The Präteritum (simple past) is one of the three past tenses in German. It can be compared to the simple past in English and is mostly used in written language. We typically use it to tell stories or report past events.

Unlike the simple past in English, however, we rarely use it in spoken language. For those instances we mainly use the Perfekt.


The Präteritum is formed it by removing the infinitive ending -en and instead adding the following endings to the root of the verb:

Personalpronomen | Personal pronounsEndung | Ending
er, sie, es-te

Here are some example verbs:

(to want to)
(to build)
(to do)
ich wollteich bauteich machte
du wolltestdu bautestdu machtest
er, sie, es wollteer, sie, es bauteer, sie, es machte
wir wolltenwir bautenwir machten
ihr wolltetihr bautetihr machtet
sie wolltensie bautensie machten

But German wouldn’t be German if there wouldn’t be some irregular verbs. To find out more about them check out our article about irregular verbs in German.

Other tenses in German:

Overview | Präsens | Perfekt | Plusquamperfekt | Futur 1 | Futur 2

Stay tuned for more articles about this and other grammar topics for learning German!

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