Past Tense with “sein” – Speaking Practice

Written By: Emanuel Updated: March 30, 2022

Hello everyone,

and welcome to back to a new episode of SWEET – that’s short for Speaking with Emanuel’s Epic Training.
For those of you who are new here… in spring I partnered up with EF languages and I can now use their speech grading AI and integrate it into exercises here on my site.
So now, instead of multiple choice or filling in a gap, you actually get to SAY a phrase or a sentence, in a safe space at your own speed and you don’t just practice the theory but also… well… practice.
And I think, that’s really really important and beneficial, especially for beginners for many aspects of grammar.

One of these grammar topics is the past tense and that’s what we’ll practice today.
Or specifically, we’ll do a set for

The Past Tense for Verbs with “sein” 

We already did one session about this, where we focused on verbs that go with haben (find it here).
 And yes, we’ll also do one where you have to pick haben or sein yourself and possibly some other formats, too.
But yeah, today we’ll focus on the most common verbs that go with sein.
So if you’re ready and your jaw is loose then let’s jump right in.

Here’s how it works:

You’ll see a sentence in present tense in German, and you have to change that into the spoken past. So your challenges will be:

  • pick the right form of sein
  • pick the right ge-form
  • put the stuff into the right positions

And of course

  • actually saying it :)

To start the recording, you just press the recording button once and then again to stop the recording.
The AI will then grade your version and you’re better than the threshold, you can move on to the next question. And you’ll see a grading for your version where you can see for each word how well you did.

red: not so good, needs improvemen
yellow: meh… understandable but THICK accent
light green: okay
green: pretty good overall
green with outline: perfect
(Especially the last two, pretty good and perfect, also depend on the mic quality and noises in the surroundings, so don’t get too hung up on that.)

Actually, let’s do a little trial run, to see how it works and if your mic is okay.
Read out this:

“eins zwei drei”


If the everything is okay, the button should change color when you press it. If it DOESN’T change, that’s a sign that either your mic is off or your browser has blocked access to it. Leave me a comment, if you need help with that.

What if my pronunciation is not good enough?

No problem. In the actual quiz, you’ll be able to adjust the difficulty level yourself.
So if you still have an accent, you can make it “more lenient”, and you don’t get stuck. If you set to down to like 5% it’ll “recognize” pretty much anything remotely resembling the answer as “good enough” and if you set it to like 95% you’ll have to have some fluency going on :). You can change that at any point, so you can try the same question again with different difficulty settings.

Oh and for navigation… if the “next” buttons don’t show up, you can also use the overview at the top to navigate between the questions.

I’m a bit shaky with past tense.

No problem. If you want to review the topic, just check out my post about the matter here:

German Past Tense – The Spoken Past

But you can also just jump in and learn by doing.
One challenge are definitely the ge-forms of the verbs. Those are hard to guess, so if you don’t know one, don’t think of it as failure! The point of the practice is that you LEARN these forms, so just do it a few times and they’ll start to stick.

Can I hear a native speaker version?

Yes, no problem. Just click on “hint” and you should see a play button where you can hear me say it. You can also record me with the AI and see how much I score :).
And there’s also a written hint that can help you with the ge-form.

Now, I think we’re pretty much set, but there’s one more thing I want to mention.

What’s the goal?

The main point of this exercise is that you practice the spoken past for the most common verbs in a somewhat “holistic” way. And if you’re a beginner, it is not meant as a one time test. Treat it like a vocabulary trainer, so come back to it every few days and do it, until everything comes out without much thinking.

And last but not least…  even though the AI does grade your pronunciation, and can give you useful hints… it is NOT meant to perfect your pronunciation.
If you want detailed feedback to how you talk, you do need a native speaker. And AI cannot give you that. Don’t think of this as a pronunciation trainer, think of it as an exercise, that you just happened to answer orally.

So now I think we’re ready. Viel Spaß and I’ll see you after the practice for some locker room feedback.

And? How’d you do? Did you enjoy it?
I actually have a question… while I was preparing this, I felt like it might be a good idea to practice the ge-forms separately first. So I am thinking about setting up an exercise where we don’t use sentence but just a stump. Like this:

  • gehen – ich bin gegangen
  • fallen – ich bin gefallen
  • ….

That way we could run through like 30 or so verbs at a time without having to worry about sentence structure and so on, and you’d just focus on the form and the flow.
If you think that’s a good idea, let me know and I’ll set one up as a trial.
And if you have any other ideas for a setup, let me know as well. I’m still playing around and seeing what to use this system for, so any input is welcome.
Anyway, that’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed it, and I’ll see you next time.

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