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

A Lesson in Conjugating a Common Verb Into All Tenses

Side view of young woman reading book at table in library
Apeloga AB / Getty Images

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. 
DeutschEnglish
Singular
ich laufeI run/am running
I walk/am walking
du läufstyou 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
Plural
wir laufenwe run/are running
we walk/are walking
ihr lauftyou (guys) run/are running
you walk/are walking
sie laufenthey run/are running
they walk/are walking
Sie laufenyou 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."

DeutschEnglish
Singular
ich liefI walked
du liefstyou walked
er lief
sie lief
es lief
he walked
she walked
it walked
Plural
wir liefenwe walked
ihr lieftyou (guys) walked
sie liefenthey walked
Sie liefenyou 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."

DeutschEnglish
Singular
ich bin gelaufenI have walked
I walked
du bist gelaufenyou 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
Plural
wir sind gelaufenwe have walked
we walked
ihr seid gelaufenyou (guys) have walked
you walked
sie sind gelaufenthey have walked
they walked
Sie sind gelaufenyou 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."

DeutschEnglish
Singular
ich war gelaufenI had walked
du warst gelaufenyou had walked
er war gelaufen
sie war gelaufen
es war gelaufen
he had walked
she had walked
it had walked
Plural
wir waren gelaufenwe had walked
ihr wart gelaufenyou (guys) had walked
sie waren gelaufenthey had walked
Sie waren gelaufenyou 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.

DeutschEnglish
Singular
ich werde laufenI will run/walk
du wirst laufenyou will run/walk
er wird laufen
sie wird laufen
es wird laufen
he will run/walk
she will run/walk
it will run/walk
Plural
wir werden laufenwe will run/walk
ihr werdet laufenyou (guys) will run/walk
sie werden laufenthey will run/walk
Sie werden laufenyou will run/walk

Laufen in the Future Perfect (Futur II)

DeutschEnglish
Singular
ich werde gelaufen seinI will have run/walked
du wirst gelaufen seinyou 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
Plural
wir werden gelaufen seinwe will have run/walked
ihr werdet gelaufen seinyou (guys) will have run/walked
sie werden gelaufen seinthey will have run/walked
Sie werden gelaufen seinyou will have run/walked