Whether you need to state where you’re going on holiday or ask a friend if they can meet you tomorrow at 6 PM – chances are you’ll want to use the German verb “gehen”.
The German verb “gehen” is used a lot, and it is quite possible that you will find yourself using it often as well.
The verb “gehen” has an irregular conjugation, which means that in certain forms the verb changes its vowels, and in its past participle form the suffix –en is added.
Because of this conjugation pattern, the word “gehen” is also described as a strong verb.
Conjugation of the German Verb “Gehen” – Present Tense (Präsenz)
|ich gehe||I go (I am going)|
|du gehst||you go (you are going)|
|er/sie/es geht||he/she/it goes (he/she/it is going)|
|wir gehen||we go (we are going)|
|ihr geht||you go (you are going)
(as in: you guys are going)
|sie gehen||they go (they are going)|
You’ve probably already noticed that in German there is no present progressive tense like in the English language.
In English, the purpose of the present progressive tense is to indicate that you have certain plans for the future, as in I’m going to Chicago tomorrow.
In German, however, whether you have concrete plans or not, there is only “I go” and not “I am going” or “I am going to go”. So the only way to figure out whether a plan is immediate or not is to look at the actual meaning of the sentence (usually hinted at by temporal adverbs such as tomorrow).
Ich gehe morgen nach Frankreich. – I am going to France tomorrow.
Wir gehen in die Oper. – We’re going to the opera.
Gehst du auch in die Theodor-Heuss-Schule? – Are you going to Theodor Heuss High School as well?
Wie geht es dir? – How are you doing?
Es geht, danke. – I’m okay, thanks.
[Es geht is a German expression that basically means that you’re not doing too good, but things are also not extremely bad. Think of a mediocre in-between. This expression can also be shortened to geht so, although this is rather informal.]
Geht es, wenn wir uns morgen um fünf Uhr treffen? – Is it possible we’re meeting tomorrow at five o’clock?
Conjugation of the German Verb “Gehen” – Simple Past Tense (Imperfekt)
The simple past tense in German is kind of a special tense. It is used a lot in written and formal language, so you’re likely to encounter it when listening to a speech, reading the newspaper or watching a documentary on TV.
However, in day-to-day language, the simple past tense almost has completely vanished, and is instead replaced by the Perfekt (present perfect), which I’ll give you all the details about after we have a closer look at the Imperfekt.
Now, before we talk about the specifics, let me give you a better idea of how the simple past tense works.
|ich ging||I went|
|du gingst||you went|
|er/sie/es ging||he/she/it went|
|wir gingen||we went|
|ihr gingt||you went
(as in: you guys went)
|Sie gingen||they went|
In the simple past tense, the vowel in the middle changes from e to i, and in certain forms (such as in “wir gingen” and “sie gingen”) the suffix –en is added to the verb.
As I mentioned earlier, the simple past tense is mostly used in formal or written language. If you’re in a non-formal situation, using the form “ich ging” will probably earn you some strange looks, as it sounds almost old-fashioned.
Instead, most Germans use the Perfekt (present perfect) and rather opt for using “ich bin gegangen”, which fulfills the role of the simple past tense in everyday and casual/informal language.
But before we move on to the more widely used present perfect, let’s take a look at some examples of the German verb “gehen” in the simple past tense.
Er ging in die Niederlande, um die Gemälde Vincent van Goghs zu studieren. – He went to the Netherlands to study the paintings of Vincent van Gogh.
Am Montagmorgen ist mein Föhn kaputt gegangen. Er ging einfach nicht mehr. – My hair dryer broke on Monday morning. It just stopped working.
Ich ging mit ihr nach Spanien. – I went to Spain with her.
In den letzten Jahren ging es der Firma nicht gut. – In the last couple of years, the company didn’t do well.
Conjugation of the German Verb “Gehen” – Present Perfect Tense (Perfekt)
I’ve already briefly talked about the Perfekt in the previous section. When conjugating the German verb “gehen” in the present perfect tense, the verb “sein” is used as a “helping verb”. This might be especially confusing for native English speakers since in English the verb “to have” (rather than “to go”) is commonly used in this case.
Depending on the meaning and context of the sentence, the present perfect tense of the German verb “gehen” can either mean “I went” (ich bin gegangen) or “I have gone”.
|ich bin gegangen||I went (or I have gone)|
|du bist gegangen||you went (or you have gone)|
|er/sie/es ist gegangen||he/she/it went (or he/she/it has gone)|
|wir sind gegangen||we went (or we have gone)|
|ihr seid gegangen||you went (or you have gone)
(as in: you guys have gone)
|sie sind gegangen||they went (or they have gone)|
Notice also how the verb “gehen” shifts to “gegangen” in the present perfect tense – and also in the past perfect tense, which I am going to explain in the next section.
You will – unfortunately – simply have to memorize the word “gegangen”, as well as remember in which tenses it is used.
The good news is that there are (thankfully) no special forms of the verb “gehen” in the present perfect tense and the past perfect tense. It always stays “gegangen”.
Mir ging es nicht gut, deshalb bin ich etwas früher nach Hause gegangen. – I wasn’t feeling well, so I went home a little earlier.
Warum seid ihr ohne mich gegangen? – Why have you guys gone without me?
Sie ist für ein Jahr nach Australien gegangen. – She went to Australia for a year.
Es ist alles gut gegangen! – Everything went fine!
