Past tense of hängen

(Beegeedee) #1

Dear Memrisers

In my endless pursuit to learn the german language i came across an oddity that i can’t find an answer to on google.
the verb hängen - past tense ich hing no problem irregular verb.
then i was looking at einhängen - past tense ich hängte ein - i searched a few conjugation websites and they kept this regular verb format, yet nachhängen, rumhängen are all irregular.

If anyone can explain that to me then that would be nice. Danke.

(Gedh) #2

Hi there,

Just noticed this has gone unanswered for a while…

I’m not a native speaker, just a learner, but here is my attempt at an explanation.

Your question is to do with transitive (can have an object in the accusative case) and intransitive (no object in accusative case) verb forms, and hängen can exist as both.

With hängen in it’s intransitive form, it is an irregular verb and the imperfect form is hing (e.g. ich hing, du hingst, er/sie/es hing etc.) and the past participle is gehangen (e.g. ich habe gehangen, du hast gehangen etc.). It is used to describe when something is hanging somewhere.

When used transitively with a direct object in the accusative case then it is regular (imperfect form is hängte) and the corresponding examples would be ich hängte, du hängtest, er/sie/es hängte and the past participle is gehängt.

Intransitive:- eine Wolke hing in der Luft (a cloud hung in the air).
Transitive:- er hat das Bild an die Wand gehängt / er hängte das Bild an die Wand (he hung the picture on the wall).

Considering your other examples:-

einhängen is transitive (e.g. er hat die Tür eingehängt - he hung the door), and so takes the regular form.
nachhängen is intransitive and therefore irregular (e.g. er hing seinen Gedanken nach - he dwelled on his thoughts [the object is in the dative case here]).
rumhängen is intransitive and therefore irregular (e.g. sie hing rum - she was hanging around).

It’s probably worth adding that the reflexive form sich hängen always takes a direct object in the accusative and is therefore always transitive/regular (e.g. er hängte sich an den Ast - he hung onto the branch).

I hope that helps a bit!

(Robert Alexander) #3

Beeing a native speaker, I agree with Gedh. He explained this well. I’m sure that Germans (or Austrians, etc.) don’t get that right always, but most of the time native speakers will intuitively chose the correct form.

There’s maybe one exception to the rule (I’m not quite sure): “Fleisch abhängen”. A butcher took the meat off (a hook), would be “Der Fleischer hängte das Fleisch ab”. In the sense of hanging meat (as in beef aging), I’d prefer “Der Fleischer hing das Fleisch ab” - although it is clearly transitive. Why? I don’t know. I guess it has to do with the character of the process. The meat simply hangs there for a while and doesn’t need much attention. You would say “Das Fleisch hing ab”, if you didn’t care who initiated the process in the first place. So the transitive character is somewhat obfuscated. And that’s why, I’d prefer “Der Fleischer hing das Fleisch ab” to underline the fact that I’m talking about the beef aging process.

(Robert Alexander) #4

That’s correct, but Germans don’t get that always right. Franz Kafka (the famous German/Austrian/Bohemian? author) writes: “Er hing sich fester ein”. (see Most Germans would find this usage O.K. According to your rule it should be: “Er hängte sich fester ein”.

(Beegeedee) #5

Thanks for taking the time to reply. That makes sense but i searched and searched and could not find an answer. However previously i discovered erschrecken which i believe does the same regular/irregular erschreckte/erschrak between transitive and intransitive usage.
Now does a german verb erscheckt or erschrickt me or probably both. Thanks again.

(Robert Alexander) #6

erschrecken is even more complicated thahn hängen! But you’ll spot some of the same principles.

There’s a guy pseudo-named Zwiebelfisch who explains these details sometimes very well. That’s a language explaining series for Germans. That’s evidence: even Germans need help :wink:


transitive: jemanden erschrecken (~ to startle/scare someone [not oneself]): kind of regular conjugation = erschreck-stem remains intact. Perfect is formed with haben: Ich erschrecke dich, du erschreckst mich, die Nachricht erschreckte die Zuhörer, du hast mich ganz schön erschreckt!

intransitive: erschrecken (~to be startled/frightened): not so nice conjugation. Uses sein to form perfect and alters the stem: Sei leise, sonst erschrickt das Reh; als der Tiger den Jäger bemerkte, erschraken beide; beim Anblick des Tieres ist er heftig erschrocken.

And then there’s sich erschrecken. It refers to oneself: It’s reflexive. It’s kind of colloquial. You propably won’t consider this über-correct, but it’s not exactly rare in daily speech. There are two conjugations patterns. Due to the lack of standardization, Germans can’t decide if the verb is weak or strong (google the whole story: it’s kind of interesting to understand why some verbs are weak while others are strong and why more and more verbs become weak (or mixed) as this is perceived to be the more regular conjugation pattern. Compare to English where most strong verb forms like sing, sang, sung became rare. But I guess these English strong verbs can’t hide their Germanic origin. :uk::bearded_person::crossed_swords::deer::evergreen_tree::rowing_man: :denmark::norway::de: ). So it’s: Ich erschrecke mich bei jedem Donner; ich erschreckte/erschrak mich fast zu Tode; ich habe mich ganz schön erschreckt/erschrocken!

One final comment: Plz relax. I’m pretty sure that not all Germans conjugate these verbs correctly all the time. [Certainly not me :wink: I even have problems with “blinken” and “winken”.] And saying ich erschrack das Reh may not be correct, but every German will understand you correctly.

(Xjohnny) #7

Saying “ich erschrack das Reh” is certainly not correct, as “erschrack” should be replaced by “erschrak”. The same goes for “abhacken” in the sense of tick off, which gives me goose pimbles everytime I read it. :slight_smile:

(Robert Alexander) #8

true :+1: my error

(Beegeedee) #9

Danke… the more i learn about german verbs the more i really don’t like them.

(Robert Alexander) #10
  1. Learn the strong forms whenever you learn a strong verb (rule of thumb: cognates of irregular English verbs are strong verbs in German)
  2. Assume every other verb to be weak. Don’t learn the weak verb forms.
  3. Forget about transitive/intransitive/passive verbs. Just assume that every German verb - where it makes remotely sense - can be both transitive and intransitive and can thus form passive, reflexive and active phrases (where it clearly makes sense). Don’t waste your time on things like hing vs hängte: such verbs are just too rare.