The German Verb Werden

Instructor: Penelope Heinigk

Penelope holds a doctorate degree in German and a professional teaching license in the state of Colorado. She has taught middle school through university, online and live.

In this lesson we will gain a brief introduction to the many uses of the verb werden (to become), while the main focus will be learning how to conjugate the verb in the present tense.

Werden (to become)

To become, or to begin to be - it is an interesting concept. Maybe you've heard:

  • I'm becoming an actress (but I'm not quite there yet).
  • He is becoming sick (but his sickness hasn't peaked yet).
  • The work is becoming difficult (it's hard, but it could be a lot worse).

In English, we often substitute the word 'become' with 'get': I'm getting hungry. In German, however, there is just one verb for this, which is werden (to become).

Werden is, indeed, a very special verb. Not to be confused with the German verb bekommen, which actually means 'to receive'. It's tricky, so don't be fooled.

In addition to its basic meaning 'to become', werden also has many important uses in the German language. We will take a brief look at these for the purpose of awareness, but the real focus of this lesson is to learn the regular present tense conjugation of werden.

Various Uses

Once you get past the basics in German, you might feel that you start to see werden cropping up everywhere. Here are some of its uses:

Use Example Translation
As a regular verb Er wird Arzt. He is becoming a doctor.
In the formation of the future tense Ich werde nach Deutschland reisen. I will travel to Germany.
In the formation of multiple tenses of the passive voice Das Haus wird gebaut. The house is being built.
In the subjunctive Ich würde das nicht machen. I wouldn't do that.
To imply attitudes about certainty Sie wird sicher krank sein. She is surely sick.
To imply probability Er wird gerade bei Peter sein. He is probably at Peter's right now.
To give a command Du wirst jetzt sofort kommen! You need to come now!

As you can see, werden has a lot of uses, and it will take some time and practice figuring out the different forms. For now, let's focus on the conjugation of werden in the present tense, meaning to become in the here and now.

Present Tense Conjugation

Notice that werden is irregular. It is a stem vowel changing verb. The e changes to i in the second person (du form) and third person (er/sie/es form).

Werden (pronounced: VAIR-din): to become

Pronoun Conjugation Pronunciation Meaning
ich werde VAIR-duh I become
du wirst veerst you become (singular familiar)
er/sie/es wird veert he/she/it becomes
wir werden VAIR-din we become
ihr werdet VAIR-det you become (plural familiar)
sie/Sie werden VAIR-din they/you (formal) become

Examples

  • Ich werde krank. (I'm becoming/getting sick.)
  • Wirst du hungrig? (Are you becoming/getting hungry?)
  • Er wird Zahnartz. ( He is becoming a dentist.)
  • Sie wird größer. (She is becoming/getting taller.)
  • Es wird kalt. (It's becoming/getting cold.)
  • Wir werden ungeduldig (We are becoming/getting impatient.)
  • Werdet ihr müde? (Are you becoming/getting tired?)
  • Sie werden reich. (They are becoming/getting rich.)
  • Werden Sie neugerig? (Are you becoming/getting curious?)

Translation: It becomes (gets) hot in the desert.
sand

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