and welcome to our German is Easy – Online Course.
And today we’ll continue to look at the German past. Let’s quickly recap.
There are 2 forms of past: the spoken past and the written past. Every verb has either form but which one is used depends on 2 things: which verb are we talking about and in which „mode“ of language is it used. Luckily 99,8 percent of all verbs do follow the same pattern – they use spoken past in spoken language and written past in written language as in novels. Only a few verbs use the written past also in spoken language. Using the spoken past for those would sound awkward. Anyway… part 1 talks in all detail about this and if you haven’t read it then you should read it… I mean of course listen to the mp3.dochere.
So… Today we will deal with the spoken past and to get started, here is an example:
- Ich habe mir gestern einen neuen Schlauch für mein Fahrrad gekauft.
- I bought a new inner tube for my bike yesterday.
As we can see we need 2 things for the spoken past: a helper verb and what I call the ge-form of the verb. Now you’re like „Gee… what form??“ so let’s talk about this first and find out how it is built and also WHY it is built that way.
In official grammar-jargon the ge-form is called past party symbol. It is not entirely clear to me why it is called that but I have to say that it is a surprisingly modern sounding name in the otherwise so Latin-heavy linguistic terminology. Unfortunately, it sounds too much like past participle and this might be confusing so we will call it the ge-form. Ok seriously, the name past participleis actually one of the grammatical terms worth knowing and it is a really tremendously useful form. In German it is used for the spoken past.
- Ich habeein paar Eiergekocht.
- I haveboiled some eggs.
It can be an adjective.
- Ich mag gekochte Eier lieber als Rührei.
- I like boiled eggs better than scrambled egg (lit.)
And it is also used for passive.
- Die Eier werden gekocht.
- The eggs are being boiled.
So… you can do a lot with this form. And this is not only the case in German. The past participle is equally useful in many other languages including Finnish and the rules how to build this form is one of the first things that I look up when I learn a new language. By the way… if you’re wondering what the past participle is in English: it is the third form of this 3-form verb scheme…
- go – went – gone
- see – saw – seen
- download – downloaded – downloaded
Alright… I will call itge-form from now on because it is just a little more intuitive how is it done in German? Well… the standard rule is simple: remove the en-ending of the verb, add a ge in the beginning and a t at the end. And sometimes you have to remove the umlaut.
- machen (to make) – ge + mach + t
- kaufen (to buy) – ge + kauf + t
- können (to be able to) – ge + konn + t
Now, before the 15th century, the spoken past didn’t exist. It was then, that people started “inventing” it for whatever reason. The past participle back then had no geyet. The ge actually used to be a “normal” non-separable prefix just like ver or ent.The meaning of the geas a prefix was very broad and I can’t really wrap my mind around it but it did have of a notion of completion. So, just as Germans started to use the previously unheard of spoken past they also started adding the ge to the past participle of basic verbs that didn’t … maybe just to give them said notion of completion. Over time the ge-form developed as a rule and the original prefix-meaning of ge almost disappeared. It is still visible in words likegefrieren (to freeze) or gelingen(to turn out as a success).
- Das Wasser gefriert.
- The water is freezing.
- Das Projekt gelingt.
- The project turns out a success.
So … the ge-form is somewhat of a coincidence and it could have been another prefix as well. The main thing it does anyway is adding an extra unstressed easy to pronounce syllable to the word. Like an up beat in music. It gives the following stress more impact because it had build up.
- ge –kauft
- “dit DUNNNNt”
Kids hear and produc e this rhythmical change before they actually realize the ge. They say things like:
- Ich bin hin –ne-falln
- I fell down.
- Mamma hat die Tür auf-fe-macht.
Keep this rhythm aspect in mind. We’ll get back to it laterrrrr. Alright… so adding ge in front and t to the end is the default way to construct the ge-form of a verb and this rule applies for a large part of all German verbs but there are exceptions. Of course. The bad thing is that the irregular forms are the ones you will use most in daily conversation so to you as a beginner it will seem like EVERY verb has an irregular ge-form. There are 2 main deviations of the rule. Some verbs end in –en instead of t.
