German Past Tense

A summary of the imperfect (e.g. ich ging) and the perfect (ich habe gegessen) tense for German.

Imperfect Tense - Weak Verbs

Weak Verbs - The word stem stays the same, and you need to add these endings:

  • ich - te
  • du - test
  • er - te
  • wir - ten
  • ihr - tet
  • sie - ten

Example of weak verbs - ich mache -> ich machte

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Perfect Tense

Moving Verbs - Verbs that indicate movement take sein

e.g. -> ich bin gestiegen

All other verbs - all other verbs take haben 

e.g. -> ich habe gegessen 

Sentence Structure -> subj haben/sein obj past participle

There is no way to guess the past participle of verbs - you need to learn them!

The perfect tense is used to describe events in the past, more common in spoken German,

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Imperfect Tense - Strong/Mixed Verbs

Strong Verbs - The word stem changes and takes these verb endings:

  • ich - no ending
  • du - st
  • er - no ending
  • wir - en
  • ihr - t
  • sie - en

Modal (or mixed) verbs don't change the stem but take the strong endings (as above).

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