German Past Participle

The Past Participle

The Past Participle: Use

As an Adjective

›As an adjective in place of a clause: when one action occured before the other.

  • „Er parkt jetzt das geputzte Auto.“

⇒ The first action was Putzen.

⇒ The second action is  Parken.

  • „Er hat das Auto geputzt.“ „Er parkt das Auto jetzt.“

More information and explanations in lecture The Participles as Adjectives.

In Perfect, Past Perfect (Plusquamperfekt), Future Perfect and Passive

Perfect: „Du bist nach Hause gegangen.“

Past Perfect: „Er war nach Hause gegangen.“

Future Perfect: „Bis Morgen wird das Auto repariert sein.“

Status Passive: „Das Fenster ist geöffnet.“

Process Passive: „Das Haus wird geputzt.“

The Past Participle: Construction

Regular Construction of the Past Participle

Regular Verbs (in the present tense)

ge   +   verb stem  +   -(e)t


  • machen  ⇒   gemacht
  • arbeiten  ⇒  gearbeitet (for verb stem ending in d/t)


Verbs ending in –ieren don´t get „ge“

  • organisieren  ⇒  organisiert

›Irregular/Strong Verbs (in the present tense)

ge   +   verb stem  +   -en


  • fahren   ⇒   gefahren
  • schlafen  ⇒   geschlafen

The categories regular and irregular are according to the simple present conjugation! The construction of the past participle is regular for both versions.

The Past Participle: Irregular construction 

Mixed Verbs

Mixed verb means: the past participle doesn´t use the verb stem in present tense. Instead it uses the stem that is used in simple past tense:

ge   +   verb stem in the simple past +   -t


  • bringen  ⇒   gebracht(Simple Past: brachte)
  • brennen  ⇒   gebrannt  (Simple Past: brannte)
  • kennen  ⇒ gekannt(Simple Past: kannte)

There are no rules about which verbs will use the verb stem from the simple past. You have to learn it. But it looks more difficult than it actually is. You need the past participle form for almost every sentence. So it becomes natural quite fast for the words you use frequently.

Verbs with vowel changes

Some strong verbs change their vowel (a, e, i, o, u) in the past participle form. Most often these words change their vowel in present conjugation as well. Furthermore the double vowel “ei” almost always changes to “ie” in the past participle.

Verbs with a vowel change use the ending “-en”. ALWAYS!

ge   +   verb stem with a vowel change  +   -en


  • helfen   ⇒   geholfen
  • nehmen  ⇒  genommen
  • schreiben  ⇒  geschrieben

The Past Participle: ›Compound Verbs

Construction: ›Separable Verbs

Prefix  +  ge  +  verb stem  +   -t/-en


  • einschlafen  ⇒  eingeschlafen 
  • aufräumen  ⇒   aufgeräumt
  • anbringen  ⇒  angebracht

The participle of the main verb stays the same!

Construction: Inseperable Verbs

›Inseparable verbs construct the past particple without the „ge“

Prefix  +  Verb stem   +   -t/-en


  • besuchen  ⇒   besuch
  • verstehen  ⇒  verstanden

The participle of the main verb stays the same!

Memorize: The base form of the past participle always stays the same, independent of the prefix.


  • stehen  ⇒  gestanden (regular verb)
  • aufstehen ⇒  aufgestanden (separable verb)
  • verstehen ⇒  verstanden (inseparable verb)

For more detailed information about seperable and inseparable verbs go to lesson 4.04. Compound Verbs

Comparison with the Present Participle

›Present participle as an adjective: Something is happening right now.

  • „Der herunterfallende Apfel ist grün.“
  • Der Apfel fällt.“ „Der Apfel ist grün.“

›Past participle as an adjective: Something happened earlier.

  • „Der heruntergefallene Apfel ist grün.“
  • Der Apfel ist heruntergefallen.“ „Er ist grün.“

Further Information

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