- essen (to eat) – ge + g + ess +en (the second g is ust a filler so as to not have double e)
- lassen (to let, to leave) – ge + lass + en
- geben (to give) – ge + geb + en
The second thing that makes irregular forms irregular is a change of the stem-vowel, with occasional “adjustments” of the surrounding letters… and boy oh boy are there possibilities.
- nehmen (to take) – genommen
- ziehen (to pull) – gezogen
- riechen (to smell) – gerochen
- denken (to think) – gedacht
- trinken (to drink) – getrunken
- wissen(to know) –gewusst
- kennen (the other, different to know) – gekannt
So is there a system that helps with this? Well for a “systematic” approach if you want you can look into the whole over-hyped “weak verb – strong verb” nonsen… uhm theory (which no German knows about). That won’t save you from having to learn for EACH verb whether it is weak or strong and which vowel-change happens (there are half a dozen tables for this). I think the benefit of those additional very abstract rules t be very marginal and I would recommend to just accept it asrandom and learn thege-formsby constant repetition. I mean they are ones you will see all the time in the beginning anyway. I will give you an exercise at the end of this post. There are 2 rules of thumb that I can give you however… if there is a vowel change in English (see-saw-seen) there is a fair chance that it is irregular in German too. But regular English doesn’t imply regular German. And then, if there is a vowel change in German there is a good chance for it to end with -en. But not always. Bottom line of this… most German verbs have a regular ge-form and they will look like this
- verben – geverbt
Many of the most important verb have irregular forms, stem change, -en-ending or both and you should just learn those without trying to make too much sense of it. But learn them you should. Anyway… if you can’t think of a ge-form or you have actually never seen it before then:Use the Rule!!!
- Ich habe gedenkt.
This is wrong but every German can understand it and it is better to just say this with confidence than to stop and search for the correct form. “gedenke.. no gedank uh..gedunken???” Instead of interrupting the conversation for half a minute and turn your statement into an unrelated language question just say it wrong! It is fine; no one will laugh. The other person will probably find it cute. And then later that night you will get the chance to find out more about the German crot.. uh culture while having hot steaming se… uh servings of coffee (oh my… that was close). So… when in doubt just say it wrong and when the other person corrects you, repeat the corrected version so as to train your brain. The ge-forms have to come out automatically and they will. Just give it some time and make an effort learning. Alright… now before we can get to the helper verb we need to talk about another thing.
Ge-form and separable prefixes
Many German verbs consist of a basic verb like nehmenand one of our 1.762.431* prefixes (* number is an estimate by a level A1 student). And as you may know there are weakly linked and strongly linked prefixes (if you need to brush up on that read this).
Now… let’s deal with weakly linked verbs first. Their ge-form looks as follows:
prefix + ge-form of the basic verb
- Ich habe mein Kind vom Kindergarten abgeholt.
- I picked up my child from the kindergarten.
- Ich bin am Montag umgezogen.
- I moved on Monday (to a new flat).
- Ich habe den Herd ausgemacht.
- I have turned off the stove.
- Ich habe mein Bier noch nicht ausgetrunken.
- I haven’t finished my beer yet.
And now you ask .. whyyyyyyyy? Why isn’t it geaustrunken and geabholt? Why do I have to fit the ge in the middle of the word? Well, this actually makes perfect sense and it is an example for a principle that you will see over and over in German… the second to last jump. You know that if your verb has more than one part in German the first part goes in position 2 and all the rest goes to the end of the clause.
- Ich mache den Herd aus.
- I turn off the stove.
So here our verb consist of the parts mache and aus because ausmachen has a weak link, which breaks easily. Now, if we want to put this into spoken past we need to introduce a helper verb – in this case haben. Haben now kicks mache out of position 2 while slapping a ge to it. So we have
- Ich habe den Herd aus. and a kind of homeless gemacht
Now where does this gemacht go? It goes to the very end of course. Note, that I am not touching anything else in the sentence. Nothing moves except for machen.
- Ich habeden Herd aus gemacht. becomes
- Ich habe den Herd ausgemacht.
And it is just by convention that it is now again written as one word. As if there is magnetic force between aus and macht.I don’t want to get too much into that right now but this ausmachen-example is not much different than this:
- Abwaschenmachtmir Spaß.
- Doing dishes is fun to me (lit).
