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Conjugation of the German Verb “Sehen”: The Definitive Guide

In a recent post, I talked about the conjugation of the German verb “gehen. In this blog post, I’ll talk about a different topic that sounds very similar: the conjugation of the German verb “sehen”.

Sehen”, which means “to see”, doesn’t just sound similar, it also is – just as “gehen” (“to go”) – an irregular and strong verb, which means that its stem changes depending on the tense and the conjugation. It is also a very common verb, so expect to encounter it quite often.

Since a lot of its forms are irregular, just like with the verb “gehen”, you’ll have to memorize its conjugation in all tenses.

Let’s have a closer look at the conjugation of the German verb “sehen”!

Conjugation of the Verb “Sehen” – Present Tense (Präsenz)

Singular

ich sehe I see
du siehst you see
er/sie/es sieht he/she/it sees

As you can see from this table, the verb “sehen” changes its stem in the second and third person singular.

Plural

wir sehen we see
ihr seht you see (as in: you guys see)
sie sehen they see

Examples:

Sehen wir uns am Montag? — Are we seeing each other on Monday?

Ich sehe was, was du nicht siehst. — I see something you don’t see. (The German version of the children’s game “I spy with my little eye”.)

Es sieht nach Regen aus. — It looks like it’s going to rain.

Gut siehst du aus! — You look good! (Often used when you haven’t seen someone in a while.)

Conjugation of the Verb “Sehen” – Simple Past Tense (Imperfekt)

As mentioned in the blog post about the conjugation of the verb “gehen”, the Imperfekt is rarely used in spoken and informal language. It is however used if you’re writing a letter or an essay (or a book) and if you want to use more formal and “sophisticated” language.

When talking in day-to-day life, most Germans opt for using the Perfekt (Present Perfect).

Let’s have a look at this relatively “rare” case, the Imperfekt conjugation of the verb “sehen”!

Singular

ich sah I saw
du sahst you saw
er/sie/es sah he/she/it saw

As you can see, the verb “sehen” also changes its stem in the simple past tense.

Plural

wir sahen we saw
ihr saht you saw (as in: you guys saw)
sie sahen they saw

Examples:

Er sah ein, dass er einen Fehler gemacht hatte. — He saw that he had made a mistake. (Meaning: He accepted/admitted he had made a mistake.)

Wir sahen sie zuletzt vor zwei Jahren. — Last time we saw her was two years ago.

Ich sah, wie sie versuchte die Katze zu packen. — I saw how she tried to grab the cat.

Sie sahen müde aus. — They looked tired.

(These examples show how the verb “sehen” is not only used to refer to the active practice of seeing, but can also mean “to understand” or “to accept” — just like “to see” in English — and is used to describe what somebody looks like.)

Conjugation of the Verb “Sehen” – Present Perfect Tense (Perfekt)

As we just said, most Germans opt for using the Perfekt instead of the Imperfekt in everyday conversations, or sometimes even in informal written language (e.g. when you’re writing a letter to a friend).

Thus, the Perfekt is used much more frequently than the Imperfekt.

Singular

ich habe gesehen I saw (or I have seen)
du hast gesehen you saw (or you have seen)
er/sie/es hat gesehen he/she/it saw (or he/she/it has seen)

Just like with the conjugation of the verb “gehen”, a helper verb is used in the present perfect tense.

But instead of “sein” (like with the verb “gehen”), the verb “haben” is used as the helper verb for “sehen”. This is a great opportunity for you to brush up on the conjugation of the verb “haben”!

The verb “sehen” itself the prefix —ge. Thankfully in this case, the verb “sehen” doesn’t change its stem.

Plural

wir haben gesehen we saw (or we have seen)
ihr habt gesehen you saw (or you have seen)
(as in: you guys have seen)
sie haben gesehen they saw (or they have seen)

Examples:

Ich habe gesehen, dass sie mir eine Notiz auf meinem Schreibtisch gelegt hat. — I saw that she left me a note on my desk. (Or: I have seen that she left me a note on my desk.)

