1. Simple Past Tense: Usage
  2. Simpler Past Tense: Conjugations
  3. Simple Past with Haben and Sein

We use the German tense Präteritum (simple past) for stories and reports in the past, especially in written language.



Im letzten Jahr machte ich Urlaub in Deutschland.

Last year I went on vacation to Germany.

Simple Past Tense: Usage

Rule 1: Präteritum, also called Imperfekt, is used when to talk about a completed event in the past or facts/conditions that were true in the past. We typically use it to tell stories or report past event in written German.



Das Wetter war großartig.

The weather was great.

In spoken German, it's common to use the perfect tense instead.

Simpler Past Tense: Conjugations

Rule 2: To conjugate regular verbs in the present tense, we take the verb stem (by removing the -en ending) and add the following endings: -te, -test, -te, -ten, -tet, -ten

Here's an example with the verb "spielen" (to play):

ich spielte
du spieltest
er/sie/es spielte
wir spielten
ihr spieltet
sie/Sie spielten

Rule 3: The conjugated verb will always stand in second position in affirmative sentences in the present tense.



Er lebte in Deutschland.

He lived in Germany.

Simple Past with Haben and Sein

Rule 4: We rarely use the simple past in spoken language, except when it comes to verbs "sein" and "haben". We will always use them in the Präteritum to talk about facts and conditions in the past.

These two verbs are irregular:

ich war hatte
du warst hattest
er war hatte
wir waren hatten
ihr wart hattet
sie waren hatten