- I enjoy doing dishes.
Spaß machenis never written as one word and yet it is kind of a fixed expression. Now if we put this in past we get
- Abwaschen hat mir Spaß gemacht.
Just as before the haben kicked the machen from position 2 and turned it into the ge-form. Gemacht then had nowhere to go so it goes where all the verb leftovers go… to the end. It is not written as one word this time but the reason is simply a convention. Sometimes even Germans don’t know what to do.
- Ich habe viele Leute kennengelernt.
- Ich habe viele Leute kennen gelernt.
- I met many people.
Both versions are correct according to out current writing “law” because there are arguments for and against writing it as one word. So … as you can see, having the ge between the weakly linked prefix and the rest of the basic verb is completely natural while geabholt wouldn’t be. And to bring back the idea of rhythm… a separable prefix is always stressed – even more than is the stem syllable.
- AUF – mach –en
- MIT – bring – en
Having the ge in between yields a nice stressed-unstressed-stressed-pattern… something very common for German.
- AUF – ge – MACHT
- “DUNN dit DUNNN”
The other version would be
- dit DUNN DUNN
and that is just not feeling as smooth and groovy. So .. ge in the middle makes sense logically and on top of that it sounds nice :).
Ge-form and non-separable prefixes
Now let’s move on to the strongly linked prefixes – the ones that don’t split.
- Ich verkaufe mein altes Handy.
- I sell my old sell-phone (pun intended).
The spoken past of this is:
- Ich habe mein altes Handy verkauft.
- I sold my old cell-phone.
Or some other exaples…
- Thomas hat Marias Geburtstag vergessen.
- Thomas forgot Maria’s birthday.
- Die Werbung hat nicht zuviel versprochen.
- The ad has not promised too much.
- Ich habe gestern einen 3-Jahres-Vertrag unterschrieben.
- I signed a 3 year contract yesterday.
- Thomas hat den Text auf Deutsch übersetzt.
- Thomas has translated the text into German
The glaring question here is … why is there no ge??? Well… I don’t exactly know but here is my theory. Unlike the weak-ly linked ones the non-separable prefixes are never stressed.
- ver – GESS– en
- ent – SCHEI – den
- ver –KAUF– en
A direct comparison:
- ver SCHREI ben (prescribe)
- AUF schrei ben (write down)
And an even morer, directer, comparisoner (is that right??):
- umSTELlen (surround… for instance police a building)
- UMstel len (put from one place/setting to another place/setting)
So for the non-separable verbs we already have this groovy up beat feeling that the ge added to the other verbs.
- dit DUNNN (dun)
We have also established that the ge used to be a non-separable prefix too and it had a meaning, which it just lost over the centuries. So I can see why people back then would not add a prefix with a meaning to another strongly linked prefix with a different meaning… that would have been confusing back then. And it is not needed for this nicege-form rhythm after all. Let’s look at this in practice one again, with the stress indicated by likeTHIS(and blinking).
- Die Polizei hat das Gebäude umSTELLT (“dit DUNNN” .. nice dramatic finish)
- The police has surrounded the building.
- Ich habe meine Uhr auf Sommerzeit UMgeSTELLt (“DUNN dit DUNNN”… just epic)
- I set my watch to summer time.
As I said before, this is just my personal theory so if you happen know anything about this, please share it with us here. Now, what about verbs that have a separable prefix AND a non-separable prefix? What? Oh you didn’t know those existed? Oh I am soooo sorry :)… they do…
- Erst wollt eich einen Kaffee, aber ich habe mich umentschieden. Ich nehme Tee.
- First I wanted a coffee, but then I reconsidered. I go for tea.
- Thomas hat 3 Karten für die Oper vorbestellt.
- Thomas has reserved3 tickets for the opera.
- Ich habe meine Wohnung untervermietet.
- I sublet my flat.
I think you get it without further explanation…
So… wow… that was a lot already. Let’s quickly summarize all of it.
if the verb has a separable prefix the ge is between prefix and the rest
(aufgemacht, eingekauft, vorgestellt)
if the prefix is not separable then there will be no ge. Just the prefix and the ending
(verstanden, verkauft, bestellt)
And I should probably also mention: if you know the ending and vowel change of a basic verb this will be the case for ALL prefix versions. For denken we have dacht as a stem
- Ich habe nachgedacht.
