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present Perfect Tense in German Grammar

How to use the German present tense

Introduction

The present perfect is a past tense. It is used for actions completed in the recent past. In spoken German, the present perfect tense is often used instead of the imperfect. We can translate the perfect with the English simple past tense.

The German present perfect tense, known as "Präsens Perfekt," is used to talk about actions that happened in the past but still have a connection to the present. To form this tense, you'll need two parts: an auxiliary verb (usually "haben" or "sein") and the past participle of the main verb.

Das ist Otto..jpg

The German present perfect tense, known as "Präsens Perfekt," is used to talk about actions that happened in the past but still have a connection to the present. To form this tense, you'll need two parts: an auxiliary verb (usually "haben" or "sein") and the past participle of the main verb. Here's a simple explanation:

  1. Choose the Auxiliary Verb: Most verbs use "haben" as the auxiliary verb, but some verbs related to movement or change of state use "sein."

  2. Form the Past Participle: For regular verbs, add "-t" to the stem of the verb. For irregular verbs, you'll need to learn the specific past participle form.

  3. Combine the Auxiliary Verb and Past Participle: Put the auxiliary verb in its present tense form and add the past participle at the end.

    • Ich habe ein Buch gelesen. (I read a book.)

    • Wir haben Fußball gespielt. (We played soccer.)

    • Er ist nach Hause gegangen. (He went home.)

    • Sie hat Deutsch gelernt. (She learned German.)
       

In short, the German present perfect tense helps you talk about past actions that are relevant to the present. It's formed by combining an auxiliary verb with the past participle of the main verb.

Usage

We use the German perfect tense to express:

  • a completed action in the past, focusing on the result of the action

Example: Gestern Abend hat Otto sein Auto gewaschen. Last night Otto washed his car. 
Result: The car is now clean.

 Er hat sich vorgenommen, es jetzt immer sauber zu halten. He decided to keep it clean all the time now.

Result: He doesn't want to be so untidy any more.

  • an action that will be completed by a certain point in the future

Example: Aber bis nächste Woche ist sein Auto bestimmt wieder schmutzig. But by next week his car will definitely be dirty again.
The time in the future must be named concretely, otherwise you use the future perfect.

Conjugation of German verbs in the present tense

To conjugate verbs in the perfect tense we need the present tense form of sein/haben and the past participle (Partizip II).

Quick Tip: Use "haben" as the auxiliary verb in the present perfect tense for most verbs. However, for verbs indicating movement or a change of state, like going, coming, arriving, or growing, use "sein" as the auxiliary verb. This will help you choose the right auxiliary verb when forming sentences in the German present perfect tense.

seinhaben and the past participle (Partizip II).jpg
seinhaben and the past participle (Partizip II) (5).jpg
seinhaben and the past participle (Partizip II) (4).jpg

When to use to have or to be

The verbs sein (to be) and haben (to have) are auxiliary or helping verbs that we use in the present perfect tense.

We use sein to conjugate the present perfect with:

  • Verbs of movement without an accusative object: gehen (to go), laufen (to walk), fahren (to drive), fallen (to fall), fliegen (to fly), kommen (to come), reisen (to travel), stolpern (to stumble), stürzen (to plunge)
    Example: Alle Kollegen sind zu seinem Auto gegangen. All his colleagues went to his car.

  • Verbs expressing a change of state:
    aufwachen (wake up), einschlafen (fall asleep), frieren (freeze), tauen (thaw), sterben (die)
    Example: Ich bin ein
    geschlafen. I fell asleep.

  • The following verbs:
    werden (become), sein (be), misslingen (fail), gelingen (succeed)
    geschehen (happen), bleiben (remain)

  • Example: Was ist mit Otto passiert? What happened to Otto?

We use haben to conjugate the present perfect with:

  • Verbs with an accusative object
    Example: Otto hat sein Auto gewaschen. Otto washed his car.

 

  • Verbs without an accusative object that do not express a change of state or place.
    Example: Er hat geputzt. He cleaned.

There are three important verbs that do not fall under the rule of intransitive verbs and must be used with "sein" as an auxiliary verb:

bleiben, werden and sein. They do not express movement, but they must take sein.

Past Participle - The past participle (Partizip II) is formed in the following ways:

Regular verbs are weak verbs (schwache Verben)

Regular verbs, also called  schwache Verben / weak verbs, form the past participle II with ge...t and the verb stem.

Example: lernen - gelernt

Irregular verbs are strong verbs (starke Verben) and mixed verbs (gemischte Verben)

Irregular verbs are verbs that change their verb stem in the simple past and/or the participle form. In German grammar, there are two types of irregular verbs: strong verbs and mixed verbs.

Strong verbs form the past participle with ge...en.
Example: sehen –
gesehen (sehen-sah-gesehen)

gehen – gegangen (gehen-ging-gegangen)

Mixed verbs form the past participle with ge...t.
Example: 
haben – gehabt (haben-hatte-gehabt)
bringen – gebracht (bringen-brachte-gebracht)

Exceptions

  • We add an -et to weak/mixed verbs when the root ends in d/t.
    Example: arbeiten - gearbeitet

  • Verbs ending in -ieren form their past participle without ge.
    Example: probieren - probiert

  • Non-seperable verbs form their past participle without ge.
    Example: bekommen - bekommen

  • With separable verbs, the ge comes after the prefix.
    Example: einkaufen - eingekauft

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