Monday, 31 December 2007

The Simple Past

The simple past - also known as the preterite or the imperfect tense - is equivalent in form to the English I did form (ich tat es). The way that regular verbs form their simple past is by a or being inserted into the present tense ending. For instance ich kaufe - I buy becomes ich kaufte - I bought and du kaufst - you buy becomes du kauftest - you bought.

The German simple past is mainly used in written German, where it can express most past tenses expressed in English by either the I have done or the I did forms. It also crops up in spoken German, where it is preferred over the perfect tense for the auxiliary verbs (particularly haben and sein) and the modal verbs (müssen, sollen, mögen, können, dürfen, wollen) and also - in Central and Northern Germany - for some other common verbs.

To listen to my podcast on your computer, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Laura,

thanks for the interesting podcast. I thought about an example with the past tense of "sollen". Imagine someone told me to buy bread, then I could say: "Ich bin in die Stadt gegangen, weil ich Brot kaufen sollte." ("I went to town because I was supposed to buy bread.")

I found one small typo in the transcript: "es war" ("it was") is spelled without "h", thus, the correct translation of "What was your name again?" is "Wie war Ihr Name doch gleich?"

The translation of "Who was having the ice cream?" with "Wer erhielt das Eis?" is extremely formal; you are more likely to hear: "Für wen war das Eis?" (or more formal: "Wer bekam das Eis?")

Cheers

Martin