I'm confused what I'm missing here.

As I understand it, in the present perfect the main verb of the sentence gets a ge- added to the start of it and the ending changes to -t if it's regular, but stays the same sometimes.

So for example: Martin hat kein Englisch gesprochen. But I write ich werde es machen können in the present perfect as ich habe es gemacht können and I check the back of my book and see that it should be ich habe es machen können. Why doesn't machen take a ge-?

  • 1
    Well, in English you don't say "I could done it" either. But "I could do it".
    – Eller
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 8:21
  • @Eller Actually "I could do it" is Simple Past, translating to "Ich konnte es tun", whereas "I could have done it" indeed is the correct Present Perfect here.
    – RoyPJ
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 8:24
  • @RoyPJ I knew I had to use "was able to" instead of "could" because "can" cannot be used in perfect tenses and someone would say that this is not present perfect :D "Ich konnte es gemacht haben" - das wäre ein grammatikalisches Pendant zu "I could have done it".
    – Eller
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 8:40

1 Answer 1


Because it's not a perfect participle but an infinitive.

"Können" together with a verb requires the infinitive: "Ich kann es machen." ("I can do it."). Turning "können" into perfect doesn't change this.

So that explains why it's "machen", not "gemacht". But one may wonder why it's "Ich habe es machen können" and not "Ich habe es machen gekonnt" as one might expect because it's the verb "können" which has to take the form of the perfect participle here.

The reason for this is that there is a special rule which says that if an infinive is followed by a perfect participle the perfect participle is turned into an infinitive. So "machen gekonnt" becomes "machen können".

But if you want a sentence with "gemacht" you can get it by turning "machen" into the perfect: "Ich könnte es gemacht haben". This means that you could have done it whereas "Ich habe es machen können" means that you were able to do it.

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