Ich bin gestern im Café gewesen / war gestern im Café

< Previous | Next >

AnnaJDT

Senior Member
Romanian
Hello everyone!
I return to you again with a short question. What is the difference between:
Ich bin im Café gestern gewessen (I have been) - is this wrong?
Ich war gestern im Café (I was)

Do the same rules apply in German as in English? In English, the second phrase is correct because of the temporal adverb: I was in the café yesterday. On the contrary: I have been in the café many times. (for example). But it's incorrect to say: I have been in the café yesterday. Just wondering if the same rules apply.

Thank you in advance for clarifying this for me!
 
Last edited:
  • Liam Lew's

    Senior Member
    Hi AnnaJDT, in German we don't have this strict distinction. Your first sentence is quite correct (it's the tense: Perfekt). Your second sentence is also quite correct (it's the Präteritum). In spoken language it's more common to use the Perfekt and in written language you normally use the Präteritum as basic tense for past. The Perfekt refers to actual things and the Präteritum to things with no regard to the presence. But as I told already the distinction isn't that strict and it's more personal preference than a rule. So both of your sentences would work and would be used.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In German simple past and present perfect are semantically interchangeable in modern German. Some northern speakers maintain a hint of a distinction but that is eroding fast. The difference is more stylistic than semantic. In literary language the difference has more to do with eventive vs. stative then with perfective vs. imperfective. Simple past is the verb form of choice for narration because narration is all about things happening and not about the state of things. In colloquial language the simple past is all but extinct. Many speakers use it only for a few very elementary verbs like sein or haben. and even there it can be replaced by the perfect. Some people even replace when used as an auxiliary verb, like in er ist gekommen gewesen instead of er war gekommen. But that is still very colloquial/dialectal. But in you case sein is a main and not an auxiliary verb, hence the replacement of war with ist gewesen is perfectly Ok. The way was and has been is distinguished in English is unknown in German. For Germans students of English the use of the present perfect is probably the most difficult part of English grammar.

    PS: Cross-posted
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    Note the changed default word order:

    Ich bin gestern im Café gewesen. (default position of "gestern")
    Ich bin im Café gestern gewesen. (coll. style, mostly in spoken language only, it sounds as if you forgot to mention "gestern" at the first place and corrected it during speaking) - This example shows a coll. usage of "perfect".

    Ich war gestern im Café. - This is an example for usage in standard language.
    The analogous form "Ich war im Café gestern" is also mostly used colloquially.
     

    AnnaJDT

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Amazing that you addressed the topic of word order precisely after I read an article on the same subject, Hutschi! Thank you so much!
    So "gestern" is an adverb of time, when adverbs are placed after the verb, they must follow the sequence: time, manner, place.

    The phrases that you exemplified as standard do sound a bit better to me versus the colloquial ones. So it's possible I might already have started developing a "feel" of the language, so to speak. Thank you Liam Lew's and berndf as well! I'm impressed with all of you as always. Great forum
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    So I want to make a very little change and it transfers the sentence to standard language:

    "Ich war im Café, gestern."

    The comma indicates that "gestern" is an apposition and this is valid in standard.
    In this case "gestern" replaces a sentence, for example: "..., das war gestern."

    ---
    In case of other verbs than "gewesen" there may be a difference between past tense and perfect in German.

    Ich ging gerade ins Kino, als ich Kuno traf. - I was on my way into the cinema, or I entered the cinema building at this moment. - depending on context.
    Ich bin gerade ins Kino gegangen, als ich Kuno traf. I just entered the cinema. ("I was on my way" might be possible, but it would be strange without special context.)
    Ich war gerade ins Kino gegangen, als ich Kuno traf.

    Compare: "Ich war gerade ins Kino gegangen, als ich Kuno traf" - I was in the cinema. I entered it short before I met him.

    One reason is that "Ich gehe ins Kino" can have the meanings: I'm going to see a movie. or I'm going into the cinema building (for example to buy tickets.)
     

    Fiona-me

    New Member
    English
    Hallo..
    Can the word"gestern" come with a präsens perfekt verb in a sentence? Is it wrong or right?
    Please help..
    Thanks..
    HAPPY NEW YEAR..
     

    Sowka

    Forera und Moderatorin
    German, Northern Germany
    Hello Fiona-me :)

    Welcome to the German forum!

    Yes, the use of the present perfect with "gestern" is completely correct and natural:

    Gestern bin ich im Café gewesen (the sentence that is being discussed in this thread).
    Gestern habe ich im Lotto gewonnen.
    Gestern hat er sich mit seiner Mutter gestritten.


    In German, there are no strict rules about the use of past tense and present perfect (as already, much better, explained by berndf in post #3). In spoken language, the present perfect is used almost exclusively. Happy New Year to you, too! :)
     
    Last edited:

    Glockenblume

    Senior Member
    Deutsch (Hochdeutsch und "Frängisch")
    Hello Fiona-me :)

    Welcome to the German forum!

    Yes, the use of the present perfect with "gestern" is completely correct and natural:

    Gestern bin ich im Café gewesen (the sentence that is being discussed in this thread).
    Gestern habe ich im Lotto gewonnen.
    Gestern hat er sich mit seiner Mutter gestritten.


    In German, there are no strict rules about the use of past tense and present perfect (as already, much better, explained by berndf in post #3). In spoken language, the present perfect is used almost exclusively. Happy New Year to you, too! :)
    In the "DUDEN Zweifelsfälle der deutschen Sprache", there is a similar topic about the use of "Ich bin geboren" and "Ich wurde geboren", where the argumentation goes into the opposite direction:
    In that DUDEN, there is the following argumentation: "Ich bin geboren" is only right if you don't use a temporal indication, for example: "Ich bin in Berlin geboren." But it's not possible to use it in standard German, there you must use the past tense:
    "Frau Musterfrau wurde im Jahre 1990 geboren." (The given examples aren't exactly those of the DUDEN because I don't have the book with me.)

    I don't know what to think about that opinion of the DUDEN, for I don't feel exactely like the DUDEN (I would have written "Ich bin in ... geboren.). Nevertheless, I wanted to mention that there are different opinions among German native speakers on this question.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In the "DUDEN Zweifelsfälle der deutschen Sprache", there is a similar topic about the use of "Ich bin geboren" and "Ich wurde geboren", where the argumentation goes into the opposite direction:
    In that DUDEN, there is the following argumentation: "Ich bin geboren" is only right if you don't use a temporal indication, for example: "Ich bin in Berlin geboren." But it's not possible to use it in standard German, there you must use the past tense:
    "Frau Musterfrau wurde im Jahre 1990 geboren." (The given examples aren't exactly those of the DUDEN because I don't have the book with me.)

    I don't know what to think about that opinion of the DUDEN, for I don't feel exactely like the DUDEN (I would have written "Ich bin in ... geboren.). Nevertheless, I wanted to mention that there are different opinions among German native speakers on this question.
    I don't think, the cases can be compared. With respect to the two passive forms in German, the aspect difference (Zustandsspassiv = stative vs. Vorgangspassiv = eventive) is still basically intact. This cannot be said of the perfect and preterite in German any more.
     

    Zwitter

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    Compare: "Ich war gerade ins Kino gegangen, als ich Kuno traf" - I was in the cinema. I entered it short before I met him.
    Maybe I need to have a look at my notes from German lessons, but, if I'm not mistaken, this is wrong according to my German teacher (native German). I think he explicitly told us that you cannot make pluperfect + preterit combinations when using "als", because this conjunction implies simultaneity. On the other hand, pluperfect implies that this action happened before another one, if expressed in perfect or preterit.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top