Irregular verb

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Irregular verbs (also called irregular verbs , Latin verba irregularia , irregular verbs ' ) are verbs whose stem forms - in contrast to regular verbs - cannot be completely derived from the infinitive or another nominal form based on rules .

Irregular verbs in German

Since the distinction between regular and irregular verbs is not handled uniformly in linguistics , verbs from the following groups can be regarded as irregular :

Strong verbs are often naturally seen as irregular in the German language ; It is controversial whether they are irregular, because the system of strong verbs - just like that of weak ones - was originally completely regular, but the number of exceptions and the division of the seven classes into subgroups mean that for the sake of simplicity one can use the Language teaching considered all strong verbs to be irregular. Actually, they can still be derived from four (in rare cases five) ancestral forms. For example, the verb has to throw the following five primary forms of which can be derived all other verb forms: throwing , throwing , throwing , throws , throw . In the majority of verbs, the subjunctive form würfe is formed from the past tense (possibly by means of umlaut , how it sounded from it sounded ) and is therefore omitted as an additional nominal form in most cases.

With regard to the Germanic languages , the expressions irregular verb and strong verb are usually distinguished as follows:

A strong verb is characterized exclusively by the ablaut (i.e. the change in the vowel in the word stem ) in its root forms. These changes follow certain regularities, which is why these verbs are basically erroneously called "irregular". Thus, the two series of original forms are riding - riding - riding - ridden and arguing - arguing - arguing - arguing according to the same rules. Also suffer following this model. If / ei / appears as a stem vowel in the infinitive, a strong verb follows this scheme. (Compare in contrast to being , which is a real irregular verb.) Altogether, according to Schmidt, eight types of the formation of the stem form series can be identified in the strong verbs, whereby the eighth series (in itself also extremely systematic and also suitable for linguistic reasons) to take the place of the system of weak verbs) which destroys the otherwise regular system.

Examples of regular verbs in the stem form series according to Schmidt (1996)
  1. ride - ride - ride - ridden and argue - argue - argue - argue
  2. bend - bend - bend - bent and weigh - weighed - weighed - weighed
  3. tie - tie - tie - tied and find - find - found - found
  4. take - take - took - taken and meet - meet - met - hit
  5. give - give - gave - given and see - see - saw - seen
  6. Dig - dig - dig - dig and drive - drive - drive - driven
  7. lift - lift - lifted - lifted and weave - weave - wove - woven
  8. hold - hold - hold - hold and be called - hot - called - called

Irregular verbs can only be verbs according to this more precise distinction:

  • which do not form their original forms according to a recognizable system,
  • in which certain forms are missing and / or
  • which differ from existing systematics due to exceptional phenomena.

Irregular verbs follow their own, individual ways in conjugation. No system can be recognized for the series to be - am - was - been . Just as with have - have - had - had . Missing forms occur in the six modal verbs ( can, want, should, may, must, like ): They lack the imperative forms ( singular and plural ; in the case of want , the corresponding forms are found sporadically). With the exception of shall , which follows the weak conjugation, they also form their stem forms irregularly. want goes back to a root verb , the rest are preteritos . These past past present have an old past form in the present tense and a dental suffix {-t (e) -} in the past tense ( can - can - could - able ). In the so-called backward verbs like think , know , name , burn , etc., the stem vowel is changed, and at the same time the typical endings of the weak verbs are added to the stem. Irregularly are also going , are (root verbs with Stammsuppletion) know (Präteritopräsens) are . Some grammars, which consider contemporary German language predominantly synchronous , summarize both strong verbs and the verbs listed here as irregular verbs.

Possibilities for irregularities in the deeper sense form in the German language:

  • the use of different word stems or roots for various forms ( b -in - s Ind - was / overall wes -en ) ( Suppletion )
  • the use of an old past tense as present tense (past tense present),
  • as well as the umlaut .

