1.1 Grammar TutorialB1 Example Lesson | Das Perfekt

Learn how to use the present perfect tense, including the different ways the past participle may be constructed, and which auxiliary verb to use.

tasterpresent perfect
07.03.2024

The present perfect tense is the first of three past tenses we will learn about during this course. It is generally used to express actions completed in the recent past. We use this tense often in everyday conversation.

Here are a couple of example sentences, using the present perfect tense:

Der Mann
ist
in das Museum
gegangen.
Der Mann
ist
gegangen.

The main sentence structure used for the present perfect tense looks like this:

Subject Noun
+
Auxiliary Verb
+
Other Info
+
Past Participle

What’s most important here, are the building blocks:

haben / sein
+
present tense
main verb
past participle

Der Mann ist in das Museum gegangen.

These blocks are needed to build the present perfect tense.

💡

In German, the past participle of the main verb, in the present perfect tense, is called the Partizip 2.

Haben or Sein?

The auxiliary verbs we may use to build the present perfect tense are ‘haben’, and ‘sein’.

As a refresher, here are the conjugation tables for both verbs:

Pronounhaben
ichhabe
duhast
er / sie / eshat
wirhaben
ihrhabt
Sie / siehaben
Conjugation Table for 'haben', in the present tense
Pronounsein
ichbin
dubist
er / sie / esist
wirsind
ihrseid
Sie / siesind
Conjugation Table for 'sein', in the present tense

We can determine which verb to use in a sentence, by considering these general rules:

‘Sein’ is used under these circumstances:

  • When the main verb is ‘sein’: “Ich bin … gewesen.”
  • When the main verb indicates movement: “Ich bin gefahren.”
  • When the main verb indicates transition: “Ich bin letztes Jahr schwanger geworden.”
💡

However, 'haben' may replace 'sein' in circumstances where a direct object is involved: “Ich habe das Fahrrad gefahren”.

‘Haben’ is used under all other circumstances.

In the exercise below, use these rules to determine which auxiliary verb to use.

Auxiliary VerbMain Verb
sterben
essen
schwimmen
aufstehen
schlafen
einschlafen

Past Participle Construction

There are three main types of verbs: regular, strong + mixed. Each type requires a different construction to build the past participle.

Regular Verbs

prefix GE
+
verb stem
+
T
VerbPast Participle
lernenGE + lern + T
sagenGE + sag + T
machenGE + mach + T

Strong Verbs

prefix GE
+
(transformed) verb stem
+
EN
💡

The verb stem of strong verbs may or may not transform in the past participle.

VerbPast Participle
helfenGE + holf + EN
gehenGE + gang + EN
tragenGE + trag + EN

Mixed Verbs

prefix GE
+
(transformed) verb stem
+
T
VerbPast Participle
wissenGE + wuss + T
rennenGE + rann + T
sendenGE + sand + T

Extra Rules

For even more specific verbs, there are special rules. For example:

Separable Regular/Strong Verbs →

verb prefix
+
GE
+
(transformed) verb stem
+
T / EN
VerbPast Participle
einsteigen (strong)ein + GE + stieg + EN
aufräumen (regular)auf + GE + räum + T
abholen (regular)ab + GE + hol + T

Inseparable Verbs →

(transformed) verb stem
+
T / EN
VerbPast Participle
studieren (regular)studier + T
besuchen (regular)besuch + T
verstehen (strong)verstand + EN

The Passive Voice

When using the passive voice in the present perfect tense, we need to use the building blocks:

sein (present tense)
+
main verb (past participle)
+
worden ('werden', in passive perfect tense)

The main sentence structure looks like this:

Subject Noun
+
Auxiliary Verb
+
Other Info
+
Past Participle
+
WORDEN
💡

Whilst the past participle of ‘werden’ is ‘geworden’, the ‘ge’ is omitted when using the passive perfect.

Here are some example sentences, using the active vs. passive voice, in the present perfect tense:

Active past perfect sentence:

Der Mann hat das Bild gemalt.

The man painted the picture.

Passive present perfect sentence:

Das Bild ist gemalt worden.

The picture has been painted.

Active past perfect sentence:

Er hat dem Professor seine Arbeit gegeben.

He gave the professor his work.

Passive present perfect sentence:

Die Arbeit ist dem Professor gegeben worden.

The work has been given to the professor.

We've come to the end of the Grammar Tutorial 🎉.

Now let's practice what we've learned, in the next section: Interactive Grammar Exercises.

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