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The German Verb Sein – To Be (3 Tenses) Posted by on May 18, 2020 in Grammar, Language, quiz

Guten Tag! If you’re a fairly new German learner, this post will benefit you as it covers one of the basics of the language. If you’re not new to the language, it’s still a good idea to revisit the basics from time to time! Today we’re looking at the verb sein (to be) and its conjugations in the past, present and future tense (note: there are more tenses than those mentioned in this post, but for the sake of keeping things simple, I am only covering these three today).

sein – to be.

sein – to be. image via pixabay.

Sein is an irregular German verb, which means its conjugation doesn’t follow a typical pattern. In other words, although the verb is ‘sein’, when conjugated it becomes ‘bin’ or ‘ist’, for instance.

sein – present tense

ich bin – I am
du bist – you are (informal; when addressing just 1 person)
er/sie/es ist – he/she/it is
wir sind – we are
ihr seid – you are (when addressing more than 1 person)
sie sind – they are
Sie sind – you are (formal).

Note the capital letter on Sie vs. the lower-case letter on the previous (sie sind – they are). This capital letter tells you whether the meaning is ‘they are’ or the formal ‘you are’. Bear in mind, however, that if Sie is at the beginning of a sentence, it will always be capitalised. In this case, you can figure it out based on the context! If you’re not familiar with the two ways of saying ‘you’ in German (formal/informal), click here  , or here, or here to read more on this subject.

 

The verb in action:

Du bist so lustig!
You are so funny!

Ich bin so böse.
I am so angry.

*

Here is the conjugation of sein in the simple past tense. Notice how the same rules apply for the capitalisation of Sie waren (you were – formal) vs. the lower-case sie waren (they were). Also remember that the verb is irregular, so it does not look like the root, sein.

sein – past tense

ich war – I was
du warst – you were (informal; when addressing just 1 person)
er/sie/es war – he/she/it was
wir waren – we were
ihr wart – you were (when addressing more than 1 person)
sie waren – they were
Sie waren – you were (formal).

 

The verb in action:

Ihr wart so lustig!
You were (all) so funny!

Er war so böse.
He was so angry.

*

Here is the conjugation of sein in the future tense. Notice how, this time, ‘sein’ is part of the conjugation.

sein – future tense

ich werde sein – I will be
du wirst sein – you will be (informal; when addressing just 1 person)
er/sie/es wird sein – he/she/it will be
wir werden sein – we will be
ihr werdet sein – you will be (when addressing more than 1 person)
sie werden sein – they will be
Sie werden sein – you will be (formal).

When conjugating this tense, the word ‘sein’ goes to the end of the sentence.

 

The verb in action:

Es wird so lustig sein!
It will be really funny!

Sie werden so böse sein.
They will be so angry.

*

To finish, an exercise! See if you can translate these sentences using the verb conjugations above. They all use the adjective glücklich – happy. The answers will be at the very end of this post, underneath the newsletter box. Viel Glück (good luck)!

    1. ich bin glücklich
    2. wir sind glücklich
    3. er ist glücklich
    4. Sie sind glücklich
    5. sie waren glücklich
    6.  du warst glücklich
    7.  ihr wart glücklich
    8.  ich war glücklich
    9.  ich werde glücklich sein
    10.  du wirst glücklich sein
    11. wir werden glücklich sein

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ANSWERS:

1/ I am happy
2/ we are happy
3/ he is happy
4/ you are happy (formal)
5/ they were happy
6/ you were happy (1 person only)
7/ you were happy (addressing more than 1 person)
8/ I was happy
9/ I will be happy
10/ you will be happy (1 person only)
11/ we will be happy

 

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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 love writing about German language and culture. I also work as a group fitness instructor and am training to be a personal trainer.


Comments:

  1. Clive Greenwood:

    I found your explanation and examples of the conjugation of sein to be Toll.

    Do you do for other verbs, Haben for example. If so where can I find them?

    Tschuss
    Clive

    • Constanze:

      @Clive Greenwood I’m glad you found it useful, Clive. I’m going to write a similar post on haben right now. It will be up on Wednesday 20th. 🙂

      • Bishwa:

        @Constanze Very useful tip, easy to understand

  2. Margaret Ellerton:

    I was so pleased to see this post, I have copied each of the conjugations for future reference. Working out present, past, future has been a problem. Thank you.

    • Constanze:

      @Margaret Ellerton I am so glad to hear this, Margaret! Thanks for stopping by.