For Präteritum of essen Duden shows to forms: and aßest.

Are they interchangeable? And if not what's the difference between them?

  • 3
    Do you mean (du) t and est perhaps?
    – David Vogt
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 9:42
  • 2
    The edit changed the question substantially! The title still says what it originally was about ( as in ich aß versus aßest as in du aßest), but the body is now about something different (du aßt versus du aßest). It would have been better if the OP had edited his question, if an edit was neccessary at all. Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 16:28
  • @BjörnFriedrich, thanks for noticing that I had forgotten to also correct the subject line. You could just have done that. I agree, however, that it would have been nice to hear from the OP.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


Both forms are possible and equivalent, see here: Duden | essen. However, in spoken German it is way more common to use the perfect, i.e. Du hast gegessen. The second person preterite is rarely used, except for letters/emails.

Side note: Du aßt is a homophon to Du aast (you're eating carrion), so personally I'd stick with du aßest.

  • 2
    "way more common" is still too weak. I don't think I have ever written, said or heard "Du aßt/aßest" since primary school (exception might be a play in theater). And even in modern written German this would be extremely rare. I'd maybe expect this in Effi Briest but not even in contemporary mainstream literature. It's so rare that you basically can only use this for effect.
    – user6495
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 8:55
  • "Du aast (you're eating carrion)"? Where does that come from? I've never encountered that usage -- and a quick search shows only the English Wiktionary (w/o any sources cited to back that very dubious claim), German Wiktionary knows nothing of that.
    – user41324
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 10:28
  • 1
    Aasen comes from Aas (carrion). It's typically used with animals, e.g. beobachtete in Mexiko Kalifornische Kondore beim Aasen. The infinitive is pronounced with a /z/ which becomes soft in the 2nd person singular (-> /s/), hence the homophone. Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 11:53
  • @infinitezero -- Apparently the second meaning (to waste or spoil) given in Wiktionay is more common since that's the only one given in Duden & DWDS. Going by the DWDS usage chart it's not a common word anyway and falling into disuse. dict.cc says something about it having been created by a modern songwriter, but I doubt that's correct.
    – RDBury
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 12:09
  • My apologies for my edit of the question. Unfortunately, after it has been reverted, the first paragraph of your answer has become wrong.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 6:15

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