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Talking about the past

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by Diaspora, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. Diaspora Senior Member

    USA
    Serbocroatian, English
    Hi, I'm new to German and would like some help with the Past tense. I'm hesitant to use Google Translate. In English I'm used to talking about the past in numerous ways but I've found German to be somewhat restrictive. Can you help me with the following? The first two seem simple.

    I worked.... Ich arbeitete
    I have worked....Ich habe gearbeitet

    Now how do you differentiate the following?

    "I had worked" and "I had been working", is it Ich hatte gearbeitet?

    "I used to work"?
     
  2. Razor_

    Razor_ New Member

    German, Germany
    The English language has more tenses than the German language. The German language doesn't have seperate progressive tenses.

    I worked.... Ich arbeitete - Präteritum (like "simple past")
    I have worked....Ich habe gearbeitet
    - Perfekt (like "present perfect")

    I had worked is "Plusquamperfekt" (like "Past Perfect") and it means "Ich hatte gearbeitet" - That's right.

    I have been working is "Present Perfect Progressive" in English and it doesn't have a German Tense for that. You can say something like "Ich habe bis jetzt gearbeitet" but that's the "Perfekt"-Tense in German.

    "I thought" and "I used to think" means almost the same in German (nämlich "Ich dachte"). My English teacher said I can use "used to" to elude irregular verb forms in English :D

    I hope this contribution was helpful...
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  3. gvergara

    gvergara Senior Member

    Santiago, Chile
    Español
    Ich möchte hinzufügen, dass es in der gesprochenen Sprache ziemlich typisch ist, das Präteritum durch das Perfekt zu ersetzen. (z.B., man sagt oft Letztes Jahr habe ich mir ein neues auto gekauft statt Letztes Jahr kaufte...)
     
  4. Arukami Senior Member

    I've said this several times, but here I go once again: When you just talk, the most common tense is the Perfekt. You can use it for nearly everything. The only exceptions to this are sein (to be) and all modal verbs. For those you should use the Präteritum instead. You can mostly avoid the Plusquamperfekt. If you follow this rules, I think you'll sound kinda natural. Of course, in written language there are stricter rules than this. This varies from region to region, too!

    And there are also several forms of the continuous tense in German. But, for starters, you should probably avoid them, but keep in mind that they exist. (they are not of the standard language, but very common in spoken language)

    I've been working up until now.
    Ich war bis eben am arbeiten.


    ... would be probably a common example of how the continuous tense in German could be used.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  5. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Saxony-Anhalt
    German
    As Arukami said you can express 95% of the things in daily life by using two tenses only.

    "Perfekt" for everything in the past - even for "sein" (to be) you can say "Ich bin gestern im Kino gewesen" instead of "Ich war gestern im Kino".
    "Präsens" for any present and future action

    As beginner I would focus on these two. Tenses are one of rare easy things in German.
     

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