German Simple Past Tense - Regular Verbs

    Beginner German - Level A1


    The preterit / simple past tense of regular verbs


    Not available

    German A1.1

    Back to the Course

    German A1

    Simple Past Tense - Regular Verbs

    Past Tense 2: Imperfect (das Imperfekt/Präteritum)

    The simple past/imperfect/preterite tense (das Präteritum/das Imperfekt) is the form of the past tense most often found in writing (i.e. narrative form; not to be confused with written dialogue, which maintains the present perfect tense). The spoken past tense in German (the present perfect or “das Perfekt”) typically only utilizes the simple past forms of the following verbs: sein, haben, wollen, sollen, dürfen, müssen, mögen, and können. However, the present perfect form of both ‘sein’ and ‘haben’ are also used in spoken German — for all intents and purposes, they are interchangeable in the spoken word.

    Here are the conjugated forms of both verbs:




    Present Perfect                                       Simple Past

    Ich bin sehr müde gewesen.           OR   Ich war sehr müde.   =   I was very tired.

    Ich habe Kopfschmerzen gehabt.   OR   Ich hatte Kopfschmerzen.   =   I had a headache.

    Notice that both the simple past and present perfect forms are identical in terms of meaning. The only difference between them is that one form (present perfect tense) is exclusively used in spoken German (or other communication construed as verbal such as email, texts, or dialogue), whereas the other (simple past/preterite) is valid for the spoken and written past forms.

    The simple past is formed in one of 3 ways: for regular, mixed, and irregular verbs.

    Regular verbs like ‘spielen,’ ‘arbeiten,’ and ‘tanzen’ drop the ‘en’ endings and add a ‘t’ + conjugated ending.


    Regular Verbs


    Note that verbs ending in ‘d’ or ‘t’ have to add an ‘e’ before the ‘t’ + ending (see ‘arbeiten’ above). Also, the first- and third-person singular (ich and er/sie/es forms) are identical in the preterite, just like with ‘haben’ and ‘sein’ (above). Other verbs that also add an “e” before the “t” are those that do so in the present tense, including atmen, begegnen, leugnen, widmen, and zeichnen (e.g. Er zeichnete/widmete/begegnete).


    Additional Activities

    Review the lesson above and complete additional activities to build your understanding of this topic. For the activities listed below, sign in for additional access. It's free.

    Online Language Classes with an Instructor

    Online Language Training

    Start improving your learning experience by working with one of our incredible language instructors. Visit the shop today.

    officebusinessAsset 97@250x-8Business Language Training

    Start learning a foreign language at work with your team. Discover how CORE Languages can support an array of language services for your business.

    CORE Compass BlogDiscover the Compass Blog

    From PR to news updates to teaching tips and learning topics, let the Compass Blog be your guide to language services you need.