I am studying German B2 and in my textbook it says that in sentences with "nachdem" there is always a change of tense between the two clauses and it gives the example of:

Ich fühlte mich besser, nachdem ich mich eingelebt hatte

As this is past simple in the first clause and past perfect in the second it is in accord with the rule. But later in the book as the answer to a question is given as:

Nachdem ich Besuch von meiner Familie hatte, ging es besser

This sentence seems to have past simple in both clauses, and therefore goes against the two tenses rule.

Our teacher couldn't explain this, perhaps someone here can.

  • 3
    As a first guess, I would say that the sentence is not correct at all; It should be "Nachdem ich Besuch von meiner Familie gehabt hatte, ging es besser". It could be an example of a sentence which doesn't sound incorrect - and everybody would fully understand, but if you analyse it under the grammatical microscope it doesn't fit the rules. But that is a guess. >> Edit: Christian Geiselmann just had the same idea while I was typing. Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 20:29
  • 1
    Note, that "past simple" is not the name of any German tense. "Past simple" is an English tense, that has a very weak correlation with German tenses. German tenses very often do not match with English tenses. The name of the tense of »ich fühlte mich besser« is Präteritum, unvollendete Vergangenheit, Nachvergangenheit, Imperfekt or erste Vergangenheit, (in Austria Mitvergangenheit). The tense of »ich habe mich eingelebt« is Perfekt, vollendete Gegenwart, Vorgegenwart or zweite Vergangenheit, (in Austria just Vergangenheit). Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 21:19
  • 1
    @HubertSchölnast: the OP is only slightly confused. English speakers are usually taught simple past (stand) as opposed to compound past (bin/habe gestanden) so they won't assume the latter functions as the present perfect in English.
    – KarlG
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 8:48
  • This question might have an answer here: german.stackexchange.com/questions/8501/…
    – c.p.
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 15:55

3 Answers 3


My impression is that, indeed, the second sentence is a little bit odd; but very slightly so, so that in everyday language you would probably not pay attention. However, in a more formal context where correct use of language is crucial (e.g. when writing a novel), you would seek correct use of tenses, e.g.

Nachdem ich Besuch von meiner Familie gehabt hatte, ging es besser.

Nachdem meine Familie zu Besuch gewesen war, ging es besser.

Additional considerations

You may find it interesting that nachdem is sometimes (and in some regions) also used as a synonym of weil or da, as in

*Nachdem ich jetzt schon mal hier bin, kann ich auch noch mit dir Kaffee trinken. [ODD]

This is not correct by the rules of standard German, and you should not use it; but you may encouter it in everyday situations.

You could interpret your second sample sentence that way, too, at least theoretically;

*Nachdem [= weil] ich Besuch von meiner Familie hatte, ging es besser. [ODD]

which then would imply simultaneity of the two events ("Family visiting" and "things go better"), not sequency: things went better at the very time when the family was there.

Yet, this is most probably not what the author had in mind because hardly anyone would use nachdem in the sense of weil this in written language. It is just technically possible to (mis)read that sentence that way e.g. when you assume it is part of an oral conversation.

With the correct tense gehabt hatte, such misreading is unlikely:

*Weil ich Besuch von meiner Familie gehabt hatte, ging es besser. [ODD]

In order to make this sentence fit a real-world situation correctly you would have go to the lenghts of constructing a really complicated cluster of time periods in the past part of which ended in the past and part of which continue to the present.

For example: a person reports about a continuous situation in the past (Es ging mir besser), and relates this by the way of cause and effect to a previous event which however finished prior to the onset of the continuous situation (Weil mich meine Familie besucht hatte).


For a start, consider this

nachher gehe ich einkaufen

The adverb of time conferes the tempus, thus the verb does not need to be declined for time. In fact there is no future declination, only auxiliary constructions. That would be redundant, and cumbersome, nachher werde ich einkaufen gehen.

This is analoguous to your second example. The correct perfect and plusquam perfect is difficult to decide as a matter of lexical aspect. @LurioTabasco suggestion, "Besuch gehabt hatte" has hardly any currency in the natural language. The alternative, "Nachdem meine Familie zu Besuch gewesen war", as proposed by Christian above, changes the aspect of the phrase, and is henceforth also incorrect by some measure; It simply answers a different question, in which Besucht werden has the lexical aspect of achievement. He correctly makes a similar argument about gehabt hatte, paraphrasing what some may deem as verb of accomplishment, that in p.q.p. has effects lasting into the present (if I have to believe him that). He is therefore correct in principle, but misses the change of personal aspect. To summarize:

if we are currently having visitors, then we say Wir haben Besuch, describing a state. Whereas, we say wir werden besucht, if we describe a point in time that is awaited, or passed by. this is not clearly defined, so that Erfolg haben for example might express either aspect, if the achievement reoccurs frequently, but we may prefer erfolgreich sein to describe an endeuring state.

As far as I can tell, there is no better way to express this. I'm inclined to say thatvthe situation parallels English, where certain adverbs of time licence certain tempi, i.e. currently licensing present progressive; we also observe agreement in the tempus.

Your first example differs tremendusly from the above. I will say that nachdem is a conjunction in that case introducing a relative clause. Anyway, it licences the perfect tense however only after it occurs within the phrase.


The second sentence is not correct. Sometimes the german speakers use 'Umgang Sprach' but not always grammatically correct

  • 2
    This answer lacks relevant detail.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 12:28
  • What 'relevant detail' is needed here? :) The learners simply need to be advised not to always 'copy' what they hear in everyday speaking. This advice came from multiple language teachers.
    – user105071
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 7:58
  • An explanation why the second sentence is nor correct.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 11:43

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