Origin and distribution of irregular verbs

Historically, the group of strong verbs forms the basis of Germanic verbs, which are mainly derived from Indo-European primary verb formations . The weak conjugation with the help of dental suffixes was created in order to be able to inflect verbs that did not fit into this primary system. The oldest examples can be found among other things with the so-called preterito presents . These verbs also include causative verbs with the suffix Germanic * -ja and root ablaut (for example, set <* satjana- to sit ), denominal verbs (suffix * -ôja , for example Old High German salbôn ) and tripods (suffix * -ai , for example Old High German habên ). Some weak verbs have different peculiarities and therefore also belong to the irregular verbs. While most verbs in the German language are regular, many of the most commonly used verbs are irregular. Conversely, almost all rare verbs are regular, and new verbs are also formed regularly.

The number of irregular verbs is slightly decreasing in the German language. The Middle High German had far more of such verbs as it was then called for. B. ball instead of barking , thought or acted instead of covered . The forms baked instead of baked and boiled instead of simmered are also rarely used at present. The number of irregular verbs today is between 200 and 300 (without derivatives ).

Strong forms usually become weak, but “the opposite way is by no means blocked”, as the linguist Peter Eisenberg explains. A few originally weak verbs did not join the strong conjugation until later, such as prisen ( denominative to price ), for which the simple past praise was formed in early New High German . Similarly, some verbs that originally had a regular participle developed an irregular participle over time. Examples are seem (formerly gescheint , now seemed ) and destroy (formerly corrupt , now ruined ). There are currently two participles for waving : On the one hand, you find the original form waved , and on the other hand the newer form waved .

By analogy, there are still new formations of strong verbs, e.g. B. swiss german tüscht > tosche (deceived), gschtimmen > gschtumme (tuned), gmäldet > gmolde / gmulde (registered), dutch gewuifd > gewoven (waved / waved), gevrijd > gevreeën (slept together), gebreid > gebreeën (knitted) , geërfd > georven (inherited), English dragged > drug (dragged, dragged), sneaked > snuck (sneaked, snuck), swedish bytte > Boet (changed), knyckte > knöck , lyste > lös (lit), myst > Moes ( smiled), pyste > pös , ryckte > röck (riss), tryckte > tröck (pressed), norwegian spydde > spøy (spit, spat), mista / miziert > mast (lost), muste (lost) and a few more. However, since today's standard languages ​​are prescriptive and very solidified, it is difficult for these innovations to be recognized in the written language.

Psycholinguistic view

According to Steven Pinker, the forms of irregular verbs are stored individually in the memory, while corresponding rules are stored for the regular verbs. Irregular verbs are only newly formed in exceptional cases. When conjugating the verbs, a search is first made to see whether an irregular verb is present. If this is not the case, the verb is usually conjugated regularly. If an irregular verb has not been used for a long time, it disappears from memory and a regular formation pattern takes its place. Other researchers assume that irregular verbs are stored in a pattern associative memory and formed according to the similarity of the patterns. New techniques such as accurate timing and real-time visualization of the brain's work are expected to falsify some of the theories.

Children of a certain age during language acquisition also tend to use irregular verbs like regular, even though they had previously used the correct irregular forms. That happens when they discover the rules.

Today's irregular verbs are based on regular structures in which the verb forms were formed by regular vowel changes.

The number of irregular verbs in different languages

The number of irregular verbs in the respective languages ​​is difficult to determine, as the term can be understood irregularly in different ways. In German you can see this from the strong verbs , which actually all follow an old scheme and can be derived from a maximum of five nominal forms. Nevertheless, they are often referred to as irregular today.

When speaking of irregular verbs in Latin, either the nine verbs listed below are meant or around 900 verbs, which often follow a similar pattern in groups, such as the stretch perfect , under which the Latin verb vincere ("to win") falls.

When counting irregular verbs, derivatives (such as an -ommen ) must also be taken into account. They shouldn't normally be counted as another irregular verb.

