Sehen Conjugation: Present, Past & Imperative

Instructor: Jens Bargmann

Jens is a native German and has taught adults both in Germany and in the United States. He holds a doctorate in Philosophy/Ethics.

In this lesson we will get to know the German verb ''sehen'' and conjugate it in the present and past tenses. We will also form the imperative in the singular and plural.

Much to See

Es gibt viel zu sehen. (There is much to see.) Let's say you are visiting Germany for the first time. What do you see? What do you look at as you stroll through the countryside? Do you look up at the trees or go to your hotel and watch TV?

Sehen (ZEH-henn) is a word that covers a lot. It can mean ''to see'', ''to look'', or ''to watch'', depending on the context in which it is used.

It can also take on different meanings through the use of prefixes, like ansehen and hinsehen (to look at), wegsehen (to look away), aufsehen (to look up), or fernsehen (to watch TV). When these verbs are conjugated, the prefix is detached and re-appears later in the sentence.

Translation: I see you!

Sehen in the Present Tense

The following table shows us the conjugation of sehen in the present tense active voice. This table helps us to find forms of sehen in the present time.

Subject Pronoun sehen Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
Ich sehe ZEH-hah I see/look/watch
Du siehst zeest You see/look/watch
Er/Sie/Es sieht zeet He/She/It sees/looks/watches
Wir sehen ZEH-henn We see/look/watch
Ihr seht zeht You (plural) see/look/watch
Sie sehen ZEH-henn They see/look/watch
  • Wir sehen die Sonne. (We see the sun.)
  • Du siehst mich an. (You look at me.)
  • Siehst du gerne fern? (Do you like to watch TV?)

Sehen in the Past Tense

The next table shows us the conjugation of sehen in the past tense. This is again in the active voice - different persons did the seeing (not 'were seen' - that would be the passive voice).

Subject Pronoun sehen Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
Ich sah zah I saw/looked/watched
Du sahst zahst You saw/looked/watched
Er/Sie/Es sah zah He/She/It saw/looked/watched
Wir sahen ZAH-henn We saw/looked/watched
Ihr saht zaht You (plural) saw/looked/watched
Sie sahen ZAH-henn They saw/looked/watched
  • Als wir die Stimme hörten, sahen wir auf. (When we heard the voice, we looked up.)
  • Er sah ihr in die Augen. (He looked into her eyes.)
  • Als ich das tote Tier auf der Erde liegen sah, sah ich weg. (When I saw the dead animal lying on the ground, I looked away.)

Sehen in the Imperative

Here is how to conjugate sehen in the imperative. Remember, we only have two forms of imperative: the singular and the plural.

The German language has an informal and a formal way of addressing another person. In the formal way, the imperative is the same for singular and plural: Sehen Sie!

Form of Imperative Imperative of sehen Pronunciation Translation
Informal Singular Sieh! zee! See!/Look!/Watch!
Informal Plural Seht! zeht! See!/Look!/Watch!
Formal Singular and Plural Sehen Sie! ZAY-henn zee! See!/Look!/Watch!
  • Sieh mich an! (Singular: Look at me!)
  • Seht nicht hin! (Plural: Don't look at it!)
  • Sieh nicht so viel fern! (Singular: Don't watch so much TV!)
  • Sehen Sie nicht nach unten! (Formal: Don't look down!)

Example Conversation

Let's say you are on vacation in Germany. While you rode on a bike, you felt something fly into your right eye. You are not sure if it is an insect, a grain of sand, or something else. Your eye is tearing up, and you are in pain. Your friend takes you to the nearest eye doctor, Dr. Lee.

Translation: Well, let us see...

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