German Language Blog

The conjugation of the German verb “stehen” Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Grammar, Language

The German verb “stehen” is commonly translated into English “to be”, “to stand” or “to suit”. Below you can find its conjugations for the following tenses:

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

But first, let me say a few words about the meaning of the verb “stehen”.


The meaning of the German verb “stehen” and its English equivalents

Many Germans have difficulty in accepting that “stehen” often simply means “to be” in English. For example, in English you say, “The vase is on the table.” It is absolutely okay when you translate this as “Die Vase ist auf dem Tisch”. However, this is not nice German. Germans do not only give the location of a thing or person, but also how it is positioned. Is it standing (stehen) or lying (liegen)? We will have a closer look at the verb “liegen” (to lie) in another post. For now, lets focus on “stehen”.

The correct German translation of “The vase is on the table” is “Die Vase steht auf dem Tisch”. Germans tend to translate it literally into English “The vase is standing on the table.” So whenever you wish to give the location of an object or subject mind how it is (usually) positioned. When it is (usually) in an upright position you use the verb “stehen”.

Of course, it is possible that a vase overturns and falls off the table. In this case, it is no longer in an upright position. Hence, you have to use the verb “liegen.”


Präsens – present tense

In the present tense “stehen” is used to give a location and to say whether something suits someone.

Singular Plural
1st person ich stehe wir stehen
2nd person du stehst – informal
Sie stehen – formal
ihr steht – informal
Sie stehen – formal
3rd person er/sie/es steht sie stehen

1. Die Blumen stehen auf dem Tisch.
(The flowers are on the table.)

2. Wo ist der Staubsauger?
(Where is the vacuum cleaner?)

3. Die Hose steht dir nicht.
(The pants don’t suit you.)

4. Wir stehen an der Weltzeituhr.
(We are at the world time clock.)


Imperativ – imperative

In present situation you can give commands in order to make another person do something. In this case, “stehen” can only mean “to stand”.

1. Stehe still!
(Stand still!; 1st person singular; When “talking” to yourself)

2. Steh still!
(Stand still!; 2nd person singular; informal)

3. Stehen Sie still!
(Stand still!; 2nd person singular and plural; formal)

4. Stehen wir still!
(Let’s stand still!)


Präteritum – preterit (equals simple past)

In the preterite tense “stehen” can mean “to be”, “to stand” and “to suit”.

Singular Plural
1st person ich stand wir standen
2nd person du standest – informal
Sie standen – formal
ihr standet – informal
Sie standen – formal
3rd person er/sie/es stand sie standen

1. Wir standen in der ersten Reihe.
(We stood in the front row.)

2. Doreen stand zitternd am Wasser.
(Doreen stood by the water shivering.)

3. Die Frisur stand ihr sehr gut.
(The hairstyle suited her very well.)

4. Stand das in dem Buch?
(Was that written in the book?)


Futur I – future I

In the future I tense “stehen” can mean “to be”, “to stand” and “to suit”.

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

1. Ich werde am Bahnhof stehen.
(I will be waiting at the station.)

2. Das Kleid wird ihr nicht stehen?
(The dress won’t suit her.)

3. Sie werden ab 15 Uhr am Ausgang stehen.
(They will be waiting at the exit door from 3 p.m. onwards.)

4. Sie werden alles stehen und liegen lassen, wenn …
(They will drop everything when …)


Perfekt – perfect

The perfect tense requires the pas participle “gestanden”, which can either derive from the present form of “stehen” (to be, to stand, to suit) or “gestehen” (to confess). That is, in the perfect tense you can use “gestanden” in another context.

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

1. Er hat die Tat gestanden.
(I confessed the crime.)

2. Habt ihr an der richtigen Stelle gestanden?
(Have you been at the right spot?)

3. Zehn Jahre hat er für das Unternehmen seinen Mann gestanden.
(For ten years he stood his ground for the company.)

4. Die Jacke hat ihm wirklich gut gestanden.
(The jacket suited him very well.)


Plusquamperfekt – pluperfect (equals past perfect)

The pluperfect also requires the past participle “gestanden”. Thus, “gestanden” means “been”, “stood”, “suited” and “confessed”.

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

1. Ich hatte fünf Meter neben dem Haus gestanden.
(I had been standing five meters beside the house.)

2. Das Auto hatte in Flammen gestanden.
(The car had been in flames.)

3. Der Dieb hatte die Tat sofort gestanden.
(The thief had confessed the crime immediately.)

4. Die Elektrogeräte hatten im Regen gestanden. Jetzt sind sie alle kaputt.
(The electric appliances had been left out in the rain. Now all of them are broken.)


Futur II – future II

In the future II “gestanden” can mean “been”, “stood”, “suited” and “confessed. However, this tense is rarely used.

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

1. Bis zur nächsten Verhandlung wird er die Tat gestanden haben.
(He will have confessed the crime until the next hearing.)

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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