When studying German, you will quickly want to speak in the past tense. As Germans mostly use the “Perfekt”-tense in conversations, it is essential to know how to form “Partizip 2”. Get to know everything needed in this article!
Speaking about the past
In German, there are three past tenses: Präteritum (simple past – e.g., I went), Perfekt (Present Perfect – e.g., I have gone) und Plusquamperfekt (Past Perfect – e.g., I had gone). Though each of them has its right to exist, we mostly use “Perfekt” in spoken modern German. Therefore, it is the first past tense that students learn very often.
Forming the “Perfekt”
To build a sentence in the “Perfekt”-tense, we need to do two things:
- Find the suitable auxiliary verb (haben / sein)
- Put the actual verb in the right form (alias Partizip 2)
Recommended study materials on the topic:
- Exercises – “haben” and “sein” in German perfect tense (incl. answers)
- Perfect package – overview & exercises (incl. answers)
- Mindmemo – poster all German times
- German self-study book for A1-B1 (incl. answers)
- A-Grammar: Practice German grammar (incl. answers)
What is Partizip 2?
When speaking in English past tense, you need to change the form of your verb to express something in the past tense. When using a regular verb in English, as “to learn”, we would usually add “-ed” to say that it already happened. We do something similar in German and this is called Partizip 2 / Partizip II. Besides the Perfect tense (Ich habe gekauft. – I have bought.), we can form the following constructions with its help:
- Plusquamperfekt tense (Ich hatte gekauft. – I had bought.)
- Futur 2 tense (Ich werde gekauft haben. – I will have bought.)
- Passive (Es wurde von mir gekauft. – It was bought by me.)
How to form Partizip 2
It hopefully has become clear now that you should understand the Partizip 2 because you will need it for at least four grammatical phenomena. There are different verb groups in German, which also include irregular forms that we will discuss more in detail now.
1. “Normal” verbs
This group includes all classical verb forms that do not have any specialty. However, there are also irregular verbs in this group, and in the following, you will get to know how to form their Partizip II.
When you want to change your verb to Partizp 2, you need to put your verb stem into the frame: ge + verb stem + t.
For example: “lernen” – “to study”
- remove the “en” from your verb to get the stem of your verb.
- put “lern-” in the following frame: gelernt (studied)
For lieben (to love) this would mean: lieb- = geliebt (loved)
For kochen (to cook) this would mean: koch- = gekocht (cooked)
As you can see, they all follow the same patterns.
In the Partizip 2, all irregular verbs will have the ending “en” instead to “t” and if you struggle to realize which verb is irregular, you can learn them by heart or orient yourself on the English ones (which mostly are the same in German). The pattern for irregular verbs is ge + verb stem + en.
However, the problem with the irregular verbs is, that they change their stem, which mostly is not predictable. This means, if you do not know the past form but do know your verb is irregular, you need to guess what changes.
For example, in the case of schreiben (to write) this would mean: geschrieben (written).
For bleiben (to stay) this would mean: geblieben (stayed)
For gehen (to go) this would mean: gegangen (gone)
2. Separable verbs with prefix
Now, in German, we have verbs with a prefix that you need to separate from each other for instance “aufstehen” – “Ich stehe um 8 Uhr auf.”
The fact that you have to split these verbs is also relevant for the past tense, and, besides the prefix, they entirely behave the same as “normal” verbs.
Regular separable verbs with prefix
The rule you have to follow is: prefix + ge + verb stem + t
For einkaufen (to do shopping) this would mean: eingekauft
For abwarten (to wait) this would mean: abgewartet
Irregular separable verbs with prefix
The rule you have to follow is: prefix + ge + verb stem + en
For aufschreiben (to write down) this would mean: aufgeschrieben
For aufbleiben (to stay up) this would mean: aufgeblieben
3. Inseparable verbs with prefix
As you already know, there are also inseparable verbs with prefix in German. Because we do not separate the prefix, they simply get an ending to the verb stem “-t” for regular and “-en” for irregular ones, but no “ge” in the beginning.
Regular inseparable verbs with prefix
The rule you have to follow is: verb stem + t
For besuchen (to visit) this would mean: besucht
For erzählen (to tell) this would mean: erzählt
Irregular inseparable verbs with prefix
The rule you have to follow is: verb stem + en
For beschreiben (to describe) this would mean: beschrieben
For entkommen (to escape) this would mean: entkommen
4. Verbs with -ieren
The last group is the German verbs with -ieren. Besides the fact that students can often realize what is their meaning because they are typically loanwords from other languages, forming their Partizip II is very simple.
The rule you have to follow is: verb stem + t
For kopieren (to copy) this would mean: kopiert
For fotografieren (to take photos) this would mean: fotografiert
Forming Partizip 2
I hope that this article could make clear, that you need to know two things for forming Partizip II:
- To which group does my verb belong?
- Is the verb regular or irregular?
As we focused on forming Partizip 2 in this article, you might also want to check out when to use “sein” or “haben” in Perfect tense if you want a quick reminder when to use which auxiliary verb.