How to use the infinitive and other verbs in German
An infinitive is the form of a verb that you find in the dictionary. It is the basic form of a verb before any changes for tense or people are made. In English, the infinitive can be thought of as the to form of a verb, like to eat or to go. German infinitives mostly end in -en, like spielen (to play).
You can change the infinitive to use different tenses by adding different endings. You can conjugate a verb depending on whom you are talking about.
Conjugate means changing the endings of a verb to match the person doing the action.
You can use the infinitive when using modal verbs and the future tense.
Modal verbs are verbs like can and must. They need an infinitive to help the sentence make sense. For example, the modal verb können (to be able to or can) needs an infinitive to make clear what it is you can do.
- Ich kann spielen - I can play.
Ich kann Klavier spielen - I can play the piano.
The modal verb kann is the second idea in the sentence and the infinitive verb spielen goes to the end of the sentence.
Können – can/to be able to
Take a look at the conjugations of können in the table below.
|I can||ich kann||Ich kann Klavier spielen - I can play the piano.|
|you can||du kannst||Du kannst gut Basketball spielen - You can play basketball well.|
|he can||er kann||Er kann schwimmen - He can swim.|
|she can||sie kann||Sie kann streng sein - She can be strict.|
Müssen - must/to have to
Take a look at the conjugations of müssen in the table below.
|I must||ich muss||Ich muss meine Hausaufgaben machen - I must do my homework.|
|you must||du musst||Du musst lesen - You must read.|
|he must||er muss||Er muss essen - He must eat.|
|she must||sie muss||Sie muss Vokabeln lernen - She must learn vocabulary.|
Mögen - to like
To say you like to do something, use the verb mögen and an infinitive. Watch out, mögen is irregular. The stem mög- becomes mag-. Take a look at the conjugations of mögen in the table below.
|I like||ich mag||Ich mag schwimmen - I like to swim.|
|you like||du magst||Du magst Tee trinken - You like to drink tea.|
|he likes||er mag||Er mag tanzen - He likes to dance.|
|she likes||sie mag||Sie mag Rugby spielen - She likes to play rugby.|
Remember you can also use the adverb gern to say you like something.
- Ich esse gern Kuchen - I like to eat cake.
Wollen - to want
To say you want to do something, use the verb wollen and an infinitive. Watch out, wollen is irregular. The stem woll- becomes will-. Take a look at the conjugations of wollen in the table below.
|I want||ich will||Ich will lesen - I want to read.|
|you want||du willst||Du willst Pizza essen - You want to eat pizza.|
|he wants||er will||Er will ins Kino gehen - He wants to go to the cinema.|
|she wants||sie will||Sie will einen Kuchen machen - She wants to make a cake.|
The future tense: werden + infinitive
You can use infinitives to talk about the future, such as what you will do next weekend or next year. The future tense is made up of three parts:
1. A subject
The subject is the person or thing who does the verb. This will be a noun or a pronoun such as ich (I), du (you) or er/sie/es (he/she/it).
2. An auxiliary verb: werden
You have to use a conjugated form of werden in the present tense as an auxiliary verb. Along with the pronoun, a conjugated auxiliary verb helps you determine who is doing the action in the future. Watch out, werden is irregular! Take a look at the conjugations of werden in the table below.
|I will||ich werde|
|you will||du wirst|
|he will||er wird|
|she will||sie wird|
3. An infinitive
This tells you what action is happening in the future. An infinitive is the form of a verb that you find in the dictionary. It is the basic form of a verb before any changes for tense or people are made, like spielen - to play.
The auxiliary verb werden has to be the second idea in the sentence. The infinitive has to be at the end of the sentence.
- Ich werde Basketball spielen - I will play basketball.
- Du wirst nächste Woche ins Kino gehen - You will go to the cinema next week.
- Er wird am Montag ein Fußballspiel sehen - He will watch a football match on Monday.
The future tense: present tense + time phrase
Remember, there is a simpler way to talk about the future. You can use the present tense with a time phrase:
- Ich gehe morgen in die Schule - Tomorrow I am going to school.
- Morgen gehe ich in die Schule - Tomorrow I am going to school.
Complete the following phrases using your knowledge of modal verbs and the future tense. Use the English translations to help you.
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