German Perfect Tense

German Perfect Tense – PAST

In German, there are two differents tenses in the past: The simple past tense and the perfect tense.

Present tense
Perfect tense
Simple Past
"Ich habe ein Auto."
"Ich habe ein Auto gehabt."
"Ich hatte ein Auto."

Perfect tense is used for completed actions in the past (Normally the results or the effects of the action are emphasized)

Examples for Perfect Tense:

  • „Der Junge hat Fußball gespielt.“
  •  „Er hat Urlaub gemacht.“
  •  „Wir sind heute mit dem Zug gefahren.“

When do we use the Perfect Tense?

It is the German Version of the English „Perfect – tense“ BUT:

In spoken language, the perfect is used almost exclusively. We always use the perfect tense except with modal verbs (wollen, möchten, können, müssen, dürfen), „sein“ and „haben“

That is possible because there is no difference in meaning between the German perfect tense and simple past.

The Perfect Tense: Construction

›The perfect tense is made with „haben“ or „sein“ as a helping verb and the past participle:

PersonAuxiliary VerbPast ParticipleAuxiliary VerbPast Participle
du bisthast
er/sie/es isthat

Construction of the perfect tense with „sein“:

For change of location

  • fahren  ⇒ „Ich bin Bus gefahren.“
  • gehen  ⇒ „Du bist nach Hause gegangen.“

There must be movement from point A to point B.

For change of condition or status

  • sterben  ⇒  „Er ist vor 3 Jahren gestorben.“

= A change from being alive to being dead

  • einschlafen ⇒ „Du bist zeitig eingeschlafen.“

= A change from awake to asleep

For specific verbs

The verbs „sein“, „werden“, „bleiben“ always use the helping verb „sein“

  • „Ich bin in Deutschland gewesen.“
  • „Wir sind zu Hause geblieben.“

Construction of the perfect tense with „haben“

For all verbs that do not use “sein”

And for ALL reflexive verbs also if they involve a condition, status, or location change

  • „Sie hat Essen gekocht.“
  • „Er hat sich auf den Film gefreut.“
  • „Max hat sich in Anna verliebt.“

Word Order: German Perfect Tense

›The helping verb is conjugated. The past participle goes at the end of the sentence and remains unchanged.

Regular Main Clause:

 Position 2 End


Position 1  End
Habtihrden Manngesehen?

Further Information:

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