Past Perfect - Regular Forms

 

What you should know about regular verbs in the Past Perfect:

The Past Perfect is formed by taking the Past Tense form of the auxiliary verbs "haben" (to have) or "sein" (to be) first.

  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive haben ['ha:bən] to have
  1. person singular ich hatte ç 'hatə] I had
  2. person singular du hattest [du: 'hatəst] you had
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə] he/she/it had
  1. person plural wir hatten [vi:ə 'hatən] we had
  2. person plural ihr hattet [i:ə 'hatət] you had
  3. person plural sie hatten [zi: 'hatən] they had
  polite form Sie hatten [zi: 'hatən] you had

Verbs which are conjugated with haben:

 

  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive sein [zain] to be
  1. person singular ich war ç va:ɐ] I was
  2. person singular du warst [du: va:ɐst] you were
  3. person singular er/sie/es war [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs va:ɐ] he/she/it was
  1. person plural wir waren [vi:ə 'va:rən] we were
  2. person plural ihr wart [i:ə va:ɐt] you were
  3. person plural sie waren [zi: 'va:rən] they were
  polite form Sie waren [zi: 'va:rən] you were

Verbs which are conjugated with sein:

 

Then you take the past participle which is formed as follows:

  Weak Verbs (regular verbs)
                   
  Verb Phonetic English Forming the Past Participle German Phonetic English
  Infinitive Script Infinitive Prefix Stem Ending Participle Script Participle
  lieben ['li:bən] to love ge lieb t geliebt [gə'li:pt] loved

Normally, you take the prefix ge-, the stem of the verb and then the ending -t.

 

However, if you have a verb which already has an unstressed prefix, you take this prefix for the past particple. Here is an example:

  Weak Verbs (regular verbs) with an unstressed prefix
                   
  Verb Phonetic English Forming the Past Participle German Phonetic English
  Infinitive Script Infinitive Prefix Stem Ending Participle Script Participle
  versuchen [fɛɐ'zu:xən] to try ver such t versucht [fɛɐ'zu:xt] tried

Unstressed prefixes are: be-, ent-, er-, ge-, miss-, ver-, wider-, zer-

Please keep in mind that the prefixes miss- and wider- are only unstressed prefixes when they are used in front of a verb. They are stressed prefixes in front of nouns.

 

If you have a verb which already has a stressed prefix, you take this prefix and the prefix ge- like in the following example:

  Weak Verbs (regular verbs) with a stressed prefix
                     
  Verb Phonetic English Forming the Past Participle German Phonetic English
  Infinitive Script Infinitive Prefix Prefix 2 Stem Ending Participle Script Participle
  aufmachen ['aufmaxən] to open auf ge mach t aufgemacht ['aufgəmaxt] opened

Stressed prefixes are: ab-, an-, auf-, aus-, bei-, da-, dar-, ein-, empor-, fort-, her-, hin-, los-, mit-, nach-, nieder-, vor-, weg-, weiter-, wieder-, zu-

Please keep in mind that verbs with a stressed prefix are separated in the Present Tense and the Past Tense.

 

In contrast to the past participle of the weak verbs the past participle of the strong (irregular) verbs is very often formed as follows:

  Strong Verbs (irregular verbs)
                   
  Verb Phonetic English Forming the Past Participle German Phonetic English
  Infinitive Script Infinitive Prefix Irregular Ending Participle Script Participle
  gehen ['ge:ən] to go ge ... en gegangen [gə'gaŋən] gone
or bringen ['brɪŋən] to know ge ... t gebracht [gə'braxt] brought

As you can see, the past participles of the irregular verbs (="strong verbs") often change their stem vowels. You will find a complete list of those verbs if you click on the button "Irregular Forms" above.

The past participle is not adjusted unless you use it as an adjective in front of a noun. Then the past participle is declined like an adjective. If it is part of the predicate (all the words which belong to the verb form of a sentence), it remains unchanged.

 

Exceptions:

 

1. Verbs whose stem ends in -d, -t, -m or -n

If the verb stem ends in -d, -t, -m or -n, an additional e is often (not always) put between the verb stem and the ending, as otherwise, the pronunciation would be difficult.

