Roots

In German, most verbs conjugate by adding a different ending onto the end of the word to show who is doing the action (i.e. 1st, 2nd or 3rd person? One or multiple people?). But when we say ‘adding an ending to the end of the word’ what we really mean is adding the ending onto the root. The root is the beginning part of the verb which does not change for different conjugations unless the verb is in some way irregular.

For example, here are the roots of the following regular verbs:

spielen -> spiel-

suchen -> such-

studieren -> studier-

beobachten -> beobacht-

As you can see, to isolate the root of any verb all you have to do is take the -en away from the end of the infinitive. You can also isolate the root of past-tense and conditional forms of the verb, for example, by just taking away the -en from the ‘wir’ form of the verb, e.g. ‘wir hatten’ -> hatt-

Roots are useful because as long as you learn the standard endings for a certain type of verb conjugation, all you need to do is glue those endings onto the root. For regular verbs, forming a past participle is as easy as just popping ge- on the front of the root and -t at the end of the root.

Even with irregular verbs and different tenses it is quite often a question of simply making a small change to the root in addition to changing the ending:

fahren -> fahr-

ich fahre

du fรคhrst (because fahren is an irregular verb which takes an umlaut on the vowel in the du and er,sie,es forms)

I admit, learning all the different roots and irregular verbs is a big undertaking and I won’t pretend that it’s easy. But the more verbs you learn, and the more you read and write German, the more you will get a feel for how roots form patterns, and this will help you enormously when you then want to use unfamiliar vocab later on down your magical language-learning journey.

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