Partizip I und II – Present and Past Participle in German Grammar

What is a Partizip?

The participle (das Partizip) is a verb form. In German grammar, there are two types of participle: Partizip I is the present participle (similar to the -ing form in English grammar) and Partizip II is the past participle (similar to the -ed form in English).

We can use participles as adjectives, to shorten or replace clauses or to build compound German tenses.

Learn how to form the present and past participles as well as when to use them in German grammar, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

Frau Kunze wurde von einer Freundin in ein Café eingeladen. Die beiden haben sich lange nicht mehr gesehen. Nach ihrer Tasche greifend läuft Frau Kunze zur Tür.

In einem neben der Kommode stehenden Schirmständer steht ein Schirm. Den Wetterbericht gehört, weiß Frau Kunze, dass es heute nicht regnen wird. Deshalb lässt sie den zusammengeklappten Schirm dort stehen.

What is the Partizip I?

The Partizip I is the present participle. Grammatically, it is similar to the English -ing form.

How to form the present participle in German

For all verbs, we form the German present participle as follows: infinitive + d.

Examples:
winken – winkendwave – waving
lachen – lachendlaugh – laughing

We add an -e before the -n of the infinitive to the verbs sein and tun to help with pronunciation.

Examples:
sein – seiendbe – being
tun – tuenddo – doing

When to use the present participle in German

We use the German present participle for simultaneous actions or actions that are in progress at or around the moment of speaking.

The present participle appears:

  • in participle clauses; the present participle action happens at the same time as the action in the main clause
Examples:
Nach ihrer Tasche greifend läuft Frau Kunze zur Tür.Ms Kunze is reaching for her bag and walking towards the door.
instead of: Frau Kunze läuft zur Tür und greift dabei nach ihrer Tasche.Ms Kunze is walking towards the door and reaching for her bag.
  • as an adjective or adverbial adjective (remember: when the present participle comes before the noun, we need to add the correct adjective ending)
Example:
Die lächelnde Frau verlässt das Haus.The smiling woman left the house.
definite article + feminine singular noun in nominative (Frau) = adjective ending -e
Example:
Sie verlässt lächelnd das Haus.Smiling, she left the house.
Examples:
der Lernendethe learner
literally: the person who is learning
die Reisendenthe travellers
literally: the people who are travelling

What is the Partizip II?

Das Partizip II (past participle) is the third form of the verb.

Example:
gehen – ging – gegangengo – went – gone
haben – hatte – gehabthave – had – had

How to form the past participle in German

Generally, we form German past participles with the prefix ge- and the endings -t or -en. The past participle ending depends on the type of verb:

  • regular (weak) verbs and mixed verbs take the ending -t
Examples:
lernen – gelerntlearn – learned (regular verb)
nennen – genanntname – named (mixed verb)
  • irregular (strong) verbs take the ending -en
Examples:
sehen – gesehensee – seen
treffen – getroffenmeet – met

Exceptions

  • Many irregular and mixed verbs change their stem in the past participle (see our list of irregular verbs)
    Example:
    gehen – gegangengo – gone
    bringen – gebrachtbring - brought
  • If the verb stem ends in -d/-t, we add an extra -et to regular and mixed verbs.
    Example:
    warten – gewartetwait – waited
  • Verbs with the ending -ieren form the past participle without ge-.
    Example:
    studieren – studiertstudy – studied
  • Inseparable verbs form their past participles without ge- (see our list of separable/inseparable verbs in German).
    Example:
    verstehen – verstandenunderstand – understood
  • With separable verbs, ge- goes after the prefix (see our list of separable/inseparable verbs in German).
    Example:
    ankommen – angekommenarrive – arrived
    zuhören – zugehörtlisten – listened

When to use the past participle in German

The past participle expresses a completed past action or a passive action.

We use the German past participle:

  • as an adjective or adverbial adjective (remember: when the past participle comes before the noun, we need to add an adjective ending)
Example:
Deshalb lässt sie den zusammengeklappten Schirm dort stehen.So she left the folded-up umbrella there.
definite article + masculine singular noun in accusative (Schirm) = adjective ending -en
Example:
Der Schirm steht zusammengeklappt im Schirmständer.The umbrella is folded-up in the umbrella stand.
Examples:
die Eingeladenethe guests
literally: the people who were invited
die Verliebtenthe lovebirds
literally: the people who have fallen in love
  • in a participle clause to show an action that occurred before the action in the main clause (similar to the English having said/done/made …)
Example:
Den Wetterbericht gehört, weiß Frau Kunze, dass es heute nicht regnen wird.Having heard the weather forecast, Ms Kunze knows that it won’t rain today.

We also use the past participle:

Example:
Die beiden haben sich lange nicht mehr gesehen.Those two haven’t seen each other for a long time.
Example:
Frau Kunze wurde von einer Freundin in ein Café eingeladen.Ms Kunze was invited to a café by a friend.