There is the past, present and future

The biggest sale in 2021 is now running. Get a 30% discount! The biggest sale in 2021: Save 30% on marathon and monthly courses with the code GET30!
Coupon code applied. Continue to pay with a discount. Coupon code applied.
Continue to payment with a discount.

German tenses

In most languages, verbs are put in different tenses when you want to talk about the past, future or present. The content of a sentence provides information about the temporal position in which a discussed situation takes place through the verb. The use of a tense creates a relative reference to the speaker's "now".
Sometimes there are several forms for each time level, so that it is possible to express certain temporary aspects more precisely using the language.
However, tenses do not exist in all languages. In Vietnamese you do without it completely, but the pronunciation is very complicated here. In other languages ​​you can only get by with the three tenses past, present and future. In some systems a distinction is made between more than three tenses, while others have fewer.
German tenses are a bit complicated to learn. The three main times past, present and future express absolute time levels. The non-productive times indicate time relationships. If, for example, a sentence is in the past perfect, it indicates the past-past, i.e. something that happened earlier than another, already past, occurrence. Future II is the pre-future and is used to talk about something that will happen before a certain point in the future. The six German tenses are: present tense, perfect tense, past tense, past perfect, future tense I and future II. The tense tenses in German may sound very complicated, but in normal linguistic usage one does not need all of them and does not differentiate so precisely between the time levels.

Learn the German tenses at Lingoda

The six tenses of German are difficult to learn and difficult to understand for many people. Rules for verb forms learned in class are often not followed in practice, for example it is possible to use the present tense to speak about the past. The written form differs from the linguistic usage not only in German, this applies to all languages. So there is no point in learning only the grammar rules in class. You should definitely use a language intensively in practice, because tenses are also used in German according to feeling.
At Lingoda you learn German directly from native speakers. Instead of dry grammar rules, emphasis is placed on the active use of the language. In this way you will learn exactly the difference between theory and practice of German. The advantage of personal contact with the teacher is that you can ask immediately if anything is unclear, for example, why one German language form is perhaps more used than another in a certain situation. Through intensive communication with native speakers, you will practice using the German language in everyday life and develop your own feeling for the German tenses and their application. After several lessons, you will automatically use verb forms correctly for past, present, and future in different situations.

The six German tenses - briefly explained

The six German tenses are not so easy to tell apart. Also, since verb forms depend on the subject, they are inflected differently. It is therefore important to pay equal attention to tenses and personal pronouns, because both have an influence on the conjugation form of the verb. The six German tenses seem complicated, but keep in mind that not all of them are used equally often when used orally. A lot of practice also makes it easier to get a feel for it. Grammar always seems more difficult in theory than in practical application. In the following example sentences you can see exactly the differences between the six German tenses:

Present: I drive - I drive to work.
The present tense expresses an action taking place in the present: I am now driving my car.

Perfect: I drove - I drove to work on Friday.
The perfect tense describes an action that was completed in the past, which usually has a certain consequence: After driving to work by car, I sat there for several hours at the computer / developed my project further, etc.

preterite: i rode - yesterday i rode my bike to work.
The past tense or past tense expresses an action or a state in the past. It is often used in narratives, especially in written language. It can also be replaced by the perfect tense in the oral report.

past continuous: I was driving - I took the bus to work last year.
The past perfect or the past describes an action that took place before an earlier point in time. In a story about something in the past, the past perfect can be used to describe an event even further back in time: Yesterday I drove to work by car, before that I had always taken the bus.

Future tense I.: I'll go - tomorrow I'll take the train to work.
The future tense I expresses an assumption about the future or an intention.

Future tense II: I will have driven - I will have driven to work by car tomorrow before the main traffic starts. The future tense II describes an action in the future that will be completed at an even later point in time: Because I don't want to be stuck in a traffic jam, I'll have to go to work tomorrow before the rush hour begins.

There are six different times

There are a total of six different tenses in the German language that are used to describe events and actions in the past, present and future. In other words, the time you choose will depend on when the event or action you are describing took place. Each of the six German tenses is shown below, along with explanations of when to use them and sample sentences to help improve your understanding.

SurnamePast, present or futureWhen is this German tense used?Frequency of useExamples
The present tensePresent and FutureThe most common tense in German is the present tense, which is mainly used to describe actions that are taking place right now. But it can also be used to describe planned and agreed future actions or events that usually, sometimes or never take place.High
  • I read the book
  • This is john
The perfectpast and presentThe perfect tense in German is used to describe an action that took place in the past with present-day implications. In conversation it is the most common past tense and consists of a pronoun or noun, an auxiliary verb, an optional addition and a past participle. The focus is on the outcome of the action.High
  • I played tennis
  • My mother ate lunch
The past tensepastThe past tense is used to describe completed actions, facts, or states that have taken place in the past. It mostly occurs in the written language, especially with texts like stories or newspaper articles. In spoken conversation, however, it is heard much less often.medium
  • He read a book
  • I worked in England
The past perfectpastAlso known as the past, this tense is used to represent actions or events that preceded something else in the past. For example, it would be used when you want to tell a story about something in the past and describe something that happened even earlier.Rare
  • I went to town
  • She had played well until she was injured
The future tense I.futureIn the German language, the future tense tense is used to express an intention or an assumption for the future. It is not used quite as often as in many other languages, as the present tense can often be used instead to describe future events.medium
  • I'll cook dinner tomorrow
  • You won't have time
The future tense IIfutureThe future tense II is a complicated and unusual tense that is mostly used when one expresses the assumption that an action will take place at a certain point in the future. It is also sometimes used to make an assumption about an action that is in the past.Rare
  • She will have arrived tomorrow
  • Soon he will have made it