- I have done some thinking.
- Ich habe das bedacht.
- I did take this into consideration.
What did I take into consideration you ask? Well this…
One more exception
There is one group of verbs that has no prefixes and doesn’t take a ge anyway… all the ones ending in –ieren. Those are somehow all based on Latin and I am sure you understand many of them without having seen them before.
- fotografieren, probieren, transportieren, echauffieren, parlieren, kopieren…
The ge-form on those should actually be called the ” -form” because they just get a t at the end and that’s it.
- Ich habe den Baum fotografiert.
- I have taken a picture of the tree.
- Ich habe das nicht kapiert.
- I didn’t understand that.
And again this begs the following question: why???? We could assume that the ge-system developed before the Germans got in touch with the Roman language but this is not very likely because German is very quick with inventing ge-forms for all kinds of imported words.
- Ich habe dein Foto geliked(we don’t know how to spell this yet… here a debate )
- I have liked your picture (as in: on Facebook).
- Ich habe gestern mit meiner Mutter geskyped.
- Ich habe mich eingeloggt.
Where were we coming from? Oh right… why don’t the Latin verbs have a ge? So the reason is not, that they came into the German language too late. But rhythm is the key – again. The main stress for those verbs is ALWAYS on the ier –syllable.
- ko –PIE – ren
So compared to the average basic German verb (HAben) , all the stuff before IE is kind of one looooong non-separable prefix and it doesn’t make sense to add a geto it. After gea German expects a syllable with a strong stress. For the ieren-words this wouldn’t be the case. So that makes it weird sounding and gefeels out of place there. This is different for those English words we had earlier. They do have an emphasized syllable right after the ge and that’s why it is so easy and natural for a German native speaker to do it that way. So … I hope you get an impression of how important rhythm is to German and possibly to any language. Grammar rules are nice and all but people talk in a way that feels right and rhythm plays a huge role there. Ok… so now we know everything about the ge-form all we need to do is to pick the right helper verb.
Haben or sein – pick the right helper
This question seems to bug many students of German but it really is not that hard to answer. The helper verb is either haben or sein. This can be also seen in Roman languages but the rules when to use which are a little different. Basically you must to use sein whenever you are talking about a movement of yourself that focuses on your being in a different location after than you were before. The prime example is gehen.
- Ich bin in den Park gegangen.
- I went to the park.
Here are some others:
- to fly : fliegen – geflogen
- to swim : schwimmen – geschwommen
- to jump: springen – gesprungen
- to fall: fallen – gefallen
And here are some less obvious ones:
- to get up: aufstehen – aufgestanden
- to rise (sun): aufgehen – aufgegangen
- to move (new flat): umziehen – umgezogen
- to travel : reisen – gereist
The reason why we can’t just say “verbs of movement” is that for instance tanzen (to dance) does not work with sein although your whole body is moving.
- Ich habe getanzt.
- I danced.
The focus of to dance is not your being in some location before and some other after that. And if you dance from the bar to your house? Well, then it is sein of course.
- Ich binvon der Bar nach Hause getanzt.
A similar kind of inverted example is fahren. The default fahrenworks withsein.
- Ich bin gestern mit meinem Bruder nach München gefahren.
- I went to Munich with my brother yesterday (by car).
However, if you just go to Munich to drop of your brother there and then you head right back the focus shifts.
- Ich habe gestern meinen Bruder nach München gefahren.
- I drove my brother to Munich yesterday.
In grammar-nerd-speak we could also say, whenever you have an accusative object it is DEFINITELY going to behaben. … and definitely as in mostly… because… you know… the exceptions. But they’re few.
Anyway… I hope you get the idea. Now, there are some verbs that are not really physical movements but rather movements of the soul. They also work with sein.
- Ich bin eingeschlafen.
- I fell asleep.
- Marie istaufgewacht.
- Marie woke up.
- Maries Hund ist gestorben.
- Marie’s dog died.
- Ich bin gestern 30 geworden.
- I turned 30 yesterday.
And then there is THE BIG exception to the whole idea of movement…. to stay. Yes, bleiben also needs a form of sein.
