Using “warten” – A quick guide

Written By: Emanuel Updated: April 10, 2024

 

Hello everyone,

And welcome to a new episode of a series everyone has forgotten about at this point.
No, not prefix Verbs Explained :)

I mean the series A Practical Guide to German Verbs.
In each episode of this series, we take one of the basic important German verbs you need daily and we go over all the basic important phrasings: present tense, past tense, questions and so on. And the verb we’ll tackle today is

warten

But we don’t just go through them in theory. We’ll actually use them in practice.
And by use them I mean, you will MAKE them.
So I give you sentences in English and you’ll say that in German.

Now the beginners among you are like “OMG, I don’t know if I’m at that level yet.”.
But don’t worry! This series is actually MADE for beginners.
We’ll go really slow, the phrasing will be easy, and I’ll slowly guide you, so you always know what you’re doing and why.

But the BEST thing about this exercise is that you don’t just build German sentences – you’ll actually SAY them.
Because we’ll use the awesome pronunciation AI from EF Languages, that they let me use.

For each sentence task, you’ll just have to press record and say the German version and you’ll get a breakdown of how well you said it, word by word.

Let’s do a trial maybe:

Here’s what you have to say in German.
Just click the button and speak and you should see the result.

I love German
Ich liebe Deutsch

hint

My version:

 

You can listen to your own recording with the little play button next to the sentence and you can also check out how I say it by clicking “my version”.

Now, for this to work, you need to give the site permission to use the microphone. Chances are, you got asked by the browser and denied it out of reflex. To give permission, click on the little lock icon next to the address, like you see here:

If it still doesn’t work, please let me know in the comments.
of course you can also do the exercise as more of a translation practice, with a pen and paper, but the goal really is to get these basic phrasings into a semi automated state, so if your mic works, please do try to really say the things. Even if you’re shy. It’ll benefit you a lot :).

So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.

And we’ll start of course with the present tense.

“warten” in present tense

The present tense of warten is boring, which is just a different word for regular. No vowel change.

  • Ich warte.
  • Du wartest.
  • Sie wartet.

And so we can already build our first sentence.

I am waiting.
Ich warte.

hint

My version:


Hooray!!
That was pretty short though, so let’s add the thing we’re actually waiting for.

In English, this is done with the preposition for.

  • I’m waiting for the bus.

And for is an awesome choice. Makes a lot of sense, sounds good, looks good, feels natural.
German doesn’t use für though.
In German, the preposition you need is auf.
And that’s also a great choice. Makes sense, sounds good, looks good. Just feels a little different, but you’ll get used to it :)

  • Ich warte auf den Bus.

Oh and we need auf together with the Accusative case. Don’t worry too much about that though, just give it a try and if you pick the wrong form, just do it again a couple of times.
So, let’s give it a go.

I’m waiting for Maria.
Ich warte auf Maria.

hint

My version:


And another one

He is waiting for you.(dich)
Er wartet auf dich.

hint
ging

My version:


And one more.

I’m waiting for my coffee.
Ich warte auf meinen Kaffee.

hint
ging

My version:


And now, let’s wait “for it”, which literally would be “auf es”, but at least if you’ve got some German under your belt already, you probably know that you need a da-word here… darauf.

I’m waiting for it.
Ich warte darauf.

hint
ging

My version:


With this, we’re all set for the next step.
You see, so far, the items we’re waiting for were “expressed” through a noun, or prounoun. But equally as often, it’s an action that we’re waiting for.

  • I’m waiting for you to call.

And this phrasing does NOT work in German.
Instead, what we need is the “standard” phrasing with a da-word. And because the preposition is auf, we of course need… darauf. Or “darauf dass…” to be precise.
Here’s an example

  • Ich warte darauf, dass du anrufst.

And now you give it a try.

He is waiting for Maria to call.
Er wartet darauf, dass Maria anruft.

hint
ging

My version:


And another one

I’m waiting for the bus to come.
Ich warte darauf, dass der Bus kommt.

hint
ging

My version:


And a last one

Thoma is waiting for Maria to kiss him. (ihn küsst)
Thomas wartet darauf, dass Maria ihn küsst.

hint

My version:


Don’t worry, we’ll practice this a lot more today, but now let’s introduce the other important piece of information about waiting… the time.

“warten” – adding the waiting time

The most common pieces of information that go with waiting are what we’re actually waiting for and then the “waiting time”. And there, we actually have to make a distinction between two cases:

  1. the duration of a “completed wait”
  2. the duration of an ongoing wait

Sounds a bit complicated, but it’ll be clear with examples.

