I am learning German from English. In English we have the main forms of present/past/future. In English we also have perfect/pluperfect/(another future) although we don't really identify them this way. Example:

I am eating an apple
I had ate an apple
I will eat an apple
I have been eating an apple
I had been eating an apple
I will have been eating an apple (this form is never used in modern English)

The translations I believe are as follows (please correct me if I am wrong):

Ich bin einen Apfel essen
Ich hatte einen Apfel essen
Ich werde einen Apfel essen
Ich habe einen Apfel gegessen
Ich hatte einen Apfel gegessen
Ich werden einen Apfel gegessen haben

My question is when using the last three forms do the verbs always get a "ge-" beginning to them (and sometimes another letter if it needs one like in this example)?

Or do words sometimes get different prefixes?

Thanks for any further explanations/tips/tricks also that you can provide on how to understand these translations and figure out other translations better :)

  • 2
    "Ich bin einen Apfel essen" => "Ich esse einen Apfel"
    – hellcode
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 17:45
  • 2
    "Ich werden einen Apfel gegessen haben" => "Ich werde einen Apfel gegessen haben"
    – hellcode
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 17:45
  • 2
    I'm unsure with "I had ate an apple". Do you mean "I ate an apple" => "Ich aß einen Apfel"?
    – hellcode
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 17:46
  • 1
    It's often the prefix "ge", but not always: "Ich habe mich verlaufen", "Ich habe es zerstört", etc. (just as a hint, I can't provide a good answer for it)
    – hellcode
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 18:11
  • Whoops "Ich werden" was a typo :) Thanks for the other corrections! Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 18:22

1 Answer 1


You can't exactly translate times 1:1 between Languages. Their usages do differ.

All the mistakes have been noted by hellcode in the comments already, just for completeness:

1. I am eating an apple = Ich esse einen Apfel
2. I had ate an apple = wrong english.
    I ate an apple = Ich aß einen Apfel
6. I will have been eating an apple = Ich werde einen Apfel gegessen haben

The rest seems correct

Most *perfect forms are the same: ge+wordstem Exceptions include verbs starting with ver in their Grundform (main form), like the word vermissen that you've already mentioned in the comments. Also verbs starting with er- like erbrechen (to vomit) - ich habe erbrochen. Another exception are verbs starting with ab- or auf- like abstürzen or aufwerten - ich bin abgestürzt, ich wurde aufgewertet. This is actually the usual ge-verb form but the presilb ab- or auf- will be moved in front of the "ge". Or more generally: All verbs with presilbs that modify or enhance the verb somehow. For all this exception however, the following holds true: In any German - $other_language dictionary, it will be mentioned if it differ from the simple ge-verb form, also it will mention, which form to use.

Also, for all time forms (including the perfect), there are regular verbs and irregular verbs as in English, we call them stark (strong = irregular) and schwach (weak = regular). Example to buy = kaufen (schwach / regular), to steal = stehlen (stark / irregular)

So now the verbs do not only change, when time differs, but also, when person differs. That's called Konjugation. At least, the perfect of one verb the same for all time and persons that need it, even for irregular verbs. Example for the two verbs (in all times and persons):



Also be careful with helper verbs: ich habe gekauft but ich bin gelaufen


So, what you have to do is learn the Konjugation table for the regular verbs, and then for the irregular ones: Learn the exceptions.

Konjugation tables for the other verbs I mentioned:





PS: While writing this answer, I actually figured out, how much I know intuitively about my natural language (sic!) but when I'm trying to get it written down, how hard it actually is to get it right. And also, the answer got already accepted, while most of the details were still plain wrong :P - seems like foreigners learning a language actually know more about it from a theoretical point of view, than native speakers - lol ;)

  • I see. So regularly is is with a "ge-" but not always. An example I ran into shortly after this post was vermissen vs vermisst. Seems to be an irregular. So this is just another thing I am going to have to sit down and just learn all of them one by one, since they do change from time to time. Thanks :) Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 18:25
  • Haha, I felt the same way about this when I was trying to look at English. My German speaking friend was talking about all of these things that I never learned or paid attention to growing up. I had no idea my language had so many complexions that an outsider could see that I could not :) Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 18:51
  • You're welcome - and btw: That's what this site is all about, isn't it? ;) Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 18:51
  • The question was too broad, which clearly reflects in this answer. – Anyway, the rule for ge- is that it is dropped for verbs that aren't stressed on the first syllable, plus separable verbs based on those.
    – chirlu
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 19:26
  • Oh, the question was not that to broad, but German is just a complex language, you can't always expect a simple answer. Anyways, I answered more verbose than it would have been necessary for this answer, no need to punish the questioner for that :P Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 20:54

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