• German grammar
  • 1 German pronunciation [0/1]
  • 2 German functions of words [0/5]
  • 3 German sentence structure [0/28]
  • Construct a German sentence! (Score -/-)
  • Make a German indirect speech! (Score -/-)
  • 3.1 Sentence structure of main clauses in German [0/4]
  • 3.2 Dependent clauses in German [0/12]
  • 3.3 Negation in German [0/3]
  • 3.4 Questions in German [0/2]
  • 3.5 Indirect speech in German [0/2]
  • 3.6 Conjunctions in German [0/3]
  • 4 German Articles [0/7]
  • 5 German nouns [0/28]
  • Fill in the correct form of the German noun! (Score -/-)
  • Form the correct plural form of the German nouns! (Score -/-)
  • Fill in the correct definite and indefinite article! (Score -/-)
  • Translate these nouns into German (Score -/-)
  • Match the right German word to the sentences (Score -/-)
  • 5.1 Gender of German nouns (substantives) - der, die, das [0/9]
  • 5.2 Plural of German nouns [0/4]
  • 5.3 German declension (N-declension) [0/4]
  • 5.4 Diminutive (-lein, -chen) in German [0/3]
  • 5.5 Compound nouns in German [0/2]
  • 5.6 Adjectives and verbs as nouns in German [0/1]
  • 6 German pronouns [0/19]
  • 7 German cases [0/13]
  • 8 German adjectives [0/29]
  • Exercise for building German adjectives (Score -/-)
  • Determine the form of use of these German adjectives! (Score -/-)
  • Transform these German adjectives to their nominal form (Score -/-)
  • Build the comparative and superlative of these German adjectives (Score -/-)
  • Insert the German attributive adjective! (Score -/-)
  • 8.1 Different types of adjectives in German [0/3]
  • 8.2 How to form German adjectives [0/1]
  • 8.3 German participle as adjectives [0/2]
  • 8.4 Comparative and superlative adjectives in German [0/4]
  • 8.5 Declension of German adjectives [0/2]
  • 8.6 Forming and declension of ordinal numbers in German [0/2]
  • 8.7 Possessive adjectives in German [0/2]
  • 8.8 Demonstrative adjectives in German [0/2]
  • 8.9 Interrogative and exclamatory adjectives in German [0/2]
  • 8.10 Indefinite adjectives in German [0/2]
  • 8.11 List of German Adjectives [0/2]
  • 9 German adverbs [0/13]
  • 10 German verbs [0/67]
  • Match the correct German verb to the sentences (Score -/-)
  • Form the German simple past and participle II form (Score -/-)
  • Exercise to match the right German auxiliary verb! (Score -/-)
  • Choose the right conjugation of the German verbs (Score -/-)
  • Build the German form of politeness! (Score -/-)
  • 10.1 Auxiliary verbs in German [0/5]
  • 10.2 Modal verbs in German [0/8]
  • 10.3 Separable and inseparable verbs in German [0/3]
  • 10.4 Conjugation of regular verbs (weak verbs) in German
  • 10.5 Conjugation of irregular verbs (strong verbs) in German [0/45]
  • Exercise: German irregular verbs (Score -/-)
  • 10.5.1 Conjugation of geben (to give) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.2 Conjugation of gehen (to walk, to go) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.3 Conjugation of lassen (to let) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.4 Conjugation of nehmen (to take) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.5 Conjugation of fahren (to drive) German [0/2]
  • 10.5.6 Conjugation of essen (to eat) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.7 Conjugation of lesen (to read) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.8 Conjugation of sehen (to see) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.9 Conjugation of kommen (to come) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.10 Conjugation of trinken (to drink) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.11 Conjugation of schlafen (to sleep) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.12 Conjugation of gefallen (to please) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.13 Conjugation of schreiben (to write) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.14 Conjugation of helfen (to help) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.15 Conjugation of laufen (to run) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.16 Conjugation of treffen (to meet, to hit) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.17 Conjugation of tragen (to carry) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.18 Conjugation of bleiben (to stay) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.19 Conjugation of schwimmen (to swim) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.20 Conjugation of finden (to find) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.21 Conjugation of waschen (to wash) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.22 Conjugation of bekommen (to get) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.23 Cojugation of bringen (to bring) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.24 Conjugation of sprechen (to speak) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.25 Conjugation of heißen (to be called) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.26 Conjugation of fliegen (to fly) in German [0/2]
  • 10.5.27 Conjugation of backen (to bake) in German [0/1]
  • 10.5.28 Conjugation of steigen (to rise) in German [0/1]
  • 10.6 List of common verbs in German [0/1]
  • 11 German prepositions [0/27]
  • Spot all the used German prepositions! (Score -/-)
  • Match the German prepositions! (Score -/-)
  • Prepositions and German grammar cases! (Score -/-)
  • Determine which kind of German preposition is being used! (Score -/-)
  • Complete the verbs and adjectives! (Score -/-)
  • 11.1 Locative prepositions in German [0/2]
  • 11.2 Temporal prepositions in German [0/2]
  • 11.3 Modal prepositions in German [0/2]
  • 11.4 Causal prepositions in German [0/2]
  • 11.5 German prepositions requiring the genitive [0/2]
  • 11.6 German prepositions requiring the dative [0/2]
  • 11.7 German Prepositions requiring the accusative [0/2]
  • 11.8 German prepositions with either dative or accusative [0/2]
  • 11.9 German prepositions and articles [0/2]
  • 11.10 German prepositions with verbs [0/2]
  • 11.11 German prepositions and adjectives [0/2]
  • 12 Tenses and conjugation of German verbs [0/23]
  • 13 Infinitive in German [0/8]
  • 14 Imperative in German [0/3]
  • 15 Subjunctive in German [0/6]
  • 16 Active and passive voice in German [0/2]
  • 17 Participle in German [0/6]
  • Simple past tense (Präteritum) in German

    Definition and usage of the German simple past (Präteritum)

    The simple past tense expresses facts and actions which have taken place in the past. Today, it isn't used that much in the German spoken language, but rather in written stories and reports. The simple past tense is formed by using only the verb, roots or derivative. Find some short examples in the table below.

