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Perfect Tense vs Past Tense

Can ANYONE PLEASE give me a understandable explanation of the german tenses? especially the perfect. I know that the perfect requires haben or sie (and ge- to the verb, and placed at the end), but I quite dont get the difference. I took a picture = ich habe ein Foto gemacht, i am not using haben or sie.I also dont understand the difference between, Ich sagte dass (I said that) and ich habe das gesaft (I have said that), I would rather just say Ich sagte dass. ANY HELP IS HIGHLY APPRECIATED, AS YOU CAN SEE, I AM LOST. Thanks

January 22, 2018



First of all, in most cases, it is sufficient to know the perfect tense. The past tense (Präteritum in German) is used almost only in literature today, with the exception of a few verbs that to our ears would sound clumsy when used in the perfect form.

So "I took a picture" would be translated to "Ich habe ein Foto gemacht", and this would be perfectly fine.

I travelled to Norway. - Ich bin nach Norwegen gereist.


(BTW, it's not "haben" or "sie", but "haben" or "sein"; these are the auxiliary verbs used for the perfect tenses).

Here is a little more explanation, in particular about these auxiliary verbs: (http://www.canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/Wort/Verb/Tempora/HabenSein.html?lang=en. This is my favorite German-grammar source, canoo.net. I hope this helps you. :-)


Those two tenses are indeed interchangeable. You will rather find the simple past tense in written texts whereas present perfect is preferred in the spoken register. But there is no written rule which dictates this separation. So Ich habe das gesagt and Ich sagte das are exchangeable with one another. There are few areas in Germany where the simple past is preferred for spoken statements, high up in the North.

I shall not be covering tense formation here, too much to write. And it is late already c-;

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