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German Grammar Lectures. Lecture 5: Verbal Particles and Tense Forms Designed by Paul Joyce University of Portsmouth E-Mail: 5.1 Introduction. The case information within an article or equivalent is determined by the verb .

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german grammar lectures
German Grammar Lectures

Lecture 5:

Verbal Particles and Tense Forms

Designed by Paul Joyce

University of Portsmouth


5 1 introduction
5.1 Introduction
  • The case information within an article or equivalent is determined by the verb.
  • This lecture introduces you to the engine of the sentence - the verb or predicate.
  • You need to be well acquainted with the different parts of the verb in order to match the verb to the subject of the sentence and to form the tenses of the verb correctly.
5 2 the infinitive
5.2 The Infinitive
  • The form of the verb that you find in your dictionary is the infinitive (der Infinitiv):
  • This can have one of two endings.
  • -en: schlafen(to sleep), machen(to do)
  • -n: sein(to be), tun(to do)
  • -nendings are common amongst verbs whose stem contains -el and -er: e.g. angeln(to fish), wandern(to wander)
5 3 finite verbs
5.3 Finite verbs
  • When a verb adds personal endings we call it a finite verb - ein finites Verb.
  • The finite forms of a verb are those where a verb shows tense, person & number.
  • Finite verbs refer back to (or ‘agree with’) the subject of the sentence.
  • E.g. Der Student schläft (tense  present; person  third; number  singular)
5 4 non finite verbs
5.4 Non-finite verbs
  • Non-finite verb forms do not agree with the subject i.e. have no person, tense or number.
  • The main non-finite forms of a verb are:
  • Infinitive machen(= to do)
  • Present participle machend(= doing)
  • Past participle gemacht(= done)
  • These non-finite forms are combined with auxiliary verbs to form compound tenses and the passive voice.
5 5 german present tense
5.5 German present tense
  • There is no continuous present in German. Thus er schläft can either mean “he sleeps” or “he is sleeping” depending on context.
  • The German present tense is often used where English would use the future tense: Wir finden es nie = “We will never find it”.
  • This tense is used with seit to express a current action that began in the past.

(Ich studiere seit zwei Jahren)

5 6 present tense endings
5.6 Present tense endings
  • Most German verbs are regular in their conjugation and may be called weak verbs.
  • They form the present tense by taking the stem of the infinitive  e.g. mach-en, tu-n and then adding the following endings:
  • ich-ewir-en
  • du -stihr-t
  • er/sie-tsie-en
5 7 present tense holen

ich hole: I fetch

du holst: you fetch

Sie holen: you fetch (= formal)

er holt: he fetches

sie holt: she fetches

es holt: it fetches


wir holen: we fetch

ihr holt: you fetch

(= informal)

Sie holen: you fetch (= formal)

sie holen: they fetch

5.7 Present tense: holen
5 8 verbs in d t or m n
5.8 Verbs in -d/-t or -m/-n
  • Verbs whose stem ends in -d or -t, or in -m or -nafter a consonant add -e-before the endings -t and -st of the present tense.
  • -d reden, finden, senden, beenden
  • -t warten, arbeiten, beten(= to pray)
  • consonant + -matmen(= to breathe), widmen(= to devote)
  • consonant + -nregnen, begegnen, rechnen, zeichnen(= to draw)
5 9 present tense reden

ich rede: I talk

du redest: you talk

Sie reden: you talk (= formal)

er redet: he talks

sie redet: she talks

es redet: it talks


wir reden: we talk

ihr redet: you talk (= informal)

Sie reden: you talk (= formal)

sie reden: they talk

5.9 Present tense: reden
5 10 present tense warten

ich warte: I wait

du wartest: you wait

er wartet: he waits

sie wartet: she waits

es wartet: it waits


wir warten: we wait

ihr wartet: you wait (= informal)

Sie warten: you wait (= formal)

sie warten: they wait

5.10 Present tense: warten
5 11 present tense atmen

ich atme: I breathe

du atmest: you breathe

Sie atmen: you breathe (= formal)

er/sie/es atmet: he/she/it breathes


wir atmen: we breathe

ihr atmet: you breathe (= informal)

Sie atmen: you breathe (= formal)

sie atmen: they breathe

5.11 Present tense: atmen
5 12 present tense zeichnen

ich zeichne: I draw

du zeichnest: you draw

Sie zeichnen: you draw (= formal)

er/sie/es zeichnet: he/she/it draws


wir zeichnen: we draw

ihr zeichnet: you draw (= inf.)

