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"Isst" a conjugation of essen (to eat). When using the third person singular (he/she/it) for of essen or second person singular (you), you would write "er/sie/es isst" (he/she/it eats) or "du isst" (you eat). "Esse" is for first person singular (I) as in "ich esse" (I eat).
How would I use past tense for this? How would I say "I ate?" Would it be the same? Thanks.
simple past in German (called Präteritum/Imperfect or unvollendete Vergangenheit) for essen (note that it is an irregular verb) would be aßen. Again this needs to be conjugated: "ich aß"
If you would actually say that people would probably look a bit startled, because simple past is rarely used in spoken language nowadays. In contrast to English there is no real difference in usage between simple past and present perfect in German (maybe there was one long time ago) so you can use both interchangeably and most of the time present perfect is used (that is probably the cause why we struggle very hard with English tenses).
Present perfect (called Perfekt or vollendete Vergangenheit) is constructed similarly as in English. You need either a conjugated form of to be (sein) or to have (haben), which depends on the verb, but most of the time it is to have, and the participle (they usually start with ge-). For essen it would be gegessen and the sentence would look like:
Ich habe gegessen
Du hast gegessen.
Er hat gegessen. and so on
There is one big difference to English though. In a main clause the finite verb (that means the conjugated verb) is always at the second place in a sentence. All infinite verbs, i.e. the ones which don't change like the participle, move to the end of the sentence. In the examples above you can not see it, but if you use an object it looks like this:
Ich habe einen Apfel gegessen -- (I have an apple eaten)
Du hast das Brot gegessen -- (You have the bread eaten)
I hope I answered more questions than I raised ;-)
There are two ways to pronounce Ich? One ends sounding like an sh. The second pronounciation is more a back of the throat thing. 'ickh' ?
normally you say 'ich', but in different parts of germany, for example near cologne, they often say 'ish' and near berlin they often say 'ick' or 'icke'
Question: How can esse mean 'eating' and 'chimney'??? What's the reason / history behind that?
Apart from that, it doesn't really translate to 'chimney' in the general sense. 'Esse' is normally only used for chimneys on some kinds of factories. In some regions of Germany it can also be used for chimneys on ordinary houses, but in most parts of the country, it isn't used in that sense. The standard translation for 'chimney' (the one on your roof) is 'Schornstein'.
Interesting. I am from Berlin and never heard Esse for chimney before. Where is it used? NRW?
No. The infinitive ends most of the time with -en (trinken, haben) or less frequently with -n (erinnern). It coincides with the 1st and 3rd person plural, i.e. wir/sie trinken.
The only exception which I can remember atm is to be. The infinitive is sein whereas it conjugates to wir/sie sind. That is the only verb which comes to my mind where the infinitive form never appears in the conjugation table.