When using the Futur 1 in the main clause and the conjunction nachdem, we have two options for the subordinate clause: the Perfekt and the Präsens. Thus, I would like to know if there is any difference between these two options.

For example, do the following sentences mean different things or are used in different situations?

  1. Ich werde zur Arbeit fahren, nachdem ich gefrühstückt habe.
  2. Ich werde zur Arbeit fahren, nachdem ich frühstücke.

Are there situations where we can use Futur 1 + nachdem + Perfekt but Futur 1 + nachdem + Präsens is not possible (or vice versa)?

----- EDIT -----

Since some people are saying that Futur 1 + nachdem + Präsens is simply wrong, I would like to add the following pages, which (if I understood them correctly) seem to state this construction is OK.


Wenn das Geschehen im Nebensatz vor dem Geschehen im Hauptsatz verläuft, gelten folgende Tendenzen: [...] • Steht im Hauptsatz das Futur I, steht im Nebensatz das Präsens oder das Perfekt, selten das Futur II.

Although the example provided by Leo.org uses wenn, not nachdem:

Er wird schuldenfrei sein, wenn er das Geld zurückzahlt.


Ich werde zur Uni fahren, nachdem ich frühstücke.

  • 2
    nachdem ich das Buch lese is wrong anyways. It doesn't make sense. Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 8:16
  • 1
    Was nutzt es, dem Fragesteller mittzuteilen, dass er einen falschen Satz gebildet hat, ohne ihm zu sagen, worin der Fehler liegt?
    – David Vogt
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 9:12
  • @πάνταῥεῖ I do not understand why the last sentence was not correct, but since that was not the focus of the question, I have changed the examples. Thank you anyway. Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 10:17
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    @πάνταῥεῖ well, I don't think that the question is futile because it is a general question about futur I + nachdem + präsens versus futur I + nachdem + perfekt. I just wrote the two sentences in an attempt to provide a concrete example, but there is nothing special about them. If someone asked me something general about Portuguese (my mother tongue), but used a wrong example to illustrate the question, I bet that I would still be able to answer (and to explain why the example was incorrect). But again, thank you for at least telling me that the sentence was wrong. Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 10:30
  • 1
    "I'm going to work after I eat breakfast," "I'm going to work after I've eaten breakfast," and "I'm going to work after eating breakfast," are all perfectly fine in English. So analogy with English will not help with this.
    – RDBury
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 12:52

2 Answers 2


You cannot use the Präsens. Never use the Präsens after nachdem. (*)

The subordinate clause introduced by nachdem always talks about events that are in the past from the point of view of the main clause. Therefore it must be in a perfect tense. German has three perfect tenses, called Perfekt, Plusquamperfekt and Futur II.

Therefore, of your two options, the Perfekt is the way to go:

  1. Ich werde zur Arbeit gehen, nachdem ich gefrühstückt habe.

Curiously you do not mention the other possible option, Futur II:

  1. Ich werde zur Arbeit gehen, nachdem ich gefrühstückt haben werde.

But I only bring it up to discourage it. In a sense this is more correct, because the perfect tense that expresses relative past from the point of view of Futur I is Futur II. In reality, German speakers hardly use Futur II ever. This is a very pedantic way of expressing the temporal relationship. Avoid Futur II in spoken German and use it sparingly in written form.

In fact, in informal German you should not use the Futur I either (and maybe also eschew nachdem) and should simply say: Ich gehe zur Arbeit, wenn ich gefrühstückt habe. Plus, you have matching tenses again! (Perfekt expressing relative past from the point of view of Präsens.)

If the main clause were in a past tense, you'd have to use Plusquamperfekt:

  • Ich ging zur Arbeit (bin zur Arbeit gegangen), nachdem ich gefrühstückt hatte.

(*) At least when nachdem is used in the temporal sense. There is also a causal sense where you can use the Präsens, but it is a rare, regional (Southern) usage.

