I have some questions when to use "haben" and "sein" when building the temporal form "Das Perfekt" with the following verbs:

  • Begegnen
  • Heiraten
  • Abbrennen

I'm trying to find out why the following sentences are incorrect:

  1. Ich bin im Januar geheiratet. (It should be "Ich habe [...] geheiratet", but why? "Heiraten" is supposed to indicate a "Zustandswechsel", isn't it?)

  2. Wo habt ihr euch zum ersten Mal begegnet? (It should be "Wo seid ihr [...] begegnet", so does "begegnen" indicate a "Ortswechsel" or "Zustandswechsel"?)

  3. Das Haus hat bis auf die Grundmauern abgebrannt. (This one got me a little confused. It should be "Das Haus ist [...] abgebrannt." I understand that there is a "Zustandswechsel"; the house burned down. Ok, but there is an "Akkusativergänzung" --> "auf die Grundmauern", so why do we use "sein" instead of "haben"?)

  • 1
    The second correction isn't correct either. Instead of Wo seit ... it should be Wo seid ... Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 10:17
  • (for the small side thing: seid-seit.de) Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 10:39
  • Note the "Zustandswechsel" vs. "Ortswechsel" rule is just a general rule, there's more to it (and a bunch of exceptions).
    – tofro
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 11:52

1 Answer 1


You seem to already know that taking an accusative object tends to go along with having a "haben" perfect. So the first two are not a surprise, because it is "jemanden heiraten" but "jemandem begegnen". The "auf die Grundmauern" part in the third example is not relevant for this, though, because it is "bis auf die Grundmauern", so you shouldn't count this as either accusative or dative, but as using a preposition (which happens to take accusative). Contrast this with

Ich habe die Grundmauern abgebrannt.

Note that these rules do not always work, for example we have

Ich bin einen Marathon gelaufen.

The verb "laufen" has a perfect with "sein", even though there is an accusative object in this case. (Or maybe "hat" would actually be correct here, too, but "bin" certainly is.)

  • 1
    It could also very well be "Ich habe einen Marathon gelaufen"
    – tofro
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 11:38
  • 2
    As an Austrian I would strongly object – „haben gelaufen“ is a purely German thing (and then probably not in all parts of Germany, but what do I know.) Isn't it fun to have a pluricentric language? :-)
    – Ingmar
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 12:00
  • @tofro, actually, I have long wondered about this, and even considered asking about it in the past. I think my Sprachgefühl used to tell me “habe” here, but it doesn’t anymore. Of course, I can be totally wrong.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 13:24
  • That's a special case: "Ich habe einen Marathon gelaufen" is not so much about the movement, but rather about the completion of the task. That's why "haben" is fine here, also because it's a transitive usage.
    – tofro
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 14:06
  • 1
    @tofro I'm from Hesse, and to me Ich habe einen Marathon gelaufen sounds plain wrong.
    – RHa
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 15:56

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