Sie zeichnen: you draw (= formal)

sie zeichnen: they draw

5.12 Present tense: zeichnen
5 13 verbs in s x or z
5.13 Verbs in -s, -ß, -x or -z
  • Verbs whose stem ends in -s, -ß, -x or -z have the ending -t (NOT: -st) in the second person singular of the present tense.
  • -s rasen(= to race), wachsen(= to grow)
  • -ß heißen, grüßen, schweißen(= to weld)
  • -x faxen(= to fax), boxen(= to box)
  • -z setzen, sitzen, tanzen, glänzen, heizen

(e.g. du wächst, du grüßt, du faxt, du setzt)

5 14 present tense hei en

ich heiße: my name is...

du heißt: your name is...

er/sie/es heißt: his/her/its name is...


wir heißen: our name is

ihr heißt: your name is (= inf.)

sie heißen: their name is

5.14 Present tense: heißen
5 15 present tense tanzen

ich tanze: I dance

du tanzt: you dance

Sie tanzen: you dance (= formal)

er/sie/es tanzt: he/she/it dances


wir tanzen:

we dance

ihr tanzt: you dance (= informal)

Sie tanzen: you dance (= formal)

sie tanzen:

they dance

5.15 Present tense: tanzen
5 16 verbs with a stem in el er
5.16 Verbs with a stem in -el, -er
  • Verbs with a stem in -el or -er have the ending -n (NOT: -en) in the infinitive and the first & third person plural of the present:
  • -el/-er wir handeln, sie wandern
  • In the first person singular of the present tense, -el verbs always drop the -e- of the stem; -er verbs rarely do so in formal German
  • -el ich handle, ich sammle, ich entwickle
  • -er ich wand(e)re; BUT: ich ändere, ich erinnere mich
5 17 present tense sammeln

ich sammle: I collect

du sammelst: you collect

Sie sammeln: you collect (= formal)

er/sie/es sammelt: he/she/it collects


wir sammeln: we collect

ihr sammelt: you collect (= inf.)

Sie sammeln: you collect (= formal)

sie sammeln: they collect

5.17 Present tense: sammeln
5 18 present tense wandern

ich wand(e)re: I roam

du wanderst: you roam

Sie wandern: you roam (= formal)

er/sie/es wandert: he/she/it roams


wir wandern: we roam

ihr wandert: you roam (= inf.)

Sie wandern: you roam (= formal)

sie wandern: they roam

5.18 Present tense: wandern
5 19 present tense ndern

ich ändere: I change

du änderst: you change

Sie ändern: you change (= formal)

er/sie/es ändert: he/she/it changes


wir ändern: we change

ihr ändert: you change (= inf.)

Sie ändern: you change (= formal)

sie ändern: they change

5.19 Present tense: ändern
5 20 german irregular verbs
5.20 German irregular verbs
  • The present tense of the irregular or strong German verbs must be learned carefully!
  • Whilst they take the same endings as the regular verbs, many irregular verbs change their stem vowel in the second and third person singular of the present tense:
  • Most commonly: a -äshort -e -iau -äu long -e -ie
5 21 present a au irregular verbs
a  ä

fahren: ich fahre, du fährst, sie fährt

fallen: ich falle, du fällst, es fällt

lassen: ich lasse, du lässt, er lässt

schlafen: ich schlafe, du schläfst, er schläft

au  äu

laufen: ich laufe, du läufst, sie läuft

saufen: ich saufe, du säufst, er säuft

Exceptions: saugen, schaffen (= to create) - er saugt, schafft

5.21 Present: a/au irregular verbs
5 22 present tense e i ie
Short -e  -i

essen: ich esse, du isst, sie isst

helfen: ich helfe, du hilfst, es hilft

sprechen:ich spreche du sprichst, er spricht

treffen: ich treffe, du triffst, sie trifft

Long -e  -ie

lesen: ich lese, du liest, er liest

sehen: ich sehe, du siehst, sie sieht

stehlen: ich stehle, du stiehlst, er stiehlt

5.22 Present Tense: -e -i/-ie
5 23 present tense essen

ich esse: I eat

du isst: you eat

er/sie/es isst: he/she/it eats


wir essen: we eat

ihr esst: you eat (= informal)

