Take the 2-minute tour ×
German Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation. It's 100% free, no registration required.

German supposedly has no equivalent of the progressive/continuous tense in English (e.g. "we are going"). However, I sometimes hear sentences such as "wir waren essen" or "er ist telefonieren". Are such sentences grammatically correct, and what is the difference in meaning to the "normal" versions ("wir aßen", "er telefoniert")?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted
  • "wir waren essen" or "er ist telefonieren" sind nicht korrekt, aber umgangssprachlich (auch schriftlich) bedingt durch ihre weite Verbreitung zulässig.
  • "wir aßen" und "er telefoniert" sind korrekt.
  • Keine Unterschiede in der Bedeutung.
share|improve this answer
6  
Not sure I agree there: IMO the construction Tim asks about implies that the person denoted by the subject is away doing whatever they're doing. "Wir waren essen" means "we were out eating". "Er ist telefonieren" means "He is out of the room, speaking on the phone". –  elena Nov 1 '11 at 10:17
1  
Should this answer be translated? Usually answers are written in the same language as the question. –  musiKk Nov 3 '11 at 10:51

I have to agree with elena's comment on Barnie's answer. "Wir waren essen" has a different meaning than you are asking for.

If you want to use a progressive/continuous tense, then you can use (colloquially) the combination with "am":

Wir sind am Essen. Er ist am Telefonieren.

See also: http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/am#Bedeutung3

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.