- Ich bin gestern abend zuhause geblieben.
- I stayed home yesterday.
This just doesn’t make any sense but we’ll have to accept it. Oh and the verb sein itself also needs sein as a helper. Why does sein need a helper verb you ask? Because, remember, EVERY verb has either form of the past – a spoken past and a written past.
- Ich bin schon 3 mal in Paris gewesen.
- I‘ve been to Paris 3 times already.
This doesn’t sound very nice though and I would use the written past for sein. So… for the verbs we just saw and some others that are similar, use sein and for AAAAAAALLLL the rest, use haben! So… that’s it. That is the German spoken past. You need to know the ge-form. If you don’t know it, you can ALWAYS use the default ge-verbt and be understood and corrected. And you need to know whether to use haben or sein. This seems like a lot but it is just a question of getting used to it. You just need practice. I’d say these things have to come out without thought before it makes sense to delve deeper into German and start worrying about, say, cases. Getting an article wrong is a but a glitch in comparison to a wrong spoken past. And also, the spoken past will constantly train you in the whole verb-at-the-end-concept. If I say
- Gestern habe ich, als ich im Supermarkt war, meine Ex-Freundin ___
- Yesterday, when I was in the supermarket I ___ my ex girlfriend.
you have NOOO clue yet as to what I actually did. Did I see her? Did I call her? Did I kiss her? You will never know. It is the ge-form that tells you what actually happened and this means that you need to pay attention to it when listening to people. Alright… so you need to practice a lot and to get you started here is an exercise where you have a lot of irregular verb forms. As always, the solutions are given on the right, so all you have to do is cover it with you hand and then read it off the page in past tense. And read out loud! And when you are done with the page… do it again! And then, again. And again. And again… until you don’t need to think anymore.
- Download Exercise German Past 1(filetype: pdf)
And that’s it for today… next time we’ll look at the written past and find out which verbs use it even in spoken German. If you have any questions regarding the article or the exercise or if I made a bad mistake somewhere, please leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.
Click here to download all audio files (zip-archive, mp3 files)
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Unlike the present and imperfect tenses, the perfect tense in German has TWO parts to it: the present tense of the irregular weak verb haben (meaning to have) or the irregular strong verb sein (meaning to be). They are also known as auxiliary verbs.
- A subject. The subject is the person or thing who does the verb. ...
- An auxiliary verb. This is either haben (to have) or sein (to be). ...
- A past participle. This tells you what action is happening in the past, like played or listened.
Strictly speaking, the perfect present tense doesn't exist in German. The closest equivalent, however, is das Perfekt (the perfect tense). It's more similar to English than you think. Both tenses use an auxiliary verb (the “have” in “I have eaten”).
The perfect tense is used to express things that have happened in the past in general. It is the most commonly used past tense in German. It is used in letters, emails and spoken German.
The present perfect tense is a tense used in present to indicate the action that has taken place at some specific time. It uses auxiliary verb and past participle for the main verb i.e. verb + ed. Some examples of present perfect tense are – I have watched this movie before, He has completed his homework.
Das Präteritum or Imperfekt is the German simple past or imperfect. When talking about the past in spoken German, it is more common to use the Perfekt than Präteritum. Though, there are some verbs and situations where you don't have an option.
das Perfekt Skit
(Herr Lehrer) If a verb shows motion, use “sein” in the Perfekt. If a verb does not show motion, use “haben” in the Perfekt.
The present tense also called the simple present (Präsens) is used to talk about the present and future in German. We can translate it into one of three English tenses: the simple present, present progressive and future with will or going to. It is the most commonly used tense in the German language.
How to use auxiliary verbs. It's really important that you know all the present tense forms of haben and sein, as these are the two auxiliary verbs that 'help' the past participle. To form the perfect tense, you use the present tense of haben and sein as the auxiliary verb.
