Easy Learning German

The present tense - Easy Learning Grammar German

What is the present tense?
The present tense is used to talk about what is true at the moment, what happens regularly and what is happening now, for example, I’m a student, I travel to college by train, I’m studying languages.

1 Using the present tense

  • In English there are two forms of the present tense. One is used to talk about things happening now and the other is used for things that happen all the time. In German, you use the same form for both of these.
  • things that are happening now
Es regnet.It’s raining.
Sie spielen Fußball.They’re playing football.
  • things that happen all the time, or things that you do as a habit
Hier regnet es viel.It rains a lot here.
Samstags spielen sie Fußball.They play football on Saturdays.
  • In German there are three alternative ways of emphasizing that something is happening now:
  • present tense + an adverb
Er kocht gerade das Abendessen.He’s cooking dinner.
  • beim + an infinitive being used as a noun
Ich bin beim Bügeln.I am ironing
  • eben/gerade dabei sein zu (meaning to be in the process of) + an infinitive
Sie ist gerade dabei, eine E-Mail zu schreiben.She is just writing an email.
  • In English you can also use the present tense to talk about something that is going to happen in the near future. You can do the same in German.
Morgen spiele ich Tennis.I’m going to play tennis tomorrow.
Wir nehmen den Zug um zehn Uhr.We’re getting the ten o’clock train.
TipAlthough English sometimes uses parts of the verb to be to form the present tense of other verbs (for example, I am listening, she’s talking), German NEVER uses the verb sein in this way.When using seit or seitdem to describe an action which began in the past and is continuing in the present, the present tense is used in German, where in English a verb form with have or has is used.
Ich wohne seit drei Jahren hier.I have been living here for three years.
Seit er krank ist, hat er uns nicht besucht.He hasn’t visited us since he’s been ill.
Seitdem sie am Gymnasium ist, hat sie kaum mehr Zeit.Since she’s been going to grammar school, she’s hardly had any time.
  • Note that if the action is finished, the perfect tense is used in German.
Seit seinem Unfall habe ich ihn nur ein einziges Mal gesehen.I have only seen him once since his accident.

2 Forming the present tense of weak verbs

  • Nearly all weak verbs in German end in -en in their infinitive form. This is the form of the verb you find in the dictionary, for example, spielen, machen, holen. Weak verbs are regular and their changes follow a set pattern or conjugation.
  • To know which form of the verb to use in German, you need to work out what the stem of the verb is and then add the correct ending. The stem of most verbs in the present tense is formed by chopping the -en off the infinitive.
InfinitiveStem (without -en)
spielen (to play)spiel-
machen (to make)mach-
holen (to fetch)hol-
  • Where the infinitive of a weak verb ends in -eln or -ern, only the -n is chopped off to form the stem.
InfinitiveStem (without -n)
wandern (to hillwalk)wander-
segeln (to sail)segel-
  • Now you know how to find the stem of a verb, you can add the correct ending. Which one you choose will depend on whether you are referring to ich, du, er, sie, es, wir, ihr, Sie or sie.
  • For more information on Pronouns, see .
  • Here are the present tense endings for weak verbs ending in -en:
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. spiel-Meanings
ich-eich spieleI play
I am playing
du-stdu spielstyou play
you are playing
er
sie
es
-ter spielt
sie spielt
es spielt
he/she/it plays
he/she/it is
playing
wir-enwir spielenwe play
we are playing
ihr-tihr spieltyou (plural) play
you are playing
sie

Sie
-ensie spielen

Sie spielen
they play
they are playing
you (polite) play
you are playing
Sie macht ihre Hausaufgaben.She’s doing her homework.
Er holt die Kinder.He’s fetching the children.
  • Note that you add -n, not -en to the stem of weak verbs ending in -ern and -eln to get the wir, sie and Sie forms of the present tense.
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. wander-Meanings
wir-nwir wandernwe hillwalk
we are hillwalking
sie

Sie
-nsie wandern

Sie wandern
they hillwalk
they are hillwalking
you (polite) hillwalk
you are hillwalking
Sie wandern gern, oder?You like hillwalking, don’t you?
Im Sommer wandern wir fast jedes Wochenende.In the summer we go hillwalking most weekends.
  • If the stem of a weak verb ends in -d or -t, an extra -e is added before the usual endings in the du, er, sie and es and ihr parts of the verb to make pronunciation easier.
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. red-Meanings
du-estdu redestyou talk
you are talking
er
sie
es
-eter redet
sie redet
es redet
he/she/it talks
he/she/it is talking
ihr-etihr redetyou (plural) talk
you are talking
Du redest doch die ganze Zeit über deine Arbeit!You talk about your work all the time!
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. arbeit-Meanings
du-estdu arbeitestyou work
you are working
er
sie
es
-eter arbeitet
sie arbeitet
es arbeitet
he/she/it works
he/she/it is working
ihr-etihr arbeitetyou (plural) work
you are working
Sie arbeitet übers Wochenende.She’s working over the weekend.
Ihr arbeitet ganz schön viel.You work a lot.
  • If the stem of a weak verb ends in -m or -n, this extra -e is added to make pronunciation easier. If the -m or -n has a consonant in front of it, the -e is added, except if the consonant is l, r or h, for example lernen.
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. atm-Meanings
du-estdu atmestyou breathe
you are breathing
er
sie
es
-eter atmet
sie atmet
es atmet
he/she/it breathes
he/she/it is breathing
ihr-etihr atmetyou (plural) breathe
you are breathing
Du atmest ganz tief.You’re breathing very deeply.
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. lern-Meanings
du-estdu lernstyou learn
you are learning
er

sie
es
-ter lernt
sie lernt
es lernt
he/she/it learns
he/she/it is learning
ihr-tihr lerntyou (plural) learn
you are learning
Sie lernt alles ganz schnell.She learns everything very quickly.
Key points
  • Weak verbs are regular and most of them form their present tense stem by losing the -en from the infinitive.
  • The present tense endings for weak verbs ending in -en are:
    -e, -st, -t, -en, -t, -en, -en.
  • If the stem of a weak verb ends in -d, -t, -m or -n, an extra -e is added before the endings to make pronunciation easier.

