How to Learn Verb Conjugations Easily

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Verb conjugations can do loads for your communication in a very short space of time. 

With four conjugations, I can say a crazy amount! It takes many more nouns to communicate, so verbs are definitely an important thing to focus on if you want to communicate quickly.

 

 

Today, I am hopefully going to help you learn verbs easily, and improve your fluency fast!

Please note that, although these methods have worked for me in the language that I have learned, they might not work for everyone in every language. In some languages, conjugations are much more complicated and these suggestions might not be so useful.  

My suggestion is to try and simplify the process as much as possible:

  • Start with just one tense
  • Learn imperfective and perfective separately if you are struggling with the amount of words. (not relevant to all languages)

Anyway, onto your learning options!

 

Option One - Patterns

Lots of verbs follow patterns. You can usually see these patterns by looking at the endings of the words in the conjugation.

By learning an ending pattern for a set of verbs (like the á one in czech, shown above the heading), you can save yourself TONS of time! Once you know it, you can recognise where to use it and learn new conjugations for multitudes of verbs super easily.

Of course, there are some verbs that are difficult and don’t follow a pattern (such as avoir in french), so you will need to use another option for them.

How to Use Them!

It’s pretty simple! 

  1. To start off, you need to find which ending pattern to learn.
  2. Then you need to find out when it appears. This is how you find out whether the verb you are conjugating fits the pattern. For example, you can find out if a czech infinitive verb fits the “-ovat” pattern if it ends in… well, -ovat! (Hence the name!)
  3. The most important bit, of course, is to learn what the pattern actually is. It is the bit that changes, and is common in every verb in the pattern. Basically, learning the actual pattern.
  4. The final step is to write it down. Put it in a table and make it look pretty, if you want to! This chart will be for you to reference if you need to check. It is definitely NOT for you to memorise off! Trying to visualise a chart every time you need to find a verb is going to slow you down, so it's probably best to avoid it.

In summary, find which pattern, when it appears and what the pattern is. And then write it down!

 

Option Two: Flashcards

If you aren’t enlightened as to how much I love flashcards, this post will explain further! Trust me, I love them!

To sum up my flashcard strategy…

  • I use Anki (online flashcard app).
  • My flashcards consist of sentences with a translation and a missing word (cloze deletion).

How to Use Flashcards to Learn Verbs

  1. Make a sentence with your verb in it!
    1. You will need a sentence with your verb in it (in the correct form).
    2. Make this sentence personalised to you, not a generic textbook one. Even if you just change names in a sentence from a book/course, a sentence that actually relates to you in real life makes such a difference to its memorising power!
  2. Add it to a flashcard.
    1. If you would like, put a missing word in there! You can put the answer on the back, or really tiny on the front.
    2. For more details on making awesome flashcards, read the post I mentioned earlier! 

 

Option Three - Use Mnemonics to Remember the Verbs

What are Mnemonics?

Mnemonics are memory devices helping you to remember things… such as verbs!

They can be rhymes, acronyms, images or just related words. There's not really any rules when it comes to mnemonics - just things that jog your memory and help you learn things faster!

 

Making the Mnemonics

Obviously, you need to actually make the mnemonics!

First, decide what you are trying to remember…

What would be most effective? Would an acronym (like Big Elephants Can't Always Use Small Exits for because) be useful? Or a rhyme? Or something else?

Recently I learned the two Czech verbs for 'to know.' I needed a way to distinguish which option to use when. One was for knowing a person and the other was for knowing information.

So I made two rhymes! 

Znát is for knowing people, so I wrote znám jam (using the first person conjugation for znát). I think of a jam jar with funny glasses, and it reminds me that it is for people!

Vedět is for knowing information. I say vedět, I don't know it YET! This tells me that it is for knowing information.

I don't recommend using premade mnemonics, because what makes them so effective is their personal connection and memory trigger. Of course sometimes, they can be useful, but usually they don't work so well.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go and make some awesome, crazy, hilarious mnemonics!

 

Using the Mnemonics

Now we have made our mnemonics, it would be suuuper helpful to know how to use them!

First of all, if you think you might forget them, write them down.

Then, if you would like to, add them to your flashcards. This is optional, but helps you remember it for longer.

After that, it is simple! Just think of the mnemonic when you need to use the word!

 

Option Four - Seeing Verbs in Context

It’s well known that the most effective way to learn vocabulary in any language is to see it in context. There is very little point in knowing 10,000 words but no knowledge of how they are used. 100 words with knowledge of how they are used is much more valuable!

Context (in terms of language learning) is seeing words in a real-life situation, such as a podcast, book, song, article or something else. It shows you how a word is used by the speakers of the language, past the dictionary definition.

Which verbs will this work for?

Of course, finding context for verbs is much more difficult for some than others. “Word spotting,” as I like to call it, is a difficult challenge.

Common verbs like ‘to cook’ will be easier to find than ‘to germinate.’

This is because we just say some things more often than others.

However, we can make our verb spotting easier by looking in the right places. If you are looking for ‘to germinate’ in context, you are much more likely to hear it in a plant care video than a politics news article. Think about where your verb will be used, and look there.

 

What should you do once you find them?

Once you have found your verb, you have two (or three) things to do next!

  1. Acknowledge it - recognise it and identify that it is there
  2. Analyse it - look at what it is being used for, which words are around it, who is saying it, and the formality of the conditions it is being used in. You can figure this out from the surrounding text - you might have to do some detective work though!
  3. (Optionally) Write it down - As you found this word in a native material, you can guarantee that it will be correct. This is a great opportunity for a perfect sentence to use in your flashcard or other learning material. So write it down for the future!

Sidenote: sorry for all of the detective references in this section! Watching Enola Holmes as I write and it is creeping into my brain! I totally recommend it, by the way. :)

 

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Conclusion

Thank you so much for reading all the way through this! I really hope that you enjoyed this and learned a little bit more to help you learn verbs and conjugations in your target language.

What would you like me to write about next? Please let me know in the comments!

See you soon!

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