The following table compares the number of irregular verbs in the different languages. Since the term irregular can be understood differently, there are three columns for three types of "irregular":

  • Verbs of type 1 have no directly comparable verbs or can not be regular nominal forms derived
  • Verbs of type 2 are not inflected according to the most common types of inflection (e.g. strong verbs in German )
  • Verbs of type 3 also contain derivations (e.g. prefix formation) of verbs of types 1 and 2, they are usually ignored in regular counts.
language Number (see above) list Type 1 verbs Remarks
Type 1 Type 2 Type 3
Modern Greek > 500 [el] 235 conjugation schemes, details in the article
Italian 8th > 400 1244 [it] essere, avere, andare, stare, dare, fare, bere, porre
Dutch 11 273 > 500 [nl] zijn, hebben, can, moeten, like, weten, willen, zullen, zeggen, houden, snijden → mostly the same verbs as in German
English 114 223 562 [en] be, do, have, make, must, ought, can, may, will, shall each count from Wikipedia (en) on February 15, 2014
Russian 9-10 220 [ru] быть, дать, создать, есть, надоесть, ссать (alt. сцать), хотеть, бежать, брезжить (+ чтить) according to Daum / Schenk or 38 isolated verbs plus 11 unproductive groups according to Kirschbaum
German 10 209 ~ 3000 [de] be, have, go, stand, may, can, like, must, know, want counting from list of strong verbs (German language)
Latin 9 207 924 [la] eat, posse, ire, velle, nolle, malle, ferre, fieri, edere, dare
Swedish ~ 180 [sv] Source: [1]
Danish 4th ~ 100 [there] være, ville, gå, stå Source: [2]
Polish 88 [pl]
French 5 80 570 [fr] 3rd column: Number of verbs in the third group according to Le Nouveau Bescherelle
Spanish 4th 59 1530 [it] ser, ir, haber, estar According to Langenscheidt's dictionary 59, plus additional verbs to be conjugated according to the same pattern
Hungarian 17th Source: [3] , list on previous pages
Faroese ~ 15
Gaelic 11
Turkish 7th ditmek, etmek, gitmek, gütmek, tatmak, demek, yemek
Latvian 3
Japanese 2 [Yes] す る ' suru ', く る ' kuru '
Quechua 0
Esperanto 0 like most planned languages

See also


  • Manfred Faust: Morphological regularization in language change and language acquisition. In: Folia Linguistica 14, 1980, pp. 387-411. On pp. 400–404 the transition from strong verbs to the class of weak verbs is shown.
  • Helmut Glück , Wolfgang Werner Sauer: Contemporary German . 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 1997, ISBN 3-476-12252-2 .
  • Steven Pinker: Words and Rules. The Ingredients of Language . 1999 (German: words and rules. The nature of language. Heidelberg / Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-8274-0297-2 .)
  • Wilhelm Schmidt: History of the German language . 7th, improved edition. Hirzel, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-7776-0720-7 , pp. 191-203 as well as pp. 241-253 and pp. 309-323.

Web links

Wiktionary: irregular verb  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Irregular conjugation in German  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Compare, among other things, Duden. Grammar of contemporary German. 4th edition. Mannheim / Leipzig / Vienna / Zurich 1984 (Duden vol. 4), pp. 123–143, in particular under the “List of all irregular verbs” (pp. 133–143) u. a. think and burn next to the strong verbs listed.
  2. ^ Karl-Heinz Best : Language acquisition, language change and vocabulary growth in texts. On the scope of the Piotrowski law . In: Glottometrics 2003, 6, 9-34. The article shows on pp. 12–14 how many strong verbs per century have become weak between the 12th and 20th centuries and that this process proceeds according to the so-called Piotrowski law , that is, according to law .
  3. ^ Eisenberg, Peter: Boiled and boiled. Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 11, 2006.