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Top German verbs: Scavenger hunt

Frequency Dictionary of German
Top German verbs are from Tschirner & Jones’ Frequency Dictionary of German

I posted a list of the top 100 German verbs a while back. It’s time to return to that list and do some more work with German verbs. Every sentence by definition contains at least one verb, so the better you know the most common German verbs and how they work, the more you can say and understand in German. The verb scavenger hunt below will get you thinking about verb form and usage features and have you grouping them in useful categories.

So grab a pencil and paper, open the top 100 German verbs list in a new window (or even better, print it so you can mark it up), and see what you can find. Some verbs will be used more than once. Peek at the hints if you want some help. Here goes …

1. Let’s start out easy: Find the modal verbs.

Hint 1: There are six.
Hint 2: They are all in the top 30 verbs.

2. Identify which verbs in the top 100 are weak verbs.

Hint 1: There are 37.
Hint 2: In a previous post, I provided a list of the strong verbs in the top 100. So the weak ones are those not on this list.

3. Find the one verb that can be either strong or weak.

Hint: The verb has 2 different meanings that correlate to its strong and weak forms.

4. Find the verbs that take a dative object rather than an accusative object.

Hint: There are 3. And there is one more whose object is dative when it’s a person and an accusative object otherwise.

5. Find the verbs that have a present tense stem change.

Hint 1: None of the weak verbs have a present tense stem change.
Hint 2: Present tense stem changes are always found in the du– and er/sie/es-forms (and sometimes the ich-form, and only in one instance in plural forms).

6. Identify the verbs that omit the ge– in their past participle.

Hint 1: There are 27.
Hint 2: You are looking for two sets of verbs: inseparable prefix verbs and most –ieren verbs.

7. Find the verbs that regularly use sein with the past participle in forming the perfect tense.

Hint: There are 12. Eleven are strong, and one is weak.

This one is a challenging activity. Let’s see what you can do with it. Answers are posted below.

If you like this kind of activity and would like to see more like it, or if you’d even like something different, leave a comment below and let me know.



1. The six modal verbs, in order of frequency, are: können, müssen, sollen, wollen, dürfen, mögen.

2. There are actually 38 weak verbs in the top hundred German verbs if you count the one that is the answer to #3. In order of frequency, they are:


3. The verb schaffen can be either weak or strong. As a weak verb (schaffen, schaffte, geschafft), it means to accomplish, manage (to do something). As a strong verb (schaffen, schuf, geschaffen), it means to create.

4. The verbs folgen, helfen, and fehlen take a dative object and never an accusative object.

Er folgt mir. Er hilft mir. Es fehlt mir.

The verb glauben takes a dative object when that object is a person. Otherwise, its object is accusative.

Er glaubt mir. BUT: Er glaubt die Geschichte.

5. The many verbs with a present tense stem change are (along with those anomalies in parentheses):

sein (ich bin, du bist, er ist)
werden (du wirst, er wird)
können (ich kann, du kannst, er kann)
müssen (ich muss, du musst, er muss)
geben (du gibst, er gibt)
wollen (ich will, du willst, er will)
wissen (ich weiß, du weißt, er weiß)
sehen (du siehst, er sieht)
lassen (du lässt, er lässt)
nehmen (du nimmst, er nimmt)
dürfen (ich darf, du darfst, er darf)
halten (du hältst, er hält)
mögen (ich mag, du magst, er mag)
sprechen (du sprichst, er spricht)
fahren (du fährst, er fährt)
gelten (du gilst, er gilt)
laufen (du läufst, er läuft)
entsprechen (du entsprichst, er entspricht)
fallen (du fällst, er fällt)
erhalten (du erhältst, er erhält)
treffen (du triffst, er trifft)
tragen (du trägst, er trägt)
lesen (du liest, er liest)
aussehen (du siehst aus, er sieht aus)
anfangen (du fängst an, er fängt an)
betreffen (du betriffst, er betrifft)
helfen (du hilfst, er hilft)
ergeben (du ergibst, er ergibt)
ansehen (du siehst an, er sieht an)

6. The top 100 verbs that do not add ge– in their past participles are (1) the inseparable prefix verbs and (2) the –ieren verbs of foreign origin (past participles are in parentheses):

bestehen (bestanden)
verstehen (verstanden)
bekommen (bekommen)
beginnen (begonnen)
erzählen (erzählt)
versuchen (versucht)
erklären (erklärt)
entsprechen (entsprochen)
gehören (gehört)
entstehen (entstanden)
erhalten (erhalten)
erreichen (erreicht)
verlieren (verloren)
erkennen (erkannt)
entwickeln (entwickelt)
erscheinen (erschienen)
erwarten (erwartet)
betreffen (betroffen)
vergehen (vergangen)
gewinnen (gewonnen)
interessieren (interessiert)
erinnern (erinnert)
ergeben (ergeben)
studieren (studiert)
verbinden (verbunden)
bedeuten (bedeutet)
vergleichen (verglichen)

7. The 12 verbs that use the auxiliary sein in forming the perfect tense are:

sein (ist gewesen)
werden (ist geworden)
kommen (ist gekommen)
gehen (ist gegangen)
bleiben (ist geblieben)
fahren (ist gefahren)
folgen (ist gefolgt)
laufen (ist gelaufen)
fallen (ist gefallen)
entstehen (ist entstanden)
erscheinen (ist erschienen)
vergehen (ist vergangen)

How did you do? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the activity!

7 comments on “Top German verbs: Scavenger hunt
  1. Karim says:


  2. Oscar says:

    Hallo, Just found website. Ich find es sehr gut! Vielen dank!

  3. Maggie says:

    Sehr gut. Danke!!!

  4. Sureshkumar says:

    Really fantastic guide who the people learn german I thank you very much

  5. DC Han says:

    Thanks a lot. It helps to distinguish the verbs.


    Vielen Dank…

  7. fanecchissimo says:

    GREAT WORK, way better than most teachers.

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