3 Forming the present tense of strong verbs

  • The present tense of most strong verbs is formed with the same endings that are used for weak verbs.
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. sing-Meanings
ich-eich singeI sing
I am singing
du-stdu singstyou sing
you are singing
er
sie
es
-ter singt
sie singt
es singt
he/she/it sings
he/she/it is singing
wir-enwir singenwe sing
we are singing
ihr-tihr singt you (plural) sing
you are singing
sie

Sie
-ensie singen

Sie singen
they sing
they are singing
you (polite) sing
you are singing
Sie singen in einer Gruppe.They sing in a band.
  • However, the vowels in stems of most strong verbs change for the du and er/sie/es forms. The vowels listed below change as shown in nearly all cases:
long eie (see sehen)
short ei (see helfen)
aä (see fahren)
auäu (see laufen)
oö (see stoßen)
long eie
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. seh-Meanings
ich-eich seheI see
I am seeing
du-stdu siehstyou see
you are seeing
er
sie
es
-ter sieht
sie sieht
es sieht
he/she/it sees
he/she/it is seeing
wir-enwir sehenwe see
we are seeing
ihr-tihr sehtyou (plural) see
you are seeing
sie

Sie
-ensie sehen

Sie sehen
they see
they are seeing
you (polite) see
you are seeing
Siehst du fern?Are you watching TV?
  • short ei
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. helf-Meanings
ich-eich helfeI help
I am helping
du-stdu hilfstyou help
you are helping
er
sie
es
-ter hilft
sie hilft
es hilft
he/she/it helps
he/she/it is helping
wir-enwir helfenwe help
we are helping
ihr-tihr helft you (plural) help

you are helping
sie

Sie
-ensie helfen
Sie helfen
they help
they are helping
you (polite) help
you are helping
Heute hilft er beim Kochen.He’s helping with the cooking today.
  • aä
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. fahr-Meanings
ich-eich fahreI drive
I am driving
du-stdu fährstyou drive
you are driving
er
sie
es
-ter fährt
sie fährt
es fährt
he/she/it drives
he/she/it is driving
wir-enwir fahrenwe drive
we are driving
ihr-tihr fahrtyou (plural) drive
you are driving
sie

Sie
-ensie fahren

Sie fahren
they drive
they are driving
you (polite) drive
you are driving
Am Samstag fährt sie nach Italien.She’s driving to Italy on Saturday.
  • auäu
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. lauf-Meanings
ich-eich laufeI run
I am running
du-stdu läufstyou run
you are running
er
sie
es
-ter läuft
sie läuft
es läuft
he/she/it runs
he/she/it is running
wir-enwir laufenwe run
we are running
ihr-tihr lauft you (plural) run
you are running
sie

Sie
-ensie laufen
Sie laufen
they run
they are running
you (polite) run
you are running
Er läuft die 100 Meter in Rekordzeit.He runs the 100 metres in record time.
  • oö
PronounEndingAdd to Stem, e.g. stoß-Meanings
ich-eich stoßeI push
I am pushing
du-stdu stößtyou push
you are pushing
er
sie
es
-ter stößt
sie stößt
es stößt
he/she/it pushes
he/she/it is pushing
wir-enwir stoßenwe push
we are pushing
ihr-tihr stoßtyou (plural) push
you are pushing
sie

Sie
-ensie stoßen

Sie stoßen
they push
they are pushing
you (polite) push
you are pushing
Pass auf, dass du nicht an den Tisch stößtWatch out that you don’t bump into the table.
  • Note that strong AND weak verbs whose stem ends in -s, -z, -ss or (such as stoßen) add -t rather than -st to get the du form in the present tense. However, if the stem ends in -sch, the normal -st is added.
VerbStemDu Form
wachsenwachs-wächst
waschenwasch-wäschst
Key points
  • Strong verbs have the same endings in the present tense as weak verbs.
  • The vowel or vowels of the stem of strong verbs change(s) in the present for the du and er/sie/es forms.

4 Forming the present tense of mixed verbs

  • There are nine mixed verbs in German. They are very common and are formed according to a mixture of the rules already explained for weak and strong verbs.
  • The nine mixed verbs are:
Mixed VerbMeaningMixed VerbMeaningMixed VerbMeaning
brennento burnkennento knowsendento send
bringento bringnennento namewendento turn
denkento thinkrennento runwissento know
  • The present tense of mixed verbs has the same endings as weak verbs and has no vowel or consonant changes in the stem: ich bringe, du bringst, er/sie/es bringt, wir bringen, ihr bringt, sie bringen, Sie bringen.
Sie bringt mich nach Hause.She’s bringing me home.
Bringst du mir etwas mit?Will you bring something for me?
  • Note that the present tense of the most important strong, weak and mixed verbs is shown in the Verb Tables.
Key points
  • There are nine mixed verbs in German.
  • The present tense of mixed verbs has the same endings as weak verbs and has no vowel or consonant changes in the stem.

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