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Basic patterns in German language

Verb forms in the past tense


In English, verbs take no endings except for the third person singular in the present tense, but German has more endings for verbs in the past tense than English. The simple past is mostly used in written German. In grammar books the past tense is often called as preterite (Präteritum) or the imperfect (Imperfekt).
 

Verb formation in the past tense:
In German, verbs in the simple past tense are formed either regularly or irregularly (similar pattern in English).

  • Regular verbs add the required endings to the stem
  • Irregular verbs change their stem vowel
Verb formation in the past tense - regular verbs:
Regular verbs add the required endings to the stem. The stem is the form of the infinitive without -en or -n.
 
Person
stem + Ending
ich ("I")
-te
du ("you", informal use)
-test
Sie ("you", formal use)
-ten
er/sie/es ("he/she/it)
-te
wir ("we")
-ten
ihr ("you", informal use)
-tet
Sie ("you", formal use)
-ten
sie ("they")
-ten

Verbs where the stem ends in -t, -n or -d have an extra "e":
 

Person
stem + Ending
ich ("I")
-ete
du ("you", informal use)
-etest
Sie ("you", formal use)
-eten
er/sie/es ("he/she/it)
-ete
wir ("we")
-eten
ihr ("you", informal use)
-etet
Sie ("you", formal use)
-eten
sie ("they")
-eten

Examples:
English: to play
German: spielen
Stem: spiel
Form: wir ("we"): wir spielten

English: to answer
German: antworten
Stem: antwort
Form: wir ("we"): wir antworteten



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