sie essen: they eat

5.23 Present tense: essen
5 24 vowel change d t
5.24 Vowel change + -d/-t
  • Verbs with the aforementioned vowel changes whose stem ends in -d or -t do not add -et in the third person singular.
  • halten ich halte, du hältst, es hält laden ich lade, du lädst, sie lädt raten ich rate, du rätst, sie rät
  • This is also true of the -e -i/-ie change: gelten ich gelte, du giltst, es gilt treten ich trete, du trittst, sie tritt
5 25 present tense halten

ich halte: I hold

du hältst: you hold

er/sie/es hält: he/she/it holds


wir halten: we hold

ihr haltet: you hold (= informal)

sie halten: they hold

5.25 Present tense: halten
5 26 exceptions in i and
5.26 Exceptions in –i and -ö
  • Three long -e verbs change this to short -i: geben ich gebe, du gibst, sie gibt nehmen ich nehme, du nimmst, sie nimmt treten ich trete, du trittst, sie tritt
  • Several strong verbs in -edo not change the vowel. These include gehen, heben, stehen.
  • Note the following -ö vowel changes: stoßen ich stoße, du stößt, er stößt erlöschen die Kerze erlischt (= goes out)
5 27 imperfect tense
5.27 Imperfect tense...?
  • What students call the “imperfect endings” are in fact used for TWO different tenses.
  • They can refer to the imperfect tense which expresses uncompleted action in the past.
  • Er wartete schon auf mich.

(= He was already waiting for me.)

  • Das Publikum wurde langsam ungeduldig. (= The crowd was slowly becoming impatient.)
5 28 or the simple past
5.28 …or the simple past?
  • The same endings are also used by the simple past or preterite (das Präteritum).
  • This tense is used to describe past events in written German and is similar to English:
  • Sie kam ins Zimmer und setzte sich. (= She came into the room and sat down.)
  • 1961 baute die DDR die Berliner Mauer. (= The GDR built the Berlin Wall in 1961.)
5 29 imperfect simple past endings
5.29 Imperfect/simple past endings
  • Regular / weak verbs form the imperfect / preterite by constructing an imperfect stem:
  • This is formed by taking the stem of the infinitive and adding -te :

e.g. mach-en  machte, änder-n  änderte

  • Then the following endings are added:

ich ---wir -n

du -stihr -t

er/sie ---sie -n

5 30 imperfect preterite holen

ich holte: I fetched

du holtest: you fetched

er/sie/es holte: he/she/it fetched


wir holten: we fetched

ihr holtet: you fetched (= inf.)

sie holten: they fetched

5.30 Imperfect/preterite: holen
5 31 verbs in d t or m n
5.31 Verbs in -d/-t or -m/-n
  • Verbs whose stem ends in -d or -t, or in -m or -nafter a consonant add -ete to form the imperfect stem:
  • -d ich redete, du redetest, er redete
  • -t ich arbeitete, du arbeitetest, er arbeitete
  • consonant + -mich atmete, du atmetest
  • consonant + -nich rechnete, du rechnetest
5 32 imperfect preterite warten

ich wartete: I waited

du wartetest: you waited

er/sie/es wartete: he/she/it waited


wir warteten: we waited

ihr wartetet: you waited (= inf.)

