Which of the above two sentences is correct or if both are correct then what is more appropriate to say? Please answer.

I am used to continuous tense in English which makes me start the sentence with 'Ich bin....' trying to mean 'I am eating', but then I started wondering if I am grammatically wrong here because I know German does not have a continuous tense and if am unnecessarily adding the helping verb.

  • 5
    You can't just translate English word for word and hope that what comes out is German. It won't be.
    – David Vogt
    Apr 26, 2020 at 10:26
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    @davidVogt I guess, I already mentioned that above and the reason for my doubt. Could you please rather answer my question (the question in subject)? Apr 26, 2020 at 11:58
  • 1. There is no continuous tense in German (you can find rudimentary continuous form just in local dialects in the region of Cologne) 2. Never try to translate just the words. The result will be wrong in 99% of all cases. Translate sentences, or even better: Translate meanings (this requires to think in the langauge you want to use to talk). Apr 27, 2020 at 6:18

2 Answers 2


Ich esse einen Apfel.

is the only correct sentence if you want to say that you're eating an apple. Ich bin einen Apfel essen wouldn't be a meaningful translation. (However, it can be a correct sentence in another context: for instance, when you are asked on the phone what you're doing and you would respond I went to eat an apple.)

Note that essen is the infinitive, so your second sentence would translate into English as: *I am eat an apple. The literal translation *Ich bin einen Apfel essend would come closer, but is still ungrammatical.

Apart from that, there is a dialectal and otherwise very colloquial progressive form (Rheinische Verlaufsform) in German: Ich bin einen Apfel am essen.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Takkat
    Apr 29, 2020 at 19:11
  • I don't agree with your statement that Ich bin einen Apfel essen can be a correct sentence in other circumstances. A so-called 'absentive' construction (sein + infinitive) only comes with predicates that describe activities requiring a change of location, whether it be a change of the room (ich bin eben kurz die Wäsche in die Maschine stecken - sounding more or less slangy) or, in most cases, leaving the building because you can't do it at home (er ist einen Freund vom Bahnhof abholen). However, eating an apple can be done everywhere, there is no need even to leave the room to do it. Apr 29, 2020 at 20:31
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    @RalfJoerres we can still construct context that makes it correct - perhaps a work/office setting, where eating an apple would be prohibited at your place of work, requiring you to leave the room for that (slightly contrieved, I'll admit, but it is still possible).
    – Hulk
    Apr 30, 2020 at 7:29
  • @Hulk: In order to be understandable, a sentence must have a certain probability of occuring. For me, most of so-called absentive constructions are elliptic and could be completed by gegangen. 'Er ist joggen / joggen gegangen': okay. 'Er ist einen Apfel essen / einen Apfel essen gegangen' strange. 'Er ist sich einen Apfel schälen / sich einen Apfel schälen gegangen': baroque. 'Er ist sich die Apfelstückchen einzeln in den Mund stecken (gegangen)' ??? Je nebensächlicher die Handlung ist, desto schräger kommt sie im Absentiv daher. Apr 30, 2020 at 7:59
  • @RalfJoerres Er ist sich die Apfelstückchen einzeln in den Mund stecken (gegangen) is not the context I meant. I agree with Hulk. May 3, 2020 at 20:16

In German grammar we don't use helping VERB as we do in English grammar .. So , correct one is „Ich esse einen Apfel “

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