This page contains a table including the following: German Verbs and tenses. Try to memorize the way they're used because they're very important in communication, and might be very helpful to convey your most important expressions. Make sure to check our Learn German page, which contains several lessons that might help you in your learning process.
A verb in German as well as in English is a word that represents an action or a state of being. (go, strike, travel, and exist are examples of verbs). A verb is the essential part of the predicate of a sentence. The grammatical forms of verbs include number, person, and tense. Some examples are:
|English Verbs||German Verbs|
|my friend travels with his wife||Mein Freund reist mit seiner Frau|
|my friends travel with their friends||Meine Freunde reisen mit ihren Freunden|
|I traveled with my friends||Ich reiste mit meinen Freunden|
|She will travel with her friends||Sie wird mit ihren Freunden reisen|
|I have to feed my cat||Ich muss die Katze füttern|
|Do you speak Spanish?||Sprichst du Spanisch?|
As you can see, the table above shows the German verbs in the present tense, the past tense, and the future tense, and also as a question (interrogative form).
Present Tense in German
The present tense in German is the form of the verb that may be used to express: action at the present, a state of being; an occurrence in the (very) near future; or an action that occurred in the past and continues up to the present. Most German infinitives end in -en, some in -n only: gehen, wandern, lächeln.
The stem is the infinitive minus this ending -en or -n, therefore:
- gehen ==> geh__ [infinitive ==> stem]
- wandern ==> wander_ [infinitive ==> stem]
Here is format sample:
- ich ...-e
- du ...-st
- er/sie/es (man) ...-t
- wir ...-(e)n
- ihr ...-t
- sie/Sie ...-(e)n
|English||German Present Tense|
|I speak||Ich spreche|
|You speak||Du sprichst|
|He speaks||Er spricht|
|She speaks||Sie spricht|
|It speaks||Es spricht|
|We speak||Wir sprechen|
|They speak||Sie sprechen|
Past Tense in German
The past tense in German is a verb tense expressing action, activity, state or being in the past of the current moment (in an absolute tense system), or prior to some other event, whether that is past, present, or future (in a relative tense system). Simple past tense is used all the time in newspapers, books, and so on, but it is less common in speech. One exception is the simple past tense of sein (zyn) (to be). This is often used in preference to perfect tense in both speech and writing. Here is an example:
|English||German Past Tense|
|I traveled||Er reiste|
|You traveled||Du reiste|
|He traveled||Er reiste|
|She traveled||Sie reiste|
|It traveled||Es reiste|
|We traveled||Wir reisten|
|They traveled||Sie reisten|
Perfect Tense in German
Perfect tense is the main past tense used in spoken German. It is very versatile: You can use it to talk about most actions and situations in the past. Most verbs form the perfect tense with the verb haben (have).
Certain verbs require sein (to be) instead of haben (to have) to form the perfect tense. These verbs often describe some form of movement or a state.
|English||German Perfect Tense|
|I went||Ich bin gegangen|
|You went||Du bist gegangen|
|He went||Er ist gegangen|
|She went||Sie ist gegangen|
|It went||Es ist gegangen|
|We went||Wir sind gegangen|
|They went||Sie sind gegangen|
Future Tense in German
In German, the future tense is a verb form that marks the event described by the verb as not having happened yet, but expected to happen in the future (in an absolute tense term), or to happen subsequent to some other event, whether that is past, present, or future (in a relative tense term). The future tense is simple to form in German. Just use the present tense forms of werden and put the other infinitive to the end of the sentence. Here is an example:
|English||German Future Tense|
|I will go||Ich werde gehen|
|You will go||Du wirst gehen|
|He will go||Er wird gehen|
|She will go||Sie wird gehen|
|It will go||Es wird gehen|
|We will go||Wir werden gehen|
|They will go||Sie werden gehen|
Below is some vocabulary training for verbs in German (Deutsch), try to memorize the verbs below, because they’re very important and used daily.
|Return||Zurück bringen/ zurück kommen|
German Verbs - Regular and Irregular Verbs and Tenses
Verbs in German are more diverse than in English; in this page we will learn their categories, and the most used tenses in German, note that this page is including only the important information you should know about in German verbs, and it doesn’t include details about each category or each tense.
In German verbs are categorized into three categories: weak verbs, strong, and mixed verbs.
Weak verbs (schwache Verben) do not change the stem vowel in the past tense and the past participle and they’re considered like regular verbs in English, examples: arbeiten (to work), spielen (to play).
Strong verbs (starke Verben) do change the stem vowel in both the past tense and the past participle, examples: sprechen (to speak), fahren (to drive, go)
Mixed verbs contain parts of both weak and strong verbs. They’re used very often and therefore they should not be overlooked, examples: bringen (to bring), senden (to send)
Some verbs in the 3 categories above may contain separable (trennbar) or inseparable (untrennbar) prefixes. The point of using these prefixes is to create new meanings from the original verb. This concept is not strange to English, let’s look at the verb “to stand” if we add the prefix “under” it will give us a whole new verb “to understand”, the same thing in German, “stehen” means “to stand”, “verstehen” means “to understand”. Easy, right! Well not exactly, because German uses these prefixes more often. And some prefixes can be detached from the original verb and take a specific spot in the sentences, sometimes even far from the verb.