sie warteten: they waited

5.32 Imperfect/preterite: warten
5 33 imperfect preterite irregular
5.33 Imperfect/preterite: irregular
  • Irregular / strong verbs form the imperfect / preterite by adding the same endings:
  • Their imperfect stem can be very different however! Only a few strong verbs add -te and these change consonants and vowels: e.g. bringen brachte,denken dachte
  • Note in particular the verbs in -ennen : brennen brannte, kennen kannte, nennen nannte, rennen rannte
5 34 imperfect preterite bringen

ich brachte: I brought

du brachtest: you brought

er/sie/es brachte: he/she/it brought


wir brachten: we brought

ihr brachtet: you brought

sie brachten: they brought

5.34 Imperfect/preterite: bringen
5 35 imperfect preterite kennen

ich kannte: I knew

du kanntest: you knew

er/sie/es kannte: he/she/it knew


wir kannten: we knew

ihr kanntet: you knew (= informal)

sie kannten: they knew

5.35 Imperfect/preterite: kennen
5 36 irregular imperfects preterites
5.36 Irregular imperfects/preterites
  • Most irregular / strong verbsdo not add -te to the imperfect stem. These must be learned separately! Note the vowel changes:
  • -ei  -ie/-i: bleiben blieb, beißen biss
  • -i  -a: singen sang, sinken sank
  • -ie  -o: fliegen flog, bieten bot
  • -e  -a: helfen half, essen aß
  • -a  -u: fahren fuhr, waschen wusch
  • -a  -ie: fallen fiel
5 37 imperfect preterite geben

ich gab: I gave

du gabst: you gave

er/sie/es gab: he/she/it gave


wir gaben: we gave

ihr gabt: you gave (= informal)

sie gaben: they gave (N.B. -en plurals!)

5.37 Imperfect/preterite: geben
5 38 imperfect preterite bieten

ich bot: I offered

du botest: you offered

er/sie/es bot: he/she/it offered


wir boten: we offered

ihr botet: you offered (= inf.)

sie boten: they offered

5.38 Imperfect/preterite: bieten
5 39 compound tenses
5.39 Compound tenses
  • A compound tense is a verb with two parts:

1) an auxiliary verb (das Hilfsverb):

haben, sein, werden with finite verb endings 2) a non-finite verb (das Vollverb): infinitive, past participle

  • As the auxiliary verb has finite verb endings, it must be in the present or imperfect tense.
  • The past participle or infinitive comes at the end of the clause with normal word order.
5 40 the german future tense
5.40 The German future tense
  • Thus the future tense is comprised of:

1) the present tense of werden 2) the infinitive of das Vollverb

  • It is used much less often than in English and is usually replaced by the present tense.
  • The future is often used to avoid confusion: Hat er gesagt, dass er sie besuchen wird?

(i.e. “will visit” and not “is now visiting”)

5 41 future tense sagen

ich werde sagen: I will say

du wirst sagen: you will say

er/sie/es wird sagen he/she/it will say


wir werden sagen : we will say

ihr werdet sagen: you will say

sie werden sagen: they will say

5.41 Future tense: sagen
5 42 the past participle
5.42 The past participle
  • The other compound tenses are formed with the past participle (das Partizip Perfekt).
  • Regular verbs form the past participle by:

1) taking the stem of the infinitive

2) adding ge- to the beginning of the stem

3) adding -t to the end of the stem

  • Thus: machen gemacht,holen geholt,segeln gesegelt,senden gesendet,antworten geantwortet
5 43 omission of ge from participles
5.43 Omission of ge- from participles
  • The prefix ge- is omitted from the past participle with verbs ending in -ieren:

e.g. studieren studiert,gratulieren gratuliert,kritisieren kritisiert

  • Likewise -eien: prophezeien prophezeit
  • Also with verbs with inseparable prefixes: bezahlen bezahlt, erregen erregt, entdecken entdeckt, genügen genügt, versuchen versucht, zerstören zerstört
5 44 separable verbs
5.44 Separable verbs
  • ge- is put between the prefix of a separable verb and the stem participle:

zumachen  zugemacht,einkaufen  eingekauft,ausbreiten  ausgebreitet

  • BUT if the simple verb has noge- in the past participle, it is also lacking in corresponding separable verbs:

ausprobieren ausprobiert (= to try out) anerkennen anerkannt

5 45 the perfect tense
5.45 The perfect tense
  • The perfect tense is comprised of: 1) the present tense of haben or sein

