Sein or haben?

Why do some of these sentences end in "sein" and other in "haben"? For example, "Sie werden aus dem Restaurant gegangen sein" and "Sie werden die Tasche dann geschlossen haben"

June 13, 2012


Simply put, the German future perfect is formed like this: conjugated form of "werden" + participle II + "haben" or "sein".

Start by learning the six forms for 1st, 2nd, 3rd person singular, then 1st, 2nd, 3rd person for plural. Less verbs take "sein" in German (same in French). "sein" is used if verbs involve change of state or motion, @shu is right about that.

Continue by creating a list of those few yet frequent German verbs that take "sein", like the following and fill it with examples.

bleiben. "Er wird geblieben sein." = He will will have remained. fahren, fallen, fliegen, geboren, gehen, geschehen, kommen, laufen, passieren, reisen, reiten, schwimmen, sein, sterben, treten, wachsen, and werden.

July 3, 2013

@wataya: sorry, I should have clarified: I cannot think of any case in which “to be” is used as an auxiliary verb in English for the formation of the past tense, e.g. “I am gone to the store”, which sounds comprehensible but ungrammatical (or maybe even archaic)

June 14, 2012

@shu: In general I agree with you. There are certainly differences between the usages of 'to be, to have' and 'sein, haben' as auxiliary verbs in English and German. But: What do you mean with 'I can't think of any exceptions where English uses “to be” as an auxiliary verb'? Apart from 'to have' it's probably the most frequently used auxiliary in English: "I am doing sth." "The lights were switched off',...

June 14, 2012

@Indolence: your rule of thumb is surely very useful as a first order approximation for learners of German but I think it's an oversimplification and you'll still make a lot of mistakes (that is: not just in a few exceptional cases) if you just stick to it. See here for a more complete overview:

November 26, 2012

For the most part, you will need to simply remember which verbs take which – haben or sein.

Contrary to what Trigger said, this is not the same as English: "They will be gone to the restaurant" is not proper English and doesn't sound right to native speakers. I’ve heard Germans speaking English saying things like “we are gone to the city”, but this is completely ungrammatical in English. I can't think of any exceptions where English uses “to be” as an auxiliary verb.

As a few tips on the topic of «sein» vs. «haben» for auxiliary verbs:

  • «sein» is never used (to my knowledge) for transitive verbs (that is, verbs that take object): You would not say «ich bin ihm etwas gegeben», but rather «ich habe ihm etwas gegeben»
  • «sein» is commonly used for verbs involving a change of state or motion: you would say «ich bin eingeschlafen» for “I fell asleep”; «er ist am Mittag aufgewacht» for “he woke up at noon”; «wir sind nach Berlin gefahren» for “we drove to Berlin”.
June 14, 2012

The rule of thumb is that you use sein if the action involves movement, and haben in all other cases. There are a few gray areas and exceptions, but you'll be safe in 95% of cases if you stick to that.

November 26, 2012

And also sein for change of condition; this was puzzling me until Christian mentioned it.

August 16, 2013

So what is the difference between "He is gone" and "He has gone", and how would you say it in German? I guess it takes a native speaker to feel the difference.

February 12, 2013

@shu: ok! Thanks.

June 14, 2012

I have never used future perfect while speaking English. So I'm learning something new in both languages and find it quite challenging. How much is this tense actually used in both languages?

August 1, 2013

At least in English the future perfect is a normal if not frequent form of a verb. You can classify verbs into twelve patterns: past, present and future, each of which can be simple, progressive, perfect and perfect progressive. The future perfect would be "I will have worked" and the future perfect progressive would be "I will have been working". So to say "By three o'clock I will have worked eight hours" would be to imply that you may have finished working at that point in time, but to say "By three o'clock I will have been working eight hours" implies that you will continue to work past that time, to give an example. (The simple future is "I will work" and the future progressive is "I will be working".)

December 28, 2013
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