In this post, we’re going to look at the lesen conjugation. Lesen (= to read) is one of the most common German verbs. Of course, it is! We all read all the time. Even if you aren’t exactly a fan of Goethe or Schiller, you still read every single day. Whether it’s road signs, food labels, or this article, most of us can’t imagine how our life would be without reading.
We also talk about reading a lot. “Did you read my text?” “Can you read what it says?” The verb is almost as integral to our lives as the activity itself. But how do you talk about reading in German? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here is all you need to know about the lesen conjugation. Let’s get started!
Lesen Conjugation in Present tense (Präsens)
Lesen is an irregular verb. This means that it does not follow the usual pattern of German verb conjugation. Instead, it has a couple of differences – you will need to memorize these. Don’t worry, though, it’s not that difficult. You’ll get there with practice.
Now, let’s look at how to do the lesen conjugation in present tense.
|ich lese||I read./I am reading.|
|du liest||You read./You are reading.|
|er/sie/es liest||He/she/it reads/is reading.|
Notice how in the second and third person of the singular form, the vowel “e” is replaced by “ie”. See what I mean about irregular verbs?
|wir lesen||We read./We are reading.|
|ihr lest||You read./You are reading.|
|sie/Sie lesen||They/You (formal) read/are reading.|
Luckily for us, the plural form behaves like a regular verb. So, really, you only need to remember two slightly different forms of lesen in the present tense. That’s not so bad, right?
- Er liest gern. (He likes reading.)
- Was liest du? (What are you reading?)
- Wir lesen viele Bücher. (We read a lot of books.)
Lesen Conjugation in Simple Past Tense (Präteritum)
The simple past tense form (or Präteritum) is predominantly used in formal and written language. You’ll need it when you’re writing an email to your professor or an official letter in German. But remember – we rarely use this form in spoken language.
Here is the lesen conjugation in Präteritum:
|ich las||I read. (did read).|
|du lasest||You read. (did read).|
|er/sie/es las||He/she/it read (did read).|
|wir lasen||We read (did read).|
|ihr last||You read (did read).|
|sie/Sie lasen||They/You (formal) read (did read).|
As you can see, this form of lesen is very irregular. The “e” in lesen becomes “a” in the simple past tense.
- Die Studierenden lasen das Lehrbuch. (The students read the course book.)
- Lasen Sie die Zeitung? (Did you read the newspaper?)
- Ich las alle Dokumente. (I read all the documents.)
Lesen Conjugation in Present Perfect Tense (Perfekt)
I mentioned in the section above that Germans don’t tend to use Präteritum in spoken language. To talk about something in the past, they use Perfekt instead.
The present perfect consists of two parts – an auxiliary (helping) verb and a past participle of the actual verb. In the case of lesen, haben is used as the auxiliary verb. The past participle of lesen is gelesen.
|ich habe gelesen||I have read./I did read.|
|du hast gelesen||You have read./You did read.|
|er/sie/es hat gelesen||He/she/is have read/did read.|
|wir haben gelesen||We have read./We did read.|
|ihr habt gelesen||You have read./You did read.|
|sie/Sie haben gelesen||They/You (formal) have read/did read.|
- Hast du diese Zeitschrift gelesen? (Have you read this magazine?)
- Er hat die SMS nicht gelesen. (He didn’t read the text message.)
- Sie haben das noch nicht gelesen. (They haven’t read this yet.)
Lesen Conjugation in Past Perfect Tense (Plusquamperfekt)
We use the past perfect tense (or Plusquamperfekt) when we want to talk about something that happened before something else in the past tense. For example: I had read all of Stephen King’s novels before I read his newest one.
This may sound a tad complicated, but guess what? I’ve got some good news for you! The lesen conjugation in Plusquamperfekt is actually pretty simple. That’s because it’s very similar to the Perfekt. All you have to do is change haben to its past form, hatten. Then you add the past participle, gelesen, and you’re done. Not too bad, right?
Take a look at these tables to see what I mean:
|ich hatte gelesen||I had read.|
|du hattest gelesen||You had read.|
|er/sie/es hatte gelesen||He/she/it had read.|
|wir hatten gelesen||We had read.|
|ihr hattet gelesen||You had read.|
|sie/Sie hatten gelesen||They/You (formal) had read.|
- Sie hatten Goethe nie gelesen. (They had never read Goethe.)
