That little word – „gern“

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In English we might translate „gern“ literally as „gladly“, a word that brings to my mind the tinkling conversation at an older women’s tea party:

„Oh Gladys, I’d gladly have another tiny wedge of that sponge.“

„Of course, my dear, just let me fetch you a cake fork.“

– or perhaps at a knitting group:

„I would gladly have knitted a scarf for you, but my fingers have been a little stiff since winter set in.“

But no serious native speaker uses that word in everyday life to describe what they like doing. Imagine this conversation between students at school:

„I gladly learn Chinese,“ said Sarah. „Do you gladly play the piano?“
„Actually, not so gladly,“ answered the red-haired girl. „But I play the guitar gladly.“

I mean, honestly. We would never formulate our sentences like that. Even if we translated the word „gern“ by using the phrase „with pleasure“, those sentences would still sound odd and stiff.

But in German, the word „gern“ is used exactly like that to express what one likes doing. It’s used especially straight after a verb to express one’s pleasure in doing an activity:

«Ich lerne gern Chinesisch», sagte Sarah. «Spielst du gern Klavier?»

«Eigentlich nicht so gern», antwortete das rothaarige Mädchen. «Aber ich spiele gern Gitarre.»

The Quizlet below introduces the use of „gern“ in a number of sentences. 

This Quizlet also provides several examples of stem-changing verbs. In German there are a number of common verbs that change their vowel sounds in the second and third person singular. In other words they are irregular verbs, but happily, they are irregular in a rather predictable wayOnce you know that the verb belongs to this little group of stem-changing verbs, you can guess intelligently at the conjugation of the verb and often get it right.

I do love patterns – and German, despite its sometimes stern and forbidding grammar (or perhaps because of it), abounds in them.

Here are some examples you will encounter in the Quizlet below, with  their full conjugation in the present tense form:

lesen – to read

The „e“ sound changes to an „ie“ sound in the second and third person singular. The same pattern is evident for the verb sehen.

Infinitive: lesen Singular Plural
First person ich lese – I read  wir lesen – we read
Second person du liest – you read ihr lest – you read
Third person er/sie liest – he/she reads sie lesen – they read

sehen – to see

Infinitive: sehen Singular Plural
First person ich sehe – I see  wir sehen – we see
Second person du siehst – you see ihr seht – you see
Third person er/sie sieht – he/she sees sie sehen – they see

fahren – to drive, ride (a wheeled vehicle such as a bike)

The „a“ sound changes to an „ä“ sound in the second and third person singular.

Infinitive: lesen Singular Plural
First person ich fahre – I drive, ride  wir fahren – we drive, ride
Second person du fährst – you drive, ride ihr fahrt – you drive, ride
Third person er/sie fährt – he/she drives, rides sie fahren – they drive, ride

Other common verbs with this little mutation:

e -> i

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

a -> ä – same pattern as fahren

  • tragen – to carry, wear (du trägst, er/sie trägt)
  • schlafen – to sleep (du schläfst, er/sie schläft)

The PDF below will help you to revise the use of gern, lieber and am liebsten.

The quiz below will help you to revise the stem-changing verbs. To see the quiz more comfortably on the whole screen, click here.

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