  Examples:      
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive reden ['re:dən] to talk
  1. person singular ich hatte geredet [ɪç 'hatə gə're:dət] I had talked
  2. person singular du hattest geredet [du: 'hatəst gə're:dət] you had talked
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte geredet [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə're:dət] he/she/it had talked
  1. person plural wir hatten geredet [vi:ə 'hatən gə're:dət] we had talked
  2. person plural ihr hattet geredet [i:ə 'hatət gə're:dət] you had talked
  3. person plural sie hatten geredet [zi: 'hatən gə're:dət] they had talked
  polite form Sie hatten geredet [zi: 'hatən gə're:dət] you had talked
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive arbeiten ['arbaitən] to work
  1. person singular ich hatte gearbeitet [ɪç 'hatə gə'ʔarbaitət] I had worked
  2. person singular du hattest gearbeitet [du: 'hatəst gə'ʔarbaitət] you had worked
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte gearbeitet [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'ʔarbaitət] he/she/it had worked
  1. person plural wir hatten gearbeitet [vi:ə 'hatən gə'ʔarbaitət] we had worked
  2. person plural ihr hattet gearbeitet [i:ə 'hatət gə'ʔarbaitət] you had worked
  3. person plural sie hatten gearbeitet [zi: 'hatən gə'ʔarbaitət] they had worked
  polite form Sie hatten gearbeitet [zi: 'hatən gə'ʔarbaitət] you had worked
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive atmen ['a:tmən] to breathe
  1. person singular ich hatte geatmet [ɪç 'hatə gə'ʔa:tmət] I had breathed
  2. person singular du hattest geatmet [du: 'hatəst gə'ʔa:tmət] you had breathed
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte geatmet [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'ʔa:tmət] he/she/it had breathed
  1. person plural wir hatten geatmet [vi:ə 'hatən gə'ʔa:tmət] we had breathed
  2. person plural ihr hattet geatmet [i:ə 'hatət gə'ʔa:tmət] you had breathed
  3. person plural sie hatten geatmet [zi: 'hatən gə'ʔa:tmət] they had breathed
  polite form Sie hatten geatmet [zi: 'hatən gə'ʔa:tmət] you had breathed
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive öffnen ['œfnən] to open
  1. person singular ich hatte geöffnet [ɪç 'hatə gə'ʔœfnət] I had opened
  2. person singular du hattest geöffnet [du: 'hatəst gə'ʔœfnət] you had opened
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte geöffnet [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'ʔœfnət] he/she/it had opened
  1. person plural wir hatten geöffnet [vi:ə 'hatən gə'ʔœfnət] we had opened
  2. person plural ihr hattet geöffnet [i:ə 'hatət gə'ʔœfnət] you had opened
  3. person plural sie hatten geöffnet [zi: 'hatən gə'ʔœfnət] they had opened
  polite form Sie hatten geöffnet [zi: 'hatən gə'ʔœfnət] you had opened

However, there are also exceptions where no additional e is inserted because we do not have any problems with the pronunciation, e.g. the verb wohnen (ich hatte gewohnt).

 

2. Verbs ending in -ieren

The past participle of those verbs which end in -ieren do not have the prefix ge- at the beginning. Only the ending -t is added at the end. Here are some example verbs:

  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive kopieren [ko'pi:rən] to copy
  1. person singular ich hatte kopiert [ɪç 'hatə ko'pi:rt] I had copied
  2. person singular du hattest kopiert [du: 'hatəst ko'pi:rt] you had copied
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte kopiert [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə ko'pi:rt] he/she/it had copied
  1. person plural wir hatten kopiert [vi:ə 'hatən ko'pi:rt] we had copied
  2. person plural ihr hattet kopiert [i:ə 'hatət ko'pi:rt] you had copied
  3. person plural sie hatten kopiert [zi: 'hatən ko'pi:rt] they had copied
  polite form Sie hatten kopiert [zi: 'hatən ko'pi:rt] you had copied
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive telefonieren [telefoˈni:rən] to telephone
  1. person singular ich hatte telefoniert [ɪç 'hatə telefoˈni:rt] I had telephoned
  2. person singular du hattest telefoniert [du: 'hatəst telefoˈni:rt] you had telephoned
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte telefoniert [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə telefoˈni:rt] he/she/it had telephoned
  1. person plural wir hatten telefoniert [vi:ə 'hatən telefoˈni:rt] we had telephoned
  2. person plural ihr hattet telefoniert [i:ə 'hatət telefoˈni:rt] you had telephoned
  3. person plural sie hatten telefoniert [zi: 'hatən telefoˈni:rt] they had telephoned
  polite form Sie hatten telefoniert [zi: 'hatən telefoˈni:rt] you had telephoned

As you can see from the phonetic script, the stress is on the syllable -iert, similar to the infinitive of those verbs. There the stress is also on the syllable -ier-.

