Past perfect tense (Plusquamperfekt) in German
- Conjugation of verbs (past perfect) Score -/-
- Conjugation of verbs in past perfect tense Score -/-
- Multiple choice exercise of the past perfect tense Score -/-
Definition and usage of the past perfect tense
In German, as in English, the past perfect tense (Pluscuamperfekt) is used, to describe a happening in the past, that took place previous to another happening in the past. It is constructed in the same way as the present perfect tense (Perfekt), except the fact, that the auxiliary verbs of haben oder sein is in the simple past form.
- Marie hatte viel für ihren Test geübt, bevor sie ihn mit einer guten Note bestand. (Marie has practised a lot for her test, before she passed it with a good grade.)
In this example, both actions took place in the past, but the practicing was terminated before the girl wrote her test.
How to form the past perfect tense in German
The formation is exactly the same as with the present perfect, but with the simple past form of one of the auxiliaries sein or haben.
- right conjugation of sein or haben (in simple past tense)+ ge - infinitive stem - -t, -en
- for example: wir hatten gesungen
How to conjugate the auxiliary verbs in the past perfect tense
To use the German past perfect you need the simple past form of sein or haben and the participle II.
|er/ sie/ es||war||hatte|
The auxiliaries you find above are conjugated irregularly. Try to keep them in your mind and learn them by heart.
Conjugation of the past participle of weak verbs
The typical construction of the past participle of a weak verb, looks le following way:
ge- + infinitive sten + -t
|leben (to live)||leb-||gelebt|
|lachen (to laugh)||lach-||gelacht|
|fragen (to ask)||frag-||gefragt|
Find some example sentences below:
- Wir hatten für fünf Jahre in Spanien gelebt, bevor wir nach Deutschland gezogen sind. (We had lived in Spain for five years, before we moved to Germany.)
- Ich war zuerst verwirrt, und habe dann nach dem Weg gefragt. (At first I was confused, but then asked for the right direction.)
Conjugation of the past participle of strong verbs
The past participle of strong verbs is formed by adding the perfix ge- and the ending -en:
|sprechen (to speak)||sprech-||gesprochen|
|lesen (to read)||les-||gelesen|
|sehen (to see)||seh-||gesehen|
Here are some examples:
- Ich hatte mit ihm gesprochen, bevor er abreiste. (I had talked to him, before he left.)
- Sie war begeistert von dem Buch, was sie gelesen hatte. (She was excited about the book, that she had read.)
To make sure you know when to use sein and when to use haben, have a look at the chapter about the present perfect in German, where the difference and the usage situations are described.
In this lesson you have learned about the past perfect tense in the German language. Try our exercises to improve your ability of forming the past perfect tense.
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