  1. I waited (for) an hour and then I left.
  2. I’ve been waiting for an hour already and still no coffee.

In the first example, the waiting is over and it lasted an hour. In the second example, we’re STILL waiting and have been doing so for an hour. And in the first one, we can connect the duration directly (without “for”) while in the second one, we need for.
And German works pretty much the same as in English. So a “completed” duration is connected directly.

  • Ich muss zwei Tage warten.
  • I have to wait two days.

Let’s give it a try.

I have to wait two hours. (Stunden)
Ich muss zwei Stunden warten.

hint
stunden

My version:


And let’s throw in what we’re waiting for.

I have to wait three days for a reply. (eine Antwort)
Ich muss drei Tage auf eine Antwort warten.

hint
ging

My version:


Great. Let’s do one more. Maybe with a negation, which is basically just a nicht in the right spot.

I don’t want to wait two weeks for a reply.(zwei Wochen)
Ich will nicht zwei Wochen auf eine Antwort warten.

hint
Ich will nicht…

My version:


And boom… you just made quite a long sentence.
Now, let’s make an even longer one by using an action.
First an example:

  • I don’t want to wait two days for you to call back.
  • Ich will nicht 2 Tage darauf warten, dass du zurückrufst.

The only thing “new” here (besides the general newness of the phrasing, of course) is that darauf is not at the very end, but before warten now.
That’s simply because warten moved to the end from position two.

  • Ich warte 2 Tage darauf [   ], dass….
  • Ich muss zwei Tage darauf [warten], dass…

Are you ready to try? Take a breath and let’s do it:

I have to wait (for) a week for Maria to reply.
Ich muss eine Woche darauf warten, dass Maria antwortet.

hint
…, dass Maria antwortet.

My version:


Cool.
Now, let’s look at how to connect the other duration… the ongoing wait.
The word we need here in German is seit.

  • for an hour (and ongoing)
  • seit einer Stunde 

It’s “einer” now because seit goes with Dative, but don’t worry about that today.
What does matter though is that there’s a REALLY important difference between German and English.
Here’s an example:

  • Where is my coffee? I have been waiting for an hour already.
  • Wo ist mein Kaffee? Ich warte schon seit einer Stunde.

Did you catch it?
English uses the perfect tense (have been waiting) while German uses the PRESENT. German does that because the waiting is still ongoing right this moment. Using the perfect would low key sound like it’s already done, but the seit signals that it’s ongoing, so to a German brain, that would be incoherent.
That’s a common mistake German speakers make in English – saying stuff like “I’m waiting since 30 minutes.”
Now you know why.
So, let’s practice this. And remember… you do need SPBA-PT in German. That’s short for simple, plain, boring ass present tense :).

I’ve been waiting for 10 minutes.(Minuten)
Ich warte seit 10 Minuten.

hint
ging

My version:


I know, it might feel strange. But just try to roll with it.

Thomas has been waiting for almost an hour.(fast einer Stunde)
Thomas wartet seit fast einer Stunde.

hint
ging

My version:


Now, let’s add the “item” we’re waiting for. And note that the item almost always comes AFTER the time in German.

Thomas has been waiting for the coffee for almost an hour.
Thomas wartet seit fast einer Stunde auf den Kaffee.

hint
… seit fast einer Stunde…

My version:


One more.

I have been waiting for the email for a week.(die E-Mail)
Ich warte seit einer Woche auf die E-Mail.

hint
ging

My version:


And now, let’s try it with an action

I have been waiting for two hours for the bus to come.
Ich warte seit zwei Stunden darauf, dass der Bus kommt.

hint
ging

My version:


Phew… that takes quite a bit of concentration already.
So let’s maybe leave this for now and go on to our next topic.

“warten” in past tense

warten is pretty “normal” – so we use the spoken past (Perfekt 1) to talk about the past, the helper verb is haben and the ge-form is regular.
Here it is in its barest form:

  • Thomas hat gewartet.

And now let’s work with that :)

Thomas  waited for Maria.
Thomas hat auf Maria gewartet.

hint
ging

My version:


Let’s add add a place maybe, just for fun. And keep in mind that the “target” of the waiting (here: Maria) will trend toward the right. It’s not the ONLY correct way, but let’s do it like that today.

Thomas waited for Maria in the park.
Thomas hat im Park auf Maria gewartet.

hint
ging

My version:


And now let’s add a duration. And let’s do “time – place – target”  for this one. Other options are possible, but we have to pick one.

Thomas waited two hours for Maria in the park.
Thomas hat zwei Stunden im Park auf Maria gewartet.

hint
ging

My version:


Cool.
Now, let’s try the same, but with an action. So we’ll need darauf again and just like earlier, the gewartet will come AFTER the darauf, because it’s basically warten that moved to the end.

  • Ich warte darauf [   ], dass…. .
  • Ich habe darauf gewartet, dass …. .