- Maria hatte das Rezept nicht gelesen. (Maria hadn’t read the recipe.)
- Hattet ihr die Gebrauchsanleitung gelesen? (Had you read the user manual?)
Lesen Conjugation in Future Tense (Futur I)
As you might’ve guessed, we’re now going to talk about the lesen conjugation in the future tense (or Futur I). This form is what you use to talk about any events that will happen. Much like in English, where we use the word will, German also needs a little helper verb to express the future. They use werden (= to become).
This form of lesen is actually not irregular! Once you have your correct form of werden, all you need to add is the infinitive of lesen. That said, you do have to memorize the werden conjugation, which unfortunately is irregular.
|ich werde lesen||I will read.|
|du wirst lesen||You will read.|
|er/sie/es wird lesen||He/she/it will read.|
|wir werden lesen||We will read.|
|ihr werdet lesen||You will read.|
|sie/Sie werden lesen||They/you (formal) will read.|
- Ich werde es morgen lesen. (I will read it tomorrow.)
- Wirst du mein Lieblingsbuch lesen? (Will you read my favourite book?)
- Tomas wird die Zeitung lesen. (Tomas will read the newspaper.)
Lesen Conjugation in Future Perfect Tense (Futur II)
Germans also have the future perfect tense. This one describes an event that will have happened by a specific point in the future: I will have read all these books by the end of the semester.
To conjugate lesen in Futur II, you’ll need three components:
- The correct conjugated form of werden in the present tense. Like I mentioned before, this is how you form the future tense in German.
- The past participle of lesen – which you know by now is gelesen.
- Haben in its infinitive form. This is what makes up the “perfect” part of this tense.
Once you have all these, you’re ready to go. This tense might look a bit intimidating at first, but if you remember these three components, you’ll be fine. Plus, it isn’t a tense that’s used all that often in German. Mostly you’ll find it in formal writing. So, don’t worry! Have a look at the table:
|ich werde gelesen haben||I will have read.|
|du wirst gelesen haben||You will have read.|
|er/sie/es wird gelesen haben||He/she/it will have read.|
|wir werden gelesen haben||We will have read.|
|ihr werdet gelesen haben||You will have read.|
|sie/Sie werden gelesen haben||They/you (formal) will have read.|
- Die gute Studentin wird dieses Buch auch gelesen haben. (The good student will have read this book, too.)
- Nächste Woche werden wir diesen Roman schon gelesen haben. (We will have read this novel by next week.)
- Bis dahin werden Sie den Brief gelesen haben. (They will have read the letter by then.)
If you want to learn a bit more about this tense and hear some more examples, check out this helpful short video by Learn German with Herr Antrim:
Other Forms of Lesen
Before I let you go, there are just three other forms we should go over. Don’t worry; they’re pretty simple.
Command form (Imperativ)
If you want to make someone read something, you might have to use the command form. Here is how to do that:
|Lies! (du)||Read! (you singular)|
|Lesen! (wir)||Let’s read! (we)|
|Lest! (ihr)||Read! (you all)|
|Lesen Sie!||Read! (you formal)|
Present participle (Partizip I)
Present participle in English is usually created by adding “-ing” to the end of the verb. For example, to read becomes reading. In German, all you have to do is add a little “-d” at the end: so you go from lesen to lesend.
Remember! The German present participle does not exactly match the English one. In German, this form of the verb is mostly used as an adjective. If you want to say: “I am reading”, say: “Ich lese” – “Ich bin lesend” does not exist in German, and it’s wrong.
Past participle (Partizip II)
If you have been paying attention, you’ll know what the past participle of lesen is. But let me remind you, just in case: it’s gelesen.
Can’t get enough of German verbs? Check out some of our other helpful conjugation guides. Here are a couple to get you started:
- All About the Conjugation of the German Verb “Fahren”
- “Essen” Conjugation: All the Ways to Conjugate “Essen” in German
- Conjugation of the German Verb “Sehen”: The Definitive Guide
What to do next?
Well done if you got this far! Now that you’ve learned all about lesen conjugation, it’s time to put these skills to the test. Play this selection of sentences and see how well you know all the different forms of the verb lesen.