The Present Tense in German (das Präsens)

In this lesson, you will learn the simple present tense in German (i.e., das Präsens).

Present Tense in German

While there are twelve tenses in English, there are just six in German. Even better, you only need two tenses to express something easily, and one of these is “das Präsens”.

❗ When it comes to the present tense, there are no progressive tenses (Ving) in German.

The present tense is used to express an action that is currently going on, habitually performed or a state that currently or generally exists.

There are four different situations when you can use “das Präsens”:
➡️ When you talk about something happening right now.
➡️ General statements/regularities.
➡️ Duration of ongoing action.
➡️ When you talk about the future.

In our previous lesson, we talked about German verbs in detail. They are made up of a stem and an ending (-en, -n). The stem is based on the infinitive and can change in form. All German verbs fit into one of three patterns or conjugations (Konjugation):
➡️ weak verbs (regular)
➡️ strong verbs (irregular)
➡️ mixed verbs (a mixture of the two = irregular)

The weak and mixed verbs follow a pattern in personal pronouns when conjugating in the present tense, and this is shown in Table 1.1:

Table 1.1

However, strong verbs change their vowels in the conjugation of the root pronouns “du” and “er/sie/es” in the present, and that’s why this can’t be predicted easily:

Table 1.2

❗ There are about 200 irregular verbs in German. This means that the vast majority of verbs in German are regular verbs. However, most of those 200 verbs are commonly used, so you must memorize them.

Weak Verbs in the Present Tense
Strong Verbs in the Present Tense
Mixing Verbs in the Present Tense

⭐ In German, “das Präsens” is used to describe things that are happening now:

-Die Kinder spielen Fußball.
The children are playing soccer.
-Es regnet.
It’s raining.
-Emma schläft.
Emma is sleeping.

⭐ In German, “das Präsens” is used to describe things that happen all the time or things that you do as a habit:

-In England regnet es viel.
It rains a lot in England.
-Thomas spricht ein wenig Englisch.
Thomas speaks a little English.
-Samstags spielen die Kinder Fußball.
The children play football on Saturdays.

❗ In German, we can use some alternative ways of emphasizing that something is happening now:
➡️ present tense + “an adverb”
Meine Mutter kocht gerade das Abendessen.
My mother is cooking dinner right now.
➡️ beim + “a verb being used as a noun”
lch bin beim Bügeln.
I’m ironing.
➡️ eben/gerade dabei sein zu + V1
Maria ist gerade dabei, eine E-Mail zu schreiben.
Maria is just writing an email.

⭐ In practice, the German present tense is much more frequent than the German future tense to refer to future time as long as it is clear from the context what the future is meant.

-Morgen spiele Roger Federer Tennis.
Roger Federer is going to play tennis tomorrow.
-Ich schreibe den Brief heute Abend.
I’ll write the letter tonight.
-Morgen um diese Zeit sind sie in London.
This time tomorrow, they’ll be in London.

⭐ If an action begins in the past and continues in the present, the present tense is used in German.

-lch wohne seit fünf Jahren hier.
I have been living here for five years.
-Er lernt seit drei Jahren Deutsch.
He has been learning German for three years.
-Sandra trinkt seit fünf Jahren keinen Tee mehr.
Sandra has not been drinking tea for five years.

❗ If the action is finished, the perfect tense (i.e., das Perfekt) is used in German:

-Seit seinem Unfall habe ich ihn nur ein einziges Mal gesehen.
I’ve only seen him once since his accident.

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