6 Must-Know German Modal Verbs in Present Tense

6 Must-Know German Modal Verbs in Present Tense

Have you ever wondered how to ask for permissions or how to talk about your likes, dislikes and wishes in German? There is just one answer- German Modal Verbs! You can also speak about your capabilities with the help of these verbs. Now, let’s try to understand this topic in detail.

What are German Modal Verbs and How to Use Them

Modal verbs are named so because they modify / help the other verb in the sentence. This means that they help us to talk about another verb. For instance, I can dance. Here, I am talking about my ability to dance with the help of the modal verb “can”.

German modal verbs fall under the category of irregular verbs. They are normally accompanied by another verb. Modal verbs are conjugated depending on the subject of the sentence, and take the second position. The other verb is placed at the end of the sentence in its infinitive form.

For example, Du sollst jeden Tag joggen. (You should jog every day.) Here, the modal verb “sollen” is conjugated (Position 2) and the other verb “joggen” is not (At the end).

The 6 German modal verbs are können (to be able to / can), müssen (to have to / must), sollen (to be supposed to / should), wollen (to want to / wish to), dürfen (to be allowed to / may) and mögen (to like).

Mögen can be the only verb in a sentence. Whereas, all the other modal verbs are always used in combination with another verb in the infinitive form.

Memorizing the tables below will be a lot easier, if you note down these similarities:-

  • The first person and third person singular forms are the same.
  • The third person singular forms do not have the “-t” ending.
  • The first person singular forms do not have the “-e” ending.
  • The singular forms of all the German modal verbs do not have an “Umlaut”.
German Modal Verbs-Learning-All-About-Deutsch

Conjugations of German Modal Verbs

können

It is used to express an ability.

PersonConjugation
ichkann
dukannst
er/ sie/ eskann
wirkönnen
ihrkönnt
sie/ Siekönnen

müssen

It is used to express compulsion / necessity.

PersonConjugation
ichmuss
dumusst
er/ sie/ esmuss
wirmüssen
ihrmüsst
sie/ Siemüssen

sollen

It is used to express obligation.

PersonConjugation
ichsoll
dusollst
er/ sie/ essoll
wirsollen
ihrsollt
sie/ Siesollen

wollen

It is used to express desires / wishes.

PersonConjugation
ichwill
duwillst
er/ sie/ eswill
wirwollen
ihrwollt
sie/ Siewollen

dürfen

It is used to ask permissions.

PersonConjugation
ichdarf
dudarfst
er/ sie/ esdarf
wirdürfen
ihrdürft
sie/ Siedürfen

mögen

It is used to express what you like.

PersonConjugation
ichmag
dumagst
er/ sie/ esmag
wirmögen
ihrmögt
sie/ Siemögen
  • Ich kann am Computer arbeiten. (I can work on the computer.)
  • Du musst nie allein fahren. (You must never drive alone.)
  • Ross will ein Pferd reiten. (Ross wants to ride a horse.)
  • Wir sollen den Kräutertee trinken. (We should drink the herbal tea.)
German Modal Verbs-Grammar-All-About-Deutsch

Difference between Mögen and Möchten

You all must be under the impression that these two are completely different verbs. Well, not exactly! In fact, möchten is derived from the modal verb mögen.

In German language, there is a grammar concept known as Konjunktiv II Verbs. These verb forms are used when we want to express something politely. Möchten is the Konjunktiv II verb form of Mögen.

The meaning of möchten is “would like”. It can be used together with a noun as well as a verb. For example, Ich möchte Kaffee / Ich möchte Kaffee bestellen (I would like coffee / I would like to order coffee). Mögen is usually used with a noun. For example, Ich mag Kaffee (I like coffee).

The conjugation of “möchten” in present tense is as follows:-

PersonConjugation
ichmöchte
dumöchtest
er/ sie/ esmöchte
wirmöchten
ihrmöchtet
sie/ Siemöchten

Grammar Quiz

Want to practice what you learned in the lesson? Take this quiz to test your knowledge of German Modal Verbs.


If you enjoyed learning this lesson, click here to check out the topic Perfect Tense in German on your favorite blog “All About Deutsch”.

Want to learn more about German Modal Verbs? Check this tutorial on Lingolia.

PS – On this blog, you will find grammar lessons just like this one, vocabulary lists divided subject-wise as well as articles related to countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland and a lot more. Keep scrolling, keep learning!

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