German Present Tense (Präsens): Understanding the present tense in German

German Present Tense (Präsens): Understanding the present tense in German

There are six  German tenses: Präsens, Perfekt (perfect),Präteritum (simple past tense),Plusquamperfekt (past perfect),Futur 1 und 2 (future tense 1 and 2). 

In this article we focus on The German present tense, known as "Präsens," which is a fundamental aspect of German grammar. It's used not only to describe current actions but also to discuss future plans and habitual activities. Unlike English, German does not have a distinct present continuous tense, making "das Präsens" a versatile and frequently used tense in the German language.

Conjugation of Verbs 

Most German verbs fall under the category of regular verbs. These verbs follow a predictable pattern in conjugation, typically involving the addition of specific endings (-e, -st, -t, -en, -t, -en) verb stem. For instance, "spielen" (to play) becomes "ich spiele," "du spielst," and so on.

Regular Verb Conjugation:

Most verbs in German follow a regular pattern. Here’s how you conjugate a regular verb:

  1. Take the infinitive form (e.g., spielen - to play or gehen - to go)
  2. Remove the -en ending to find the stem (spiel-)
  3. Add the appropriate ending based on the subject:
  • ich lache= I laugh
  • du lachst = you laugh
  • er, sie, es lacht = he, she it laughs
  • wir lachen = we laugh
  • ihr lacht = you laugh
  • sie/Sie lachen = they (you formal) laugh

Conjugating Irregular Verbs

Irregular verb conjugation in German, while not as straightforward as regular verbs, is vital to master as these verbs are frequently used in everyday language. Unlike regular verbs, irregular verbs often undergo stem changes in their conjugation, particularly in the second and third person singular forms (du, er/sie/es).

Identifying Irregular Verbs: They don't follow a standard pattern and often have vowel changes in the stem. For example, the verb "sprechen" (to speak) changes its stem vowel from 'e' to 'i' in the second and third person singular (du sprichst, er/sie/es spricht).

Conjugation Pattern: Despite the stem change, the endings added after the stem are usually similar to those of regular verbs. The pattern for conjugation is:

  • 'e' for 'ich' (I) – the ending remains the same. E.g., "ich lese" (I read) from "lesen."
  • 'st' for 'du' (informal singular you) – this is where most stem changes occur. E.g., "du liest" (you read) from "lesen."
  • 't' for 'er/sie/es' (he/she/it) – also often involves a stem change. E.g., "er liest" (he reads) from "lesen."
  • 'en' for 'wir' (we),, and 'sie/Sie' (they/formal you) – typically returns to the base form of the verb. E.g., "wir lesen," 
  • 't' for 'ihr' (informal plural you): normally there are no stem changes. 

Common Examples:

  • "fahren" (to drive, travel) – ich fahre, du fährst, er fährt
  • "sehen" (to see) – ich sehe, du siehst, er sieht
  • "geben" (to give) – ich gebe, du gibst, er gibt

German Present Tense: Free Quiz

Test your understanding of the Präsens tense in German with exercises and quizzes. Find the latest quiz here.

How to conjugate The verb "sein" (to be)

In the German language we use the verb "sein" very often. That is why it makes sense the memorize the special forms of "sein" as soon as possible. 

  • ich bin = I am 
  • du bist = you are
  • er/sie/es ist = he/she/it is
  • wir sind = we are
  • ihr seid = you (plural) are
  • sie/Sie sind = they/ you (formal) are

How to conjugate The verb "haben" (to have)

The verb "haben" is another very important verb that also has a special form. 

  • ich habe = I have
  • du hast = du hast
  • er/sie/es hat = he/she/it has
  • wir haben = we have
  • ihr habt = you (plural) have
  • sie/Sie haben = they/you (formal) have

The Role of Separable Prefixes

Some German verbs come with separable prefixes that significantly alter their meaning. These prefixes are detached and placed at the end of the sentence. For example, "aufstehen" (to stand up) becomes "Ich stehe um 8 Uhr auf." Recognizing and correctly using separable prefixes is vital for effective communication.

Modal Verbs in Present Tense

There are six Modal verbs in the German language: "können" (can),"müssen" (must),"wollen" (want),"sollen" (should),"dürfen" (to be allowed to),and "mögen" (to like) are frequently used in the German language. These verbs are essential for expressing ability, necessity, desire, and other modalities in German. You can read more about the Modal Verbs in here.

Usage of the Present tense in German

There are three main purposes of the German present tense. It can describe current actions, future plans and habitual activities. In the following we have a look on these three aspects. 

 Current actions (present continuous)

Although German lacks a distinct present continuous tense, it often uses the present tense to express ongoing actions. This is usually clear from the context or by using time expressions like "gerade" (currently/at the moment) or "jetzt" (now).


  • Die Frau fährt jetzt in den Park. The woman is now driving to the park.
  • Das Kind isst gerade ein Eis. The child is at the moment eating ice cream.

Using Present Tense for Future Events

The German present tense is frequently used to talk about future events, especially when the time of the event is known. This usage parallels the English use of the present simple to discuss scheduled future occurrences.


  • Morgen gehe ich ins Kino. Tomorrow I'm going to the cinema. 
  • Morgen fahren wir in den Park. Tomorrow we're going to the park.

Habitual activities

If activities occur on a regular basis, then the "Präsens" is also used. 


  • Peter fährt jeden Tag um 8 Uhr zur Arbeit. Peter leaves for work at 8 a.m. every day.
  • Jeden Freitag macht Tina Yoga. Tina does yoga every Friday.


  • The German present tense, "das Präsens," is very important and widely used.
  • Verb conjugations form are the backbone of this tense.
  • Understanding separable prefixes and modal verbs is important for effective communication.
  • There are multiple purposes, including describing current actions, habitual activities, and future plans.

Article by Niko

Published 11 Jan 2024