Das Präsens (The German Present Tense)

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The German Present Tense (Präsens)

The German Present Tense is the most used tense in the German language. It's actually used to talk about both the present and the future.

  •   „Das ist Felix!“
  •   „Was macht er?“
  •   „Er geht zum Fußballtraining.

Interesting Fact:

In the Infinitive (basic form) ALL German verbs end in „n“ or „en“ - even the Irregular verbs! So you don't have to learn three different endings in the present tense and all other tenses like in Spanish, Portuguese or Italian.

z. B.: kaufen, rennen, gehen, haben, sein, essen  

There are no exceptions!

Constructing the German Present Tense (Präsens)

German Present Tense conjugation: Regular Verbs

All verbs in German end in „-en“. When you conjugate a verb in the present tense, you first have to remove that „-en“ and then replace it with another ending (based on the subject - the person or thing that is doing the action). Here are the endings for the German Present Tense:

Präsens German Present tense Conjugation

Conjugation of Strong verbs in the German Present Tense

What are strong verbs? Some verbs require you to change a vowel when conjugating in the present tense. We call these verbs Strong verbs.

The vowel change only takes place in the 2nd and 3rd person singular ("you," "he," "she," "it"). And the endings are the same as with regular verbs.

Possible Vowel Changes:

  • from „e“ to „ie“ or „i“ or
  • from „a“ to „ä“

We don't change every single verb with an „e“ and „a“ in it, but it is very common. 

Also, we never change  „i“, „o“ and „u“. 

vowel changes in German Present Tense - Präsens

Irregular Verbs

Some verbs don't follow ANY rules when you're conjugating them: Luckily this is quite rare, so you only have to memorize a few verbs of this sort.

Here are three important examples:

Konjugation unregelmäßige Verben Präsens - German present tenese

Irregular Endings in the German Present Tense

Verb stems ending in „d“ or „t“

If the verb stem ends in „-d“ or „-t“ place an „e“ before the endings „-st“ and „-t“

  • arbeiten: „du arbeitest“, „er arbeitet“, „ihr arbeitet“

Exception: when there's a vowel change (rare)

  • laden: „du lädst“, „er lädt“, „ihr ladet“
  • halten: „du hältst, „er hält“, „ihr haltet“

Verb stems ending in „s“, „ß“, „x“ or „z“

If the verb stem ends in „-s“, „-ß“, „-x“ or „-z“ take away the „s“ from the ending in 2nd person singular.

  • heißen: „du heißt“   (wrong: du heißst)
  • tanzen: „du tanzt  (wrong: du tanzst)

Verbs ending in „-eln/-ern“

For the (rare) verbs that end in „-eln/-ern“ ONLY the „n“ is the ending. When conjugating, take away only the „n“. Then add the normal ending.

⇒  In 1st and 3rd person plural, the added ending is only an „n“.

For verbs that end in „-eln“ in 1st person singular the „e“ before the „l“ is taken away.

eln ern ending German Present tense Präsens

Recommendation: Conjugation for Separable Verbs

Some verbs you have to separate when you conjugate them - Separable Verbs. I explain which verbs are separable and which are not in a separate lesson: Separable and Inseparable verbs.

When to Use the German Present Tense

For something in the present that is a fact or condition:

  •   „Das ist Jan.“
  •   „Er sitzt auf dem Sofa.“

⇒ Something that is true RIGHT NOW.

For an action that occurs regularly or never in the present (it doesn't have to be RIGHT NOW, but can also be more generally in the present):

  • „Jeden Sonntag spielt er Fußball."
  • „Jeden Donnerstag arbeitet er bis 18 Uhr.“
  • „Montags macht er nie Sport."

For something that is always true:

  • „Er ist Deutscher.“
  • „Ich komme aus Deutschland.“
  • „Sie ist Brasilianerin.“

For actions that started in the past and are still happening now (Note: this is different than in English! - in English we would use the present perfect tense: "He has been playing..."):

  • „Seit 10 Jahren spielt er Fußball.“
  • „Er arbeitet seit 2 Monaten bei Siemens.“

⇒ How long has it been going on?

For actions in the future that are planned / already agreed to (Note: this is also different than in English! - in English we would use the future tense with "I will..." or "I am going to..."):

  • „Morgen gehe ich ins Kino.“
  • „Am Sonntag hat er ein wichtiges Spiel.“

⇒ You have to know when it will take place, and it has to be very likely to happen..

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Related Topic:

Entire lesson in German only: Präsens

Some verbs you have to separate when you conjugate them -  Trennbare Verben (Separable Verbs).

More lessons about Tenses:

What is the general German word order? - Satzbau (Sentence Structure).

You can find an overview of all topics under German Grammar. 

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