Conjugation of the German Verb “Gehen” – Past Perfect Tense (Plusquamperfekt)
The Plusquamperfekt (a weird name, I know!) is very similar to the present perfect tense. In fact, the only difference is that the helping verb “sein” takes the past tense form instead. Other than that, everything is pretty much the same as in the present perfect tense.
The past perfect tense is used to describe situations that have happened before another action took place in the past, such as “Ich habe nach dir gesucht, aber du warst schon gegangen” (“I had been looking for you, but you had already gone”).
As you can see from this example, one action (in this case the person leaving) had taken place before the other (you looking for said person).
Since one action has to follow the other to really make sense in a statement, the Plusquamperfekt or present perfect tense is rarely used in a single, independent statement.
Both the present perfect tense and the past perfect tense are a good opportunity to brush up on your knowledge of all tenses of the word “sein”.
|ich war gegangen||I had gone|
|du warst gegangen||you had gone|
|er/sie/es war gegangen||he/she/it had gone|
|wir waren gegangen||we had gone|
|ihr wart gegangen||you had gone
(as in: you guys had gone)
|sie waren gegangen||they had gone|
Ich hatte nach Tom und Anja gesucht, aber sie waren schon gegangen. – I had been looking for Tom and Anja, but they had already gone.
Ich wollte sie in San Francisco treffen, aber sie war bereits gegangen. – I wanted to meet her in San Francisco, but she had already left.
Er wollte seinen Hund wieder mitbringen, doch es war schon beim letzten Mal nicht gut gegangen. – He wanted to bring his dog with him again, but that already hadn’t gone well the last time.
Ich hatte angenommen, dass ihr schon gegangen wart. – I assumed you had already left.
Conjugation of the German Verb “Gehen” – Future Tense (Futur)
The future tense is a bit of a rare case in German. While it is sometimes used in formal and written language, in most cases (especially in spoken language) Germans opt for the present tense paired with an adverb instead.
This could, for example, mean that instead of saying “Ich werde am Freitag nach Berlin gehen” (I will be going to Berlin on Friday), the expression “Ich gehe am Freitag nach Berlin” (I am going to Berlin on Friday) is used.
As you can see in the examples below, the helping verb “werden” (to become) is used for building the future tense of the German verb “gehen”. The word “werden” often indicates a passive action taking place.
|ich werde gehen||I will go|
|du wirst gehen||you will go|
|er/sie/es wird gehen||he/she/it will go|
|wir werden gehen||we will go|
|ihr werdet gehen||you will go
(as in: you guys will go)
|sie werden gehen||they will go|
Er wird am Montag wieder nach Hause gehen. – He will return home on Monday.
Werdet ihr dieses Jahr nach Irland gehen? – Will you guys be going to Ireland this year?
Ich fürchte, das wird nicht gehen. – I’m afraid that will not be feasible.
Mark wird am Freitag mit Lisa zum Arzt gehen. Sie hat eine Mittelohrentzündung. – Mark will take Lisa to the doctor on Friday. She has a middle ear infection.
Conjugation of the German Verb “Gehen” – Future Perfect Tense (Futur II)
Admittedly, the Futur II is not the easiest of tenses. Upon first seeing it, you might think it is some sort of weird mashup of different tenses – and you might even question its purpose.
The answer is (relatively) simple: the future perfect tense is used to describe the so-called vollendete Zukunft, which roughly means “completed future”.
When using the Futur II, you are describing a situation that will take place in the future, but that is going to already be completed by that time.
Let me give you an example: if you wanted to say “In two years, I will have built a treehouse for my son” in German, you would use the future perfect tense: In zwei Jahren werde ich meinem Sohn ein Baumhaus gebaut haben.
You can also use the Futur II to express an assumption or speculation:
Martin ist spät dran. Er wird wohl eine Panne gehabt haben. – Martin is running late. His car must have broken down.
So, let’s take a closer look at the conjugation of the verb “gehen” in the future perfect tense.
|ich werde gegangen sein||I will have gone|
|du wirst gegangen sein||you will have gone|
|er/sie/es wird gegangen sein||he/she/it will have gone|
|wir werden gegangen sein||we will have gone|
|ihr werdet gegangen sein||you will have gone
(as in: you guys will have gone)
|sie werden gegangen sein||they will have gone|
Bis dahin werde ich schon nach Frankreich gegangen sein. – By that point, I will already have gone to France.
Er wird wohl am Freitag nach Hause gegangen sein. – He certainly must’ve gone home on Friday.
[This sentence describes an assumption. The person talking assumes that he must have gone home on Friday. In German, an assumption is often indicated by words like wohl (certainly), sicher (certain) or bestimmt (certainly)]
Du wirst doch nicht dorthin gegangen sein? – You haven’t gone there, have you?
Conjugation of the German Verb “Gehen” – Commands (Imperativ)
Depending on the situation, commands can be an important part of the German language. While they’re not commonly used, I think they could still give you an interesting insight into the conjugation of the verb “gehen”.
There are only three command forms in the Imperativ – and they’re not even that hard to keep in mind! Let me show you.
Geh! (or gehe!) – (You) go!
Geht! (as in “ihr geht”) – (You guys) go!
Gehen wir! – Let’s go!
While “gehen wir” is a commonly used term, I’d recommend using both other forms of the Imperativ of the verb “gehen” carefully, since they can easily be interpreted as rude.
In order to take some of the edge off, you can add the word “bitte” (please) to make it a little more polite, as in:
Geh bitte (or bitte geh). – Please go.
The same cannot, however, be done with the expression “Gehen wir!”
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