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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.  High
  • 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 action.  High
  • 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.  Medium
  • 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.  Low
  • Ich war in die Stadt gegangen
  • Sie hatte gut gespielt bis sie verletzt wurde
 Future / das  Futur I  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.  Medium
  • 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.  Low
  • Sie wird morgen angekommen sein
  • Bald wird er es geschafft haben