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?
Deutsch English
ich beginne I begin
I am beginning
du beginnst you 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 beginnen we begin
we are beginning
ihr beginnt you (guys) begin
you are beginning
sie beginnen they begin
they are beginning
Sie beginnen you 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.

Deutsch English
ich begann I began
du begannst you began
er begann
sie begann
es begann
he began
she began
it began
wir begannen we began
ihr begannt you (guys) began
sie begannen they began
Sie begannen you 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.

Deutsch English
ich habe begonnen I have begun
I began
du hast begonnen you 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 begonnen we have begun
we began
ihr habt begonnen you (guys) have begun
you began
sie haben begonnen they have begun
they began
Sie haben begonnen you 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."

Deutsch English
ich hatte begonnen I had begun
du hattest begonnen you had begun
er hatte begonnen
sie hatte begonnen
es hatte begonnen
he had begun
she had begun
it had begun
wir hatten begonnen we had begun
ihr hattet begonnen you (guys) had begun
sie hatten begonnen they had begun
Sie hatten begonnen you 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 1)

Deutsch English
ich werde beginnen I 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 haben you (guys) will have begun
sie werden begonnen haben they will have begun
Sie hatten begonnen you will have begun