Writing in German

“Picknicken” And “Outsourcen” – How To Make A German Verb

Darrell Sharpe - Fotolia.com
Darrell Sharpe – Fotolia.com

Languages constantly collect words from other languages and make them their own. What languages are collected is dependent on many factors and changes over time. Currently, the German language prefers English words. Using English verbs as an example, this post shows how an English word is turned into a German word.

Why Do languages Borrow Words From Other Languages?

In a world of constant change, speakers often cannot keep up with creating suitable words. They therefore use words from other languages that satisfy their need for expression. These borrowed words follow the rules of grammar when they adapt to their new language environment.

Nowadays, few native speakers of German know that Picknick comes from the English, Roboter from the Russian or Karussell from the French.

Step 1: Creating An Infinitive

To download, to outsource, to upgrade are English infinitives. The German ending for an infinitive is -en. So the english verbs get a new ending: downloaden, outsourcen, upgraden.

Some features of the English language are preserved. The -c in outsourcing is  pronounced like a sharp -s, u-sounds like a German -a in upgrading. But many Germans don’t speak the -z in the Amazon like a soft -s, but like -ts, the way they pronounce the German word Amazone.

Step 2: Adding Conjugation

German verbs have different endings for each grammatical person. This rule is applied to borrowed verbs, too:


ich downloade

du downloadest

er, sie, es downloadet


wir downloaden

ihr downloadet

sie/Sie downloaden



ich outsource

du outsourcst

er, sie, es outsourct


wir outsourcen

ihr outsourct

sie/Sie outsourcen



ich upgrade

du upgradest

er, sie, es upgradet


wir upgraden

ihr upgradet

sie/Sie upgraden

Step 3: Get Regular (Or Weak) Forms For The Past And The Passive

Regular (or weak) German verbs build their Präteritum (simple past) by putting -t- between the stem and the personal ending. When the stem ends in -d or – t an extra e- slips in: ich downloadete, er outsourcte, wir upgradeten.

The past participle (for the Perfekt and the passive) uses ge– as indicator before the stem. The ending -(e)t follows behind the stem. Prepositions that are part of the English verb are used like separable prefixes in the past participle (and only there!):

hat gepicknickt, hat downgeloadet, hat outgesourct, hat upgegradet.



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