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I looked up putzen in a dictionary. It gave a me an example of how it is used in a sentence.

Putze deine Schuhe mit einer Bürste.

I don't understand why there is an "e" after putz. I know that you must add an "e" when the stem ends in d or t or when it ends in consonant +m or consonant + e, but none of those conditions apply here.

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    You don't add an e, you remove an n, from my reference system (the infinitive). Or better said, that's the way the conjugation is. However, putz is also valid.
    – c.p.
    Dec 16, 2023 at 8:21
  • Removing -en from the infinitive yields imperatives such as nehm! geb! ess!, which I wouldn't recommend to language learners.
    – David Vogt
    Dec 16, 2023 at 10:34
  • Thanks a lot David.
    – Kamran
    Dec 17, 2023 at 9:19
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Imperative with and without -e
    – RHa
    Dec 17, 2023 at 17:07
  • Yes, definitely. Thanks a lot. I appreciate your help.
    – Kamran
    Dec 21, 2023 at 16:59

3 Answers 3

3

Putze deine Schuhe mit einer Bürste!

Putz deine Schuhe mit einer Bürste!

Both variants are valid. The latter variant started as colloquial but is more common nowadays.

This sort of shortening simply does not always happen because it sometimes introduces an off beat to the sentence rhythm and people don't like that. So forget about those "rules" you learned, they are guidelines at best.

In a similar vein, people often drop the -e in first person singular nowadays.

Ich putze meine Schuhe mit einer Bürste.

Ich putz meine Schuhe mit einer Bürste.

The latter is still seen as "incorrect" but it's even more common than the first variant.

In general, Schwa endings (short -e) are often dropped in German.

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  • Thanks very much Janka.
    – Kamran
    Dec 17, 2023 at 9:20
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Languages change over time. One such example regarding the German language is that the ending "-e" tends to get out of fashion. Earlier, the imperative form of "putzen" strictly was "putze.

Putze die Schuhe!

But more recently, the "-e" ending is often omitted.

Putz die Schuhe!

Sometimes, an Auslassungszeichen is used to signify that something has been omitted.

Putz' die Schuhe!

The rules you have learned probably reflect the shorter imperative form without the "-e" ending. Both forms are considered technically correct. The form with the "-e" ending is used in more formal speech, or to emphasize the command. The form without the "-e" ending is more colloquial. Some more examples:

Stelle das Buch ins Regal!
Stell das Buch ins Regal!

Halte den Mund und sei still!
Halt den Mund und sei still!

Setze Dich auf das Pferd und reite nach Hause!
Setz Dich auf das Pferd und reit nach Hause!

In some cases, the shortening goes further than just removing the "-e" ending. Consider for example the verb "nehmen". The "longer imperative", so to speak, is "nehme"

Nehme doch noch ein Stück Kuchen!

but in addition to the shorter form "nehm", also "nimm" is used

Nehm doch bitte noch ein Stück Kuchen!
Nimm doch bitte noch ein Stück Kuchen!

The omission of an "-e" also happens at other places, for example with other verb forms:

Ich gehe mal schnell zum Bäcker.
Ich geh mal schnell zum Bäcker.

or with some dative forms

Im Laufe der Zeit wurde sein Deutsch immer besser.
Im Lauf der Zeit wurde sein Deutsch immer besser.

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  • Historically, -e is actually added as far a strong verbs such as halten are concerned.
    – David Vogt
    Dec 16, 2023 at 10:42
  • 5
    Your "Nehm!" imperatve is way off. Never heard that from anything but toddlers who didn't know better
    – tofro
    Dec 16, 2023 at 12:08
  • nehmen - nimm, helfen - hilf, essen - iss usw. usf.
    – AcK
    Dec 16, 2023 at 22:58
  • Beim Imperativ wird KEIN Auslassungszeichen verwendet.
    – AcK
    Dec 16, 2023 at 22:59
  • Thank you so much. I am grateful.
    – Kamran
    Dec 17, 2023 at 9:22
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@c.p.'s comment is essentially correct:

You don't add an e, you remove an n ...

The infinitive putzen [ˈpʊt͡sn̩] (de.wiktionary) shows syncope. The imperative is thereby not simple apocope. Rather, the ending is unstressed and the stem is monomorphemic.[ˈpʰʊtsən] can be found also (en.wiktionary), but the audio is the same in both cases [1] and the false notation does not show secondary stress, presumably because there is none. 2.pl.imp. Putzt is entirely standard instead of possibly older putzet. Imperativ putze is thus a purely orthographic form.

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  • Thanks a lot. May I ask you to explain things in simple English because my knowledge of linguistics and the terminology used in that field is sadly very limited.
    – Kamran
    Dec 21, 2023 at 17:02
  • No. I am simply disagreeing with @Janka's notion of "colloquial", which you have not questioned so far.
    – vectory
    Dec 21, 2023 at 21:06

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