2) the past participle of the Vollverb

  • It is used in spoken German to relate the past (and in written German to indicate a past event that is relevant to the present).
  • As a general rule: simple past / preterite = written German

perfect tense = spoken German

5 46 perfect tense sagen

ich habe gesagt: I have said

du hast gesagt: you have said

er/sie/es hat gesagt he/she/it has said


wir haben gesagt: we have said

ihr habt gesagt : you have said

sie haben gesagt: they have said

5.46 Perfect tense: sagen
5 47 perfect tense haben or sein
5.47 Perfect Tense: haben or sein?
  • Verbs that take sein include:
  • Intransitive verbs of motion: kommen, gehen, fahren, laufen, reisen, fliegen
  • Intr. verbs of change of state: einschlafen, werden, wachsen, sterben, erscheinen
  • To happen: passieren, geschehen, vorgehen
  • To succeed / fail: gelingen, missglücken
  • sein
  • bleiben
5 48 perfect tense sein

ich bin gewesen: I have been

du bist gewesen: you have been

er/sie ist gewesen he/she has been


wir sind gewesen: we have been

ihr seid gewesen: you have been

sie sind gewesen: they have been

5.48 Perfect tense: sein
5 49 the pluperfect tense
5.49 The pluperfect tense
  • The pluperfect tense is comprised of:

1) the imperfect tense of haben or sein 2) the past participle of the Vollverb

  • It equates to theEnglish pluperfect in that it expresses what the speaker “had done”:
  • Das hatte ich längst vergessen. (= I had forgotten that a long time ago.)
  • Nachdem ich das Haus verlassenhatte...

(= After having left the house...)

5 50 pluperfect tense holen

ich hatte geholt: I had fetched

du hattest geholt: you had fetched

er/sie hatte geholt: he/she had fetched


wir hatten geholt: we had fetched

ihr hattet geholt: you had fetched

sie hatten geholt: they had fetched

5.50 Pluperfect Tense: holen
5 51 pluperfect tense reisen

ich war gereist: I had travelled

du warst gereist: you had travelled

er/sie war gereist: he/she had travelled


wir waren gereist: we had travelled

ihr wart gereist: you had travelled

sie waren gereist: they had travelled

5.51 Pluperfect Tense: reisen
5 52 irregular past participles
5.52 Irregular past participles
  • A few strong verbs form their past participle by adding -t. These are the same verbs that form the imperfect with -te:
  • e.g. bringen  brachte gebracht

denken  dachte gedacht

brennen  brannte gebrannt

kennen  kannte gekannt

nennen  nannte genannt

rennen  rannte gerannt

5 53 irregular past participles
5.53 Irregular past participles
  • Almost all other strong verbs form the past participle in -en. There are some patterns, but verbs MUST be learned individually!
  • -ei  -ie  -ie: bleiben bliebgeblieben
  • -ei  -i  -i: beißen bissgebissen
  • -e  -a  -o: helfen halfgeholfen
  • -e  -a  -e: geben gabgegeben
  • -e  -o  -o: fechten fochtgefochten
5 54 irregular past participles 2
5.54 Irregular past participles (2)
  • Here are some more strong verbs patterns leading to past participles ending in -en.
  • -i  -a  -u: singen sanggesungen
  • -i  -a  -o: gewinnengewanngewonnen
  • -ie  -o  -o: fliegen floggeflogen
  • -a  -u  -a: fahren fuhrgefahren
  • -a  -ie  -a: fallen fielgefallen
5 55 present participles
5.55 Present participles
  • The present participle (das Partizip Präzens) is formed for all German verbs by: 1) taking the infinitive of the verb 2) adding -d to the end of the stem
  • e.g. machen machend,gehen gehend,studieren studierend
  • Neither sein nor haben have a present participle
5 56 present participles 2
5.56 Present participles (2)
  • Present participles indicate actions taking place at the same time as the finite verb.
  • They are almost exclusively used in modern German as adjectives (with adj. endings!):
  • e.g. die schreiendenVögel, das kochendeWasser, ein wartendesAuto
  • Also as adjectival nouns: die Sterbende(the dying woman), die Streikenden(strikers)