In his book “501 German Verbs,” Strutz provides the conjugation of many (if not most) German irregular verbs. Some of the past participles of these irregular verbs are accompanied by an “ist” while the others (probably 80%) of the irregular verbs provided) aren’t. What is the purpose/function of the “ist”?

See pictures for reference. enter image description here

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    in past participle you sometimes need to extend your verb with a declinated "be" / "sein". Like "ich bin mit dem Flugzeug geflogen" (while "ich wurde vom Piloten geflogen" is also correct). As I have no rule at hand, I see no full answer possible. Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 14:13
  • @ShegitBrahm How would the meaning change if you used “wurde” instead of “bin”?
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 14:15
  • In my specific example the meaning changes from "I did sth." to "someone else did sth. for me" - from an activity of me to sth. passive I experienced. "Ich fliege" is an activity of me while "Ich werde geflogen" is the present for the wurde-example. I used it mainly to show that extention with "sein" is not all - and it has a different present. Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 14:58
  • Since the authorship and source are irrelevant (any verb list would do), I suggest to close the question and edit until that information disappears.
    – c.p.
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


The ist is probably meant to show you that those verbs go with sein in the perfect tenses. The German present and past perfect tenses use both sein and haben as auxilliaries. The most basic rule to decide which of these you need is this:

  1. intransitive verbs (those without an accusative object) that denote a movement or a change of state use sein
  2. for everything else, we use haben.

Here's a slightly more in-depth overview for you.

  • I've found some surprises, i.e. Verbs meaning movement or change and despite that they use haben, but it is rare. I've forgot them :-)
    – peterh
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 14:21
  • The verb bewegen (to move) is the most obvious counterexample.
    – Janka
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 16:44
  • bewegen is either transitive (etwas bewegen: to move something else) or reflexive (sich bewegen: to move yourself). On the website I linked to, both of those cases are shown to be used with haben.
    – GrottenOlm
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 18:03

I will second what @GrottenOlm said: The "ist" does indeed indicate the use of sein instead of haben as the auxiliary.

Since your original post is in English... English used to have this distinction too but lost it. You can still hear it though in certain phrases. The most notable one I can think of are the few opening lines of "Joy to the World"...

Joy to the World... The Lord **is** come.

In this case, "come" is the past participle (e.g. He comes, He came, He has come)... but, just like in German modernly, in the past you'd use "to be" with "to come" as the auxiliary.

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