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Present Perfect Tense in German and the past tense – Wie benuzt man Perfekt auf Deutsch für die Vergangenheit

This tense is used in spoken and written German to express something that happened in the past.

Just like in English, it is composed of a helping verb (in German they are haben or sein) and a past participle of the verb you are trying to make into the past.

The helping verb is the only one conjugated!


I have played soccer.

Ich habe Fußball gespielt.

I have driven to school.

Ich bin zur Schule gefahren.

You should already know how to conjugate the helping verbs that we are going to need to make the past tense but here they are:

haben sein
ich habe wir haben ich bin wir sind
du hast Ihr habt du bist ihr seid
er,sie,es hat Sie, sie haben er,sie,es ist Sie,sie sind



Since there are two different helping verb options that can be used in German there are some rules so that you know which is the right choice!

sein is used ONLY in 3 circumstances:

a. with sein

b. movement (that will take you from point A to B)

c. a change in state (ie: birth, death, awake, asleep)

Haben is used in all other circumstances

Now that we have the background on how helping verbs work in conjunction with the Perfekt tense let’s focus on the verbs themselves!

There are 4 categories of verbs that we are going to discuss:

  • weak verbs
  • strong verbs
  • verbs that end in “ieren”
  • verbs with seperable prefixes

The first rule is that we need to isolate the “stem” of the verb, if the last letter of the stem is a “t”, “d” or “consonant +n” – example: arbeiten, wandern, regnen – than you will need to KEEP THE “E”

Weak Verbs:

these verbs are ones that follow the normal conjugation rules

are put into the past tense by adding “ge” in front of the stem and “t” after the stem.

How do you do this?

1) take the infinitive machen (make, do)
2) remove the -en suffix mach
3) replace it with the t suffix macht
4) add ge prefix gemacht


machen = gemacht kaufen = gekauft
spielen = gespielt brauchen = gebraucht
arbeiten = gearbeitet suchen = gesucht

Example sentences:

lernen: Ich habe das ganze Wochenende Deutsch gelernt.

wohnen: Du hast in der Türkei gewohnt.

leben: Er hat lange in Amerika gelebt.

lieben: Sie hat ihre Kinder sehr geliebt.

heiraten: Wir haben 1979 geheiratet.

baden: Ihr habt im See gebadet.

grillen: Sie haben Bratwurstchen gegrillt.

Strong Verbs:

these verbs are ones that break the normal conjugation rules with exceptions such as stem changes

are put into the past tense by adding “ge” in front of the infinitive verb.


lesen = gelesen gehen = gegangen
fahren = gefahren essen = gegessen
sehen = gesehen kommen = gekommen
fressen = gefressen sein = gewesen

“ieren” Verbs

these verbs are the ones that end with “ieren”.

Verbs that have this ending tend to be very similar to English. And they’re all regular verbs, so they don’t require a change to the stem in conjugations.

are put into the past tense by simply changing the ending to “t”.

NO ‘ge’ is added.


imitieren = imitiert diskutieren = diskutiert
spazieren = spaziert reparieren = repariert
fotografieren = fotografiert studieren = studiert

Verbs with a Separable Prefix

The past participal is formed by inserting the “ge” between the separable prefix and the rest of the verb.

The ending is determined by the strength of the verb.

  • Weak Verbs: “t
  • Strong Verbs: “en”


anrufen = angerufen einkaufen = eingekauft
aussehen = ausgesehen ausmachen = ausgemacht

Online Practice from my website!

Present Perfect Tense – WEAK VERBS

Usage - past participles of machen and anfangen-"Oh my goodness! You have made a monster out of me!" "I haven't even started yet"

Explanation Past Tense: Weak Verbs
Songs for the Past Tense
List of Weak Verbs and Past Participles
**Explanation** (Dartmouth College)

Usage - past participle of beissen and lieben - "It hurts a lot more when he really bites me" "YOUR MOTHER NEVER REALLY LOVED YOU!"


Usage - past participle of machen - "I could not have eaten the homework, because the kid who normally sits here didn't do it" "Excuses, nothing but excuses!"


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