Germans use present perfect tense instead of past tense to convey actions occurred in the past. The sentences “I have gone” and “I went” have same meaning in German. Though the past tense exists, it is rarely used in the conversations.
Let us understand this present perfect tense in German through a series of questions and answers.
What is present perfect tense ? Why does it exist ?
The present perfect gives us the sense of action which has been performed completely in the past. We use it everyday in our life to expresse the actions which have already occurred and completed in the past.
“I have gone to France” or “I have played baseball” are the examples of present perfect tense in English.
How do I construct sentences in present perfect tense in English ?
You are familiar with making sentences in present perfect tense in English. We first add a supporting verb: “have or has” and then add the past participle form of the main verb.
These sentences are different from “I went” or “I played baseball” where simple past tense is used.
Format :I + have + gone
Format : He + has + played.
“gone” and “played” are the past participle forms of the verbs “to go” and “to play” respectively.
Now tell me how to make such sentences in German.
You don’t have to do anything different to make sentences in present perfect tense in German. The German equivalent of “have/has” is “haben”. The “haben” has different conjugated forms for different pronouns. All you have to do is to replace “have” with the forms of “haben”.
Making past participle forms in German is even simpler. Here is the recipe for making past participle forms of the verbs in German
- Remove -en from behind
- add -t in place of -en
- Put ge- at the starting of the verb
Does this rule exist for all verbs ?
No,it does not. This rule exist only for weak verbs. Strong German verbs do not have any predictable form of past participle.
The past participle form of verb “sprechen” is “gesprochen” and that of “lesen” is “gelesen”. These verbs start with the prefix ge- but do not end with the suffix -t. Sometimes the original root form of the verb also undergoes a change. (sprechen changed to sprochen)
Can I have some examples to understand this better ?
Yes. Here are the examples using different forms of “haben”. Each link will take you to a separate page where you’ll find loads of examples to understand and practice the different forms of “haben”. It is better to remember them through examples than memorizing table. A table however is given at the end to summarize all the four lessons given below.
- I played football : Example sentences and Practice on “Ich habe” :
- You spoke German : Example sentences and Practice on “Du hast”
- He asked a question :Example sentences and Practice on “Er/sie/es hat”
- We bought an iphone :Example sentences and Practice on “Wir/Sie haben” and “Ihr habt”
Summary of Present Perfect tense in German
|1st Person||Ich habe gemacht
||I have made/I made|
|Wir haben gemacht
||We have made/we made|
|2nd Person||Du hast gemacht/Sie haben gemacht
||You have made/You have made|
|Ihr habt gemacht
||You have made/You made|
|3rd Person||Er/sie/Es hat gemacht
||He/She/It has made/made|
|Sie haben gemacht
||They have made/They made|
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