  • Hello. Thank you for the answer. I gave you a +1. You say that the subordinate clause must be in the past from the point of view of the main clause, but Präsens is in the past with respect to the future, right? Moreover, I have edited the question and added two links... Could you please comment on them? Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 15:02
  • @HilderVitorLimaPereira Präsens is not used to express anteriority (Vorzeitigkeit), only the three perfect tenses are used for that. (Duden Grammatik comes uses uncommon, if sensible, names for the tenses here, but they are the same three that I mention in my answer.) Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 17:47
  • @HilderVitorLimaPereira With respect to leo.org, their description is wrong in my opinion, and their example works only because they conveniently use wenn, which can be read as a condicional sentence, or, alternatively, can express simultaneity. Either way it makes sense, but it would not work with nachdem. The „deutschplus“ example is wrong, also for not mentioning Futur II. Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 18:03
  • @HilderVitorLimaPereira Having said all that, there are some colloquial cases where you may encounter the Präsens: ich gehe zur Arbeit, nachdem ich mit dem Frühstück fertig bin, or: ich bezahle dich, nachdem ich das Geld habe. (Note that this has nothing to do with the Futur I being in the main clause!) In either case the speaker should have said wenn instead. But this part of the language is not terribly strict, so it may slip by native speakers – unlike, say, getting a noun gender wrong, which sticks out like a sore thumb ;-) Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 18:10
  • Okay. Thank you very much for all the elaborated comments! Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 18:41

Native speakers have a very strong preference for using perfect (or pluperfect) after nachdem. The conjunction seems to almost demand it. The reason for this formal requirement is probably semantics.

The perfect has a double function in German: on the one hand, it is a past tense, pretty much interchangeable with the preterite (simple past); on the other hand, its meaning is aspectual, signifying that a result state persists.

A simple example where preterite and perfect are not interchangeable:

  1. Ich trank zu viel.
  2. Ich habe zu viel getrunken.

The first sentence will be interpreted as a habit in the past. The second has another interpretation, as talking about feeling drunk or ill at the present moment (as a result of having drunk too much). (Note that, in accordance with what was said in the second paragraph, the second sentence can also be synonymous to the first one.)

In your example, the perfect seems to be required by the meaning alone:

Ich werde fahren, nachdem ich gefrühstückt habe.

Many speakers would use wenn or sobald instead of nachdem here and, although the former conjunctions are not limited to the perfect in general, they are in this context. The idea is that breakfast has to be over and, presumably, some state of readiness or at least satiety be reached, for driving to commence.

Ich werde fahren, sobald ich *frühstücke / ✓gefrühstückt habe.
Ich werde fahren, wenn ich *frühstücke / ✓gefrühstückt habe.

Two general remarks: 1. Germans would probably use present tense fahre instead of werde fahren in the above sentence – the present is the neutral way of talking about the future. 2. There is no consecutio temporum (sequence of tenses, e.g. backshift) in German.

There are rare cases where nachdem does seem to combine with a present.

Nachdem er sitzt, steckt er sich, mit unvergleichlicher Noblesse, eine Zigarette in den Mund. (from the DWDS corpus)

Sie sollten Ihrem Kind möglichst bald, nachdem es anfängt zu zahnen, ein gesundes Ess- und Putzverhalten angewöhnen. (colgate.de)

In both cases, most people would use the perfect instead, although it is not required by meaning; by which I mean simply that, when switching to another conjunction, the present appears unremarkable.

Als er sitzt, steckt er sich …
Sie sollten Ihrem Kind, wenn es anfängt zu zahnen …

(The example with sitzen is interesting in that sitzen is the result of sich setzen, i.e. it signifies a result state on a lexical level. Accordingly, the latter would require perfect in order to express the same idea, i.e. that the cigarette is lit after and not during the act of sitting down: Als er sich gesetzt hatte, steckte er sich …)

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