, beanspruchen from Anspruch.

  • +1, sounds very logical. But couldn´t it be just by accident? Is the "be-" prefix really responsible? Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 9:28
  • What about "belassen", for example. It would acknowledge the rule, right? Not constructed from a noun -> follows the "lassen" verb irregularity, right? Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 9:30
  • 2
    "belassen" does not have a noun in its stem like beAUFTRAGen, beINHALTen, beEINFLUSSen.
    – teylyn
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 9:46
  • What about "Betrag"? The past of the verb "betragen" is "betrug".
    – Sentry
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 14:46
  • @Sentry I do not think "Betrag" and betragen apply to the rule abacus has given. The prefix "be" should not come from the noun. In your case it has to be "bebetragen" and such verb does not exist.
    – Jagger
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 19:20

If you're looking for a logical answer, you're out of luck :)

But in general, it's like this: the younger a verb is, the more likely it will be a regular one - which is true for English, too, btw.

You usually can't tell whether a verb is going to be regular or irregular when looking at it for the very first time - you'll just have to memorise the lists, I'm afraid.

  • It is a great relief to get a reminder that English native speakers have to learn irregular German verbs just like German native speakers have to learn irregular English verbs :D Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 9:26

There are several examples for this phenomenon, e.g. schlagen vs veranschlagen, or even two declinations for the same verb (but with different meanings), e.g. hängen or schleifen. As already mentioned, there is no "logic" behind this.

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