The present tense in German (Präsens)


Use of the Present

The use of the present in German is almost the same as the present in English. It is used for:

  • Talking about events in the present
  • Things that are independent of time such as physical laws, etc.
  • In German, the present is often used for future actions with a temporal adverb


    Ich komme morgen
    I’ll come tomorrow

Regular Conjugation

For the normal conjugation the verb stem does not change for any of the persons and different endings are added depending on the person.

For example, we show the conjugation of the verb: "leben" (to live) with the different endings in bold:

ich leb-e I live
du leb-st you live
er/sie/es leb-t he/she/it lives
wir leb-en we live
ihr leb-t you live
sie leb-en they live

Inserting "–e-" between the stem and the ending

If the verb stem ends in:

  • "-d", "-t". as is the case with "bitten" (to ask), "arbeiten" (to work).
  • hard consonant (b, ch, d, f, g, p, t) ) followed by "-n" or "-m" as is the case with "eröffnen" (to open something), rechnen (to calculate).

An "–e-" is inserted between the stem and the ending so that pronunciation is easier.

For example, let’s see the conjugation of the verb "arbeiten" in the present:

ich arbeit-e I work
du arbeit-e-st you work
er/sie/es arbeit-e-t he/she/it works
wir arbeit-en we work
ihr arbeit-e-t you work
(speaking to a group)
sie arbeit-en they work

Dropping the "–s"

Verbs whose stems end in "–s", "-z", "-x" or "-ß" lose an "–s" in the second person.

For example, the verb "sitzen" (to sit) in the second person would have to be "sitzst" but this is impossible to pronounce. That is why it loses an s and ends ups simply as "sitzt".

ich sitze I sit
du sitzt you sit
er/sie/es sitzt he/she/it sit
wir sitzen we sit
ihr sitzt you sit
(speaking to a group)
sie sitzen they sit

Conjugating verbs ending in "-eln"

Verbs ending in –eln such as klingeln (to ring (the doorbell)) lose an e on occasion in the 1st person singular. You also have to keep in mind that the 1st person and the 3rd person plural are formed with –n and not -en

ich klingle or
I ring
du klingelst you ring
er/sie/es klingelt he/she/it rings
wir klingeln we ring
ihr klingelt you ring
(speaking to a group)
sie klingeln they ring

Conjugation of verbs ending in "-ern"

Verbs ending in "–ern" such as "ändern" (change), like the previous case of verbs ending in "–eln", form the 1st person and the 3rd person plural with "–n" instead of "-en".

ich ändere I change
du änderst you change
er/sie/es ändert he/she/it changes
wir ändern we change
ihr ändert you change
(speaking to a group)
sie ändern they change

The present in colloquial language (Umgangssprache)

It is very common in spoken language, and sometimes in written language, to remove the e ending of the 1st person singular:

Official formUmgangsprache
ich lebeich leb
ich habeich hab

A common error (among Germans) is to write this contraction with an apostrophe: "ich leb’" or "ich hab’".

Main article: Use of the apostrophe

Irregular verbs

The verb sein (to be) is irregular in all of its conjugations:

ich bin I am
du bist you are
er/sie/es ist he/she/it is
wir sind we are
ihr seid you are
(speaking to a group)
sie sind they are

The modal verbs and the verb wissen are irregular in the first three conjugations:

ich weiß I know
du weißt you know
er/sie/es weiß he/she/it knows
wir wissen we know
ihr wisst you know
(speaking to a group)
sie wissen they know

The other strong verbs are only irregular in the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms. For example, let’s look at the verb sehen:

ich sehe I see
du siehst you see
er/sie/es sieht he/she/it sees
wir sehen we see
ihr seht you see
(speaking to a group)
sie sehen they see

Main article:Irregular verbs in German

Present Continuous. The particle "gerade"

In German the present continuous tense is formed with the particle "gerade". This particle makes the action sound like it is taking place at this very moment. "Gerade" is the equivalent of the gerund form in English.

Take a look at these 2 phrases:

I study German
Ich lerne Deutsch

I am studying German
Ich lerne gerade Deutsch

There is an important difference. The first phrase means that even though I am studying German, I am not necessarily doing it right now. The second phrase means that I am studying German now.

The passive

When the subject is not important and you want to emphasize the direct object, the sentence is constructed with the passive:

The present passive’s structure consists of [ werden conjugated in the present] + Partizip II.

If the sentence in the active voice is:

He reads a book
Er liest ein Buch

The equivalent sentence in the passive voice would be:

The book is read by him
Ein Buch wird von ihm gelesen

Audiovisual supplement

A nice song follows from die Prinzen: "Deutschland".