Present Perfect Tense

The German language has several past tenses to describe events that took place in the past. The present perfect tense (das Perfekt) is used to refer to the past irrespective of how long ago an event occured. Where the English speakers use simple past, in German the present perfect is commonly used. The German simple past is mainly used in the written language.

The present perfect tense is a compound tense constructed with the conjugated forms of the auxiliary haben (to have) or sein (to be) and the past participle of the full verb.

The German past participle of regular weak verbs is formed by dropping the -en from the infinitive, then adding the prefix ge- and the suffix -t. The resulting past participle of machen is gemacht.

Conjugation of haben in the present tense:

ich habe - I have

du hast - you have

er/sie/es hat - he/she/it has

wir haben - we have

ihr habt - you have

sie haben - they have

If the stem of the verb ends in -t, -d, -fn or -gn, then an extra -e is inserted before the final -t.

Verbs with inseparable prefixes be-, ver- and a few other form their past participle without adding ge-.

besuchen - besucht

vergessen - vergessen

The past particples of many irregular verbs verbs usually end in -en rather than -t and may or may not undergo a change of vowel in the stem.

sprechen - to speak

Wir haben Deutsch gesprochen. - We spoke German.

lesen - to read

Ich habe es gelesen. - I read it.

geben - to give

Er hat es gegeben. - He gave it.

finden - to find

Ich habe es gefunden. - I found it.

There is no way to recognize which verbs change the stem vowel in the past participle. They need to be memorized.

Verbs referring to movement or change of state take sein instead of haben in the present perfect tense.

Sie sind nach Berlin geflogen. - They flew to Berlin.

sein in present tense:

ich bin - I am

du bist - you are

er/sie/es ist - he/she/it is

wir sind - we are

ihr seid - you are

sie sind - they are


Position of Past Participle

In the main clause the conjugated form of haben takes the second place and the past particple is moved to the end.

Ich habe den Schlüssel gefunden. - I found the key.

Ihr habt auf die Frage nicht geantwortet. - You did not answer the question.

In questions that can be answered either with ja or nein, the subject becomes the second element of the sentence. If the question starts with interrogative, the subject moves to the third place.

Hast du es gemacht? - Did you do that?

Wie lange haben Sie hier gewohnt? - How long have you lived here?


Grammar Patterns

Listening Comprehension