The past participle in German

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The past participle

Partizipien II (past participles) can be divided into 3 groups according to the way they are formed.

  • For regular verbs, the past participle is formed with ge‑ and ‑t.

kaufengekauft

to buy → bought

machengemacht

to make → made

handelngehandelt

to act → acted

  • For verbs that start with er‑, ver‑, be‑, hinter‑ and über-, and/or end in ‑ieren, we form the past participle without ge‑ and with a ‑t or ‑en ending:

telefonieren → telefoniert

to telephone → telephoned

erzählen → erzählt

to tell → told

betrachten → betrachtet

to consider → considered

verstehen → verstanden

to understand → understood

überlegen → überlegt

to contemplate → contemplated

unterschreiben → unterschrieben

to sign → signed

  • For irregular verbs, we form the past participle with ge‑ and ‑en. The stem may change:

essen → gegessen

to eat → eaten

gehen → gegangen

to go → gone

bleiben geblieben

to stay → stayed

sehen gesehen

to see → seen

Notes:

  • If the verb stem ends in ‑d or ‑t, the past participle ends in ‑et:

arbeiten → gearbeitet

to work → worked

  • The past participle is used to form compound tenses (perfect, pluperfect, passive - made up of auxiliary verb + main verb) and as an adjective:

Anna hat/hatte das Hotel von ihrer Großmutter geerbt. (Perfekt/Plusquamperfekt)

Anna has/had inherited the hotel from her grandmother. (perfect/pluperfect)

Das Hotel wird von Anna geerbt. (Passiv)

The hotel is being inherited by Anna. (passive)

Das geerbte Hotel ist wunderschön. (Adjektiv)

The inherited hotel is beautiful. (adjective)



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