 

3. Verbs which change their past participles after infinitives and other participles

As already mentioned, the modal verbs also belong to those verbs of which the Past Tense forms are very often used in the spoken language. However, there do exist Past Perfect forms which are hardly used:

  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive dürfen ['dʏrfən] to be allowed to
  1. person singular ich hatte gedurft [ɪç 'hatə gə'dʊrft] I had been allowed to
  2. person singular du hattest gedurft [du: 'hatəst gə'dʊrft] you had been allowed to
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte gedurft [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'dʊrft] he/she/it had been allowed to
  1. person plural wir hatten gedurft [vi:ə 'hatən gə'dʊrft] we had been allowed to
  2. person plural ihr hattet gedurft [i:ə 'hatət gə'dʊrft] you had been allowed to
  3. person plural sie hatten gedurft [zi: 'hatən gə'dʊrft] they had been allowed to
  polite form Sie hatten gedurft [zi: 'hatən gə'dʊrft] you had been allowed to
  After infinitives you have to use "dürfen" instead of "gedurft".
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive können ['kœnən] to be able to
  1. person singular ich hatte gekonnt [ɪç 'hatə gə'kɔnt] I had been able to
  2. person singular du hattest gekonnt [du: 'hatəst gə'kɔnt] you had been able to
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte gekonnt [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'kɔnt] he/she/it had been able to
  1. person plural wir hatten gekonnt [vi:ə 'hatən gə'kɔnt] we had been able to
  2. person plural ihr hattet gekonnt [i:ə 'hatət gə'kɔnt] you had been able to
  3. person plural sie hatten gekonnt [zi: 'hatən gə'kɔnt] they had been able to
  polite form Sie hatten gekonnt [zi: 'hatən gə'kɔnt] you had been able to
  After infinitives you have to use "können" instead of "gekonnt".
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive mögen ['mø:gən] to like
  1. person singular ich hatte gemocht [ɪç 'hatə gə'mɔxt] I had liked
  2. person singular du hattest gemocht [du: 'hatəst gə'mɔxt] you had liked
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte gemocht [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'mɔxt] he/she/it had liked
  1. person plural wir hatten gemocht [vi:ə 'hatən gə'mɔxt] we had liked
  2. person plural ihr hattet gemocht [i:ə 'hatət gə'mɔxt] you had liked
  3. person plural sie hatten gemocht [zi: 'hatən gə'mɔxt] they had liked
  polite form Sie hatten gemocht [zi: 'hatən gə'mɔxt] you had liked
  After infinitives you have to use "mögen" instead of "gemocht".
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive müssen ['mʏsən] to have to do
  1. person singular ich hatte gemusst [ɪç 'hatə gə'mʊst] I had had to
  2. person singular du hattest gemusst [du: 'hatəst gə'mʊst] you had had to
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte gemusst [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'mʊst] he/she/it had had to
  1. person plural wir hatten gemusst [vi:ə 'hatən gə'mʊst] we had had to
  2. person plural ihr hattet gemusst [i:ə 'hatət gə'mʊst] you had had to
  3. person plural sie hatten gemusst [zi: 'hatən gə'mʊst] they had had to
  polite form Sie hatten gemusst [zi: 'hatən gə'mʊst] you had had to
  After infinitives you have to use "müssen" instead of "gemusst".
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive sollen ['zɔlən] to be to do sth
  1. person singular ich hatte gesollt [ɪç 'hatə gə'zɔlt] I had been to do sth
  2. person singular du hattest gesollt [du: 'hatəst gə'zɔlt] you had been to do sth
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte gesollt [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'zɔlt] he/she/it had been to do sth
  1. person plural wir hatten gesollt [vi:ə 'hatən gə'zɔlt] we had been to do sth
  2. person plural ihr hattet gesollt [i:ə 'hatət gə'zɔlt] you had been to do sth
  3. person plural sie hatten gesollt [zi: 'hatən gə'zɔlt] they had been to do sth
  polite form Sie hatten gesollt [zi: 'hatən gə'zɔlt] you had been to do sth
  "Sollen" has a regular conjugation but after infinitives you have to use "sollen" instead of "gesollt".
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive wollen ['vɔlən] to want
  1. person singular ich hatte gewollt [ɪç 'hatə gə'vɔlt] I had wanted
  2. person singular du hattest gewollt [du: 'hatəst gə'vɔlt] you had wanted
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte gewollt [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'vɔlt] he/she/it had wanted
  1. person plural wir hatten gewollt [vi:ə 'hatən gə'vɔlt] we had wanted
  2. person plural ihr hattet gewollt [i:ə 'hatət gə'vɔlt] you had wanted
  3. person plural sie hatten gewollt [zi: 'hatən gə'vɔlt] they had wanted
  polite form Sie hatten gewollt [zi: 'hatən gə'vɔlt] you had wanted
  "wollen" has a regular conjugation but after infinitives you have to use "wollen" instead of "gewollt".