Hast du gesehen, wann unser Kurs morgen beginnt? — Have you seen when our class starts tomorrow?

Sie hat ihn zuletzt am Freitag gesehen. — Last time she saw him was Friday.

Habt ihr Jana gesehen? Ich suche sie schon seit einer Weile. — Have you guys seen Jana? I’ve been looking for her for a while now.

Conjugation of the Verb “Sehen” – Past Perfect Tense (Plusquamperfekt)

Singular

ich hatte gesehen I had seen
du hattest gesehen you had seen
er/sie/es hatte gesehen he/she/it had seen

Just like in the present perfect tense, the helper verb “haben” is used with the past perfect tense.

Plural

wir hatten gesehen we had seen
ihr hattet gesehen you had seen
(as in: you guys had seen)
sie hatten gesehen they had seen

Examples:

Wir hatten den Film schon am Freitag gesehen. — We had already seen the movie on Friday.

Ich hatte gesehen, dass er Blumen gekauft hatte. — I had seen that he had bought flowers.

Hattet ihr die Ausstellung auch gesehen? — Had you guys seen the exhibit as well?

Hattest du die Email gesehen, die er uns angeblich gesendet hatte? — Had you seen the email he supposedly sent us?

Conjugation of the Verb “Sehen” – Future Tense (Futur)

Germans have a habit to — in everyday and informal language — substitute the present tense for the future tense. Let’s take the expression “I’ll see you tomorrow!” for example: Instead of saying “Wir werden uns morgen sehen!” (which sounds very odd for German ears) you’d say “Wir sehen uns morgen!”

Essentially, the future tense is used in formal and written language (and in some cases in informal language), but most of the time it is replaced by the present tense.

The future tense uses a helper verb as well: In this case it is the verb “werden” (to become). Just as with the helper verb “haben”, studying the future tense of the verb “sehen” is a good opportunity to take a closer look at the conjugation of the verb “werden”.

Singular

ich werde sehen I will see
du wirst sehen you will see
er/sie/es wird sehen he/she/it will see

Plural

wir werden sehen we will see
ihr werdet sehen you will see

(as in: you guys will see)

sie werden sehen they will see

Examples:

Ich werde sehen, was ich tun kann. — I will see what I can do.

Wir glauben, Lena hat sich das Bein gebrochen. Aber wir werden sehen, was der Doktor sagt. — We think Lena has broken her leg. But we will see what the doctor says.

Du wirst sehen, dass es gar nicht so schwierig ist. — You will see that it isn’t so difficult.

Ihr werdet sehen, dass sich die Stadt sehr verändert hat. — You guys will see that the city has changed a lot.

Conjugation of the Verb “Sehen” – Future Perfect Tense (Futur II)

This is a very rarely used tense in the German language. This tense uses a conjugated form of the verb “werden” and then uses the verb “haben” at the end of the structure.

It is probably even rarer than the Futur, which is why you might not come across it a lot.

Singular

ich werde gesehen haben I will have seen
du wirst gesehen haben you will have seen
er/sie/es wird gesehen haben he/she/it will have seen

Plural

wir werden gesehen haben we will have seen
ihr werdet gesehen haben you will have seen
(as in: you guys will have seen)
sie werden gesehen haben they will have seen

Examples:

Du wirst sie bis dahin schon gesehen haben. — You will have already seen her at that point.

Ihr werdet bis dahin gesehen haben, wohin das Ganze führt. — You guys will have seen by that time where this whole thing is leading.

Conjugation of the Verb “Sehen” – Command Form (Imperativ)

There’s really only a few command forms (Imperative) for the verb “sehen”:

  • Sehe!/Sieh! — Look! (When addressing a single person.)
  • Seht! — Look! (When addressing a group of people.)

Both phrases sound a bit old-fashioned, which is why they’re mostly used in literature or e.g. in theater plays. You might not encounter them a lot in day-to-day language.

So that would be the lowdown on the conjugation of the verb “sehen”.

Until next time and viel Erfolg!

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