The Perfect tense is a very important tense in German grammar.. Auxiliary verb (conjugated) + Past Participle (at the end of the sentence). „Auxiliary verb“ („Hilfsverb“) here means that at position 2 in the main clause (where the conjugated verb is ALWAYS found) there is a verb that helps us to construct the perfect tense in German grammar.. Because of this, there are fundamentally only two possible verbs that one can use as the auxiliary verb for constructing the Perfect Tense, namely the verb „haben“ and the verb „sein“.. This structure always remains the same: auxiliary verb in Position 2, past participle at the end of the sentence, as with much longer sentences:. For you, it is important to note that the actual meaning of the sentence is not shown by the conjugated verb in Position 2 anymore but by the past participle at the end of the sentence.. Only the auxiliary verb is ever found in Position 2; mostly we use the auxiliary verb „haben“, and with regular / weak verbs we only EVER use the auxiliary verb „haben“.. Verbs about Movement and Change of state use the verb „sein“.. If we construct the Perfect tense with these verbs, thus we have to use the auxiliary verb „sein“ in conjugated form in Position 2 and, again, the corresponding Past Participle at the END of the sentence:. The verbs „sterben“, „einschlafen“, „verwelken“ and obviously many more are thus so-called Verbs of Change of State and form the Perfect Tense with the auxiliary verb „sein“.. Furthermore, there are some verbs that you really can’t say whether they are Verbs of Movement or not, for example with the verb „spielen“.. Most people associate that verb with movement, and in spite of this, when constructing the Perfect tense with this verb you use „haben“.. In Austria, some verbs take a different Auxiliary Verb when constructing the Perfect Tense to Germany.. For this reason, I describe in my eBook „ Learn German Grammar with Mnemonics “ special learning techniques, that make it easier for you to tell which verbs in the Perfect tense use the auxiliary verb „sein“.. Firstly you must remember, that the Perfect tense conveys the meaning of the past in exactly the same way as the Imperfect tense (Präteritum).
That means that you build it by using the present tense form of the auxiliary verb (“ haben ” or “ sein “) and the participle 2 of the main verb.. Although German tenses confront you with a lot of irregular verbs, you will see that there are huge parts of regular verbs and clear rules that make it easy to master this part of German grammar .. In the following, we will have a look at how you have to form the perfect tense and specify its use.. Whereas the sentence in the past tense expresses that you ate two pizza in a day and you won’t eat more, the perfect tense expresses that there is still space in your stomach for some more.. Well, you don’t have to worry that this article ends at this point.. Both tenses use an auxiliary verb and they also use a past participle .. However, the way of using the German perfect tense is quite different to the English present perfect tense.. Finally, we have reached the most important part of this article about German perfect tense.. Here, we will have a look on how to form the German tense and, of course, how to use it.. Well, as we have already cleared up the upper section of this text, you need an auxiliary verb to form German perfect tense.. So, the second element you need to form the German perfect tense is the past participle of your main verb.. Hopefully, you have learned some new things about German perfect tense – their different ways of forming it and, of course, the correct use of this tense.
Follow me and I will show you a beautiful garden Eden.. The German Perfekt-tense seems to compete against its fellow the Präteritum tense.. The initial intention was to show you when to use the Perfekt with „haben“ and when with „sein“.. The rule that those verbs who indicate a change of position use “sein” is a bit helpful as most of the „sein“-verbs are verbs of movement.. Also some verbs can use both „haben“ and „sein“.. These examples show that this matter is not too clear, therefore it would make sense to just learn those special sein-verbs by heart and be done with it for good.. The time invested in imagining this story is saved in plenty later on.. By the way… should you not know Hamlet, don‘t worry.. If you go through it a few more times like described above (imagination) these words will become second nature and you will naturally use them with sein as they are strongly associated with Hamlet and his world famous „to be or not to be“.. I will conclude this article here, wishing you lots of success in your endeavour to learn the beautiful German language.
The present tense is probably the most common tense used in German.. In case an action took place before an action in the past , you use the past perfect tense for the verb.. You build this tense by expressing the auxiliary verb (either “haben” or “sein”) in the past tense and the main verb in its participle 2 form.. So, German tenses are actually quite comparable to the tenses in the English language.. So, this German tense, as well as the English one, expresses actions which are already completed in some point of the past.. Like other German tenses, you can also compare it directly to its equivalent in English, the future tense.
sich die Zähne putzento brush one’s teeth. Sich rasieren (to shave oneself) is another common daily routine verb that’s reflexive.. While the infinitive also has sich , the reflexive verb takes the dative in the first and second person singular.. Likewise with sich waschen to wash:. Like with fernsehen , you don’t need to use the word for breakfast (das Fruhstuck ) to express the action.. Many daily routine verbs are a mix of reflexive and divisible verbs, such as sich ausruhen (to relax).. Du ruhst dich aus.. Ich ziehe mir das T-Shirt aus.. Das Wochenende (the weekend) is the time to relax ( sich entspannen , sich ausruhen ) for people who work a lot during the week.. das Auto waschen to wash the car abwaschen to do the dishes (divisible prefix) Wasch endlich ab!
