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German Future Perfect Tense

Instructor: Penelope Heinigk

Penelope holds a doctorate degree in German and a professional teaching license in the state of Colorado. She has taught middle school through university, online and live.

In this lesson we will learn how to formulate and use the future perfect tense in German. This tense is similar to the English and is used to express what in the future will be a past event.

Definition of the Future Perfect (Das Futur II)

Say you're driving with your friends on a road trip. You look at your GPS and realize that where you're going is 1000 kilometers away. You can say this to your friends in a way that uses the future perfect.

The future perfect is a bit unusual, as it combines both past and future into one expression. The future perfect tense denotes the assumption that an action will have been completed by the time of speaking, or by a particular point in the future. It is the same as the future perfect in English.

For example, the following sentence is written in the future perfect tense:

  • Once we get there, we will have driven over 1,000 kilometers.

She will have flown to Zurich.
airplane

While quickly comprehending the future perfect tense can take a bit of practice, forming the tense is pretty straightforward.

Review of the Future Tense (Das Futur I)

Let's review the regular future tense first, as the future perfect is an extension of it. While the present tense is often used to express the future in German, the German does have a future tense formation using the properly conjugated form of werden (to become) in regular verb position with the infinitive of the other verb at the end.

This formation is primarily used when a specific future time is not mentioned and the future might not be clear if expressed in the present tense.

  • Eines Tages werde ich berühmt sein. (One day I will be famous.)
  • Er wird Schriftsteller werden. (He will become a writer.)
  • Wir werden ein Hotel suchen. (We will look for a hotel.)
  • Werdet ihr zusammen reisen? (Will you be traveling together?)
  • Ich werde im Lotto gewinnen. (I will win the lottery.)

Formation of the Future Perfect

To form the future perfect tense, we use werden as a helping verb.

  1. The verb conjugation for werden will follow the present tense.
  2. Then, place the present perfect participle of the main verb + either haben (have) or sein (be) at the end of the clause.

Just as in the present perfect tense, haben is used with a majority of verbs, but sein is used for intransitive verbs, or verbs that do not take a direct object. Some of these involve a change of location, such as:

  • gehen (to go),
  • kommen (to come),
  • fahren (to drive),

as well as verbs that imply a transformation or equality such as:

  • sein (to be),
  • werden (to become)
  • bleiben (to stay/remain)

It is useful to memorize which verbs take sein rather than haben.

Werden

Let's review the conjugation of werden (to become), since we will be needing it for the future perfect:

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