Learning German "Give and Take" - "Geben, Nehmen"

Father give a pencil to his kid

Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

Explore how to express in German the concepts of giving (geben) and taking (nehmen). This involves the grammatical elements known as the accusative case (the direct object case in German), irregular stem-changing verbs and the command forms (imperative). If that sort of grammar terminology scares you, don't worry. We'll introduce it all in such a way that you'll hardly feel a thing.

The important thing is that after studying this lesson, you'll be able to express the important and useful concepts of giving and taking.

Give and Take - The Accusative Case

geben - nehmen​

geben (give)/es gibt (there is/are)

nehmen (take)/er nimmt (he takes)

These two German verbs have something in common. See if you can find what it is by observing the following:

ich gebe (I give), du gibst (you give)
er gibt (he gives), sie gibt (she gives)
wir geben (we give), sie geben (they give)
ich nehme (I take), du nimmst (you take)
er nimmt (he takes), sie nimmt (she takes)
wir nehmen (we take), sie nehmen (they take)

Now can you tell what essential change these two verbs have in common?

If you said that they both change from e to i in the same situations, then you're right! (The verb nehmen also changes its spelling slightly, but the e-to-i change is what these two verbs have in common.) Both of these verbs belong to a class of German verbs known as "stem-changing" verbs. In the infinitive form (ending in -en) they have an e in their stem, or base form. But when they are conjugated (used with a pronoun or noun in a sentence), the stem vowel changes under certain conditions from e to inehmen (infinitive) --> er nimmt (conjugated, 3rd person sing.);geben (infinitive) --> er gibt (conjugated, 3rd person sing).

Stem-Changing Verbs

All stem-changing verbs only change their stem vowel in the singular. Most only change when used with ersiees (3rd person) and du (2nd person, familiar). Other e-to-i stem-changing verbs include: helfen/hilft (help), treffen/trifft (meet) and sprechen/spricht (speak).

Now study the chart below. It shows all the forms of the two verbs in the present tense — in ​English and German. In the example sentences, observe also how direct objects (the things you give or take) that are masculine (der) change to den or einen when they function as direct objects (rather than the subject). In the accusative (direct object) case, der is the only gender that has this change. Neuter (das), feminine (die) and plural nouns are unaffected.

geben - nehmen

The words meusthem (mirunsihnen) and so on in the sentences with geben are indirect objects in the dative case. You will learn more about the dative in a future lesson. For now, just learn these words as vocabulary.

Englisch Deutsch
there is/there are
Today there are no apples.
es gibt
Heute gibt es keine Äpfel.
The expression es gibt (there is/are) always takes the accusative case: "Heute gibt es keinen Wind." = "There is no wind today."
I give
I give her the new ball.
ich gebe
Ich gebe ihr den neuen Ball.
you (fam.) give
Are you giving him the money?
du gibst
Gibst du ihm das Geld?
he gives
He gives me the green book.
er gibt
Er gibt mir das grüne Buch.
she gives
She gives us a book.
sie gibt
Sie gibt uns ein Buch.
we give
We aren't giving them any money.
wir geben
Wir geben ihnen kein Geld.
you (pl.) give
You (guys) give me a key.
ihr gebt
Ihr gebt mir einen Schlüssel.
they give
They give him no opportunity.
sie geben
Sie geben ihm keine Gelegenheit.
you (formal) give
Are you giving me the pencil?
Sie geben
Geben Sie mir den Bleistift?
I take
I take the ball.
ich nehme
Ich nehme den Ball.
you (fam.) take
Are you taking the money?
du nimmst
Nimmst du das Geld?
he takes
He's taking the green book.
er nimmt
Er nimmt das grüne Buch.
she takes
She takes a book.
sie nimmt
Sie nimmt ein Buch.
we take
We aren't taking any money.
wir nehmen
Wir nehmen kein Geld.
you (pl.) take
You (guys) take a key.
ihr nehmt
Ihr nehmt einen Schlüssel.
they take
They take everything.
sie nehmen
Sie nehmen alles.
you (formal) take
Are you taking the pencil?
Sie nehmen
Nehmen Sie den Bleistift?

Imperative Verbs

By their nature, these two verbs are often used in the imperative (command) form. Below you'll find how to say things like "Give me the pen!" or "Take the money!" If you are talking to one person, the command will be different than if you are addressing two or more people. Note that German makes a distinction between a formal Sie (sing. & pl.) command and a familiar du (sing.) or ihr (pl.) command. If you tell a child to give you something, the command won't be the same as when you are addressing an adult formally (Sie). If you are telling more than one child (ihr) to do something, that will also be a different command than if you are only addressing one child (du). The du command form of most verbs is almost always the normal du form of the verb minus the -st ending. (Du nimmst das Buch. - Nimm das Buch!) Study the chart below.

The German imperative verb forms vary according to whom you are commanding or telling to do something. Each form of YOU in German (duihrSie) has its own command form. Note that only the Sie command includes the pronoun in the command! The du and ihr commands do not usually include du or ihr.

Englisch Deutsch
Give me the (ballpoint) pen! (Sie) Geben Sie mir den Kuli!
Give me the (ballpoint) pen! (du) Gib mir den Kuli!
Give me the (ballpoint) pen! (ihr) Gebt mir den Kuli!
Take the (ballpoint) pen! (Sie) Nehmen Sie den Kuli!
Take the (ballpoint) pen! (du) Nimm den Kuli!
Take the (ballpoint) pen! (ihr) Nehmt den Kuli!


mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Flippo, Hyde. "Learning German "Give and Take" - "Geben, Nehmen"." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/give-and-take-geben-nehmen-4074991. Flippo, Hyde. (2021, February 16). Learning German "Give and Take" - "Geben, Nehmen". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/give-and-take-geben-nehmen-4074991 Flippo, Hyde. "Learning German "Give and Take" - "Geben, Nehmen"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/give-and-take-geben-nehmen-4074991 (accessed February 6, 2023).