Separable prefixes (trennbar) are (ab, bei, ein, vor, an, auf, mit, weg, etc.) can stand independently as words, or can stay connected to the verb, Kann ich mitkommen? (Can I come with “you”?), kommen Sie mit ans Meer? (are you coming with to the sea), here the verb is “mitkommen”, see how in the first example it was connected, and in the second example the prefix “mit” was placed after Sie. The meaning of “mitkommen” is “to accompany” or “come with”.
The inseparable prefixes (untrennbar) are (be-, emp-, ent-, er-, ver-, zer-). These kind of prefixes cannot be removed from their verbs, The most common inseparable prefix verbs are: verkaufen (to sell), bekommen (to get), empfangen (to receive), empfehlen (to recommend), entdecken (to discover), verstehen (to understand), versagen (to fail), zerstören (to destroy).
Below you will find the most used tenses in German, with the verb endings in each tense, as well as some examples, try to master them if you can, that would help you a lot and makes you feel comfortable expressing yourself in German, we will start with the present tense, which is a very important and a must to learn tense:
Present Tense in German
It’s the first tense we will learn, weak German verbs take the following endings to form the present tense:
ich -e, du -st, er (sie, es) -t, wir -en, ihr -t, Sie -en, sie -en.
These endings can help you a lot, because with them you can conjugate most of weak verbs into the present tense, you only need the stem of the verb, for example the stem of spielen (to play) is “spiel”.
Strong verbs change in the singular second person familiar and third person forms, for example the verb nehmen “to take”, look at the side of the table. Usually strong verbs changes are regular and predictable: a becomes ä, e becomes ie or i, au becomes äu, o becomes ö. Note that the plural form is regular.
Mixed verbs are irregular and are best learnt by heart, because they’re unpredictable. The good news is that te most common conjugation is the one for the weak verb. But like any other language there are some exceptions for all three types of verbs.
spielen (to play)
du spielst (familiar)
er, sie, es spielt
ihr spielt (familiar)
Sie spielen (formal)
nehmen (to take)
du nimmst (familiar)
er, sie, es nimmt
ihr nehmt (familiar)
Sie nehmen (formal)
Now we will have a look at the past tense, also called the imperfect, another very important fact in knowing how to conjugate verbs in German:
German Past Tense (Imperfect)
In German as well as in English the simple past tense (imperfect) is used to describe past events, more literal than conversational, regularly used when writing about the past. The endings for the weak verb are:
ich -te, du -test, Sie -ten, er (sie, es, man) -te, wir -ten, ihr -tet, Sie -ten, sie -ten.
So just take any weak verb stem and add it to the endings above, for example our previous verb spielen (to play), its stem is “spiel”, plus the endings above we will get: ich spielte, du spieltest, er spielte, wir spielten, ihr spieltet, Sie, sie spielten
To form the past tense with strong verbs, the trickiest part is knowing the stem, for example in English, you don’t say “I comed”, but you say “I came” to refer to the past of the verb “to come”, strong verbs in German change their stem vowels and add the following endings:
ich (-nothing added to the stem), du -st, Sie -en, er, sie, es (-nothing added to the stem), wir -en, ihr -t, Sie -en, sie -en. (look at the example on the side)
For the irregular verbs, they’re tricky too in forming their stem, sometimes the stem doesn’t look like the original verb at all, just like “I go” and “I went”, but these German irregular verbs change the vowel in the stem and, in addition, they take weak verb endings in the past tense.
kommen (to come)
du kamst (familiar)
Sie kamen (formal)
er, sie, es kam
ihr kamt (familiar)
Sie kamen (formal)
wissen (to know)
du wusstest (familiar)
Sie wussten (formal)
er, sie, es wusste
ihr wusstet (familiar)
Sie wussten (formal)
Now we will learn the future tense, which is considered the easiest, because you only need to learn the conjugated form of “werden” plus the infinitive of the verbs you want to conjugate:
Future Tense in German
There are two ways to express the German future. The easiest and most common method is to use the present tense with an appropriate time marker; Wir gehen morgen nach Berlin (we’re going to Berlin tomorrow). The other method is to use the appropriate present tense form of werden with the infinitive of the main verb, note that the main verb in this method comes at the end of the sentence, relatively far from the future verb “werden”. Wir werden Schach und Kreuzworträtsel spielen (we will play chess and cross puzzels). Did you see how the verb spielen was kicked to the end of the sentence, it’s like you’re saying in English: we will chess and cross puzzles play. Remember this structure, because this is how you will be forming verbs in the future if you use the verb “werden” with it.
Note that if you choose to use the first method, which is “present tense” you have to mention the time marker such as “morgen/ tomorrow”, “nächstes Jahr/ next year”…not using them will make people think that you’re talking about the present and not the future tense.
ich werde spielen
du wirst spielen
er, sie, es wird spielen
wir werden spielen
ihr werdet spielen
sie werden spielen
Sie werden spielen
I hope the content of this page was useful to you, and that you learned some German Verbs such as present tense, past tense, perfect tense and future tense..., try to memorize them to be able to use them in your daily conversation. Make sure to check our Learn German page, which contains several lessons that might help you in your learning process.