German Modal Verbs - Conjugation of Muessen, Sollen, Wollen

Tenses and Sample Sentences

How do you conjugate the German modal verbs müssen, sollen, and wollen? See the different tenses and sample modal sentences and idioms.

Modalverben - Modal Verbs
PRÄSENS
(Present)
PRÄTERITUM
(Preterite/Past)
PERFEKT
(Pres. Perfect)

Müssen - have to, must

ich muss
I must, have to
ich musste
I had to
ich habe gemusst *
I had to
du musst
you must, have to
du musstest
you had to
du hast gemusst *
you had to
er/sie muss
he/she must
er/sie musste
he/she had to
er/sie hat gemusst *
he/she had to
wir/Sie/sie müssen
we/you/they have to
wir/Sie/sie mussten
we/you/they had to
wir/Sie/sie haben gemusst *
we/you/they had to
ihr müsst
you (pl.) must
ihr musstet
you (pl.) had to
ihr habt gemusst *
you (pl.) had to
* In the present perfect or past perfect tense with another verb, the double infinitive construction is used, as in the following examples:

ihr habt sprechen müssen = you (pl.) had to speak

ich hatte sprechen müssen = I had had to speak

The old spelling with ß, as in ich muß or gemußt, is no longer used for forms of müssen.

For all modals with umlauts, the simple past (preterite/Imperfekt) has no umlaut, but the subjunctive form always has an umlaut!

Sample Sentences with Müssen

Present: Ich muss dort Deutsch sprechen. I have to speak German there.
Past/Preterite: Er musste es nicht tun. He didn't have to do it.
Pres. Perfect/Perfekt: Wir haben mit der Bahn fahren müssen. We had to go by train.
Future/Futur: Sie wird morgen abfahren müssen. She will have to depart tomorrow.
Subjunctive/Konjunktiv: Wenn ich müsste... If I had to...

Sample Idiomatic Expressions:

Ich muss nach Hause. I have to go home.
Muss das sein? Is that really necessary?
So müsste es immer sein. That's how it should be all the time. 

Sollen - should, ought to, supposed to

ich soll
I should
ich sollte
I should have
ich habe gesollt *
I should have
du sollst
you should
du solltest
you should have
du hast gesollt *
you should have
er/sie soll
he/she should
er/sie sollte
he/she should have
er/sie hat gesollt *
he/she should have
wir/Sie/sie sollen
we/you/they should
wir/Sie/sie sollten
we/you/they should have
wir/Sie/sie haben gesollt *
we/you/they should have
ihr sollt
you (pl.) should
ihr solltet
you (pl.) should have
ihr habt gesollt *
you (pl.) should have
* In the present perfect or past perfect tense with another verb, the double infinitive construction is used, as in the following examples:

wir haben gehen sollen = we should have gone

ich hatte fahren sollen = I had been supposed to drive

Sample Sentences with Sollen

Present: Er soll reich sein. He's supposed to be rich. / It's said that he's rich.
Past/Preterite: Er sollte gestern ankommen. He was supposed to arrive yesterday.
Pres. Perfect/Perfekt: Du hast ihn anrufen sollen. You should have called him.
Future (in sense of): Er soll das morgen haben. He'll have that tomorrow.
Subjunctive/Konjunktiv: Das hättest du nicht tun sollen. You shouldn't have done that.
Subjunctive/Konjunktiv: Wenn ich sollte... If I should...
Subjunctive/Konjunktiv: Sollte sie anrufen... If she should (happen to) call...

Sample Idiomatic Expressions:

Das Buch soll sehr gut sein. The book is said to be very good.
Du sollst damit sofort aufhören! You're to stop that right now!
Was soll das (heißen)? What's that supposed to mean? What's the idea?
Es soll nicht wieder vorkommen. It won't happen again. 

Wollen - want to

ich will
I want to
ich wollte
I wanted to
ich habe gewollt *
I wanted to
du willst
you want to
du wolltest
you wanted to
du hast gewollt *
you wanted to
er/sie will
he/she wants to
er/sie wollte
he/she wanted to
er/sie hat gewollt *
he/she wanted to
wir/Sie/sie wollen
we/you/they want to
wir/Sie/sie wollten
we/you/they wanted to
wir/Sie/sie haben gewollt *
we/you/they wanted to
ihr wollt
you (pl.) want to
ihr wolltet
you (pl.) wanted to
ihr habt gewollt *
you (pl.) wanted to
* In the present perfect or past perfect tense with another verb, the double infinitive construction is used, as in the following examples:

wir haben sprechen wollen = we wanted to speak

ich hatte gehen wollen = I had wanted to go

Sample Sentences with Wollen

Present: Sie will nicht gehen. She doesn't want to go.
Past/Preterite: Ich wollte das Buch lesen. I wanted to read the book.
Pres. Perfect/Perfekt: Sie haben den Film immer sehen wollen. They have always wanted to see the movie.
Past Perfect/Plusquamperfekt: Wir hatten den Film immer sehen wollen. We had always wanted to see the movie.
Future/Futur: Er wird gehen wollen. He will want to go.
Subjunctive/Konjunktiv: Wenn ich wollte... If I wanted to...

Sample Idiomatic Expressions:

Das will nicht viel sagen. That's of little consequence. That doesn't mean much.
Er will es nicht gesehen haben. He claims not to have seen it.
Das hat er nicht gewollt. That's not what he intended. 

See the conjugation of the other three German modal verbs dürfen, können, and mögen.