How to Conjugate the German Verb "Laufen" (to Run, Walk)

A Lesson in Conjugating a Common Verb Into All Tenses

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Meaning "to run" or "to walk," the German verb laufen is an important one for German students to study. As with all verbs, we must learn how to conjugate it into the present, past, and future tenses in order to form complete sentences.

While laufen is one of the more challenging verb conjugations, studying this lesson will help you learn its many forms. Practicing this German vocabulary in context will also make memorizing the words a little easier.

An Introduction to Laufen

Verb conjugations are necessary because we need to transform the infinitive version of the verb to fit with the tense and subject pronoun of our sentence. This allows us to say things like ich lief for "I walked" or er läuft for "he is running." 

A word like laufen is a bit more difficult than some other common German verbs because it does not follow a common pattern when it comes to the endings we need to apply. Laufen is both a stem-changing and strong (irregular) verb, so the basic rules don't apply. That means you will need to commit all of these forms of the verb to memory.

Principal Parts: laufen (läuft) - lief - ist gelaufen

Imperative (Commands): (du) Lauf(e)! | (ihr) Lauft! | Laufen Sie!

Laufen in the Present Tense (Präsens)

The present tense (präsens) of laufen is the most common and you will use it often to say that the action of "running" is happening right now. Since it's a stem-changing verb, you will notice that some forms use "ä" rather than an "a." While the pronunciation may not change, the spelling certainly does, so remain aware of this.

By studying the chart, you can begin to complete sentences using a form of laufen:

  • Wie weit laufen Sie? - How far are you running/walking?
  • Er läuft langsam. - He's walking slowly. 
Deutsch English
ich laufe I run/am running
I walk/am walking
du läufst you run/are running
you walk/are walking
er läuft

sie läuft

es läuft
he runs/is running
he walks/is walking
she runs/is running
she walks/is walking
it runs/is running
it walks/is walking
wir laufen we run/are running
we walk/are walking
ihr lauft you (guys) run/are running
you walk/are walking
sie laufen they run/are running
they walk/are walking
Sie laufen you run/are running
you walk/are walking

Laufen in the Simple Past Tense (Imperfekt)

The past tense (vergangenheit) of laufen comes in many forms and they're used in various contexts. The simplest of these is the simple past tense (imperfekt) and is used in most instances when you want to say "walked" or "ran."

Deutsch English
ich lief I walked
du liefst you walked
er lief
sie lief
es lief
he walked
she walked
it walked
wir liefen we walked
ihr lieft you (guys) walked
sie liefen they walked
Sie liefen you walked

Laufen in the Compound Past Tense (Perfekt)

The compound past tense, or present perfect (perfekt), is used a little less often. This verb form indicates that the action did happen, but you're not being clear exactly when someone "walked." At times, it can also imply that someone "walked" and is still "walking."

Deutsch English
ich bin gelaufen I have walked
I walked
du bist gelaufen you have walked
you walked
er ist gelaufen

sie ist gelaufen

es ist gelaufen
he has walked
he walked
she has walked
she walked
it has walked
it walked
wir sind gelaufen we have walked
we walked
ihr seid gelaufen you (guys) have walked
you walked
sie sind gelaufen they have walked
they walked
Sie sind gelaufen you have walked
you walked

Laufen in the Past Perfect Tense (Plusquamperfekt)

In the past perfect tense (plusquamperfekt), the action has occurred before another action. You might use it in a sentence such as, "I walked home after practicing with the team."

Deutsch English
ich war gelaufen I had walked
du warst gelaufen you had walked
er war gelaufen
sie war gelaufen
es war gelaufen
he had walked
she had walked
it had walked
wir waren gelaufen we had walked
ihr wart gelaufen you (guys) had walked
sie waren gelaufen they had walked
Sie waren gelaufen you had walked

Laufen in the Future Tense (Futur)

In German, the future tense is used much less often than it is in English. It's more common to use the present tense with an adverb instead. This is similar to the present progressive in English. For example, "Er läuft morgen an." means "He's going to run tomorrow. "

However, it is a good idea to review the future tenses of laufen. This will only increase your German vocabulary and, at the very least, you'll be able to recognize these forms if you encounter them.

Deutsch English
ich werde laufen I will run/walk
du wirst laufen you will run/walk
er wird laufen
sie wird laufen
es wird laufen
he will run/walk
she will run/walk
it will run/walk
wir werden laufen we will run/walk
ihr werdet laufen you (guys) will run/walk
sie werden laufen they will run/walk
Sie werden laufen you will run/walk

Laufen in the Future Perfect (Futur II)

Deutsch English
ich werde gelaufen sein I will have run/walked
du wirst gelaufen sein you will have run/walked
er wird gelaufen sein
sie wird gelaufen sein
es wird gelaufen sein
he will have run/walked
she will have run/walked
it will have run/walked
wir werden gelaufen sein we will have run/walked
ihr werdet gelaufen sein you (guys) will have run/walked
sie werden gelaufen sein they will have run/walked
Sie werden gelaufen sein you will have run/walked