to have & to be in German – Explanation and Examples

“haben” & “sein” im Deutschen – Erklärungen und Beispiele

Well, you simply can’t avoid them. They are everywhere.. and they will find you, no matter if you speak English or German. So, look into the face of your two worst enemies in this article: To be and to have in German.

Statistically, these two verbs are the most common ones in both languages. You simply need them when you “want to have a coffee”, or “when you are sad”. Apart from that, they are of high importance when you want to form different kinds of grammatical structures.

Sein” – to be

Haben” – to have

Please, try tp keep “to be and to have” in German in mind! As I have already mentioned these two verbs appear really frequently and have an important role as auxiliary verbs. In the following, we will clear up what “to have” and “to be” in German actually mean and in which grammatical constructions they are used. By the end of this lesson, you’ll be able to express your state of being, as well as what you have, with ease!

The Conjugation of haben & sein in Present Tense

Die Konjugation von “haben” & “sein” in der Gegewart

Forms of to have in German

Well, we will start learning something about the verb “haben” (to have). Actually, it is a little easier than “sein” (to be), as it has a simpler conjugation. Of course, “haben” is the infinite of the verb. In the following, we will discover its conjugation in different tenses and further of the verb to have in German. So, here is its conjugation in the present tense.

ich habeI have
du hastyou have
er/sie/es hathe/she/it has
wir habenwe have
ihr habtyou have
sie habenthey have

For sure, you could observe that the verb to have in German has the stem “ha” and changes its word endings depending on the person. Its different forms are actually quite regular – so, if you want to refresh your knowledge about word conjugation, have a short look at our article about German verbs!

Forms of to be in German

Well, the forms of to be in German are a bit more difficult than the ones of to have. Here, we are talking about a irregular verb. So, there is no real rule that you can follow to understand the conjugation of “sein”, you simply have to learn and memorize its different forms.

Ich binI am
Du bistYou are
Er/Sie/Es istHe/She/It is
Wir sindWe are
Ihr seidYou are
Sie sindThey are

Now, as we have cleared up the basic forms of “haben” and “sein”, you should know when to use them. Generally, it is quite similar to the use of “to have” and “to be” in English: First, if you want to express possession, you should use to have in German. Second, if you want to express feelings or emotion, you can use “sein”.

German haben & sein

The Conjugation of haben & sein in Past Tense

Die Konjugation von “sein” & “haben” in der Vergangenheit

Forms of “Haben”

After we have cleared up the forms of “sein” and “haben” in German present tense, let’s talk about their forms in the past tense. First of all, you have a infinitive form of these verbs in the past tense:

  • waren” – was
  • hatten” – had

And without loosing too much time, I want to show this table, where you can see their conjugation in the past tense. We will start with “haben”, as a more regular verb.

Ich hatteI had
Du hattestYou had
Er/Sie/Es hatteHe/She/It had
Wir hattenWe had
Ihr hattetYou had
Sie hattenThey had

Forms of “Sein”

Of course, you can clearly see the word stem and the regular changes of the word endings, depending on the person. Unfortunately, the conjugation of “sein” remains irregular. Here you have the table showing them.

Ich warI was
Du warstYou were
Er/Sie/Es warHe/She/It was
Wir warenWe were
Ihr wartYou were
Sie warenThey were

Well, we have completed the forms of “to be” and “to have” in German in the past tense. As in the present tense forms, “haben” has regular forms, whereas “sein” is still irregular. So, you simply have to learn these forms by heart.

The Conjugation of haben & sein in Perfect Tense

Die Konjugation von “sein” & “haben” im Perfekt

Forms of “Haben”

Now, we have reached a tense where you can see the importance of the different forms of “sein” and “haben”: You need it every time you want to form verbs in the perfect tense. So, let’s start right ahead with the forms of “haben” in perfect tense.

Ich habe gehabtI have had
Du hast gehabtYou have had
Er/Sie/Es hat gehabtHe/She/It has had
Wir haben gehabtWe have had
Ihr habt gehabtYou have had
Sie haben gehabtThey have had

Actually, “sein” works the same way. The form of the present tense works as an auxiliary verb. So, let’s have a look at the forms of “sein” in the perfect tense.

Forms of “Sein”

Ich bin gewesenI have been
Du bist gewesenYou have been
Er/Sie/Es ist gewesenHe/She/it has been
Wir sind gewesenWe have been
Ihr seid gewesenYou have been
Sie sind gewesenThey have been

Well, if you want to say, “She has been (was) glad,” you’ll need to use “sein” twice in the German sentence:

  1. “sein” conjugated as”sie ist” and
  2. the past participle of “sein”, “gewesen”.

So you will get the sentence “Sie ist froh gewesen.” As you can see here, we use “to have” in English to produce a sentence like “We have but “to be,” or “sein”, in German. If you say:

Wir haben eine Party gehabt.

This follows the same rules as when using these forms of perfect tense of to be.

The Conjugation of haben & sein in Future Tense

Die Konjugation von “sein” & “haben” im Futur

Forms of to have in German

Finally, we will learn the forms of to be and to have in German in fourth most common tense in German. So, let’s go straight to the different forms. In contrast to the sections before, we will start with the forms of “sein”.

Ich werde habenI will have
Du wirst habenYou will have
Er/Sie/Es wird habenHe/She/It will have
Wir werden habenWe will have
Ihr werdet habenYou will have
Sie werden habenThey will have

So, for the forms of to have in German in the future tense, we will need future tense forms of “sein” as an auxiliary verb. Here you have the table of its forms.

Forms of “to be”

Ich werdeI will
Du wirst You will
Er/Sie/Es wird He/She/It will
Wir werden We will
Ihr werdet You will
Sie werden They will

Actually, the future forms of to be and to have in German are not so complicated, as they are really similar to the way it is formed in the English language.

Well, I hope I could clear up things for you – to be and to have in German are not as difficult as you might think. Put a lot of elbow grease in studying them, especially the irregular forms of “sein”. They are a crucial element of German grammar, as they are also for the English language. By the way, if you want practice the use of to be and to have in German, enter this website where you can find great interactive exercises.



Finally we have reached the last part of this article where you can proof 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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