German Participles

Partizipien im Deutschen – Erklärungen und Beispiele

German Participles – Summary


Rules for forming the perfect participle (Partizip 2):

  • Participle of regular verbs: “ge-” + stem + “-t” (ge-lern-t)
  • Participle of irregular verbs: “ge-“+ stem + “-en” (ge-gang-en)
  • Verbs with fixed prefixes don’t have “ge-” (verschwunden, zerrissen)
  • In case of a compound or separable verbs, the “-ge-” is put in between (aus-ge-kommen, fort-ge-laufen)

Exceptions to the rules of forming the perfect participle

  1. Many strong and mixed verbs change the stem in the participle 2 form.
  2. In case the stem ends with “d/t”, you add “-et” to weak verbs.
  3. Verbs with the ending “-ieren”  have a participle 2 without “ge-“.
  4. Inseparable verbs also have a participle 2 form without the prefix “ge-“.
  5. And, as already mentioned, when building the participle 2 of separable verbs, the prefix “ge-” is put after the prefix.


The participle 2 expresses a passive action, which already took place. You use the participle 2 in the following cases:

  • … as an attributive adjective for a passive action or an action which already happened.
  • … as an adverbial adjective or adverb for a passive action or an action which already took place.
  • … in participle clauses for a passive action or an action that took place before the action of the main clause.
  • … as a noun for a person which was affected by the action which already took place.

Formation of the present participle (Partizip 1):

  • In German, you construct the participle 1 form of a verb by adding the ending “d” to the infinitive of the verb.
    “winken – winkend”, “lachen – lachend”
  • Important exceptions are the verbs “sein” and “tun”, where you add the letter “e” in front of the ending “d”.
    “sein – seiend”, “tun – tuend”

The participle 1 form of a verb expresses an action which takes place at the same time as another action. You use the participle 1 in the following cases:

  • … as attributive adjective for an action or a process in the active voice.
  • … as adverbial adjective or adverb for something, which happens at the same moment.
  • … in a participial clause for an action that happens at the same time as the action of the main clause.
  • … as a noun for a person that realizes the action of the verb in participle 1 form.
German Participles

Welcome to! Well, as you have clicked on this article, I suppose you want to enter the depth of German grammar. So, you have chosen a very essential part of this language, the German participles. For sure, you know that it is very important to understand the forming and usage of German participles, as they are needed to construct a lot of different German tenses and moods. Furthermore, you should know that there are even two types of German participles! Well, don’t worry – it might take some time, but you will master this topic faster than you might think.

In the following, we will take a detailed look at the two different types of German participles. First, we will try to clear up, what German participles actually are and define the two different types. After that, we will talk about the usage and, of course, their conjugation. So, let’s not lose too much time and start right ahead!

By the way, in case you want to get some background knowledge about German participles, just have a look at this article on Wikipedia.

Definition and Usage of German Participles

Definition und Anwendungen von Partizipien im Deutschen

Well, in this first part of the article we will take a more detailed look at the two different types of German participles. Additionally, we will also talk about their correct usage.

1. The Present Participle (Partizip 1)

So, the first type of the German participles, the so-called present participle, can the compared to the gerund form in the English grammar. Well, you can use this German participle in two types of situations:

  • First, instead of a clause for one of two simultaneously occurring actions.
    “Hupend fährt das Auto fort.” – The car drives away honking.
  • Second, as an attributive adjective (of course, with an adjective ending).
    “In einem fahrenden Boot fischt ein Mann.” – In a floating boat a man fishes.

Now, let’s come to the next type of German participles.

2. The Perfect Participle (Partizip 2)

So, this second type of German participle can be compared to the past participle in the English language. Actually, its usage should be quite clear to you. Nevertheless, we will talk about it in the following. Of course, the perfect participle is a little bit more complex in its usage.

  • First, you can use it instead of a clause which expresses that the action described by the participle took place before another action. Huff, sounds complicated – here is an example:
    “Mit den Nachbarn geredet, weiß Frau Schmidt nun Bescheid über alles.” – Having talked to the neighbors, Mrs. Schmidt knows everything now.
  • Second, as an attributive adjective:
    “Deshalb stand das geklaute Auto dort!” – That’s why the robbed car was standing over there!
  • Third, you have to use this type of German participles in compound tenses. Well, the following tenses include the perfect participle: Present perfect, past perfect and the future perfect.
  • Fourth and last, it is very important in the passive voice.
    “Mein Auto wurde gestern gestohlen.” – My car was robbed yesterday.

Well, I think we have cleared up what the German participle is and also talked about its correct usage. Now, let’s come to another important part of this article, the conjugation of German participles.

The Conjugation of German Participles and some Exceptions

Die Konjugation von Partizipien im Deutschen und einige Ausnahmen

Now, as already mentioned above, we will come to a central point of this article and talk about the conjugation of the German participles. After that, we will have to talk about some exceptions. Yep, unfortunately there are some – but hey, you are learning German. So, just get used to it 😛

1. The Conjugation of the Present Participle

Luckily, there is a simple rule you can follow if you want to form this type of German participles. So, here you are.

Infinitive + “d” (for all verbs)

Well, quite easy, huh? So, let’s make it even more understandable and have a look at some examples:

  • “laufen” – “laufend” (to run)
  • “sehen” – “sehend” (to see)

2. The Conjugation of the Perfect Participle

Now, let’s have a look at the formula for the second type of German participles. Well, it’s a little bit more complicated than the formula for the present participle, as you have to distinguish between weak and strong verbs. So, here are the two formulas.

For weak and mixed verbs: ge … t

  • “weinen” – “geweint” (to cry)
  • “feiern” – “gefeiert” (to party)

And now, for strong verbs: ge … en

  • “sehen” – “gesehen” (to see)
  • “bitten” – “gebeten” (to beg)

So, let’s come to the sweet part of exceptions. Actually, we can also split them into exceptions for the present participle and exceptions for the past participles.

3. Exceptions for German Participles

First of all, I’d like to mention only one exception for the German present participle. Simply keep in mind, that you use an extra “e” before the “n” in case you use the forms of “sein” (to be). Actually, that’s quite easy, I think. So, let’s come to some more exceptions, which all apply in the past participle.

  • First, many strong and mixed verbs change their stem in the perfect participle.
    “gehen” – “gegangen” (to go)
    “bringen” – “gebracht” (to bring)

  • Second, if the word stem ends in “-d” or “-t”, we add an extra “et” to weak and mixed verbs. So, here is an example:
    “warten” – “gewartet” (to wait)

  • Third, verbs with the ending “-ieren” form the past participle without “ge-“.
    “studieren” – “studiert” (to study)

  • Fourth, inseparable verbs form the past participle without “ge-“.
    “verstehen” – “verstanden” (to understand)
  • Fifth and last, with separable verbs, the “ge-” goes after the prefix.
    “ankommen” – “angekommen” (to arrive)

Well, I think we came to the end of this article about German participles. Actually, it wasn’t too difficult, huh?



Finally, we have reached the last part of this article where you can prove the German skills you have just learned. In the following you will see some phrases that you should complete with the correct terms. Once you have filled all the gaps, just click on the “correct” button and  you can see your errors and the correct results. Good luck and… auf Wiedersehen!

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