die Verb-Endungen – Teil 2B

Here I’m again!!! 😀

In the previous post we learned how the modal verb ,,können” can be used to mean “to know”, but it has many other uses. In this post we’ll take a closer look at the verb ,,können” and the other modal verbs in German.

Modal verbs in German are used in much the same way as they are in English.

Modal Verbs


Covers everything between “can” and “be able to” and it even extends into the realm of “having permission”.


Thomas kann fernsehen. Thomas has the option to watch TV. /Thomas has the permission to watch TV. (the last one only for spoken German)
Er kann gut fahren. He can drive well.

Sample Idiomatic Expressions:

Sie könnten sich irren. You could be mistaken.
Das kann man wohl sagen. You can say that again.
Er kann Deutsch. He knows German.
Er kann Sie jetzt sprechen. He can see you now. (doctor, dentist)


Maybe the headline is going to make you think that ,,wollen” has something to do with the English “will”, but that is not the case. I mean the origins are the same but the meanings are certainly not. For example:

  1. will drink beer.
  2. Ich will Bier trinken.

These 2 sentences just won the German-English-Look-alike award, but the English sentence is future while the German one expresses a desire in present. ,,Wollen” means “to want”… no more, no less…


Ich will ein kaltes Bier trinken. I want to drink a cold beer.
Sie will nicht gehen. She doesn’t want to go.
Wir haben sprechen wollen. We wanted to speak.
Ich hatte gehen wollen. I had wanted to go.

Sample Idiomatic Expressions:

Das will nicht viel sagen. That’s of little consequence. That doesn’t mean much.
Er will es nicht gesehen haben. He claims not to have seen it.
Das hat er nicht gewollt. That’s not what he intended.


Now in this case the familiarity is not misleading and ,,müssen” does indeed mean “must” , “to have to” and “to need to do something”.


Ich muss jetzt gehen. I must leave now.
Ich muss morgen zur Universität gehen. I have to go to the university tomorrow.
Ich muss dort Deutsch sprechen. I have to speak German there.
Du musst nicht abwaschen. Ich mache das später. You don’t need to do the dishes. I’ll do it later.

This is pretty straight forward except for one exception:

mustn’t  open the window.

This form of “must” doesn’t really mean “not to have to” and consequently it is NOT translated with ,,müssen“. So, if you say

Ich muss nicht das Fenster öffnen.

you are saying that you don’t need to open the window. For the English “must not”, use ,,nicht dürfen“.

Now, can ,,müssen” stand alone? Yes it can. Usually it comes along with ,,mal“. You might want to remember the following example. It is VERY handy for a long car ride.

Ich muss mal.

Everyone will understand it and the driver won’t miss the next chance to stop. Why? The missing part is “to go to the toilet”. 😉

Sample Idiomatic Expressions:

Ich muss nach Hause. I have to go home.
Muss das sein? Is that really necessary?
So müsste es immer sein. That’s how it should be all the time.
Ihr habt sprechen müssen. You (pl.) had to speak.
Ich hatte sprechen müssen. I had had to speak.

Note: The old spelling with ,,ß“, as in ,,ich muß” or ,,gemußt“, is no longer used for forms of ,,müssen“.


This verb is very important and you will need it every day. Hmm… let’s say it again to give it some more attention from you… lets pretend I don’t know that you are all on Facebook while you’re reading this. “To like” in German is ,,mögen“.


Er mag die Suppe. He likes the soup.
Ich mag dich. Magst du mich auch? I like you. Do you like me too?

Sample Idiomatic Expressions:

Das mag wohl sein. That well may be. / That may be so.
Das mag der Himmel verhütten! Heaven forbid!
Er mag/mochte etwa 1,3 Meter groß sein. He must be/must have been about 1.3 meters tall.
Wir haben schwimmen mögen. We liked to swim.
Ich hatte schwimmen mögen. I had liked to swim.

,,Mögen” is often used in its subjunctive (,,möchte“) “would like” form:

Ich möchte lieber Kaffee (haben). I would rather have coffee.
Wir möchten ins Kino. We’d like to go to the movies.


This word doesn’t really have a relative. It could be translated to “can” or “may”, but the core meaning is “to have the permission to do something”. Anyway, just to make sure…  ,,dürfen” is less formal than the English “may” and it doesn’t mean “may” in sense of “It may rain”. It really only means “to have the permission”.  German kids would ask for permission using ,,dürfen“.


In spoken German you can always use ,,können” instead, so ,,dürfen” is not that extraordinary useful but it is good to know.

Mama, darf ich heute abend fernsehen? Mom, can I watch TV tonight?
In der Bar kann/darf man rauchen. In this bar one can/may/is allowed to smoke.
Ihr habt sprechen dürfen. You (pl.) were allowed to speak.
Ich hatte sprechen dürfen. I had been allowed to speak.

Sample Idiomatic Expressions:

Was darf es sein? May I help you? (store clerk)
Wenn ich bitten darf. If you please.


,,Sollen” means an obligation or constraint that is inflicted by a human being. It always includes that someone told you so. Thus it also includes the option of disobedience.

Something you ,,musst” do might be at times inevitable.

Something you ,,sollst” do, is always up to you in the end.


Note that ,,sollen” is the only one of the special ones that doesn’t change its vowel.

Mein Arzt hat gesagt, ich soll viel trinken. My doctor said, I have to drink a lot.
Ich bin aufgeregt. Ich soll morgen ein Referat halten. I am nervous. I have to do a presentation tomorrow.
Soll ich Thomas zu meiner Party einladen? Should I invite Thomas to my party?
Er soll reich sein. He’s supposed to be rich. / It’s said that he’s rich.
Wir haben gehen sollen. We should have gone.

Sample Idiomatic Expressions:

Das Buch soll sehr gut sein. The book is said to be very good.
Du sollst damit sofort aufhören! You’re to stop that right now!
Was soll das (heißen)? What’s that supposed to mean? What’s the idea?
Es soll nicht wieder vorkommen. It won’t happen again.


  1. The first difference in the conjugation are the endings you have to add to the stem. Only ,,ich” and ,,er” lose their endings and the forms end up being identical. The rest is as you already learned it. But please absorb the special endings as well, because you need those for the real past all the time.
  2. Note that each modal verb (except for ,,sollen“) has two basic forms, a singular form and a plural form.

3 thoughts on “die Verb-Endungen – Teil 2B

  1. Pingback: Städte – Länder – Sprachen | Deutsch jeden Tag

  2. Pingback: Körper und Gesundheit | Deutsch jeden Tag

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