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When do you use the present tense with indicators of other time frames and when do you just use those time frames?

Present Tense examples:

Ich gehe früher nach Deutschland.
Ich habe nach Deutschland gegangen.

Ich esse Abendbrot später.
Ich werde Abendbrot essen.

  • Your examples are somewhat misleading (and probably led to the close vote), but this is an excellent question! – Philipp Feb 22 '19 at 10:13
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Ich gehe fahre/reise früher nach Deutschland.

The verb is not gehen, a journey is always a Fahrt or Reise apart from the unlikely event of a pure hiking tour.

The sentence is grammatical but it means I go to Germany earlier (than discussed before). You talk about your plans for the future, not about the past.

  • Präsens never conveys the past in German.

You have to use Perfekt if you wanted to tell about the past.

Ich habe bin (im letzten Jahr) nach Deutschland gegangen gefahren/gereist.

Here you tell about the past. Perfekt is what people would usually use. You may add additional markers as im letzten Jahr. All those verbs as "gehen" build their Perfekt with sein.


Ich esse Abendbrot später. (better: Ich esse später Abendbrot.)

Ich werde Abendbrot essen.

These are both okay but they mean a different thing. Später indicates you neither do it right now nor in the next minutes. It's delayed. This isn't the case for the latter sentence which simply tells about your plan to eat dinner. You can even combine it:

Ich werde später Abendbrot essen.

This is okay but a bit overblown. Später already tells it's about the future on the semantic level. No need to emphasize it further by using Futur. People may even expect a passive expression (uses werden, too) because of that.

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    I feel that gehen can absolutely be used for any journey where the mode of transport is either irrelevant or less important than the intent of the journey. duden.de/rechtschreibung/gehen#Bedeutung4a – GrottenOlm Feb 22 '19 at 15:43
  • The combination gehen nach as needed for all cities and most countries is very uncommon at least. It would almost always understood as an anglicism or a footwalk. The listed examples in the Duden spare out gehen nach for that fact. Even Ich gehe in die Schweiz sounds odd to me. Fahren and reisen are uncomplicated. – Janka Feb 22 '19 at 17:38
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    The only way I would ever interpret a phrase like Ich gehe nach Deutschland / in die Türkei / etc. as an actual journey on foot is if it were explicitly stated so: Ich gehe zu Fuß nach Deutschland. – GrottenOlm Feb 22 '19 at 18:16
  • Ich esse später Abendbrot. is Umgangssprache (everyday language). Using Präsens for events in the future is not correct. I disagree on calling Ich werde später Abendbrot essen. overblown. It's the correct way and has nothing to do with passive. – Olafant Feb 23 '19 at 4:13
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    I don't know who told you that nonsense, but German speakers use Präsens for future events all the time and you will also find this written everywhere (both Präsens for future events and this conclusion). – Janka Feb 23 '19 at 4:31
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One often uses the present tense together with a time marker for future events, not for past events (except perhaps for a certain informal narrative style). I think it has been said that Germanic languages originally had two tenses: past and non-past.

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Since both

Ich gehe früher nach Deutschland.

Ich habe nach Deutschland gegangen.

are wrong, let's use the other example first.

Ich esse später Abendbrot.

is what you say in everyday language. But the exact way would be

Ich werde (später) Abendbrot essen.

For the past it's a little different. In everyday language people prefer the Perfekt

Ich bin nach Deutschland gegangen.

over Präteritum

Ich ging nach Deutschland.

and over Plusquamperfekt

Ich war nach Deutschland gegangen.

The use of present tense with indicators is not possible for the past.

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    What's wrong with "Ich gehe früher nach Deutschland."? This sentence makes no sense (or at least only little) - but it is not wrong. – IQV Feb 22 '19 at 8:48
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    It makes only sense in the meaning of "I'll go to Germany earlier than ...". But I think that's not what is meant here. If the meaning is "I went to Germany earlier." then it's just wrong. – Olafant Feb 22 '19 at 8:51
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    "Ich gehe früher nach Deutschland" makes perfect sense and is comparable to "Ich werde früher nach Deutschland gehen (als geplant)". In what situations one is more likely to be used than the other is a very interesting question from a learner’s perspective. – Endre Both Feb 22 '19 at 9:57
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    In the question, the intended meaning of "früher" in "Ich gehe früher nach Deutschland" was obviously "in the past", and this meaning does not work as it conflicts with the use of present tense. – RHa Feb 22 '19 at 19:07

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