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Present Perfect (1)

In German, there are three past tenses:

  • Present perfect tense
  • Preterit
  • Past Perfect

When talking about past, in the spoken language, present perfect tense is preferred, with a few exceptions. Preterit is used mostly in the written language.

Present perfect tense is formed by using the present tense of the auxiliary verb haben or sein and the past participle of the verb.

For instance,

Ich habe das Buch gelesen (I’ve read the book)

In the sentence above, “habe” is the helping verb and “gelesen” is the past participle of the verb “lesen”, to read. In German, there are regular, irregular and mixed verbs. Irregular verbs are sometimes referred to as strong verbs. Lesen is one of the frequently used strong verbs in German, you need to know its past participle by heart, and there is no rule. We’ll come back to common irregular German verbs and their past participle in the vocabulary section below. In this lesson, we also cover how to form the past participle for the regular verbs and have a look at other uses of past participles in German.

Another point regarding present perfect tense is the use of helping verbs. As you see in the sentence above (Ich habe das Buch gelesen), verb “haben” is used as the helping verb. However, in German you may also use sein as an auxiliary verb in the present perfect tense. For instance;

Ich bin schnell gelaufen (I’ve run fast)

In the sentence above, the present perfect was formed by “bin”, because laufen is used with sein in the present perfect tense. We’ll go into this topic in more detail in the next lesson.

Let’s review first the present tense conjugation of haben and sein:

Haben in present tense

Ich habe

Du hast

Er/sie/es hat

Wir haben

Ihr habt

sie/Sie haben

Sein in present tense

Ich bin

Du bist

Er/sie/es ist

Wir sind

Ihr seid

sie/Sie sind

How to form the past participle

It’s easy to form the past participle of a regular verb in German. For this, take the third person singular in the present tense and put “ge” in front. For example, “arbeiten” (to work) is regular. The present tense conjugation for the singular third person is as you know arbeitet, so the past participle is gearbeitet.

On the other hand, you should know that there is an important to this rule. The verbs which end in “-ieren” never gets the prefix “ge-“ in front. For those verbs, the past participle is the same as the present tense conjugation of the singular third person. For example “Ich habe das Haus renoviert” (I repaired the house).

You have to learn the past participle of the irregular verbs. Note that the past participle ends always in –“en” in that case. For instance, “singen” to sing is irregular and its past participle reads “gesungen”. They also start with the prefix “ge-”, apart from those verbs starting with inseparable prefixes, such as“be”, “ver” and “er”. This last point is valid for regular verbs as well.

We review important irregular past participles in the vocabulary section below. In the next lesson, we’ll look at other uses of past participles.


List of irregular past participles

Backen to bake “hat gebacken”

Befehlen to order “hat befohlen”

Beginnen to begin “hat begonnen”

Beißen to bite “hat gebissen”

Bergen to save “hat geborgen”

Bersten to crack “ist geborsten”

Betrügen to cheat “hat betrogen”

Bewegen to move “hat bewogen”

Biegen to bend “hat gebogen”

Bieten to offer “hat geboten

Binden to tie “hat gebunden

Bitten to ask “hat gebeten

Blasen to blow “hat geblasen”

Bleiben to stay “ist geblieben

Braten to fry “hat gebraten

Brechen to break “ist/hat gebrochen

Brennen to fire “hat gebrannt

Bringen to bring “hat gebracht

Denken to think “hat gedacht

Dringen to penetrate “hat gedungen

Empfehlen to recommend ”hat empfohlen

Erlöschen to expire “ist erloschen

Erschrecken to frighten “ist erschrocken

Erwägen to consider “hat erwogen

Essen to eat ”hat gegessen

Fahren to go by car “ist/hat gefahren

Fallen to fall “ist gefallen

Fangen to catch “hat gefangen

Fechten to fight “hat gefochten”

Finden to find “hat gefunden

Fliegen to fly “ist/hat geflogen

Fliehen to escape “ist geflohen

Fließen to flow “ist geflossen”

Fressen to feed “hat gefressen

Frieren to freeze “hat gefroren”

Gären to ferment “ist gegoren

Gebären to give birth to”hat geboren

Geben to give “hat gegeben

Gedeihen to prosper “ist gediehen

Gehen to go “ist gegangen”

