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The conjugation of the German verb “geben” Posted by on Aug 11, 2014 in Grammar, Language

The German verb geben means “to give”, “to hand” or “to pass” in English. But depending on its particular use it also can mean “to issue” or “to provide”. In the following I will give you an overview of the conjugation forms of the verb geben, which you need for forming indicative (statements) and imperative (commands) sentences.

–       Präsens – present
–       Präteritum – preterit (equals simple past)
–       Futur I – future I
–       Perfekt – perfect
–       Plusquamperfekt – pluperfect (equals past perfect)
–       Futur II – future II

 

Präsens – present tense

The Präsens is definitely the most frequently used German tense. You use it for talking about actions that happen while the moment of speaking or when you want retell past happenings. Therefore, I suggest keeping an eye to the Präsens.

Singular Plural
1st person ich gebe wir geben
2nd person du gibst – informal
Sie geben – formal
ihr gebt – informal
Sie geben – formal
3rd person er/sie/es gibt sie geben

1. Gibst du mir bitte das Salz?
(Could you pass me the salt, please?)

2. Der Chef gibt den ganzen Tag Anweisungen.
(The boss issues instructions all day long.)

3. Wir geben keine Auskunft über interne Angelegenheiten.
(We don’t provide information about internal affairs.)

4. Martin und Robert geben Unterricht in Deutsch.
(Martin and Robert give lessons in German.)

 

Imperativ – imperative

Imperative sentences or commands are used for making somebody do something. You only can use this type of sentence when you speak directly with another person or to yourself, for example, to motivate yourself.

Singular Plural
1st person Gebe dir … Geben wir …
2nd person Gib … – informal
Geben Sie … – formal
Gebt – informal
Geben Sie – formal

1. [Dein Name], gebe dir die Chance, diese Möglichkeit zu nutzen
([Your name], give yourself the chance to use this opportunity.)

2. Gib mir bitte das Buch.
(Please, give me the book.)

2. Geben Sie ihm die Unterlagen.
(Give him the documents.)

3. Gebt mir etwas Zeit.
(Give me some time.)

4. Geben wir ihnen etwas Zeit.
(Let’s give them some time.)

 

Präteritum – preterit (equals simple past)

The Präteritum equals the English past tense. However, in spoken language the Präteritum is number-two choice because Germans rather opt for the Perfekt, the perfect tense, when they talk about the past. I even find that sentences sometimes sound archaic too poetic when you form them in the preterit tense. Nevertheless, the Präteritum is still an important German tense, which deserves attention.

Singular Plural
1st person ich gab wir gaben
2nd person du gabst – informal
Sie gaben – formal
ihr gabt – informal
Sie gaben – formal
3rd person er/sie/es gab sie gaben

1. Er gab mir gestern die Schlüssel.
(He gave me keys yesterday.)

2. Sie gaben keine Antwort auf unsere Frage.
(They didn’t give an answer to our question.)

3. Ich gab ihm all meine Liebe.
(I gave him all my love.)

4. Wir gaben unser Bestes.
(We gave our best.)

 

Futur I – future I

In English there are three grammatical future forms: the will-future with its simple and progressive form, and the going-to-future. Futur I is THE German future tense when you would like to talk about any of its English equivalent situations. You can use it either for the near future, when you make a prompt decision, or the remote future, when you planning something carefully.

Singular Plural
1st person ich werde geben wir werden geben
2nd person du wirst geben – informal
Sie werden geben – formal
ihr werdet geben – informal
Sie werden geben – formal
3rd person er/sie/es wird geben sie werden geben

1. Ich werde dir meinen Pullover geben.
(I will give you my sweater.)

2. Sie werden nächste Woche eine Party geben.
(They are having a party next week.)

3. Herr Krüger wird Ihnen/ihnen das Geld geben.
(Herr Krüger will give you/them the money.)

4. Ihr werdet ihr euer Wort geben.
(You will give her your word.)

 

Perfekt – perfect

Germans cannot live without the Perfekt. It is the number-one tense when it comes to talk about the past. Hence, you should consider the perfect tense in detail. When you come across a new German verb find out whether you use it with the auxiliary haben (to have) or sein (to be) in the perfect tense, and find out the correct past participle of the full verb.

Singular Plural
1st person ich habe gegeben wir haben gegeben
2nd person du hast gegeben – informal
Sie haben gegeben – formal
ihr habt gegeben – informal
Sie haben gegeben – formal
3rd person er/sie/es hat gegeben sie haben gegeben

1. Hast du ihm einen Rat gegeben?
(Have you given him a piece of advice?)

2. Wir haben ihr die Sachen gegeben als sie hier war.
(We gave her the things when she was here.)

3. Sie hat mir ihre Hausaufgaben nicht gegeben,
(She hasn’t given me her homework.)

4. Wieviel Geld hast du ihm gegeben?
(How much money have you given him.)

 

Plusquamperfekt – pluperfect (equals past perfect)

When you would like to talk about the remote future you use the Plusquamperfekt. Forming it is as simple as the perfect tense. You need to know whether you form the pluperfect with haben (to have) or sein (to be). Additionally, you need to know the past participle form of the full verb, just like in the perfect tense.

