© RTL / Julia Maaluf
In most western languages, it's impossible to build a sentence without them: verbs.
In this lesson, we'll have a look at the pattern followed by regular verbs as well as the elements to keep in mind with irregular verbs.
Hello there and welcome back to Language Basics! Since you've stuck with us for six lessons already, we assume that you're at least somewhat interested in the grammatical bits and pieces that make a language work.
Remember that grammar is not something you need to learn by heart – think of it more like a blueprint that you can come back to as often as you like and that gives you a bit of insight into why a language looks and sounds the way it does.
The subject of this lesson is verbs. You've seen and heard them before in our main lessons, and maybe you've remembered some as part of the phrases we mentioned there. But how do they actually work?
The most basic form of a verb is the infinitive. In English, the particle "to" is used to express the infinitive: to read, to sing, to laugh… In Luxembourgish, the infinitive consists of a first part called the stem or the root, and the suffix -en: liesen, sangen, laachen…
Verbs can be regular or irregular. If a verb is regular, its stem never changes. By adding the corresponding suffixes, it is relatively easy to conjugate these verbs in the present tense (Präsens). Let's have a look at the regular verb laachen (to laugh) in the present tense:
laachen (to laugh)
Ech laachen (I laugh)
Du laachs (You laugh)
Hien / Hatt / Et laacht (He / She / It laughs)
Mir laachen (We laugh)
Dir laacht (You laugh)
Si laachen (They laugh)
As we can see, the verb stem laach- never changes. Another regular verb is kachen (to cook). Let's also have a look at kachen in the present tense – only this time, we'll pay particular attention to the suffixes:
kachen (to cook)
Ech kach – en (I cook)
Du kach – s (You cook)
Hien / Hatt / Et kach – t (He / She / It cooks)
Mir kach – en (We cook)
Dir kach – t (You cook)
Si kach – en (They cook)
If we know that a verb is regular, we can thus easily conjugate it in the present tense but simply adding the corresponding suffixes.
The bad news is that there is not really a logical way to deduce that by just looking at one form of a verb. At the very least, you would need to know the second or third person singular as well as either the infinitive form or one of the other conjugations (first person singular, first person plural, second person plural, third person plural). The reason for that is the key difference between regular and irregular verbs.
While the verb stem never changes for regular verbs, an irregular verb is characerised by a so-called umlaut in the second and third person singular. It's probably easiest to just show you an example, so let's have a look at the irregular verb kommen (to come):
kommen (to come)
Ech komm – en (I come)
Du kënn – s (You come)
Hien / Hatt / Et kënn – t (He / She / It comes)
Mir komm – en (We come)
Dir komm – t (You come)
Si komm – en (They come)
As you can see, the original verb stem komm- transforms into kënn- in the second and third person singular – this is what is called an umlaut, or a vowel mutation.
However, that is not all. There is something else that can happen with irregular verbs that we should point out. Fortunately, if your goal is just to speak the language, this won't really be something you'll have to worry about. But just for completion's sake, let's have a look at the irregular verb kafen (to buy):
kafen (to buy)
Ech kaf – en (I come)
Du keef – s (You come)
Hien / Hatt / Et keef – t (He / She / It comes)
Mir kaf – en (We come)
Dir kaaf – t (You come)
Si kaf – en (They come)
What stands out here is that while the verb stem retains its original vowel in the second person plural, it is doubled. The reason for this is Luxembourgish orthography: A long vowel does not need to be doubled as long as it is followed by no more than one consonant (like in kafen). However, if there are two consonants or more after a long vowel, the vowel in question has to be doubled (like in kaaft).
But there you have it: a (very) basic run-down of how verbs function in the present tense in Luxembourgish. As far as irregular verbs are concerned, there are some more element that we didn't touch on in this lesson. Most of them mainly concern orthography, however, and since the main focus of these lessons is on speaking Luxembourgish, we thought we'd spare you the trouble.
Vocabulary list – Restaurants
As always, before we're done for the day, we'll leave you with a vocabulary list for the main lesson.
Before we leave you, here is the full vocabulary list for the main lesson:
the carrot -> d'Muert / d'Wuerzel
the tomato -> d'Tomat
the cauliflower -> de Choufleur
the cabbage -> de Kabes
the potato -> d'Gromper
the onion -> d'Zwiwwel / d'Ënn
the asparagus -> de Spargel
the cucumber -> d'Kornischong
the broccoli -> de Brokkoli
the eggplant/aubergine -> d'Aubergine
Types of meats
beef -> Rëndfleesch
veal -> Kalleffleesch
pork -> Schwéngefleesch
chicken -> Poulet
mutton / lamb -> Hämmelfleesch
horse meat -> Päerdsfleesch
Pro Tip: If you want to specify how you want your meat cooked (or if the waiter asks you), restaurants in Luxembourg usually refer to the French terms: bleu (raw), saignant (rare), à point (medium), and bien cuit (well done).
the apple -> den Apel
the banana -> d'Banann
the cherry -> d'Kiischt
the grape (grapes) -> d'Drauf (Drauwen)
the lemon -> d'Zitroun
the lime -> d'Limoun / d'Limett
the orange -> d'Orange
the peach -> d'Piisch
the pear -> d'Bier
the pineapple -> d'Ananas
the plum -> d'Quetsch
the (water) melon -> d'(Waasser)meloun
the nut / the nuts -> D'Noss / D'Nëss
the walnut -> d'Hackernoss / d'déck Noss
the peanut -> d'Afennoss / d'Kakuett
the cashew (nut) -> d'Cashewnoss
the hazelnut -> d'Hieselnoss
the almond(s) -> d'Mandel(en)
the pistachio(s) -> d'Pistasch(en)
the chestnut(s) -> d'Käscht(en) / d'Maroun(en)
As always for vocabulary lists, you can look up terms we have not included here on lod.lu