The German Tenses
In this week’s 3 Minuten Deutsch episode I recapped the tenses that I have covered in the series. I did this using a timeline that shows when each event would happen in relationship to the other events. The timeline essentially is: Plusquamperfekt – Perfekt/Imperfekt – Präsens – Futur II – Futur I. If you want a worksheet to go with these tenses, you can download that on my Patreon page. If you want to see a more in depth look at each tense than what is in the video below, you can keep scrolling to see a quick overview of each tense. Each tense description also includes links to the other resources I have made about each of the individual tenses. The tenses are in the order in which they appear in the video and not in the order of the timeline.
Present – Präsens
This tense is a bit confusing to native English speakers sometimes, as it is used to express both the present tense and the present progressive tense. There is a progressive tense in certain German dialects, but officially there isn’t a progressive tense. This covers any of the forms like “am going”, “are eating”, and so on. It is used to talk about things that are occurring right now and things that occur more than once and will more than likely occur again. To conjugate a verb in the present tense, one simply has to remove the “-en” or “-n” at the end of the verb and add the endings listed below.
ich – e
du – st
er, sie, es – t
wir – en
ihr – t
sie, Sie – en
Of course, this wouldn’t be German without a few exceptions to such a simple rule. There are the weird verbs like “haben” and “sein“, the stem-changing verbs, separable prefix verbs, and the modal auxiliaries (mögen, möchten, wollen, dürfen, können, sollen, and müssen. Click any of those words to see my posts or videos about those topics.
Present Perfect – das Perfekt
There are two past tenses that are regularly used in German. The tense that is usually used when speaking German is the present perfect tense. It is formed by conjugating either “haben” or “sein” and putting the past participle of the main verb at the end of the sentence. You use “sein” with intransitive verbs (verbs that don’t take direct objects), which usually means that the verb is a verb that shows motion, but it also can mean “sein” and “bleiben”. All of the other verbs use “haben” as a helping verb. To form a regular past participle, you simply add “ge-” to the beginning of the verb stem and “-t” to the end of the verb stem. Irregular verbs do a variety of things including using “-en” instead of “-t” at the end of the verb and a bunch of other things. The links below will explain this tense to you in more depth.
Simple Past – das Imperfekt
The simple past tense is the other tense that is used to talk about things that happened in the past. While certain verbs are used in the simple past tense when speaking, most of the time this tense is reserved for the written forms of German. This tense uses one verb unless there is a modal auxiliary in the sentence. This one verb follows one of two distinct conjugation patterns. Regular verbs follow the following pattern, which is attached to the verb stem.
ich – te
du – test
er, sie, es – te
wir – ten
ihr – tet
sie, Sie – ten
Irregular verbs have a change that is made to the stem and follow this pattern of endings.
ich – no ending
du – st
er, sie, es – no ending
wir – en
ihr – t
sie, Sie – en
For more about the simple past tense, click the links below.
Pluperfect (Past Perfect) – Plusquamperfekt
The pluperfect (past perfect) is used when you are referring to more than one event that happened in the past and you want to show that one of the two events happened before the other one. A lot of times, this tense is actually circumvented in favor of using either the present perfect tense or the simple past tense, but officially you should be using the pluperfect to express these types of events. In order to form this tense, you need to start by conjugating “haben” or “sein” like you would in the simple past tense (hatte & war). You use “sein” in the same instances you did in the present perfect tense and you use “haben” in the same way. Then you put the past participle of the main verb at the end of the sentence. For more about this tense, click here.
Future Tense – Futur 1
The future tense can be expressed with or without the use of the verb “werden”. If you use a time word that shows that the event has not yet occurred, you can skip using the verb “werden”, but sometimes it is useful to use the verb “werden” to show that something hasn’t happened yet. If you want to use this verb, you should know that it is an irregular verb and you conjugate it like I have below.
er, sie, es wird
sie, Sie werden
You put the proper form of the verb “werden” where the conjugated verb in the sentence should go (position 2 for statements, position 1 for questions). If you are using another verb, that verb goes to the end of the sentence as an infinitive. For more about the future tense, click here.
Future Perfekt – Futur 2
If there are two events that are going to happen in the future, you can show which one comes first by using the future perfect. This is essentially a mixture of the present perfect tense and the future tense. You use a form of “werden”, a past participle, and the infinitive form of either “haben” or “sein”. You choose to use “sein” and “haben” under the same circumstances you would choose to use either of them in the present perfect tense. The conjugated form of “werden” goes where the conjugated verb usually goes. At the end of the sentence you will have a past participle of the other verb and the infinitive of “sein” or “haben” in that order. For more about the future perfect tense, click here.
And now you can watch me fail while I tried to make this video.