German Language Blog

Change Of Routine (German Simple Past Tense) Posted by on Apr 15, 2020 in Language

Guten Tag! How is life looking for you lately? I think it’s true for the majority of people at the moment that routines have changed. Certain things that we used to do, we aren’t doing any more, and new habits and routines have formed in their place. In this post I’d like to show you how to express in German that you used to do something, but not any more – either because you don’t do it any more at all, or because the way you do it has changed.

Ich wache um 6 Uhr auf.
I wake up at 6 am.

Sound familiar? Writing about your Alltag (daily routine) is one of the first things you do in German lessons. It is effective because it teaches you several things at once, including verbs, times, and how to use the present tense. In fact, most people I’ve met who studied German at school can remember at least one sentence from their ‘daily routine’ school lesson!

Image: Pixabay

But humans (hopefully) don’t have the same routine for their entire lives. So what happens when aspects of your routine change, like they have done lately, and you want to express that?

In English, you’d say something like:

I used to wake up at 6am, but now I wake up at 8am (or: I always woke up at 6am, but now I wake up at 8am).

In German, this would translate to:

Ich wachte immer um 6 Uhr auf, aber jetzt wache ich um 8 Uhr auf.

Let’s break this sentence down in German. It uses the separable verb aufwachen – to wake up.

Ich wachte immer um 6 Uhr auf,

This sentence uses the simple past tense (called Präteritum in German). This tense is mainly used in written German, such as in novels and reports, to talk about something which started and finished in the past. But it is also used to talk about things that used to happen regularly, and don’t any more – as is the case with our daily routine!

The word immer (always) makes it clear that this is something you did regularly in the past.

Now for the second part of the sentence:

…aber jetzt wache ich um 8 Uhr auf.

‘Aber jetzt’ is the linking phrase. It means ‘but now’ and tells us that what you do now is different to what you used to do.

This part of the sentence is in the present tense because it describes what you do now.


Image: Pixabay

Here is another example, using the verb essen – to eat:

Ich aß immer mit Kollegen, aber jetzt esse ich mit meiner Familie.
I always ate/used to eat with colleagues, but now I eat with my family.

In this instance the simple past tense verb – essen – is irregular, so it looks a little different. Ich aß is ‘I ate’ in the simple past tense. See the end of this post for the full verb conjugation.

As you can see, the rest of the sentence follows the same structure as in the first example.


Image: Pixabay

Here is one more example, using the verb lesen – to read:

Ich las immer eine Stunde pro Tag, aber jetzt lese ich zwei Stunden pro Tag.
I always read/used to read one hour per day, but now I read two hours per day.

I hope this makes sense! How has your Alltag (daily routine) changed? How would you express that in German?

Here are the conjugations of the above verbs (aufwachen, essen and lesen) in the German simple past tense:

essen – to eat

ich aß – I ate
du aß(es)t – You ate
er/sie/es aßt – He/she/it ate
wir aßen – We ate
ihr aß(e)t – You (plural) ate
Sie/sie aßen – You (formal)/they ate

lesen – to read

ich las – I read
du las(es)t – You read
er/sie/es las – He/she/it read
wir lasen – We read
ihr las(e)t – You (plural) read
sie/Sie lasen – You (formal)/they read

aufwachen – to wake up

ich wachte auf – I woke up
du wachtest auf – You woke up
er/sie/es wachte auf – He/she/it woke up
wir wachten auf – We woke up
ihr wachtet auf – You (plural) woke up
Sie/sie wachten auf – You (formal)/they woke up

Click here for a post from the archives about this tense, if you’d like to read more.

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. Akemi Kobayashi:

    Thank you for providing us a great lessons.
    I have been enjoying them a lot.
    I’m wondering if your online page can add ‘Sounds’ to each German sentence or word as it stays in my memory bank more through hearing than reading…
    Thanks and regards

    • Constanze:

      @Akemi Kobayashi Hi Akemi! Thank you for the comment. I’ll keep it in mind when writing future language-based posts. We do occasionally add audio, but not frequently.
      You might be interested in our German ‘Word of the day’ feature, which you can view on the right hand-side of the blog. Each day it comes up with a different German word, and you can listen to how it’s pronounced, too. 🙂

  2. Simon Beattie:

    Doesn’t ‘mit meiner Familie’ need an r?

    • Constanze:

      @Simon Beattie Oops, just missed off the r! Apologies for the confusion – I’ve now edited the text. Well done for spotting it!

  3. Jeff:

    Why do you say “jetzt esse ich mit meine Familie” as opposed to “jetzt esse ich mit meiner Familie”? Isn’t that a situation where the dative case is required or is that some sort of slang?

    • Constanze:

      @Jeff Oops, just missed off the r! Apologies for the confusion – I’ve now edited the text. Well done for spotting it!