Tag Archives: German past tense

German Past Tense 3 – “The Written Past”

german-past-preterit-imageHello everyone,

and welcome to another part of the best German language online course ever.
Today (after about 4 god damn years of waiting, for the long-time readers), it is time for a new episode of the epic HBO series called “German Past Tense”. If you haven’t watched the first 29 episodes you can find them here:

Yeah… okay, I’m being silly. Of course, it’s only two episodes so far.
Part 1 was an overview about German Past tense and what we’ll have to learn, part 2 was all about the spoken past and today, in part 3, it is time for a look at:

the written past

In grammar jargon, this tense is known under the name preterit. But preterit is not intuitive at all and it sounds a bit scary, so we call it written past. Why written past? Because it’s one of THE main features of written accounts of stuff, while spoken past is what people use in daily life. Like… if Harry Potter were to tell Ron in German what he’s been up to all day on sick leave (sleeping, eating pizza, watching a movie, casting spells), he’d use spoken past.
When J.K. Rowling will narrate the same stuff in “Harry Potter 45 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Lumbago”, she’ll use the written past. When you read a novel in German, you’ll see written past all over the place.

Now, that would be a great system – if German were consistent about it. But it isn’t. German is consistent about pretty much no rule.
There’s a group of verbs for which the written past is also idiomatic in spoken language. For some, you can use both forms, for others the written past is the better choice, and then there are the ones you’ll REALLY love: The ones where the spoken past and the written past are both used, and mean two different things. But before we talk about that, we’ll learn how to build the forms. And for that, we’ll begin with a look at good ol’ English…

German Past Tense – The Basics

Hi everyone,

and welcome to our German is Easy- Learn German Online – Course. Today, we’ll start talking about the

Past Tense In German

or as we could also call it

The Most Important Thing Ever

That’s right. I think it is THAT important crucial.
Now you might be like “But… but… what about the der die das den dem stuff… the textbook and my teacher say it’s really important.”
But the thing is that they don’t know what they’re talking about, because they’re fake frauds.
I’m kidding of course, but I do think beginner courses have weird priorities.
Yes, German has three genders and four cases, but these things are for later. They do NOT help a beginner.
Like… if you really pay attention to what you talk about in a day, the majority of it will be about stuff that (has) happened – I did this, I did that. I was thinking this. I was drinking that. You get the idea.

In my opinion and experience, as long as you don’t know how to speak about the past in a language, it makes no sense to even start having conversations. You’re not ready. I know lots of people say “Start speaking right away.” but I disagree.
I really do think there is such a thing as “too early“, and my girlfriend says the same.
I… I mean, in general.
So… instead of starting to speak as fast as you can, the better approach is to start learning about the past tense as fast as you can.
And while I think this is a general truth about language learning, it is hyper-turbo-mega truth for spoken German because of… drumroll…

German Past Tense 2 – the Spoken Past

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German is Easy – Online Course.
And today we’ll continue to look at the German past. Let’s quickly recap.

There are 2 forms of past: the spoken past and the written past. Every verb has either form but which one is used depends on 2 things: which verb are we talking about and in which „mode“ of language is it used. Luckily 99,8 percent of all verbs do follow the same pattern – they use spoken past in spoken language and written past in written language as in novels. Only a few verbs use the written past also in spoken language. Using the spoken past for those would sound awkward. Anyway… part 1 talks in all detail about this and if you haven’t read it then you should read it… I mean of course listen to the mp3.doc here.

So… Today we will deal with the spoken past and to get started, here is an example:

German Past Tense 4 – When to use “Written Past”

Hello everyone,

and welcome back to our look at the German past tense. Last time we spoke about what we call the written past (‘dem scholars call it preterit) and we’ve seen that it’s fairly similar to how it works in English. So some verbs build the form with an ending, others change their stem and for those you should just learn what change is happening.
If you haven’t read that part or you’re like “Hmm… I feel a bit shaky, maybe I should review” then you can find it here

Oh wait, wrong link…

“Man, Emanuel, you really can’t help it with these silly jokes, can you?”
Nah, not really.
Anyway, what will we do today? Today we’ll find out the verbs you need to use the written past are the idiomatic choice even for spoken German and we’ll check what effect is created when the other form is used. Because that varies. For some verbs it just sounds strange, for others it actually could change the meaning.
Sounds like we’re in for a lot of fun. Okay, no actually it sounds like work. But make no mistake, the things we talk about today are crucial if you want to speak idiomatic German. So let’s dive right in, shall we….