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Verbs: future tense

The future tense is used to talk about your future plans.

Forming the future tense in German

How to form the future tense:

  1. A pronoun (‘ich’, ‘du’ etc) or a noun (‘der Hund’ etc)
  2. ‘Werden’
  3. An infinitive (which goes at the end of the sentence)

For example: ‘Ich werde Tennis spielen -> I’m going to play tennis.

Pronouns

You might start a sentence with a pronoun, you could also start it with a noun, but you always need one or the other.

  • Er wird nächstes Jahr in die Uni gehen -> He is going to university next year (pronoun- ich)
  • Phoebe und Sally werden zusammen in einer Band spielen -> Phoebe and Sally are going to play in a band (nouns- ‘Phoebe und Sally’)

Werden (to become)

When you combine it with another verb to make the future tense, it means ‘going to’ or ‘will’ (as in: I’m going to go to the restaurant/I will eat an enormous pizza) – Ich werde ins Restaurant gehen/Ich werde eine sehr große Pizza essen.

Present tense of ‘werden’:

Werden (to become/going to)

Pronoun Werden (present tense)
ich werde
du wirst
er/sie/es/man wird
wir werden
ihr werdet
Sie/sie werden

Infinitive

You will find this form of the verb if you look up a verb in the dictionary. Almost all infinitives end ‘en’.

Examples

  • Ich werde am Wochenende viel Tennis im Park spielen -> I will play a lot of tennis in the park at the weekend.
  • Wirst du Arzt werden? -> Will you become a doctor?
  • Viele Leute werden in der Zukunft eine größere Familie haben -> Lots of people will have a bigger family in the future.

Using the future tense

Think of the structure of the future tense as having three elements plus optional extras. Take this sentence: Ich werde Fußball spielen (I’m going to play football)

The future tense pattern

  1. Pronoun, eg ‘ich
  2. Correct form of werden, eg ‘werde
    • Optional extra bits, eg ‘Fußball
  3. Infinitive, eg ‘spielen

If you follow this pattern, you will always end up with correct word order. None of those three elements can be missed out. Notice how in English there are two ways of talking about the future (using ‘going to’ and ‘will’) but that there is only one way in German.

Further pattern examples (from left to right)

Pronouns/nouns Auxiliary verbs Other bits Infinitive
Wir werden bald eine neue Katze haben
Mein Freund wird schwimmen lernen
Ich werde mit dem Popstar singen
Sie werden Sonnenbrillen im Haus tragen
Er wird zur Stadmitte mit seiner Tante fahren

Example sentences

  • We are soon going to have a new cat/Soon we are to have a new cat.
  • My boyfriend is going to learn to swim/My boyfriend will learn to swim.
  • I am going to sing with the popstar/ I will sing with the popstar.
  • They are going to wear sunglasses in the house/They will wear sunglasses in the house.
  • He is going to travel to the town centre with his aunt/He will travel to the town centre with his aunt.

Using the present tense to talk about the future

It’s also possible to use the present tense to talk about the future, eg:

  • I’m visiting my granny on Saturday -> Ich besuche meine Oma am Samstag.
  • I have a meeting tomorrow morning -> Ich habe morgen früh eine Konferenz.

However, in your exam you are required to show that you can use the future tense with ‘werden‘. You will not get any marks if you use present tense with a time expression in an effort to express the future. You can do this when speaking to Germans, but do not do it in the exam.

For more information on how to form the present tense, visit the Verbs: present tense section.

Common mistakes made by English speakers

  • Forgetting to put ‘werden‘ in.
  • Not putting the infinitive at the end.
  • Trying to translate ‘going to’ with ‘gehen‘ instead of ‘werden‘.

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