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I don't understand what tense they are trying to convey in German when they say this

e.g. I did see it

instead of

I have seen it - Ich habe es gesehen
I saw it       - Ich sah es

Where are they getting the 'did' from?

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  • 6
    In German there's no difference between "Ich habe es gesehen" und "Ich sah es". I guess for some German it might be awkward to say "I saw it" because they wouldn't say "Ich sah es" either. And they know that "have seen" might be incorrect in this context or they might be unsure about this. This could be a reason. However, afaik "I did see it" is fine if you want to put some emphasis on it. So perhaps it's use is even intentionally.
    – Em1
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 9:26
  • Wasn’t there some German dialect (or similar), in which the perfect is built with tun instead of haben? For example: »Ich tat das sehen.« instead of »Ich habe das gesehen.«
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 11:35
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    is this really a question about German?
    – c.p.
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 0:59
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    As native German speaker I agree with Em1. "I saw it" needs some getting used to and especially for beginners the "have" is scary. Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 22:07
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    with did one can avoid irregular forms, e. g. of past participle
    – user5513
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 10:57

3 Answers 3

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People who are not well versed in grammar tend to mix up the rules. The didn't construction has a deep impression on Germans because it's needed quite often, and that rule of how to say a negation is very different from what they are used to from its own language. That should be the reason why the auxiliary verb did is also used to express anything in the past. It sounds more English so to speak.

P.S.: the difference between Simple Past and Past Perfect is also not clear to many people.

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As far as I know, “I did see it” can be used in English instead of “I saw it” for emphasis.

“You didn't even see me!” — “I did see you. It was just that...”

Or:

“I saw no signs human life. What I did see, however, were lots of small furry creatures.”

I would not know that Germans were particularly prone to overuse this construction. But then that might be just me as a German be as mistaken as my compatriots ;)

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I am a German speaker and afaik I speak this way just since it is much more common to me. I don't know if there is a grammatical reason, but I think there is none and it means the same. Besides, in another context, I would expext the expression otherwise.


This is what I say:

I have seen it - Ich habe es gesehen

And this is what I would expect to read in a book or to hear in a movie:

I saw it       - Ich sah es

Note, that this is just what I'm used to!

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    Do you know the difference between "I have lived in London for 10 years" and "I lived in London for 10 years". In English the sentence imply different things, in German they are absolutely identical.
    – Em1
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 9:58
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    Although they are identical, you would rather say ich habe gelebt... than ich lebte.... Same as above, I would expect the second version not to be spoken.
    – user3345
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 10:13
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    I don't see how this post relates to the question, which is about did see.
    – chirlu
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 7:04

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