In German there are three different auxiliary verbs which are used in different cases: sein, haben and werden. In this lesson you will learn the rules of conjugation for the correct use of the auxiliary verbs in German.
The sein and haben verbs are used in the perfect (Perfekt) and the pluperfect (Plusquamperfekt) to form these compound tenses. They cannot be used randomly in certain cases. With verbs of movement, change of state or place, German speakers prefer to use the auxiliary sein, for example.
The auxiliary werden is used to form the future which is a compound tense in German. It can also be used to express oneself in the passive voice or to form the subjunctive II.
Let’s have a detailed look at the uses of these three auxiliary verbs in German.
Sein is one of the three auxiliary verbs in German. Its specific meaning corresponds to the verb “to be”. In addition to this, it is useful for forming compound tenses in German.
Usually the auxiliary sein is used with intransitive verbs (see the lesson on German verbs for this definition) which indicate a movement, a change of state or place in the German language. It can also be used in front of verbs that express an event. For these verbs, the auxiliary verbs sein and haben cannot be swapped to form compound conjugation tenses in German.
In the following cases, sein is used alone:
The conjugation of this auxiliary is not regular, so it must be memorized.
You can find the complete conjugation tables of the sein auxiliary in German.
Haben is one of the three auxiliary verbs in German. Its specific meaning corresponds to the verb “to have”. In addition to this, it is useful for forming compound tenses in German.
In contrary to the auxiliary sein, the auxiliary haben is used before transitive, impersonal and pronominal verbs (for the definition of verbs see the lesson on verbs in German) but also before transitive state verbs. It is also used before positional verbs in German (e.g. stehen, liegen, sitzen, hängen). In this case also the auxiliary haben cannot be interchanged with the auxiliary sein.
Finally, the verb haben can be used as a verb alone in the following cases:
Finally, we must remember the conjugation of the haben auxiliary, which is irregular.
You can find the complete conjugation tables of the haben auxiliary in German.
Werden is the third auxiliary of the German language. The specific meaning of werden corresponds to the verb “to become”. It is also used to form conjugation tenses in German such as the future and the conditional, but also to speak in the passive voice.
Nevertheless the future tense with werden is very little used in German (it is preferred to use the present tense to express the future tense) because of the complexity of its turn of phrase.
It also makes it possible to clarify all cases of conjugation which may be ambiguous.
In addition, the conjugation of the werden auxiliary is irregular.
You can find the complete conjugation tables of the werden auxiliary in German.