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Fahren Conjugation: Past Tense, Past Participle & Imperative

Instructor: Sandra Salajic

Sandra has a master's degree in teaching German. She has taught middle and high school German, and worked on different on- and offline courses with kids and adults.

In today's lesson, we will talk about the verb 'fahren' which means 'to drive' or 'to go.' We will take a look at its irregular conjugation in the past tense and how to make the past participle and imperative forms.

Let's Drive Away!

Maybe you want to leave the party and go home, travel to a new city you have never been to, or just brag about the new car you drove last night. In all these situations you will have to use the verb fahren (FAH-rehn) which means to drive or to go.

This is an irregular verb and will have a different conjugation than the usual regular verbs. Besides that, we will see a special situation in the perfect tense.

Let's check what's going on!

Preterite of Fahren

Präteritum is the simple past tense. It will usually be used in written texts and newspapers and much less in spoken language, but it's still important to know how to at least recognize it when you see it.

Like we already mentioned, the verb fahren is an irregular verb and will have an irregular conjugation. Let's see what it looks like:

Pronoun Conjugation Pronunciation Meaning
ich fuhr eeh foor I drove
du fuhrst doo foorst you drove (singular)
er fuhr ehr foor he drove
sie fuhr zee foor she drove
es fuhr ehs foor it drove
wir fuhren veer FOO-rehn we drove
ihr fuhrt eehr foort you drove (plural)
sie fuhren zee FOO-rehn they drove
Sie fuhren zee FOO-rehn you drove (singular and plural formal)

As you can see from the chart above, the verb fahren does not use the standard simple past endings (-te, -test, -te, -ten, -tet, -ten).

The first and third person singular have no endings (ich fuhr, er fuhr) and the rest will have the same endings as in the present tense (du fuhrst, wir fuhren, ihr fuhrt, sie fuhren).

Besides that, in the stem of the verb, the 'a' will change into 'u' (ich fahre - ich fuhr):

Examples:

  • Wir fuhren mit dem Zug nach Berlin. (We went to Berlin by train.)
  • Er fuhr sehr schnell. (He drove very fast.)

Translation: We drove very fast.
drive

Past Participle of Fahren

Before we continue with the past of the verb fahren, we will have to mention the past participle form of the verb.

The past participle is formed by adding the prefix ge- to the stem of the verb and the sufix -en for irregular verbs, like the verb fahren.

  • ge + fahr + en.

So the past participle of this verb will be gefahren.

One of the most common uses for this form of the verbs will be to build the perfect tense. Let's check out how to do that in the next chapter!

Perfekt of Fahren

The Perfekt is a compound tense and consists of two parts. The first one is the Past Participle form that we learned in the last chapter (gefahren).

The other part of the tense is the correct form of the auxiliary verb haben (to have) or sein (to be). Most of the verbs in German will be built with either one or the other, a general rule being that verbs showing a change of location or condition use the auxiliary verb sein.

Fahren is one of the special verbs, which can be built with both, depending on the meaning.

If you are talking about driving a car or another vehicle, you will use haben:

  • Er hat das neue Auto gefahren. (He drove the new car.)
  • Ich habe früher viel Fahrrad gefahren. (I used to ride the bike a lot.)

If you are talking about going or moving to another location, you will use sein:

  • Ich bin nach Hamburg gefahren. (I went to Hamburg.)
  • Wir sind nach Hause gefahren. (We went home.)

Let's take a look at the whole conjugation of the verb fahren in the perfect tense:

Pronoun Conjugation Pronunciation Meaning
ich bin/habe gefahren eeh been/HAH-beh geh-FAH-rehn I drove
du bist/hast gefahren doo beest/hahst geh-FAH-rehn you drove (singular)
er ist/hat gefahren ehr eest/haht geh-FAH-rehn he drove
sie ist/hat gefahren zee eest/haht geh-FAH-rehn she drove
es ist/hat gefahren ehs eest/haht geh-FAH-rehn it drove
wir sind/haben gefahren veer zeend/HAH-behn geh-FAH-rehn we drove
ihr seid/habt gefahren eehr ziyd/hahbt geh-FAH-rehn you drove (plural)
sie sind/haben gefahren zee zeend/HAH-behn geh-FAH-rehn they drove
Sie sind/haben gefahren zee zeend/HAH-behn geh-FAH-rehn you drove (singular and plural formal)

Translation: I went by train.
drive

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