Common German Tenses You'll Need to Know

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Learn More About the German Tenses

In total, the German language has six different tenses, which are used to describe events and actions from the past, present and future. In other words, the tense you choose will depend on when the event or action you are describing is actually taking place. Each of the six German tenses are described below, complete with explanations of when they are used, and with example sentences to help improve your understanding.

German Tenses

Name Past, Present, or Future When to use this German tense Frequency of use Examples of use
Present / das Präsens Present and Future The most common German tense of all, the present tense is primarily used to describe actions taking
place now. With that said, it can also be used to describe planned and agreed upon future actions, or
events that usually, sometimes or never happen.
  • Ich lese das Buch
  • Das ist John
Perfect / das Perfekt Past and Present The perfect tense in German is used to describe an action that took place in the past, with present
tense implications. It is the most common past tense for conversation and is made up of a pronoun or
noun, an auxiliary verb, an optional extra and a past participle. The focus is on the result of the
  • Ich habe Tennis gespielt
  • Meine Mutter hat Mittagessen gegessen
Simple Past / das Präteritum Past Used to describe completed actions, facts or conditions that occurred in the past, the German past
perfect tense is mainly seen in writing, especially in things like stories and newspaper reports.
However, it is far less common to hear it in spoken conversation.
  • Er las ein Buch
  • Ich arbeitete in England
Past Perfect / das Plusquamperfekt Past Also known as the pluperfect, this tense is used to describe actions or events that precede another
point in the past. For instance, it would be utilised when, in a story about the past, you wish to
describe something that took place even earlier.
  • Ich war in die Stadt gegangen
  • Sie hatte gut gespielt bis sie verletzt wurde
Future / das Futur Future In the German language, the future tense is used to express either an intention for, or an assumption
about the future. It is not used quite as frequently as in many other languages, due to the fact that
the present tense can often be used to describe future events instead.
  • Morgen werde ich Abendessen kochen
  • Sie werden keine Zeit haben
Future Perfect / das Futur II Future The future perfect tense is a complicated and uncommon tense, which is mostly used to make an assumption
that an action will have taken place by a specific time in the future. In addition, it is occasionally
used to express an assumption about an action in the past.
  • Sie wird morgen angekommen sein
  • Bald wird er es geschafft haben