This tense is used more often than the
simple past, especially in conversation, and is
equivalent to I have asked or I asked.
Regular verbs use a form of haben or sein
and a past participle. Past participles are
made by adding ge- to the beginning of the
verb stem and -t (or -et, if stem ends in
-t or -d) to the end.
Sagen is to ask, and -sag-
is the stem; therefore gesagt is the past
Arbeiten is to work, and -arbeit-
is the stem; therefore gearbeitet is the
Machen is to do/make, and -mach- is
the stem; therefore gemacht is the past participle.
Verbs ending in -ieren only add
the -t ending. Studieren is
to study and studier- is the stem, so studiert
is the past participle.
The form of haben or sein is placed
where the verb should be, and the past participle
goes to the end of the sentence. Ex: Ich
habe meinen Bruder gefragt - I asked my brother.
Haben or Sein
Most verbs use haben, but a few use
sein, if and only if, both of these conditions are
The verb expresses motion or change
The verb is intransitive (i.e. cannot
take a direct object.)
When modals are used in the present
perfect tense with a dependent infinitive, the past
participle is not used. The infinitive of
the modal acts as the past participle. Logically,
I had to go home would be translated as ich
habe nach Hause gehen gemußt. However,
it is actually Ich habe nach Hause gehen müssen.
When there is no other infinitive in the sentence,
then the past participles of the modals are used.
I had to would be translated as Ich
All modals, as well as reflexive verbs,
use haben instead of sein in the present perfect
tense. The reflexive pronouns follow the auxiliary
verb as in Ich habe mir den Arm gebrochen.
I broke my arm.
With separable prefixes, the prefix
comes before the ge- in a past
participle, such as angekommen and aufgestanden.
From the participle of the base verb, and
then add the prefix to the beginning. But
note that the prefix does change the entire meaning
of the verb, and it may take a different auxiliary
verb than its base verb. For example, stehen
takes haben, but aufstehen takes sein.
With inseparable prefixes, whether the
verb is regular or irregular, there is no ge-
prefix when forming the past participle, such
as besucht and verloren.
To express something that has been going
on or happening for a period of time, German using
the present tense (rather than the past) and the
word schon. "I have been studying German
for two years" translates to Ich studiere Deutsch
schon zwei Jahre.