German Lesen Conjugation

Instructor: Chelsea Schuyler
In this lesson, we will learn the present tense conjugation for the verb meaning to read. Lesen is an irregular verb with a stem vowel change in the second and third person.

Get Out Your Reading Glasses!

Whether reading classics such as Goethe and Brecht, the newspaper, or something from the young and dynamic literary scene, reading is a part of everyday life for most Germans. In fact, Germany boasts literary houses that stress reading books over selling them. Instead of book signings, people sit in rooms and listen to readings. This is also a place where people can meet for coffee or sit and peruse a magazine.

Reading is something we depend on every day to get around and stay informed. Let's learn how to use the verb lesen (to read) in German.

Lesen (to read)

To read is used very similarly to English:

  • Do you read the newspaper?
  • I need a new book to read.
  • I always read during my lunch break.
  • Can you read that sign?
  • He reads all the time.

Here is the verb lesen (pronounced: LAY-zin) conjugated in the present tense, indicating reading in the here and now:

Pronoun Conjugation Pronunciation Meaning Example Translation
ich lese ish LAY-zuh I read Ich lese gern Krimis. I like to read criminal stories.
du liest doo leest you read (singular familiar) Liest du oft? Do you read often?
er liest air leest he reads Er kann deine Schrift nicht lesen. He can't read your writing.
sie liest zee leest she reads Sie liest die Zeitung jeden Morgen. She reads the newspaper every morning.
es liest es leest it reads Es liest schon mit drei Jahre. She is reading already at three years.
wir lesen vear LAY-zin we read Wir lesen Comics. We are reading Comics.
ihr lest ear layst you read(plural familiar) Lest ihr den Artikel? Are you reading the article?
sie lesen zee LAY-zin they read Sie lesen nicht viel. They don't read a lot.
Sie lesen zee LAY-zin you read(formal) Können Sie nicht lesen? Can't you read?

A note for the third person es example above: The word for girl in German is das Mädchen and would therefore be replaced by the pronoun es. In English, we would say 'she', not 'it'.

You may have noticed that lesen is irregular. It is a stem vowel changing verb. The e changes to ie in the second person (du form) and third person (er/sie/es form).

Translation: The man is reading outside.

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