One way to practise German and get used to a new verb tense is to think up a number of sentences in the present and then see if you can transform them into the new tense, in this case, the perfect.
Present: Ich schreibe einen Eintrag für meinen Blog. I write an entry for my blog.
By tomorrow I could write:
Perfect: Gestern habe ich einen Eintrag für meinen Blog geschrieben.
As you wander from activity to activity during your day, describe it to yourself in German, then imagine describing it in the past. As long as no one sees your lips moving, no one will think you are strange at all.
Whenever you’re stumped for how to say something, look it up or ask your teacher. Write down what you find out. Before long you’ll have the perfect perfectly fixed in your memory.
- Present: Ich sage nichts. Perfect: Ich habe nichts gesagt.
- Present: Ich gehe zur Schule. Perfect: Ich bin zur Schule gegangen.
- Present: Ich stricke einen Schal. (I knit a scarf.) Perfect: Ich habe ihn gestrickt.
- Present: Ich schlafe lange. Perfect: Ich habe lange geschlafen.
- Present: Ich spreche mit meinen Freunden. Perfect: Ich habe mit meinen Freunden gesprochen.
- Present: Ich wohne in Melbourne. Perfect: Ich habe in Melbourne gewohnt.
A warning bell…
In English, there are about 175 verbs that change their vowel sound in the past tense, rather than doing what most verbs do and simply adding d or -ed to the verb ending. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the early history of the two languages, the same verbs often have an irregular past participle in German.
In German the default rule is, put „ge“ before the verb stem and „t“ after it and just like that you have your past participle. But of course many past participles don’t conform to this rule. If a verb is unpredictable in English, then you should be suspicious of it in German.
Imagine you are a kind of language detective. „Aha,“ you could say to yourself, „I say spoken, not speaked. I wonder if that verb is unpredictable in German too.“ As you can see from the example above, indeed it is. You would say in German, „Ich habe gesprochen„.
The quiz below provides many sentences in the present and then requires you to supply the perfect tense. It includes many irregular verbs and also several that require „sein“ as the auxiliary, not „haben“.
There are also some explanations underneath the trickier questions on the little report you can read at the end of the quiz.