Back to the future: Learning German future tense

Back to the future: Learning German future tense

by Sandra Köktaş

Updated August 25, 2022

No need to be afraid of the future. At least not with German future tense. Unlike many other topics related to German grammar, this one is easy. More than that, the way Germans express intentions or make assumptions is very similar to how we do it in English. Believe it or not, to form Futur I and Futur II, you only need to conjugate one word: werden. Memorize six forms and you are good to go. And for all of you looking for an easy exit: Stick with present tense and add a little word. So, how is it done? We will walk you through the German future tense step by step and show you how to use and form it.

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How to use the future tense in German

Just like in English, the future tense in German is used to, well, express events in the future. These events may be arranged, expected, intended or assumed. Some of the actions taking place in the future will have been completed in the time we talk about. Some of them can be imagined as already finished at the time we think of them, while some assumptions can refer to the present and even the past. The German language gives us three options to talk about these events: Futur I, Futur II and the futuristic present.

Futur I

Futur I is used to express future intentions or make assumptions about the future or present. The English equivalent is the future with “will”. 

Examples: 

Ich werde einen Termin machen.I will make an appointment
Es wird heiß sein.It will be hot.
Er wird heute wahrscheinlich auf der Arbeit sein.He will probably be at work today.

Futur II

Futur II is used for actions that will take place in the future and that will have been completed in the future. Read this sentence again to see the difference between Futur I and Futur II mirrored in English: “will take place” and “will have been completed”. The Futur II is also used to make the assumption that an action in the past has been completed, signaled by a word that refers to the point of time.

Example:

Du wirst bis dahin umgezogen sein. You will have moved by then.
In drei Wochen wird er zwei Jahre in dem Haus gelebt haben.In three weeks, he will have bought the house two years ago. 

Futuristisches Präsens

German and English are very similar in the use of the futuristic present. We can use the present tense for things arranged to do in the near future or for events that will take place according to a schedule or timetable. In German, the present tense can also express an offer or promise to do something or refer to predictions and speculations. 

Example:

Er besucht morgen seine Tante.He is visiting his aunt tomorrow.
Der Bus fährt um 21 Uhr.The bus is leaving at 9 pm.
Ich mache meine Hausaufgaben später.I am doing my homework later.
Morgen regnet es vielleicht. Tomorrow it may rain.

Note: The English language prefers the progressive aspect for the futuristic present. There is no German equivalent for this form. Neither is there a literal German translation for the future with “going to”. As the English language forms the future with “going to” instead of “will” if a future event is already planned or expected, we can use the futuristic present in German instead.

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How to form the future tense in German

As we look at how to form the future tense in German, we’ll put the futuristic present aside. This leaves us with the task to form Futur I and Futur II. Luckily, it couldn’t be easier. At least for once, there is no article involved.

Futur I: 

present tense of werden + infinitive of the main verb

Example: 

Ihr werdet morgen abreisen.You will leave tomorrow.

Note: The conjugated form of werden follows the personal pronoun, the infinitive is always at the end of the sentence. 

Futur II: 

present tense of werden + past participle of the main verb + haben/sein

Example:

Ihr werdet morgen abgereist sein.You will have left tomorrow.

Note: The conjugated form of werden follows the personal pronoun, the past participle + haben/sein is always at the end of the sentence.

What you need to know to build all possible forms of the German future tense comes down to two things: the conjugation of werden and the Perfekt of the main verb. How to form the German past is a topic of its own. In short, memorizing the past participle and if the main verb asks for haben or sein is a good idea. You can also take to your dictionary or use a grammar check to see if you got it right. As for the conjugation of werden, use this table to learn:

ich werdeI will
du wirstyou will
er/sie/es wirdhe/she/it will
sie werdenwe will
ihr werdetyou will
sie werdenthey will

Compare this to a topic such as adjective declension and you will appreciate how easy it is to form the future tense in German! No better way to step up to your future in German.

German future tense sentence structure

The note on word order is a good start to examining German future tense sentence structure. But what about negative sentences and questions? Here are some German future tense examples within the context of a sentence to show you what goes where:

Futur I: 

Ich werde morgen arbeiten.I will work tomorrow.
Werde ich morgen arbeiten?Will I work tomorrow?
Ich werde morgen nicht arbeiten.I will not work tomorrow.

 Futur II:

Ich werde morgen gearbeitet haben.I will have worked tomorrow.
Werde ich morgen gearbeitet haben?Will I have worked tomorrow?
Ich werde morgen nicht gearbeitet haben.I will not have worked tomorrow.

German future tense made easy

As the German future tense examples show, it’s fairly easy. After all, usage and form are very similar to how to refer to future actions in English. Events, intentions and assumptions can be expressed by Futur I and put in the future past by Futur II. And if you forget the conjugation of werden or you are not sure about the participle of a main verb and if it goes with haben or sein, you can revert to the easy solution and use the present with a word indicating time, assumption or intention.

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Sandra lives in Istanbul, together with her kids, cat and dog. As a historian she thrives exploring this ancient city with her two- and four-legged loved ones. Together, they also love to go on adventures through all of Turkey and its neighboring countries. The perfect opportunity to put all the language learning into practice. If she’s not on the road, Sandra is busy putting her experiences into writing as a freelance copywriter for the travel industry and everything related to language, culture and family. Her particular interest lies in providing information on animal welfare with her website contentrundumstier.de.

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