The simple present tense in German is much like the present tense in English.. The biggest difference between the English simple present and the German simple present the German version covers the present progressive aspect as well.. So, the German present tense covers many different English tenses.. For example, regular English past tense verbs tend to be the infinitive form of the verb plus a “-d” or “-ed” ending.. By the way, if you’re still confused about the past tense versus the past perfect in English, you might benefit from brushing up on your English grammar— it’ll pay dividends for your German learning!
The present tense is a very useful tense in German.. The German present tense corresponds to three forms in English.. And depending on the context, German present tense may even be rendered with another tense, future or past, in English.. Perfect tense is the main past tense used in spoken German.. For example, "I have seen Anna last week" would be incorrect English, but Ich habe Anna letzte Woche gesehen (îH hah -be ânâ lêts -te vô -He ge- zehn ) is a correct German statement.. Most verbs form the perfect tense with the verb haben ( hah -ben) (have):. (îH hah -be dehn fîlm ge- zehn ) (I have seen the film.. Certain verbs require sein (zyn) (to be) instead of haben ( hah -ben) (to have) to form the perfect tense.. Regular verbs, known as weak verbs, form the largest group of German verbs.. Table 1 Simple Past Tense Forms of sein. The way to form future tense in German is pretty similar to English.. Table 2 Present Tense Forms of werden
In this post you’ll find all you need to know about how to form and use the German imperfect tense (also called the simple past tense or the preterite) or, in German, das Präteritum or das Imperfekt .. In English, the German imperfective tense is also sometimes called the simple past .. As we’ll see, there are some marked differences in how the imperfect and perfect tenses are used in German and English.. I lived in Stuttgart (simple past or imperfect/Imperfekt or Präteritum).. In English, to form the imperfect, we usually add -ed to the verb stem:. ich erwarte > ich erwart e te du öffnest > du öffn e test wir arbeiten > wir arbeit e ten etc.. The simple past or imperfect forms of German strong verbs English has its “stong” verbs, the stems of which often change a little in the imperfect.. Mixed verbs in the German imperfect tense We just saw that strong verbs are confident enough cookies not to feel the need to “double up” on their imperfectiveness.. There’s a small group of German “mixed verbs” which do form their imperfect forms by combining a stem change and the -te marker (plus the usual imperfective endings for wir/ihr/Sie/sie).. The the rules in English for when we use the simple past “I learned” and the present perfect “I have learned” are often rigid.. In German, the choice of the imperfect or the prefect is not a matter of grammatical rules but of style .. In conversation , you’ll mainly hear the perfect rather than the simple past (preterite, imperfect):. Then, what you’ve just learned about how to form the imperfective tense will help you very soon with something else.
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When you form a sentence in German with the present tense, first you need the infinitive.. If you want to use a verb in the present tense, you must conjugate the verb.. Depending on the subject, the verb will take one of six endings; three of these are in the singular and three are in the plural.. The verb ending for the first person is “ -e ”: therefore “Ich lerne Deutsch” (I learn German.. The verb ending for the second person is “ -st ”: therefore “Du lernst Deutsch” (You learn German.. The verb ending for the third person is “-t”: therefore “ Paul lern t Deutsch” (Paul learns German.. As you can see, if you are learning German and want to form sentences in the present tense, you have to learn these six verb endings: -e, -st, -t, -en, -t, -en.. Ich esse eine Pizza.. Ich fahre jeden Tag mit dem Bus zur Schule.. Ich gehe einmal pro Woche zum Training.. When we are speaking in German about the future, we primarily use the present tense and only in exceptions do we use the future tense.. From this you can see that it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re talking about an event in the near future (tomorrow, next week, etc.)