Taming the Stem-Changers

Some verbs are as fickle as human beings. The stem-changing verbs in German remind me of children who misbehave at certain predictable times, like toddlers who always throw a tantrum in the supermarket.

If you can only remember when these verbs tend to misbehave, you will never have any more trouble with them. 

The stem-changers only „misbehave“ in the second and third person singular. Otherwise they are utterly regular, predictable and conformist. They have all the normal endings for regular German verbs, but they have a little mutation in their stem in the second and third person singular. The vowel in their stem changes.

In English we have a couple of verbs that do this in the third person singular. For instance, we say, „I say“, but „he says“ (sez); we also say, „I do“, but „she does“ (duz). So we have a couple of these stem-changers in our language too.

Below is a list of the main verbs that are affected by this little quirk, along with a Quizlet which will help you to tame them.

There are several more of these verbs, but you won’t need them for a while yet. Hopefully when you finally meet them, you’ll know exactly what to do with them.

Stem Change: a becomes ä in…

  • fahren – to drive, to ride on a wheeled vehicle (du fährst, er/sie fährt)
  • tragen – to wear, to carry (du trägst, er/sie trägt)

Stem Change: e becomes ie in…

  • sehen – to see (du siehst, er/sie sieht)
  • lesen – to read (du liest, er/sie liest)

Stem Change: e becomes i in…

    • essen – to eat (du isst, er/sie isst)
    • sprechen – to speak (du sprichst, er/sie spricht)
    • nehmen – to take (du nimmst, er/sie nimmt)
    • helfen – to help (du hilfst, er/sie hilft)

Steady Practice With the Stem-Changers – Year 7/8 German

Working through this little set of exercises, which have answers provided on the next page, with give you more confidence with the stem-changers.

Play the Space Race

Give yourself a Multiple Choice Test

To view the quiz below on a full screen, click here

Click on the pic or on this link to download this handout. The second page supplies suggested answers to the activities on the first page. Click on the pic or on this link to download a second worksheet on the stem-changing verbs.


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