The Simple Present Tense

The simple 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.

Constructing the Simple Present Tense

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 simple present tense:

"Strong" Verbs

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"
  • from "a" to "ä"

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

Also, we never change  "i," "o," or "u." 

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 texamples:

Exceptions

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.

When to Use the 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..


Related Topics:

There are two tenses with future in the name. Learn the difference: Future 1 and Future 2.

Talking about the present: The Simple Present.

Talking about the past: Perfect,  Simple Past, Past Perfect.

When using verbs, word order is important: Main Clauses

Some verbs have to separated when you conjugate them: Separable Verbs.

Learn about modal verbs and what's so special about them: Modal Verbs.

Some verbs are always followed by a specific case: Verbs with Complements.

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