Ready?
Then let’s go.

I was waiting for you to pick me up.(here: pick up= abholen)
Ich habe darauf gewartet, dass du mich abholst.

hint
… dass du mich abholst

My version:


And now let’s add some elements. First, a location.

I was waiting at the station for you to pick me up.(am Bahnhof)
Ich habe am Bahnhof darauf gewartet, dass du mich abholst.

hint

My version:


Now, the duration.

I waited for almost an hour at the station for you to pick me up.
Ich habe fast eine Stunde am Bahnhof darauf gewartet, dass du mich abholst.

hint
ging

My version:


And now, let’s throw in the time when this happened… last week. Start with that and keep in mind that then comes the verb.

Yesterday, I waited for almost an hour at the station for you to pick me up.
Gestern habe ich fast eine Stunde am Bahnhof darauf gewartet, dass du mich abholst.

hint
ging

My version:


Good job!

Let’s do one completely unrelated one for good measure.

Yesterday, Thomas waited for two hours at the bar for his date to show up.” (“in der Bar”, “sein Date”, show up = kommen)
Gestern hat Thomas zwei Stunden in der Bar darauf gewartet, dass sein Date kommt.

hint
Gestern hat Thomas… darauf gewartet, dass sein Date kommt.

My version:


And I think that’s enough for the past.

Now, just a quick reminder … the purpose of this practice is not that you just ace it immediately. It’s meant as a tool for you to work with. Do it a few times over the course of a week until you have no more problems formulating the sentences. It’s a bit like a pattern drill really, but not as boring.

All right.
Let me check my notes real quick… we’ve done present tense, the darauf-phrasings, phrasings with seit, we also had a couple with modal verbs … and we had past tense. Looks like the only thing missing for a basic toolkit are questions. Which also means that we get to practice the second person singular a bit. Yeay!

“warten” in questions

And we’ll jump right in with the most basic one:

“Are you waiting??
Wartest du?

hint
ging

My version:


If that threw you off … German yes or no questions always start with the verb, or the helper verb in past tense. So no do you, did you shenanigans.
Now, let’s add the “target”?

Are you waiting for me?”
Wartest du auf mich?

hint
ging

My version:


Next, let’s add some question words.
First, why

Why are you waiting for me?
Warum wartest du auf mich?

hint
ging

My version:


And now, let’s ask since when. And here, you’ll see a word that we already praticed because since is also translated as seit in German.

Since when are you waiting for me?”
Seit wann wartest du auf mich?

hint
Seit wann….

My version:


All right.
Now, let’s do some in past tense.

Were you waiting for me?
Hast du auf mich gewartet?

hint
ging

My version:


And now the why:

Why were you waiting for me?
Warum hast du auf mich gewartet?

hint
Warum….

My version:


And now let’s throw in a negation.

Why didn’t you wait for me?
Warum hast du nicht auf mich gewartet?

hint
Warum hast du….

My version:


And an unrelated one:

How long were you waiting for the bus?
Wie lange hast du auf den Bus gewartet?

hint
Wie lang….

My version:


Pretty straightforward right?

And now, the only piece missing is how to ask for the “target” of the waiting.

  • What are you waiting for.

THIS does NOT work in German. Oddly enough, I have to say, considering how much german LOOOOVES to split things up and move parts to the end.
But not in case of what-questions. The question-chunk stays together.
And there are two options here for us. The first one is with auf at the beginning and that’s what you need if you want to ask for a person.

  • Auf wen wartest du?
  • Who are you waiting for?

And this phrasing colloquially also works for things.

What are you waiting for?
Auf was wartest du?

hint
Auf was…

My version:


And if you want to go for the more polished version, well… then you need a wo-word.
Come on… just give it a go.

What are you waiting for?
Worauf wartest du?

hint
Worauf…

My version:


And that’s where we’ll stop for today, because it’s the most important sentence of the entire practice… what am I waiting for.
And at least when it comes to practicing or improving your German, there really is no good answer except one – myself.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t REASONS why you’re “waiting”. Maybe you’re too shy to talk. Maybe you want it to be “perfect” before you start using it. Maybe you don’t have anyone to talk to.
But if YOU decide to act, you will act. Despite the shyness or perfectionism or whatever.  So don’t make yourself wait on yourself :).

And that’s it for today!
This was our practical guide of the word warten. Of course, we didn’t go over ALL possible phrasings but I hope you got a good foundation to build the rest by yourself.
And like I said… do this exercise a few times over the course of a few weeks, until you can pretty much record all the answers without having to think too much. That’s how you drill the patterns into your brain and make them feel “normal”.

Anyway, if you have any questions about any of what we did today, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

 

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