Post by Helmut Richter Post by Christian Weisgerber
* Strong and weak VERBS.
This is of interest in historical linguistics. For modern language
teaching a distinction regular/irregular is far more useful.
Well, this is a matter of taste. The name "irregular" is not per se
better, as most irregular verbs follow regular patterns, e.g.
singen/sang/gesungen = trinken/trank/getrunken = ringen/rang/gerungen =
schwingen/schwang/geschwungen = binden/band/gebunden, ...
But the pattern of vowel changes has to be individually memorized
for each verb in that class. That isn't exactly regular.
Post by Helmut Richter
1. There are verbs that keep their stem vowel. For these, the preterite
ends with -e in the 3rd person singular and the past participle ends
with -t. These are called "weak" or "regular".
2. There are verbs that change their stem vowel as in the above example
(ablaut), following one of several ablaut patterns. For these, the
preterite has no ending -e in the 3rd person singular and the past
participle ends with -en. These are called "strong" or "irregular".
3. There are verbs that have features of both (1) and (2), e.g.
denken/dachte/gedacht, bringen/brachte/gebracht, mögen/mochte/gemocht,
..., and the modal verbs.
Equating "weak" with "regular" and "strong" with "irregular" is
WEAK verbs are those that form the preterite and the past participle
STRONG verbs are those that change the stem vowel in the preterite
and the past participle and whose past participle ends in -en.
REGULAR verbs are weak verbs without stem changes.
IRREGULAR verbs are everything else:
* Strong verbs.
Since the ablaut pattern is unpredictable and has to be learned
for each verb, I don't see any use in considering them "regular".
Yes, they go back to a regular pattern in Proto-Indo-European,
but millennia of sound changes and analogical formations have
obliterated the ancient rules.
* Strong verbs with additional stem changes.
gehen - ging - gegangen, stehen - stand - gestanden
"Gehen" is suppletive, cobbled together from two similar
Germanic verbs. "Stehen" is a bit mysterious, seems to involve
analogy to "gehen".
* tun - tat - getan
Looks like a strong verb with additional irregularities, but it
isn't classified as such, is it?
This goes back to PIE formation different from that of the
strong verbs. Its preterite is the unique survivor of a PIE
* Weak verbs which also change the stem vowel.
E.g. rennen - rannte - gerannt
Whatever happened to those.
* Weak verbs with further stem changes
E.g. denken - dachte - gedacht
Something... something about sound changes that weren't leveled
out? I forgot.
* Preterite-presents: the modals and "wissen".
Their characteristic feature is that their present tense uses past
tense verb endings. Their preterite and past participle are formed
like those of weak verbs. Some of them also include vowel changes.
Again, this goes back to the PIE aspect system where some forms
with perfect endings didn't acquire past tense meaning and...
oh my god, it's all horribly complicated and why would anybody
want to know about the PIE verb system when learning German?
* "haben", weak with odd changes
This one originated as a perfectly regular weak verb but
suffered irregularization when used as an auxiliary.
Highly suppletive and irregular since forever.
* Miscellaneous other irregularities, some of them considered
nonstandard but widespread:
- Weak verbs picking up -en past participles
e.g. spalten - spaltete - gespalten/gespaltet
- Weak verbs picking up unetymological "strong" participles
e.g. winken - winkte - gewunken/gewinkt
- Spontaneous umlauts in weak verbs
e.g. ich frage, du frägst/fragst, er frägt/fragt
- The mögen/möchten split where the subjunctive II is turning
into a separate modal.
... and whatever else I forgot.
Much of this, of course, also exists in the other Germanic languages.
With an eye to history, you can also talk about weak and strong
verbs in English, but for language teaching purposes the distinction
is regular vs. irregular.
Christian "naddy" Weisgerber ***@mips.inka.de