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Present perfect (Perfekt) in German

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Definition and usage of the present perfect tense (Perfekt) in German 

The present perfect can either be used to refer to a completed action in the past, or to explain actions that begun in the past, but are not finished yet. The present perfect (Perfekt) is the past tense that is most often used to describe events from the past in spoken language, instead of the simple past (Präteritum).

Example of the use of the perfect:

  • Gestern hat sich Stefanie im Fitness-Studio angemeldet. (She registered at the fitness center yesterday.)
  • Ich habe vor einer Woche angefangen für diesen Test zu lernen. (I started learning for this test one week ago.)

Explanation of the example:

  • 1st sentence: The action is enclosed, because it was a single action that took place yesterday.
  • 2nd sentence: The action begun in the past (one week ago), but is not enclosed yet.

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Marker words that indicate the present perfect in German

There are some marker words, that are often used in combination with the present perfect. See some of them in the table below.

Marker wordTranslation
vor einer Woche/einer Minute/zehn Tagenone week/one minute/ten days ago
heute früh/heute Nachmittagthis morning/this afternoon
gestern früh/ gestern Nachmittagyesterday morning/yesterday afternoon


For example:

  • Ich habe gerade einen Kuchen gebacken. (I just baked a cake.)
  • Hast du dich schon angemeldet? (Have you already registered?)
  • Heute früh haben wir verschlafen. (This morning we overslept.)

How to form the verbs in the present perfect with examples

To form the present perfect in German, we use the present tense of one of the auxiliaries sein or haben in combination with the participle II of the main verb. Click on the link, if you need more information on how to built the participle II. So, the general structure is made by using the prefix 'ge-':

  • right conjugation of one of the auxiliaries sein or haben (in present tense) + ge - infinitive stem - -t, -et, -en
  • for example: wir haben gesungen

Conjugation of auxiliaries sein and haben

In the table below, you can see how the auxiliaries are declined in the right way.

Subjectsein haben
er/ sie/ esisthat


enlightenedThe auxiliaries you find above are conjugated irregularly. Try to keep them in your mind and learn them by heart.


Conjugation of past participle of weak verbs

The typical construction of the past participle of a weak verb, looks le following way:

  • ge- + infinitive sten + -t or -et


Infinitive of the verbVerb stemEndingParticiple
leben (to live)leb--tgelebt
lachen (to laugh)lach--tgelacht
fragen (to ask)frag--tgefragt
arbeiten (to work)arbeit--etgearbeitet
öffnen (to open up)öffne--etgeöffnet
atmen (to breath)atm--etgeatmet


Here are some example sentences:

  • Wir haben ihn gefragt. (We asked him.)
  • Er hat für uns gearbeitet. (He worked for us.)
  • Ihr habt ziemlich laut gelacht. (You laughed pretty loud.)


Conjugation of past participle of strong verbs

The past participle of strong verbs is formed by adding the perfix ge- and the ending -en:

  • ge- + infinitive sten + -en


Infinitive of the verbVerb stemEndingParticiple
singen (to sing)sing--engesungen
sprechen (to speak)sprech--engesprochen
brechen (to break)brech--engebrochen
nehmen (to take)nehm--engenommen
lesen (to read)les--engelesen
sehen (to see)seh--engesehen


Find some example sentences below:

  • Wir haben während der Autofahrt gesungen. (We sang during the car ride.)
  • Du hast dein Versprechen gebrochen. (You broke your promise.)
  • Sie haben den ersten Bus zurück genommen. (They took the first bus back.) 

When to use sein or haben + participle II?

Usage of sein and participle II and examples

You should use the auxiliary verb sein in combination with the participle, if:

the verb in the sentence has a direct objectStefanie hat ihr Zimmer aufgeräumt. (Stefanie  cleaned up her room.)
the verb in the sentence has no direct objectStefanie hat aufgeräumt. (She cleaned up.)
the sentence contains of a reflexive verbStefanie hat sich verändert. (Stefanie has changed.)

Haben and participle II

You should use the auxiliary verb haben and the participle to use the present perfect, if:

the sentence contains of a verb of movement (without direct object), e.g. gehen, laufen, rennen, etc.Wir sind in seinen Garten gegangen. (We went to his garden.)
the verbs describes changed in the situation, e.g. einschlafen, aufwachen, etc.Sie ist aus ihren Träumen aufgewacht. (She woke up from her dreams.)
the sentence contains of bleiben, sein, werdenEs ist ihm gelungen. (He has succeeded.)


yes Don't forget to try out free exercises, to test your knowledge about the present perfect in German.


  1. Exercise of present perfect (sein)
  2. Exercise of the present participle (haben)
  3. Exercise of the present participle

Exercise of present perfect (sein)

Exercise of the present participle (haben)

Exercise of the present participle

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