TENSED VERBS: HELPING, MODALS, AND OTHERWISE

What you will find on this page: [The Helping Verbs: MODALS] [The Answer To The German Past] [Web Resources]

THE HELPING VERBS: MODALS

To conjugate (i.e., to have verb/subject agreement), follow these charts:

Pronoun

dürfen
(may)

können
(can, able to)

mögen
(like to)

müssen
(must, have to)

sollen
(shall, should)

wollen
(want to)

ich

darf

kann

mag

muss

soll

will

du

darfst

kannst

magst

musst

sollst

willst

er, sie es

darf

kann

mag

muss

soll

will

wir

dürfen

können

mögen

müssen

sollen

wollen

ihr

dürft

könnt

mögt

müsst

sollt

wollt

sie, Sie

dürfen

können

mögen

müssen

sollen

wollen


( € Note: The first three modals (dürfen, können, mögen ) have a vowel change to "a", müssen drops the umlaut, sollen has no vowel change, and wollen changes to an "i" only in the singular. Also note that first and third persons in the singular have no conjugated endings. Then the plural goes back to the original form and conjugated as normal. )

Pronoun

möchten
(would like)

werden
(will)

ich

möchte

werde

du

möchtest

wirst

er, sie, es

möchte

wird

wir

möchten

werden

ihr

möchtet

werdet

sie, Sie

möchten

werden



Use of helping verbs and word order (notice the helping verb is next to the subject and the main verb goes to the end of the sentence in its infinitive form):

Ich fahre morgen in die Stadt. (I'm driving downtown tomorrow)
with werden: Ich werde morgen in die Stadt fahren. ( € note the main verb is at the end!)
with möchten: Ich möchte morgen in die Stadt fahren.

Er trinkt ein Glas Milch nach dem Essen. (He drinks a glass of milk after the meal.)
with mögen: Er mag ein Glas Milch nach dem Essen trinken.
with müssen: Er muß ein Glas Milch nach dem Essen trinken.

Sie steigen in Mannheim um. (They are changing trains in Mannheim.)
with dürfen: Sie dürfen in Mannheim umsteigen.
with können: Sie können in Mannheim umsteigen.

Der Zug fährt in zehn Minuten ab. (€ notice what happens with the separable prefix!)
(The train departs in ten minutes.)
with sollen: Der Zug soll in zehn Minuten abfahren.
with müssen: Der Zug muß in zehn Minuten abfahren.

Er macht seine Hausaufgaben, und sie liest ein Buch. ( € finally, notice the placement of all verbs in compound sentences.)
(He is doing his homework, and she is reading a book.)
with sollen: Er soll seine Hausaufgaben machen, und sie liest ein Buch.
Or, in the second clause:
Er macht seine Hausaufgaben, und sie soll ein Buch lesen.
Or, in both clauses:
Er soll seine Hausaufgaben machen, und sie soll ein Buch lesen.



THE ANSWER TO THE GERMAN PAST

German conversational past tense is signified by using “haben” or “sein” as the helping verb, and generally, a ge- prefix on the main verb which goes to the end of the clause. Those verbs which require sein as their helping verbs are those which denote a change of location (such as gehen, fahren, laufen, fliegen, etc.) or a change of state of being (such as wachsen, sterben, sein, etc.), and are also intransitive (cannot take a direct object).

Note: Most all verbs (both weak and strong) take haben (about 85%) as their helping verb.

Examples for transitive/intransitive:
I visited my aunt. (“visited” is transitive since the object following is a direct object, answering whom I visited). Ich habe meine Tante besucht.
I hiked into the woods. (“hiked” cannot take a direct object, but rather “in the woods” is an adverbial prepositional phrase, answering the question where I hiked, not what or whom which are direct object questions, thus making this an intransitive verb and one of the very few weak verbs that take "sein" as a helping verb to form its past tense - only about 1% of all intransitive verbs are weak, the rest are strong). Ich bin in den Wald gewandert.
Note: 99% of all weak verbs take haben as their helping verb.

The main verb will go to the end of the clause or sentence as a past participle. Most will take a ge-prefix, but a few cannot. These verbs include those with inseparable prefixes already: be- (bekommen, bestellen), ge- (gefallen, gebrauchen), er- (erzählen, erwarten), ver- (verlassen, verlieren); or, those verbs ending in -ieren (telefonieren, studieren), which are verbs of foreign origin.

In addition to the ge- prefix, the past participle is formed by adding a -t at the end of the verb stem if it is a "weak" (regular) verb. Most of these are verbs which in English form their past tense form by the addition of -ed.
Example: wohnen (to live) => ge + wohn + t (ge- prefix + verb stem + t) = gewohnt (lived)
e.g. Ich habe in Mannheim gewohnt. (I have lived in Mannheim.)

Otherwise, “strong” verbs (irregular verbs – those with three principle parts, like go-went-gone) will continue to have their normal infinitive -en ending with any additional vowel or other spelling changes in their verb stem plus the ge- prefix. If in English a verb is “strong”, it almost always will end in -en in German as a past participle and may have a vowel or other change in the stem.
Example: trinken (to drink) => ge + trunk + en (ge- prefix + verb stem with vowel change + en) = getrunken (drunk)
e.g. Er hat ein Glas Milch getrunken. (He has drunk a glass of milk.)

Beispiele:

Present Tense

Present Perfect (Conversational Past)

Ich gehe morgen in die Stadt.
I am going downtown tomorrow.

Ich bin gestern in die Stadt gegangen.
I have gone (went) downtown yesterday.

Er ißt etwas Kuchen.
He is eating some cake.

Er hat etwas Kuchen gegessen.
He has eaten (ate) some cake.

Das bekomme ich morgen.
That I'll get tomorrow.

Das habe ich schon bekommen.
That have I already gotten (received).

Sie hört dem Professor gut zu.
She is listening well to the professor.

Sie hat dem Professor gut zugehört.
She has listened well to the professor.

Ich frage mal den Lehrer.
I'll just ask the teacher.

Ich habe den Lehrer gefragt.
I have asked the teacher.

Sie üben oft.
They practice often.

Sie haben oft geübt.
They have often practiced.

Wir spielen Skat.
We are playing Skat.

Wir haben Skat gespielt.
We have played Skat.

Er fotografiert seine Freundin.
He is photographing his girlfriend.

Er hat seine Freundin fotografiert.
He has photographed his girlfriend.



Web Resources:

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