New verbs in English are invariably regular. Sneak, an old verb in English dating from the 16th century, is one of the very few that have, at least in some parts of the world, become irregular (with snuck now competing with sneaked), and only in the last 100 years.

Are there any truly new arrivals (by which I mean only to exclude established verbs with new prefix uses) of irregular or strong verbs in German?

  • According to Wiktionary, "snuck" was formed by analogy with "struck". Similarly "dove" (less common) was formed (presumably) by analogy with "drove". The Old English snican is also strong but with a different vowel change, so it was regularized and then deregularized The point is that the overall trend is toward regularization, with exceptions being due to similarities with common irregular verbs.
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 19:38
  • @RDBury Interesting. Burchfield, in Fowler's Modern English Usage (Oxford Press) says, "Meanwhile, no one has satisfactorily accounted for the origin of snuck: there is no other verb in the language with the infinitive -eek or -eak and pa.t. -uck. Consider the following verbs: creak, freak, leak, peak, peek, reek, seek, squeak, streak, wreak,, also shriek. None of them has shown any sign of following the path of sneak by acquiring a new pa.t. form. Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 23:48
  • @ user02814 If I may say so, it very much sounds to me that the principle behind giving rise to the sneak-snuck combination is also vowel gradation: stick-stuck, tik-tok, click-clock, sneak-snuck?
    – user46563
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 0:37
  • 1
    I have never heard "snuck" (or "dove") used in British English - dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/snuck Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 11:30
  • 4
    Getting a bit away from the point, but fwiw they're ("snuck" - although I think I'd have spelt it "snook", personally - and "dove") my default past tense forms for those verbs (32 y/o, lived in NW England from birth until early 20s).
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 12:10

3 Answers 3


Just like in English, this section of grammar in German has hardly experienced any substantial additions or expansion for a long time now as the principles that brought about these irregular verbs were only actively applied in the very early days of the Germanic languages. There is the, somewhat funny, Gesellschaft zur Stärkung der Verben (Society for the Irregularisation of Verbs) trying to account for the lack of development here.

Similarly to sneak/sneaked vs. sneak/snuck, the only comparative German counterpart I can think of right now is winken/winkte/gewinkt vs. winken/(wunk)/gewunken (to wave) which is most likely to enter eventually into generally accepted usage (if it hasn’t already) to coexist then with the regular version.

Apart from this more or less unique new creation and addition, at times you could hear mix-ups of largely homophonic verbs because of the ignorance of possible differences:

  • hängen/hing/gehangen vs. hängen/hängte/gehängt: The former is the intransitive version of hängen; the latter is the transitive one. So, they differ in that you would either have something/be hanging (hing) or make something hanging (hängte).

  • leiden/litt/gelitten vs. leiten/leitete/geleitet: Ever so often, mathematicians ignore the origin of the word ableiten (to differentiate) and say things like abgelitten. I would say this is just a spleen with various individuals coming from mathematical professions because they likely have never considered the possibility of a lapse of memory here.

  • genießen/genoss/genossen vs. niesen/nieste/geniest: By the spur of the moment, at times people say (jokingly) genossen (enjoyed) instead of geniest (sneezed).

  • schleifen/schliff/geschliffen vs. schleifen/schleifte/geschleift: Sometimes people mix up the former (meaning to hone, e.g. a piece of metal) with the latter (meaning to slight, e.g., a fortress).

It is also quite often the case that the past participle in German is produced erroneously while the main point to look at here is the actual intention of using one version or the other, i.e. by state or progression of the action implied by the verb.

Although being lexicalised with only one, many regular verbs are occasionally used with a different past participle in German. For example, abgeschaltet vs. abgeschalten (to switch off [e.g. the television]) stems from the regular verb schalten which is conjugated with either of the two auxiliary verbs in German (sein/haben). It should be conjugated accordingly as follows:

Der Fernseher ist abgeschaltet.
Der Fernseher hat abgeschaltet.

There is also the tendency to use:

*Der Fernseher ist abgeschalten.

This stems in all likelihood from the non-obvious difference in usage of the auxiliary verbs with irregular verbs: ist gesprungen / hat gestanden / hat gesprochen / hat geschwiegen / ist geschritten / ist gelaufen.

In general, making use of the vowel gradation (Ablautreihe) is so much easier to achieve physiopsychologically while speaking that one could also quite often hear new Starke Verben being produced, that is new irregular verbs created ad-hoc.

  • 1
    Welcome to German Language SE and thank you for your answer. I edited it quite a bit because I found it difficult to extract what you were aiming at and some sentences were very convoluted. Please check whether everything is still according to your intentions.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 12:42
  • 3
    The schleifte/geschleift form also has the more common meaning of "to drag". Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 14:46
  • 3
    I would like to challenge the claim contained in "at times people say (jokingly) genossen (enjoyed) instead of geniest (sneezed)", viz., that "genossen" is just a joke. What's the basis for this challenge? Several Swiss-German dialects -- and especially Walliser-Deutsch (which is mostly pure Mittelhochdeutsch with a few Althochdeutsch components thrown in for good measure) -- definitely use "ernosse'" and "g'nosse'" as the past participle of "niesen". Thus, "genossen" in Neuhochdeutsch may actually be a proper hold-over from older locutions rather than just a joke.
    – Mico
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 6:21
  • 2
    "abgeschalten"? Really? Never heard that ... Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 7:26
  • 1
    @Hagen I use it all the time. It only feels wrong when thinking longer about it.
    – Bergi
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 9:29

Many English verbs in the IT are not translated in the current German. For example

  • scannen (to scan)
  • pushen (to push)
  • pullen (to pull)

Their perfekt-form should be "gescannt", "gepusht", and so on, if they would be used as regular verbs. But they are not. My current experience is that many native German speakers build a half German/half English version of the perfekt-form: "gescanned", "gepushed" and so on.

These can be considered irregular verbs, although maybe regular, but half-English verb would be more accurate.

  • It might be worthwhile to note that for most (?) German speakers there is no real difference in pronunciation between "gescannt" and "gescanned".
    – Emil
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 8:21

I taught German at an American university and the faculty used the verb “droppen” to express the concept of dropping a class - “Wieviele haben schon gedroppt?”.

As an kind of inside joke, some of us made it (very oddly) irregular: droppen drap gedrupt - ich droppe, du dröpst, usw. There was also a competing faction in the department that preferred “dropieren” :)

  • 3
    "dropieren" is schwyzerdütsch.
    – Kakturus
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 14:05
  • My experience with ad hoc "-ieren" constructions is that native speakers do not understand them, even if the meaning looks for me trivial. Maybe in Schwyz it could go better. I think the competing fraction made the same mistake, but had no native speakers to test it on.
    – peterh
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 19:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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