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Learning tenses of a language can be a thorn in one’s side, but learning these rules is crucial to an effective study, since tenses display essential word orders, which enable you to handle a language more freely.
There is only one present tense form in German and this one corresponds to all three forms that exist in English: simple present, present progressive, and the emphatic present. Here are some examples:
I write / I am writing / I do write = ich schreibe
I speak / I am speaking / I do speak = ich spreche
I dance / I am dancing / I do dance = ich tanze
The present tense is mainly used to
(a) refer to events that are happening at the present time
(b) to describe habitual actions
(c) general statements.
(a) Ich esse einen Apfel. – I am eating an apple.
(b) Ich gehe zur Schule. – I go to school.
(c) Berlin ist die Hauptstadt von Deutschland. – Berlin is the capital of Germany.
Further, you can even use the Präsens to refer to the future. Then the future is simply indicated by the time designation, for example, morgen (tomorrow), später (later), bald (soon), nächste Woche/nächsten Monat/nächstes Jahr (next week/month/year), gleich (right away), in drei Tagen/Wochen (in three days/weeks), etc.
Ich gehe morgen Einkaufen. – I (will) go shopping tomorrow.
Ich komme gleich nach. – I (will) follow right away.
Ich fahre nächste Woche in den Urlaub. – I (will) go on holidays next week.
The word order for Präsens is S–P–O.
Ich schreibe einen Brief. – I am writing a letter.
Ich trinke eine Tasse Kaffee. – I am drinking a cup of coffee.
Meine Lieblingsmusik ist Rock und Pop. – My favorite music is rock and pop.
Since there is no separated tense to emphasize the moment of speaking, you can simply add the word “gerade” (meaning here: at the moment) in German in order to make clear that something is taking place at the moment of speaking. For example, “sie arbeitet” does mean both “she works” and “she is working” and becomes “sie arbeitet gerade”.
When a sentence does only consist of a SUBJECT and a PREDIACATE, the word “gerade” is attached at the end. When a phrase consists of a SUBJECT, a PREDICATE, and an OBJECT, then the word “gerade” is inserted between the predicate and the object.
Ich schreibe gerade einen Brief.
Ich trinke gerade eine Tasse Kaffee.