Learn the German Verbs 'Haben' (to Have) and 'Sein' (to Be)

These are two of the most important German verbs

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The two most important German verbs are haben (to have) and sein (to be). As in most languages, the verb "to be" is one of the oldest verbs in German, and therefore one of the most irregular. The verb "to have" is only slightly less irregular, but no less vital to surviving speaking German.

The Rules of 'Haben' in German

We'll start with haben. Look at the following table for the conjugation of haben in the present tense, along with sample sentences. Notice the strong resemblance to English for many forms of this verb, with most forms only one letter off from the English ( habe/have, hat/has). In the case of the familiar you (du), the German verb is identical to Old English: "thou hast" is "du hast."

Haben is also used in some German expressions that are translated with "to be" in English. For example: 

Ich habe Hunger. (I'm hungry.)

Haben - To Have

Deutsch

English

Sample Sentences

Singular

ich habe

I have

Ich habe einen roten Wagen. (I have a red car.)

du hast

you (fam.) have

Du hast mein Buch. (You have my book.)

er hat

he has

Er hat ein blaues Auge. (He has a black eye.)

sie hat

she has

Sie hat blaue Augen. (She has blue eyes.)

es hat

it has

Es hat keine Fehler. (It has no flaws.)

Plural

wir haben

we have

Wir haben keine Zeit. (We have no time.)

ihr habt

you (guys) have

Habt ihr euer Geld? (Do y'all have your money?)

sie haben

they have

Sie haben kein Geld. (They have no money.)

Sie haben

you have

Haben Sie das Geld? (You, sir, have no money.) Note: Sie, formal "you," is both singular and plural.

To Be or Not to Be (Sein Oder Nicht Sein)

Look at the following table for the conjugation of sein (to be) in the present tense. Notice how similar the German and English forms are in the third person (ist/is).

Sein - To Be

Deutsch English

Sample Sentences

Singular
ich bin

I am

Ich bin es. (It's me.)

du bist

you (fam.) are

Du bist mein Schatz. (You are my darling.)

er ist

he is

Er ist ein netter Kerl. (He is a nice guy.)

sie ist

she is

Ist sie da? (Is she here?)

es ist

it is

Es ist mein Buch. (It is my book.)

Plural

wir sind

we are

Wir sind das Volk. (We are the people/nation.) Note: This was the slogan of 1989 East German protests in Leipzig.

ihr seid

you (guys) are

Seid ihr unsere Freunde? (Are you guys our friends?)

sie sind

they are

Sie sind unsere Freunde. (They are our friends.)

Sie sind

you are

Sind Sie Herr Meier? (Are you, sir, Mr. Meier?) Note: Sie, formal "you," is both singular and plural.