As you can see, you do not use the past participle of the modal verbs after infinitives. Here is one example:

German Phonetic Script English
Das hatte ich nicht gewollt. [das 'hatə ɪççt gə'vɔlt] I had not wanted this.
  but:    
Das hatte ich nicht machen wollen. [das 'hatə ɪççt 'maxən 'vɔlən] I had to wanted to do this.
  (modal verb after infinitive)    

There are also two other verbs which change their past participles after infinitives:

  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive lassen ['lasən] to let
  1. person singular ich hatte gelassen [ɪç 'hatə gə'lasən] I had let
  2. person singular du hattest gelassen [du: 'hatəst gə'lasən] you had let
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte gelassen [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'lasən] he/she/it had let
  1. person plural wir hatten gelassen [vi:ə 'hatən gə'lasən] we had let
  2. person plural ihr hattet gelassen [i:ə 'hatət gə'lasən] you had let
  3. person plural sie hatten gelassen [zi: 'hatən gə'lasən] they had let
  polite form Sie hatten gelassen [zi: 'hatən gə'lasən] you had let
  After infinitives you have to use "lassen" instead of "gelassen".
         
  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive sehen ['ze:ən] to see
  1. person singular ich hatte gesehen [ɪç 'hatə gə'ze:ən] I had seen
  2. person singular du hattest gesehen [du: 'hatəst gə'ze:ən] you had seen
  3. person singular er/sie/es hatte gesehen [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs 'hatə gə'ze:ən] he/she/it had seen
  1. person plural wir hatten gesehen [vi:ə 'hatən gə'ze:ən] we had seen
  2. person plural ihr hattet gesehen [i:ə 'hatət gə'ze:ən] you had seen
  3. person plural sie hatten gesehen [zi: 'hatən gə'ze:ən] they had seen
  polite form Sie hatten gesehen [zi: 'hatən gə'ze:ən] you had seen
  After infinitives you have to use "sehen" instead of "gesehen".

 

There is one verb which changes its past participle after other participles:

  Form German Phonetic Script English
  infinitive werden ['ve:ɐdən] to become
  1. person singular ich war geworden [ɪç va:ɐ gə'vɔrdən] I had become
  2. person singular du warst geworden [du: va:ɐst gə'vɔrdən] you had become
  3. person singular er/sie/es war geworden [e:ɐ/zi:/ɛs va:ɐ gə'vɔrdən] he/she/it had become
  1. person plural wir waren geworden [vi:ə 'va:rən gə'vɔrdən] we had become
  2. person plural ihr wart geworden [i:ə va:ɐt gə'vɔrdən] you had become
  3. person plural sie waren geworden [zi: 'va:rən gə'vɔrdən] they had become
  polite form Sie waren geworden [zi: 'va:rən gə'vɔrdən] you had become
  After participles you have to use "worden" instead of "geworden".

Here is one example sentence:

German Phonetic Script English
Er war Polizist geworden. [e:ɐ va:ɐ poli'tsɪst gə'vɔrdən] He had become a policeman.
  but:    
Sie war gekündigt worden. [zi: va:ɐ gə'kʏndɪçt 'vɔrdən] She had been dismissed.
  (past participle of the verb "werden" after another past participle)  

The verb "werden" is conjugated with the auxiliary verb "sein" and is also used for the passive voice. As you can see, the second example sentence is a passive sentence.

 

4. Verbs which have an accusative object

There are some verbs which are conjugated with the auxiliary verb "sein", mostly verbs which imply a movement, for example the verb "fliegen" (to fly). But these verbs can also stand with an accusative object (direct object). Then they are conjugated with the auxiliary verb "haben". Here is one example:

German Phonetic Script English
Ich war nach Deutschland geflogen. ç va:ɐ na:x 'dɔytʃlant gə'flo:gən] I had flown to Germany.
  but:    
Ich hatte das Flugzeug geflogen. ç 'hatə das 'flu:ktsoyk gə'flo:gən] I had flown the plane.
  (auxiliary verb "haben" with accusative object)