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Present tense (Präsens) in German

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Definition and usage of the present tense 

The present tense is used in many situations. By using it the speaker declares or describes a situation in the present. The table shows you situations in which the present tense is used. 

UsageExampleTranslation
If a fact is describedDie Kinder feiern Geburtstag.The kids celebrate a birthday.
If an action takes place, never takes place or is repeated constantly Er lernt jeden Montag Trompete.He practices the trumpet every monday.
If you want to describe for how long an action has been repeatedEr lernt seit 4 Jahren Trompete.He practices trumpet since 4 years.
If future actions have been already plannedEr gibt in zwei Wochen ein Konzert.He has a concert in two weeks.
If two things happen at the same timeEr sagt, dass er müde ist.He says that he is tired.
If something historical should be emphasizedDer Mann lag am Strand. Plötzlich hört er ein Geräusch.The man lay on the beach. Suddenly he hears a noise.

 

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Marker words that indicate the present tense in German

If you see some certain words in a sentence, you can be sure that the present tense is the right tense to use. Find some examples of marker words in the table below.

Marker wordTranslation
oftoften
immeralways
jeden Tag/jedes Jahrevery day/year
jetztnow
normalerweiseusually
manchmalsometimes
seitsince
in zwei Wochen/in drei Jahrenin two weeks/three years

 

Here are some example sentences:

  • Normalerweise gehe ich jeden Montag schwimmen. (Usually, I go swimming every monday.)
  • Manchmal hat er Albträume. (Sometimes, he has nightmares.)
  • Er wohnt hier seit vier Monaten. (He loves here since four months now.)

Conjugation of the present tense with examples

Conjugation of regular verbs

A verb has to be declined according to the subject it refers to. The declension of regular verbs ending on -en are marked in the table below. Look at the example of the verb kommen. The word stem is komm- . 

Subjectverb 
ich komme
dukommst
er/ sie/ eskommt
wir kommen
ihrkommt
sie/ Siekommen

 

For example:

  • Sie kommen aus dem Kino. (They come out of the cinema.)
  • Wir kommen vom Strand. (We come from the beach.)
  • Er kommt aus der Türkei. (He is from turkey.)

Conjugation of irregular verbs

Some German verbs are conjugated irregularly. See the most common used verbs in the table below:

Subjectsein (to be)werden (to become)haben (to have)wissen (to know)
ichbinwerdehabeweiß
dubistwirsthastweißt
er / sie / esistwirdhatweiß
wirsindwerdenhabenwissen
ihrseidwerdethabtwisst
sie / Siesindwerdenhabenwissen

 

Other examples of irregular cojugated verbs are:

  • Conjugation of verbs with stems that ends in a sibilant (s, ss, ß, z)

  • Word stem ends in - m, -t, d, n

  • Conjugation of verbs with the infinitive ending with -n 

  • Stem-changing words

  • Modal verbs

See the explanation and some examples to every exception in the small chapters below.

enlightenedFor the declension of this irregular verbs, there is no logical rule. You just have to learn them by heart.

Conjugation of verbs with stems that ends in a sibilant (s, ss, ß, z) 

If the word stem of a verb ends on s, ss, ß or z, the second person singular (du / you) only adds an -t and not -st, like in the example before. The table shows you the construction with the example of the verb heißen. The word stem is heiß-. The other forms are built regularly.

Subjectverb
ich heiße 
du heißt
er/ sie/ esheißt
wirheißen
ihrheißt
sie/ Sieheißen

 

For example:

  • Ich heiße Bernd! (My name is Bernd!)
  • Heißt du Tobi? (Is your name Tobi?)
  • Wir heißen Schmidt mit Nachnamen. (Our last name is Schmidt.)

enlightenedThis rule exist, because otherwise, the words would be very difficult to pronounce. 'Heißt' is much more easier to pronounce than 'heißst'.

Word stem ends in - m, -t, d, n

Verbs with word stems ending on these letters are for example: atmen, rechnen, arbeiten. See in the table how you insert the "e" in the correct way. 

Subjectverb
ich arbeite
du arbeitest
er/ sie/ esarbeitet
wirarbeiten
ihr arbeitet
sie/ Siearbeiten

 

For example: 

  • Du arbeitest im Schwimmbad. (You work at the pool.)
  • Ich arbeite als Koch. (I work as a cook.)
  • Wir arbeiten freiwillig. (We work voluntarily.)

enlightenedThe -e endings are inserted as a 'bumper'. Otherwise the words would sound uncomely, like for instance 'du arbeitst', or 'er arbeitt'.

Conjugation of verbs with the infinitive ending with -n 

Some verbs only end with -n rather than on -en in their infinitive. For example: klingeln, bügeln, lächeln. They are conjugated in a different way.

Subjectverbs
ich sammle
dusammelst
er/ sie/ essammelt
wirsammeln
ihrsammelt
sie/ Siesammeln

 

For example:

  • Ich sammle Postkarten. (I collect post cards.)
  • Du sammelst Briefmarken. (You collect stamps.)
  • Sie sammeln Magazine. (She collects magazines.)

 

Stem-changing words

Some strong verbs exist of a, au or e. In total, there are four types of stem changes: a to ä, au to äu, e to i, e to ie. See some examples in the table below.

Infinitivefahrenlaufensprechensehen
Infititive stemfahr-lauf-sprech-seh-
Stem changea -> äau -> äue -> ie -> ie
ichfahrelaufesprechesehe
dufährstläufstsprichstsiehst
er / sie / esfährtläuftsprichtsieht
wirfahrenlaufensprechensehen
ihrfahrtlauftsprechtseht
sie / Siefahrenlaufensprechensehen

 

enlightenedAs you can see, those vowel changes only happen in the 2nd and 3rd person singular. Besides the vowel change, the endings of the words are regularly.

 

Modal verbs

Modal verbs are used to express the personal attitude about a happening. There are six modal verbs that also have vowel changes in their present declension.

Infinitivedürfenkönnenmüssensollenwollenmögen
Infinitive stemdürf-könn-müss-soll-woll-mög-
Stem changeü -> aö -> aü -> u o -> iö -> a
ichdarfkannmusssollwillmag
dudarfstkannstmusstsollstwillstmagst
er / sie / esdarfkannmusssollwillmag
wirdürfenkönnenmüssensollenwollenmögen
ihrdürftkönntmüsstsolltwolltmögt
sie / Siedürfenkönnenmüssensollenwollenmögen

 

enlightenedWith the modal verbs, only the persons in singular (ich, du, er, sie, es, Sie) change their word stem.

yesNow, that you have learned about the present tense, try to deepen your knowledge with our exercises. 


Exercises

  1. Exercise of regular conjugation
  2. Exercise of stems that ends in a sibilant (s, ss, ß, z)
  3. Exercise of word stem ends in - m, -t, d, n
  4. Exercise of the verbs with the infinitive ending with -n

Exercise of regular conjugation


Exercise of stems that ends in a sibilant (s, ss, ß, z)


Exercise of word stem ends in - m, -t, d, n


Exercise of the verbs with the infinitive ending with -n


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