How to Conjugate the German Verb 'Sein'

'Sein' is one of the first verbs you need to learn in German

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Even if you never wanted to quote Hamlet's famous soliloquy in German ("Sein oder nicht sein"), the verb sein is one of the first verbs you should learn and one of the most useful. Think of how often you use the phrase "I am" in English, and you'll get the idea.

As in most languages, the verb "to be" is one of the oldest verbs in German, and therefore one of the most irregular. 

Here's the scoop on the verb sein and how to conjugate it in all the different ways.

 

Present Tense (Präsens) of 'Sein' in German and English 

Notice how similar the German and English forms are in the third person (ist/is).

DEUTSCHENGLISH
SINGULAR
ich binI am
du bistyou (familiar) are
er ist
sie ist
es ist
he is
she is
it is
PLURAL
wir sindwe are
ihr seidyou (plural) are
sie sindthey are
Sie sindyou (formal) are
Examples:
  • Sind Sie Herr Meier? Are you Mr. Meier?
  • Er ist nicht da. He's not here.

Past Tense (Vergangenheit) of 'Sein' in German and English 

Simple past tense - Imperfekt

DEUTSCHENGLISH
SINGULAR
ich warI was
du warstyou (familiar) were
er war
sie war
es war
he was
she was
it was
PLURAL
wir warenwe were
ihr wartyou (plural) were
sie warenthey were
Sie warenyou (formal) were

 

Compound past tense (present perfect)  - Perfekt

DEUTSCHENGLISH
SINGULAR
ich bin gewesenI was/have been
du bist gewesenyou (familiar) were
have been
er ist gewesen
sie ist gewesen
es ist gewesen
he was/has been
she was/has been
it was/has been
PLURAL
wir sind gewesenwe were/have been
ihr seid gewesenyou (plural) were
have been
sie sind gewesenthey were/have been
Sie sind gewesenyou (formal) were/have been

 

Past perfect tense  - Plusquamperfekt

DEUTSCHENGLISH
SINGULAR
ich war gewesenI had been
du warst gewesenyou (familiar) had been
er war gewesen
sie war gewesen
es war gewesen
he had been
she had been
it had been
PLURAL
wir waren gewesenwe had been
ihr wart gewesenyou (plural) had been
sie waren gewesenthey had been
Sie waren gewesenyou (formal) had been
 

 

Future Tense (Futur)

Note: The future tense, especially with "sein," is used much less in German than in English. Very often the present tense is used with an adverb instead.

For example:

Er kommt am Dienstag. (He'll arrive on Tuesday.)

DEUTSCHENGLISH
SINGULAR
ich werde seinI will be
du wirst seinyou (familiar) will be
er wird sein
sie wird sein
es wird sein
he will be
she will be
it will be
PLURAL
wir werden seinwe will be
ihr werdet seinyou (plural) will be
sie werden seinthey will be
Sie werden seinyou (formal) will be

Future Perfect - Futur II

DEUTSCHENGLISH
SINGULAR
ich werde gewesen seinI will have been
du wirst gewesen seinyou (familiar) will have been
er wird gewesen sein
sie wird gewesen sein
es wird gewesen sein
he will have been
she will have been
it will have been
PLURAL
wir werden gewesen seinwe will have been
ihr werdet gewesen seinyou (guys) will have been
sie werden gewesen seinthey will have been
Sie werden gewesen seinyou will have been
 

Commands (Imperativ)

There are three command (imperative) forms, one for each German "you" word. In addition, the "let's" form is used with wir (we).

DEUTSCHENGLISH
 
(du) seibe
(ihr) seidbe
seien Siebe
seien wirlet's be

Examples:

  • Sei brav! | Be good!/Behave yourself! 
  • Seien Sie still! | Be quiet!/No talking!


Subjunctive I - Konjunktiv I

The subjunctive is a mood, not a tense. The Subjunctive I (Konjunktiv I) is based on the infinitive form of the verb. It is most often used to express indirect quotation (indirekte Rede). Note: This verb form is most often found in newspaper reports or magazine articles.

DEUTSCHENGLISH
 
SINGULAR
ich seiI am (said to be)
du sei(e)styou are (said to be)
er sei
sie sei
es sei
he is (said to be)
she is (said to be)
it is (said to be)
PLURAL
wir seienwe are (said to be)
ihr seietyou (pl.) are (said to be)
sie seienthey are (said to be)
Sie seienyou (formal) are (said to be)

Subjunctive II - Konjunktiv II

The Subjunctive II (Konjunktiv II) expresses wishful thinking and contrary-to-reality situations. It is also used to express politeness. The Subjunctive II is based on the simple past tense (Imperfekt).

This "sein" form resembles English examples, such as "If I were you, I wouldn't do that."

DEUTSCHENGLISH
 
SINGULAR
ich wäreI would be
du wärestyou would be
er wäre
sie wäre
es wäre
he would be
she would be
it would be
PLURAL
wir wärenwe would be
ihr wäretyou (pl.) would be
sie wärenthey would be
Sie wärenyou (formal) would be
Since the Subjunctive is a mood and not a tense, it can also be used in various tenses. Below are several examples.
ich sei gewesenI am said to have been
ich wäre gewesenI would have been
wäre er hier, würde er...if he were here, he would ...
sie wären gewesenthey would have been