German Past Tense of Regular Verbs

Learn how to conjugate verbs in the past tense

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German Past Tense

In English, this tense corresponds to I did, you saw, he cried, etc. and is used less often in spoken German than the present perfect tense. It is used more often in writing to tell a sequence of past events.  Nevertheless, even in conversational German, sein, haben, werden, wissen and the modal verbs are preferred in the simple past tense than in the present perfect tense. In addition, the simple past tense is commonly used in clauses that begin with als (when).

All regular verbs add these endings to their original stems:

-te -ten
-test -tet
-te -ten

 

Verb stems ending in -d or -t, add an -e before all endings for ease of pronunciation.


Simple Past of sein, haben & werden
sein haben werden
ich war hatte wurde
du warst hattest wurdest
er, sie, es war hatte wurde
wir waren hatten wurden
ihr wart hattet wurdet
sie waren hatten wurden


For the modal verbs, drop the umlaut found in the infinitive before adding the endings.  Mögen changes the g to ch as well.

Simple Past of Modals
können müssen dürfen sollen wollen mögen
ich konnte mußte durfte sollte wollte mochte
du konntest mußtest durftest solltest wolltest mochtest
er, sie, es konnte mußte durfte sollte wollte mochte
wir konnten mußten durften sollten wollten mochten
ihr konntet mußtet durftet solltet wolltet mochtet
sie konnten mußten durften sollten wollten mochten


The following verbs are called mixed verbs because although they have an irregular stem, they still use the imperfect endings for regular verbs.  These are the same stems that are used in the present perfect tense as well.

Simple Past of Mixed Verbs
wissen bringen denken kennen brennen nennen rennen wenden
ich wußte brachte dachte kannte brannte nannte rannte wandte
du wußtest brachtest dachtest kanntest branntest nanntest ranntest wandtest
er, sie, es wußte brachte dachte kannte brannte nannte rannte wandte
wir wußten brachten dachten kannten brannten nannten rannten wandten
ihr wußtet brachtet dachtet kanntet branntet nanntet ranntet wandtet
sie wußten brachten dachten kannten brannten nannten rannten wandten

 


 

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