How to Conjugate "Beginnen" (to Begin) in German

A Useful Verb Conjugated in All Tenses

Teacher writing name on blackboard on first day of class, rear view.
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The German verb beginnen means "to begin," "to start," or "to commence." It's a rather easy verb for English-speakers because it includes the word "begin." The verb's conjugated forms also closely resemble the English forms of begin, began, and begun.

The verb beginnen belongs to the class of strong (irregular) German verbs. Since they don't follow a strict rule, you will need to memorize each form.

While this one is easier because it resembles its English counterpart, the different conjugations can trip you up.

Principal Parts:  beginnen - begann - begonnen

Imperative (Commands): (du) Beginne! | (ihr) Beginnt! | Beginnen Sie!

Beginnen vs. Anfangen

It's also important to note that anfangen means "to start" means "to start" as well. The two verbs are often used the same way, though some people prefer to use one or another in certain contexts. If you're hoping that anfangen is easier to conjugate than beginnen, think again. That verb has a separable prefix which poses its own challenges.

Beginnen in the Present Tense (Präsens)

The present tense(präsens) is the easiest place to begin studying any verb conjugation. You will use these forms of beginnen most often, so take some time to study these and add them to your vocabulary.

It will help your studies if you practice each verb form in sentences.

It's a little trick that can aid your memorization and can be as simple as short sentences like these.

  • Der Film beginnt am Mittwoch.The film begins on Wednesday.
  • Wann beginnen wir? When do we start?
ich beginneI begin
I am beginning
du beginnstyou begin
you are beginning
er beginnt
sie beginnt
es beginnt
he begins
he is beginning
she begins
she is beginning
it begins
it is beginning
wir beginnenwe begin
we are beginning
ihr beginntyou (guys) begin
you are beginning
sie beginnenthey begin
they are beginning
Sie beginnenyou begin
you are beginning

Beginnen in the Simple Past Tense (Imperfekt)

Once you are comfortable with the present tense, move on to the simple past tense (imperfekt). This is the most common way to say "began" in German, so you should get plenty of practice as your language studies progress.

ich begannI began
du begannstyou began
er begann
sie begann
es begann
he began
she began
it began
wir begannenwe began
ihr beganntyou (guys) began
sie begannenthey began
Sie begannenyou began

Beginnen in the Compound Past Tense (Perfekt)

Another way to say "began" is to use the compound past tense, otherwise known as the present perfect (perfekt). You will use this one when something "began" in the past but you have not explicitly said when that was. There are also times when it can be used to say that something had begun and that the action continues.

ich habe begonnenI have begun
I began
du hast begonnenyou have begun
you began
er hat begonnen
sie hat begonnen
es hat begonnen
he has begun
he began
she has began
she began
it has began
it began
wir haben begonnenwe have begun
we began
ihr habt begonnenyou (guys) have begun
you began
sie haben begonnenthey have begun
they began
Sie haben begonnenyou have begun
you began

Beginnen in the Past Perfect Tense (Plusquamperfekt)

A less frequently used form, the past perfect tense (plusquamperfekt) has its uses as well. This one is reserved for those times when the action of beginning happened before something else in the past. For instance, "I had begun the song before people danced."

ich hatte begonnenI had begun
du hattest begonnenyou had begun
er hatte begonnen
sie hatte begonnen
es hatte begonnen
he had begun
she had begun
it had begun
wir hatten begonnenwe had begun
ihr hattet begonnenyou (guys) had begun
sie hatten begonnenthey had begun
Sie hatten begonnenyou had begun

Beginnen in the Future Tenses

It's rare that the future tense is used in German. You'll find it more common to use the present tense with an adverb rather than the futur I and futur II forms.

For instance, Er beginnt morgen an. can be used to say "He's going to begin tomorrow."

However, it is good to know these forms of beginnen because you might encounter them at some point.

Future Tense (Futur I)
ich werde beginnenI will begin
du wirst beginnen
Sie werden beginnen
you (fam.) will begin
you will begin
er wird beginnen
sie wird beginnen
wir werden beginnen
ihr werdet beginnen
sie werden beginnen
he will begin
she will begin
we will begin
you (guys) will begin
they will begin
Future Perfect Tense (Futur II)

ich werde begonnen haben
du wirst begonnen haben
er wird begonnen haben
wir werden begonnen haben

I will have begun
you (fam.) will have begun
he will have begun
we will have begun
ihr werdet begonnen habenyou (guys) will have begun
sie werden begonnen habenthey will have begun
Sie hatten begonnenyou will have begun