The Participles – Die Partizipien

Partizip Perfekt
(past participle)

The Partizip Perfekt is used to form the compound tenses as well, in this role it is  accompanied either by the verb haben or the verb sein. E.g: Ich habe hier gewohnt. (I lived here.) Wir haben den ganzen Tag gearbeitet. (We worked all day long.) Er ist nach Hause gegangen. (He has gone / He went home.) Sie sind angekommen. (They arrived / They have arrived.)

Regular verbs form the past participle in the following way:

first step: leaving the infinitive ending -en or -n: wohnen – wohn-; arbeiten – arbeit-; baden – bad-

second step: adding an -(e)t ending: wohnt; arbeitet; badet (after d and t the ending is et)

third step: a ge- prefix is added: gewohnt; gearbeitet; gebadet

Irregular verbs:

They usually have some stem change and take the ending -en, not -t (e.g.: finden – gefunden; nehmen – genommen). If they do not have stem change, the simple past form does (kommen – kam – gekommen).

There are the so called mixed verbs that do have a stem-change but they take the ending -t (nennen – genannt; brennen – gebrannt; rennen – gerannt; kennen – gekannt; bringen – gebracht; denken – gedacht; dürfent – gedurft; können – gekonnt; mögen – gemocht; müssen – gemusst; haben – gehabt)

Further things to know:

The third step is omitted in two cases (verbs without ge- prefix):

  1. the end of the infinitive form is -ieren: studieren – studiert; fotografieren – fotografiert
  2. the verb already has a be-, ge-, ent-, er-, ver-, emp-, zer-, miss- prefix: begrüßen – begrüßt; zerstören – zerstört; erinnern – erinnert

If the verb contains a separable co-verb (e.g. einkaufen, aufhören), the ge- prefix comes between the co-verb and the verb: eingekauft, aufgehört.)

Usage of the past participle:

It is used in the same way as in English:

- As mentioned above it is part of the compound tenses:

Du hast gebadet.
Er ist schon gegangen.

- It is part of the passive voice (both Vorgangspassiv and Zustandspassiv):

Das Haus wird gebaut – The house is (being) built.
Die Tür ist geschlossen – The door is closed.

- It can be an attribute. In this case it has to be declined as the other adjectives:

das geschriebene Brief – the written letter
ein geschriebener Brief – a written letter.

- It can behave as an adverb:

Er kommt gelaufen – He comes running.


Das Partizip Präsens
(present participle)

Formation: the stem of the verb takes an ending -end:

schreiben – schreibend
lesen – lesend
kommen – kommend
sein – seiend

Usage: it is translated into English using the -ing form but not all the verbs with -ing form are translated into German using the -end form! In German the present participle is an attribute and is translated into English likewise with an attributive -ing form:

das schreibende Kind – the writing child
der schlafende Löwe – the sleeping lion.

It can be an adverb, too:

Er ist lachend gekommen – He came smiling.

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