    German simple past tense English meaning 
    Ich spielte I played, I did play, I was playing
    Er ging he went, he did go, he was going
    Wir lachten we laughed, we did laugh, we were laughing


    enlightenedThe simple past differs from the present perfect in the way, that it describes past events that are interrelated within a time frame that is separate from the present.

    The simple past (Präteritum) in German is used in the following situations. To describe other situations in the past, typically the present tense is used.

    Usage Example Translation
    With auxiliary verbs (sein, haben, werden) Wir waren gestern im Zoo. We were in the zoo yesterday.
    With modal verbs (können, dürfen, mögen,..) Du durftest keinen Kuchen essen? You weren't allowed to eat cake?
    In written language (e.g. in newspapers or books) Der Bundeskanzler hielt eine Rede. The Federal Chancellor delivered a speech.


    If you want to learn more about auxiliary and modal verbs, have a look at the special chapters about them.

    Marker words for the use of simple past in German

    There are some marker words that indicate the use of the simple past in a sentence. When you recognise one of them, you can be sure that the simple past is the right form to use.

    Marker word Translation
    vor zwei Jahren two years ago
    Letztes Jahr/letzte Woche last year/last week
    Im Jahr 1994/In 1994 In year 1994/In 1994
    Vor einer langen Zeit A long time ago
    Als ich klein war When I was little
    gestern yesterday


    Here are some example sentences:

    • Vor drei Jahren begann ich Gitarre zu spielen. (Two years ago, I started playing guitar.)
    • Als ich fünf Jahre alt war, las ich mein erstes Buch. (When I was five years old, I read my first book.)
    • Wir heirateten im Jahr 1996. (We married in year 1996.)

    Conjugation of simple past tense with examples

    Regular conjugation (for weak verbs)

    The 'Präteritum' is formed in the following way for regular verbs:

    Subject Verb and translation
    ich lebte (I lived)
    du lebtest (you lived)
    er/sie/es lebte (he/she/it lived)
    wir lebten (we lived)
    ihr lebtet (you lived)
    sie/Sie lebten (they lived)


    Irregular conjugation (for strong verbs)

    There are also a lot of irregular verbs that don't follow the rule described above. See in the following chapters the irregular conjugation of:

    • normal irregular verbs
    • auxiliary verbs
    • modal verbs
    • verbs that add an '-e' between the stem and the ending

    Conjugation of normal irregular verbs

    See the example of the irregular verbs 'sehen' in the table below.

    Subject verb sehen (to see)
    ich sah (I saw)
    du sahst
    er/sie/es sah
    wir sahen
    ihr saht
    sie/Sie sahen


    Auxiliary verbs in simple past

    The German auxiliary verbs sein, haben and werden also got special conjugations. See the declension below.

    Subject sein (to be) haben (to have) werden (to become)
    ich war hatte wurde
    du warst hattest wurdest
    er/sie/es war hatte wurde
    wir waren hatten wurden
    ihr wart hattet wurdet
    sie/Sie waren hatten wurden


    For example:

    • Gestern war ich shoppen. (Yesterday I went shopping.)
    • Hattest du letzte Woche Geburtstag? (Did you have your birthday last week?)
    • Wir wurden nett empfangen. (We were received very well.)

    enlightenedThis three verbs, as well as the modal verbs you will see below, are the only verbs that are used quite commonly in the spoken German language. Most of the other verbs are used in 'Perfekt'.

    Conjugation of modal verbs

    The modal verbs change their word stem when conjugated in the simple past. Some of them get rid of their 'umlaut' (ä,ö,ü).

    Subject dürfen (to be allowed to) können (to can) mögen (to like) müssen (to have to) sollen (to should) wollen (to want)
    ich durfte konnte mochte musste sollte wollte
    du durftest konntest mochtest musstest solltest wolltest
    er/sie/es durfte konnte mochte musste sollte wollte
    wir durften konnten mochten mussten sollten wollten
    ihr durftet konntet mochtet musstet solltet wolltet
    sie/Sie durften konnten mochten mussten sollten wollten


    Verbs that add an '-e' between the stem and the ending

    In the special cases of this verbs, an '-e' is added between the verb stem and the ending, if the verb stem either ends on

    • '-t', or '-d' like for instance in the case of 'schaden' or 'reden'
    • '-n' ot '-m' as for instance in the case of 'rechnen' or 'öffnen'.

    See the example below, to get a deeper uderstanding of this type of verb:

    Subject reden (to speak) öffnen (to open up)
    ich redete öffnete
    du redetest öffnetest
    er/sie/es redete öffnete
    wir redeten öffneten
    ihr redetet öffnetet
    sie/Sie redeten öffneten


    yesWe hope you enjoyed learning the past tense and that you know when and how to form it now. Why not go and check out the other tenses! See you soon. 


    Exercise on simple past endings in German

    German simple past form: weak verbs

    Exercise of mixed verbs in German

    Exercise about strong verbs in German.