Gelingen to succeed “ist gelungen

Gelten to be valid “hat gegolten”

Genesen to mend ”ist genesen”

Genießen to enjoy “hat genossen

Geschehen to happen “ist geschehen

Gewinnen to win “hat gewonnen

Gießen to pour “hat gegossen

Gleichen to equal ”hat geglichen

Graben to grab “hat gegraben

Greifen to grasp “hat gegriffen

Haben to have “hat gehabt

Halten to stop “hat gehalten

Hängen to hang “hat gehangen

Hauen to hit “hat gehauen

Heben to enchance “hat gehoben

Helfen to help”hat geholfen

Kennen to know”hat gekannt

Klingen to ring “hat geklungen

Kneifen to pinch “hat gekniffen

Kommen to come “ist gekommen

Laden to load “hat geladen

Kriechen creep “ist gekrochen

Lassen to let “hat gelassen

Laufen to walk “ist gelaufen

Leiden to suffer “hat gelitten

Leihen to lend “hat geliehen

Liegen to be located “hat gelegen”

Lügen to lie “hat gelogen

Mahlen to mill “hat gemahlen

Meiden to avoid “hat gemieden

Melken to milk “hat gemolken

Messen to measure “hat gemessen

Nehmen to take “hat genohmen”

Nennen to name “hat genannt”

Pfeifen to whistle “hat gepfiffen”

Preisen to praise “hat gepriesen”

Quellen to pour “hat gequollen”

Raten to advice “hat geraten”

Reiben to rub”hat gerieben”

Rennen to run “ist gerannt

Riechen to smell “hat gerochen”

Rufen to call “hat gerufen”

Salzen to salt “hat gesalzen”

Saufen to booze “hat gesoffen”

Saugen to suck “hat gesogen/gesaugt”

Schaffen to accomplish “hat geschaffen”

Scheiden to divorce “hat/ist geschieden”

Scheinen to shine “hat geschienen”

Schieben to push “hat geschoben”

Schlafen to sleep “hat geschlafen”

Schlagen to hit “hat geschlagen”

Schließen to close “hat geschlossen”

Schmeißen to sling “hat geschmissen”

Schneiden to cut “hat geschnitten”

Schreiben to write “hat geschrieben”

Schreien to shout “hat geschrien”

Schreiten to tread ”ist geschritten”

Schweigen to keep quiet “hat geschwiegen”

Schwellen to swell “hat geschwollen”

Schwingen to swing “hat geschwungen”

Schwören to swear “hat geschworen”

Sehen to see “hat gesehen”

Sein to be “ist gewesen”

Senden to send “hat gesandt/gesendet”

Singen to sing “hat gesungen”

Sinken to sink “ist gesunken”

Sinnen to ponder “hat gesonnen”

Sitzen to sit “hat gesessen”

Spalten to split “hat gespalten”

Spinnen to plot “hat gesponnen”

Sprechen to speak “hat gesprochen”

Springen to jump “ist gesprungen”

Stehen to stand ”hat gestanden”

Stehlen to steal “hat gestohlen”

Steigen to climb “ist gestiegen”

Sterben to die “ist gestorben”

Stinken to stink “hat gestunken”

Streiten to argue “hat gestritten”

Tragen to carry “hat getragen”

Treffen to meet “hat getroffen”

Treiben to drive “hat/ist getrieben”

Treten to kick “hat/ist getreten”

Trinken to drink “hat getrunken”

Tun to do”hat getan”

Verderben to ruin “hat/ist verdorben”

Vergessen to forget “hat vergessen”

Verlieren to lose “hat verloren”

Verschwinden to disappear  “ist verschwunden”

Verzeihen to forgive “hat verziehen”

Wachsen to grow “ist gewachsen”

Waschen to wash “hat gewaschen”

Weisen to point “hat gewiesen”

Wenden to turn”hat gewandt/gewendet”

Werben to recruit “hat geworben”

Werden to become “ist geworden”

Werfen to throw “hat geworfen”

Winden to wind “hat gewunden”

Wissen to know “hat gewusst”

Ziehen to pull “hat/ist gezogen”

zwingen to force “hat gezwungen”