How Many Irregular Verbs?

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Flautist
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Real Name: Miles
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How Many Irregular Verbs?

Postby Flautist » 2018-01-29, 12:51

I have amassed 170 thus far, but I have heard it said that there are an estimated 200 irregular verbs for a learner of German to deal with. Am I reading too much into that in assuming that there are far more that an average German speaker would know? Or is that pretty much it generally, not just for a learner? If I remember correctly, there are languages more around the region of 700-1000 irregular verbs. I just want to have it in mind exactly what size beast I am going to be tackling here. I want to commit to learning irregular verbs so I can get it out of the way as early as possible. I'm well aware of how sites like to dumb things down for learners by essentially feeding them baby food that bypasses actually having to deal with a topic adequately, so I just seek some clarity. Any help greatly appreciated.

kevin
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Re: How Many Irregular Verbs?

Postby kevin » 2018-01-29, 13:45

It depends on what you count as irregular.

It's common to count all strong verbs as irregular, but that doesn't mean that they are completely arbitrary (strong verbs are those where the stem changes in inflected forms). I think calling them "irregular" is actually part of that dumbing down that you mention because if they're irregular, you don't have to explain the ablaut classes then, which determine the vowel change in the stem. It's true that in Modern Standard German you can't directly see for every verb which class it is in, but often enough you can. And if you can't, you usually get one of two options. I'm sure if you already got 170 of them, you should be able to see a few patterns.

German has lots of strong verbs (Wiktionary has ~900 in the category, though I don't know if all of them are properly categorised), but far less verbs that are more irregular than just that vowel change. Also note that many of these are in fact just repetitions of the same root with different prefixes, and they all inflect the same way.

So in the end, I think it's less about the absolute number of irregular (or just strong) verbs, but more about recognising the patterns and making use of them.

Flautist
Posts: 4
Joined: 2018-01-21, 13:25
Real Name: Miles
Gender: male

Re: How Many Irregular Verbs?

Postby Flautist » 2018-01-29, 13:53

Thanks for the quick response Kevin, and the great info too. :)


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