I play tennis / I am playing tennis (present tense)

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by oj98, Feb 21, 2013.

  1. oj98 New Member

    English - England
    This is my first post, so I apologise if this has already been asked.

    I have a basic question.
    In English (as far as I know) we can use two present tenses:
    A basic example:
    I play tennis
    I am playing tennis

    Obviously these have quite different meanings as the former is more of a general statement whereas the latter is time specific (i.e. literally playing tennis)

    But in German, I believe the only way you could say this is:
    Ich spiele Tennis

    So my question is this: if there is only one present tense in German, how do they differentiate between a general statement and what is literally happening? Of course it's mostly about context but in cases where context is not applicable what would you say? Ich spiele jetzt Tennis?

    I understand this isn't a massive issue but it's been bugging me for a while now.
  2. ablativ Senior Member

    Welcome to the forum, oj98 !

    You just add specific adverbs:

    I'm playing tennis. Ich spiele gerade (etc.) Tennis. [right now etc.] Ich spiele jetzt Tennis? :tick:

    I play tennis. Ich spiele oft (etc.) Tennis. [often etc.]
  3. Arukami Senior Member

    There is also an continuous tense often used in colloquial language.

    Ich bin am Tennisspielen.

    sein + am/beim + nominalized infinitive
  4. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    in many cases you can just say "Ich spiele Tennis" für "I play tennis".
    It indicates 1. I can play, 2. I play it generally.

    Only if the question is something like: "Was machst du gerade?" "Ich spiele Tennis" means "I'm playing tennis."

    So it depends on context.
    Only if the context does not make it clear, it is necessary to add "gerade" to say "I'm playing tennis."

    "Ich bin (gerade) am Tennisspielen." is indeed colloquial and you will not use it often.
    For example, you use it if someone is disturbing you with a telephone call. You can say "Ich kann jetzt nicht, ich bin gerade am Tennisspielen."

    If you do not know exactly whether the other actually plays at the moment, you can say:
    Er ist Tennisspielen. or Er ist beim Tennisspielen.
  5. ablativ Senior Member

    Er ist Tennis spielen (2 words) means: He went out in order to play tennis. Whether or not he is playing tennis right now - you can't tell. One thing is sure, however: He went out. That's why this grammatical structure is called Absentiv (in German). He is not at home.

    When you use this Absentiv, there must always be the possibility to add "gegangen". If "gegangen" does not make sense in such sentences, you cannot use this Absentiv.

    Example: Ich bin/war schwimmen (gegangen). :tick:

    Ich war einkaufen (gegangen) :tick:

    Ich war lesen (gegangen) : not correct unless you went out for reading a book (in a library). If you are reading at home: :cross:

    Ich war Radio hören :cross: This is an activity you normally do at home.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2013
  6. oj98 New Member

    English - England
    Thanks for the help, although now I'm pretty confused because I always thought "ich bin [infinitive]" or "ich war [infinitive]" were no-go zones. :p
  7. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    There is a rule there is no rule without exceptions.

    The style of "Ich bin Tennisspielen gegangen" is colloquial (it just has usually colloquial context). It is definitely not a no-go zone.

    In some cases it is a set phrase:
    Ich bin mit Helena gegangen. = Helena war meine Freundin.
    Dann kam es zum Trojanischen Krieg. ;)
  8. ablativ Senior Member

    "Ich bin Tennis spielen (again: 2 words) gegangen" has never been a no-go-zone.

    oj98's post is about "ich bin/war [infinitive]". (Ich bin/war Tennis spielen/schwimmen.)

Share This Page