Despite I'm German, more precisely Bavarian, I have a question regarding the simple past.

Here in Bavaria we use solely the present perfect ("Ich bin heute zur Schule gegangen").

Of course we've learnt the simple past in our German classes, but we use it only for written conversations.

Our teachers told us that other states in Germany are really using the simple past in spoken conversastions.

As this is completely unfamiliar for me/us, I would like to know if only we Bavarians do not use the first past tense and if this is true, does anyone know why?

  • 1
    Schau mal hier: belleslettres.eu/artikel/prateritum-imperfekt-perfekt.php ... ist lang aber wird sicher alle deine Frage beantworten.
    – Emanuel
    Jan 13, 2015 at 21:05
  • I'm curious why you are asking this question in English, as it concerns only German speakers.
    – Ornello
    Jan 13, 2015 at 21:27
  • 3
    Well maybe it could be interesting for non native speakers and I thought that SE is an international network, I'll post my question in English ;) Jan 13, 2015 at 21:28
  • That would e plain why a Facebook friend of mine from Bavaria often uses Präteritum on that site: Overcorrection ;)
    – Carsten S
    Jan 13, 2015 at 21:28

2 Answers 2


Wikipedia has a good explaination: Oberdeutscher Präteritumsschwund. It is a phenomenon of the southern states but creeps to the north.

From my own observations I can confirm that speakers from Northern Germany will use Präteritum far more often, especially when telling stories.

I'm somewhere in between; I use it more often with strong verbs and when telling stories, but mostly I use Perfekt.


Just so you can understand more in few words, I am adding my answer.

Like @Veredomon said, people in Germany are not all the same in speaking.

There are communities for talking, as well as in every other place on earth, people have their own circles where the people in the academic field talk just another language than those in the restaurants or bars.

Perfekt ist the form of talking about something in the near past, in Germany you will hear in like all the time, almost everywhere.

The perfekt in German uses the verb "have" (haben) and "be" (sein) according to the verb that is being used to express the past.

  • For example, "eating" (essen) will be used with "have" (haben): (ich habe gegessen).
  • while verb like "going" (gehen) will be used with "be" (sein): ich bin gegangen.

There is also the rule: if there is movement/state-changing/(exception) -> (sein), otherwise it is always (haben).

When talking about something happened in the far past, here it comes to the Präteritum. Now the same examples are going to look like: - ich aß - ich ging

But you would most probably see the Präteritum used in the written text rather than hearing it, except for few verbs that are OK to speak in Präteritum even for something happened in the near past.

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