The Present Perfect Tense with haben

The present perfect tense in German is formed just like the present perfect tense in English. In English, the present perfect consists of the verb have with a past participle. What's a past participle? With regular English verbs it looks just like the past tense:

hurry / hurried   look / looked   play / played

But irregular verbs take on a new form to create a participle:

buy / bought   go / gone   see / seen   speak / spoken

When you combine the verb “have” with a past participle, you have the English present perfect tense. Look at the examples in Table 15-1.

Table 15-1. Formation of the Present Perfect Tense in English

Infinitive Past Tense Present Perfect Tense to go they went they have gone to help he helped he has helped to run she ran she has run to play I played I have played

German does the very same thing. You conjugate haben and follow it with a past participle. But how do you form a German past participle? It's quite easy. If you're working with a regular verb, drop the –en from the infinitive to get the stem: kaufen becomes kauf. Then add the prefix ge– and the suffix –t to the stem: kauf becomes gekauft. Now you have a past participle.

conjugated form of haben + past participle = present perfect tense

Be careful: If the stem of the verb ends in –t or –d, you have to add an extra –e before affixing the suffix. For example, the past participle of antworten is geantwortet.

Let's look at some other examples of regular verbs as past participles.

Table 15-2. Formation of Regular German Past Participles

Exercise 15-1

Change the following infinitives to past participles.

  • kaufen [to buy] _______

  • stören [to disturb]_______

  • lehren [to teach] _______

  • bauen [to build] _______

  • stellen [to place] _______

  • setzen [to set] _______

  • reden [to talk] _______

  • baden [to bathe]_______

  • lachen [to laugh] _______

  • weinen [to cry] _______

When you use a form of the verb haben with the past participle, you have formed the present perfect tense. Listen to your CD for the German pronunciation.

ich habe gewohnt I have lived er hat gesagt he has said du hast gespielt you have played

There is a slight difference between German and English when it comes to this tense. When Germans want to express something in the past, they tend to use the present perfect tense: Er hat ein Haus gekauft. In English, however, people tend to use the simple past tense: He bought a house.

Do you recall how the future tense is formed by conjugating werden and placing an infinitive at the end of the sentence? The present perfect tense works the same way—the past participle goes at the end of the sentence.

Future: Andreas wird morgen Fußball spielen.(Andreas will play soccer tomorrow.)Present Perfect: Andreas hat gestern Fußball gespielt.(Andreas played soccer yesterday.)

Here are a few examples in German of sentences that use the past perfect tense.

• Wir haben Deutsch und  Spanisch gelernt. We learned German and  Spanish. • Wo haben Sie gewartet? Where did you wait? • Hast du Schach gespielt? Did you play chess? • Ich habe eine Stimme gehört. I heard a voice. • Wem haben Sie den Brief geschickt? To whom did you send the letter? • Was habt ihr gesagt? What did you all say?
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