I'm stuck and can't seen to get beyond this
I am having a real problem understanding when to use habt, haben, hast, hat with the correct pronoun.. isst, essen, esst, esse as well. Not to mention trinke, trinkst, trinken, trinkt.... just can't seem to grasp their usages. any easy ways to get past this? Argh!
Each verb consists of a "stem" which determines its meaning (example: hab- in case of haben) and an ending which determines its grammatical status (example: -en of haben; in this case, indicating the form "infinitive").
The endings are the same for all verbs. And the pattern is explained here, with the example "haben": http://www.canoo.net/services/Controller?input=haben&features=(Cat+V)(Aux+haben)&dispatch=inflection&lang=en (in this overview, consider only "present tense, indicative" for now).
So it is:
Ich habe / trinke / esse (I have / drink /eat)
Du hast / trinkst / isst ("essen" is irregular!) (you have / drink /eat)
Er hat / trinkt / isst (he has / drinks / eats)
Wir haben / trinken / essen (we have / drink / eat)
Ihr habt / trinkt / esst (you (plural) have / drink / eat)
Sie haben / trinken / essen (they have / drink / eat)
Here is an additional explanation: http://www.canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/InflectionRules/FRegeln-V/Texte/Einfache-Zeiten.html?lang=en Please note especially the link to "present tense" -- this is the form we are dealing with right now.
There's a general paradigm to it. You take the stem of the verb (generally speaking the infinitive form of the verb minus the -en), then you attach the following endings to the stem:
This is reflected in most every present-tense conjugation:
ich: habe (-e)
du: hast (-st)
er: hat (-t)
wir: haben (-en)
ihr: habt (-t)
sie: haben (-en)
ich: gehe (-e)
du: gehst (-st)
er: geht (-t)
wir: gehen (-en)
ihr: geht (-t)
sie: gehen (-en)
ich: esse (-e)
du: isst (-st; note irregular stem change here)
er: isst (-t; note irregular stem change here)
wir: essen (-en)
ihr: esst (-t; note stem doesn't change here)
sie: essen (-en)
Keep in mind that some verbs will have irregular conjugations (e.g. modal verbs like willen, and sollen, as well as sein), and others will have irregular roots, like the umlauting verbs where the stem changes in du and er (e.g. essen -> ich esse, but du isst, laufen -> ich laufe, but du läufst, fangen -> ich fange, but du fängst). Thankfully there aren't many of them in the present tense (just wait till you get to the past tense though ^_^), and because the stem changes are phonologically conditioned (i.e. it has to do with specific vowels and the consonants surrounding them), you get a pretty good feel for which ones do what after a bit of practice.
One easy way to keep this in your head is to just think about how English did it in the Early Modern period, before we lost thou and merged our 3rd person singular with 1st person singular:
I have (-∅)
thou hast (-st)
he hath (-th)
we have(n) (-en)
ye have(n) (-en)
they have(n) (-en)
I go (-∅)
thou goest (-st)
he goeth (-th)
we go(en) (-en)
ye go(en) (-en)
they go(en) (-en)
I eat (-∅)
thou eatest (-st)
he eateth (-th)
we eat(en) (-en)
ye eat(en) (-en)
they eat(en) (-en)
One possibility is to try a completely different approach to see if that helps get you over your blockage.
There is a free online audio course which takes beginners in German through the basic structures of the language. It is similar to the method used in the Michel Thomas course, where you are encouraged to build up sentences yourself and start to think in German. The course explains how the German verb system works and unravels the mysteries of German word order. But be warned, you need to participate by answering the questions out loud. Just listening is not enough.
I found it a really useful supplement to Duolingo. You can find the course at https://www.languagetransfer.org/complete-german