Singular Plural
1st person ich hatte gegeben wir hatten gegeben
2nd person du hattest gegeben – informal
Sie hatten gegeben – formal
ihr hattet gegeben – informal
Sie hatten gegeben – formal
3rd person er/sie/es hatte gegeben sie hatten gegeben

1. Hattest du mir die Fahrkarten gegeben bevor wir das Haus verließen?
(Had you given me the tickets before we left the house?)

2. Hatte er dir eine Zeichen gegeben bevor er auf dich zukam?
(Had he given you a sign before he came up to you?)

3. Die tröstenden Worte hatten ihr Kraft gegeben als ihr Mann starb.
(The comforting words had given strength to her when her husband died.)

4. Nach drei Stunden hatten sie endlich Ruhe gegeben.
(After three hours they had finally calmed down.)

 

Futur II – future II

The Futur II is seldom used in written or spoken German. You only need it when you would like to speak about the distant future. That is, when something will have already been happen or done.

Singular Plural
1st person ich werde gegeben haben wir werden gegeben haben
2nd person du wirst gegeben haben – informal
Sie werden gegeben haben – formal
ihr werdet gegeben haben – informal
Sie werden gegeben haben – formal
3rd person er/sie/es wird gegeben haben sie werden gegeben haben

1. Bis nächsten Montag werde ich ihm alle Angaben gegeben haben.
(I will have given him the details by next Monday.)

2. Bis Donnerstag werde ich alle Einladungen verschickt haben.
(I will have send all invitations by Thursday.)

When forming a sentence in the future II tense is too difficult for you can also form a sentence in the future I tense.

3. Ich werde ihm alle Angaben bis nächsten Montag geben.
(I will give him all the details by next Monday.)

4. Ich werde alle Einladungen bis Donnerstag verschicken.
(I will send all invitations by Thursday.)

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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


Comments:

  1. Herr Foust:

    The very first example i have question about. If the English translation is “could”, shouldn’t the German also be subjunctive?

    zB, “Gaebest du mir bitte das Salz?” oder, “Koenntest du mir bitte das Salz geben?”

    • Sandra:

      @Herr Foust Hello Herr Foust,

      There isn’t a subjunctive mood in German. Maybe you mean the conjunctive mood?

      Keep in mind that languages are not made to be translated. There are always several possibilities to translate the meaning of a particular content. Of course, you can say “Würdest (would) du mit bitte das Salz geben?” oder “Könntest (could) du mir bitte das Salz geben?” But with reference to functionality and “appropriate” politeness “Gibst du mir bitte das Salz?” is the common translation of “Could you pass me the salt, please?”

      Greetings,
      Sandra 🙂

  2. Matt behrens:

    Thanks so much, these are great examples!

  3. Kiffie:

    In your last section, you wrote:

    3. Ich werde ihm alle Angaben bis nächsten Montag geben.
    (I will give him all the details until next Monday.)

    You used “until” in the second example as well. Is that a literal translation? The preposition in English should be “by,” not “until.” I ask because I thought maybe German prepositions are more versatile than English ones, and you don’t need as many. I know English prepositions can be a real PITA. : )

    • Sandra:

      @Kiffie Hey Kiffie,

      Thank you for the hint 😉 I really racked my brain whether it is “by” or “until”. I’m going to change that.

      Greetings,
      Sandra

  4. Herr Foust:

    Well, German does have the subjunctive mood, it is just called “Konjunctiv”, but the grammatical idea is the same. Both words “subjunctive” and “conjunctive” come from the same Latin meaning “to connect.” “Subjunctive” in English and “Konjunctiv” in German are both used as the mood of possibility, hypotheticals, polite requests, usw.

    Curious though as “Gibst du mir…”, although not in the imperative form (Gib’ mir), to me as a native English speaker, sounds imperative.

    As an English speaker, this is something I struggled with (and still do) when learning German. You mention “appropriate” politeness– What is a good rule of thumb as far as deciding whether or not the conjunctive mood is necessary? Or, is ‘geben’ a special verb that can be used and understood politely without needing the conjunctive?

    Danke!

    Scott

    • Sandra:

      @Herr Foust Hi Scott,

      I see what you mean.
      When you use the Konjuktiv II in German you have to use the subjunctive mood in English. The Konjunktiv II equals the subjunctive mood but linguistically they are not the same.

      Why „gibst mir…“ is not imperative
      Both sentences „Gibst du mir bitte das Salz?“ and „Could you pass me the salt, please?“ are syntactically interrogative sentences (questions). In German you form questions (in the present tense) by changing the word order of subject (du) and verb (gibst).
      Declarative sentence (statement) in the present tense: Du gibst mir das Salz. – You pass me the salt.
      Interrogative sentence (question) in the present tense: Gibst du mir das Salz? – lit. Give you me the salt? (OE: Givest thou me …?)
      In everyday German it is sufficient to know the word „kann“ (can) in order to form polite sentences.
      Kannst du mir das Salz geben? – Lit. Can you give me the salt?
      Kannst du das Fenster schließen? – Lit. Can you close the window?

      I hope that helps. Maybe I should make an extra post on politeness and intonation …

      Greetings,

      Sandra