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The Future Tense

Hello. My name's Laura and this is German GrammarPod. This time I'm going to be looking at the future tense and at the verb werden in general, thanks to an email I had from Missy in Washington asking if I could discuss that verb. While I'm on the subject of emails, I've had another email from Chris in Wisconsin, asking if I can recommend any other podcasts about learning German. I don't listen to any other learn German podcasts, so I don't know which ones to recommend, but I bet some of my listeners do. So, if you've got a recommendation, please can you drop me a line at germangrammarpod@yahoo.co.uk or add a comment to my blog at germangrammarpod.blogspot.com. When you make your recommendation, please could you also say what level of German you're at, so anyone looking for a recommendation can see which podcasts are best for their level. Thanks to Jimmy, who's already left a recommendation on my blog. You can see it if you go to germangrammarpod.blogspot.com and click on the comments link at the bottom of the Your Recommendations for German Podcasts entry. Going back to the subject for this episode, this time I'm looking at the future tense. There are two ways to do the future tense in German and the one that's both the easiest and the most commonly used is just to use the same form as the present tense. If you think about it, English does this too sometimes. For instance: What are you doing this evening? Reading my book. Both those sentences are talking about the future, but they use exactly the same form as the present. If it weren't for the fact that the first sentence mentioned this evening, then the two sentences would have been about the present: What are you doing? Reading my book. Well, the same applies to German, only German uses the present tense to mean the future a lot more than English does. In fact, unless there could be real ambiguity about when you mean, German will generally use the present tense to mean the future. Which is wonderfully easy, because all of you who could previously just talk about the present now know how to correctly talk about the future as well, now you know that simple fact. The doubly good news with German is that even when you do need to use the future tense (rather than just using the present tense to talk about the future), this is easy to do as well. Just like in English, you add an extra verb into your sentence to indicate the future. In English that verb is will and in German, the equivalent verb is werden. Now, if you remember back to my podcast on the present tense, German verbs change a lot more than English ones do depending on the pronoun (that's words like I, you, we and they) that they belong with. So, unlike will, which stays the same whichever pronoun it goes with, werden takes a slightly different form depending on whether it's with an I, a you, a she or a they, and so on. Fitting in with my theory that it's the common or frequently used verbs, which tend to be irregular, werden, which is a highly useful and frequently used verb is also irregular. It's one. of those verbs where you get a vowel change in the du, er, sie and es forms, where the <e> becomes <i>. And on top of that, the <d> gets dropped from the du form so you get: ich werde du wirst er wird sie wird wir werden ihr werdet sie werden Sie werden I will you (informal singular) will he will she will we will you (informal plural) will they will and you (formal) will

By the way, if the variant of English you speak means that you sometimes use shall instead of will, then werden covers that too. There's no separate version of the future tense in German that covers the distinctions that can be made between shall and will to indicate a future tense. To help you see werden in action, here are some examples with English translations and also literal, word for word versions, so you can see exactly what's going on in the sentence: Ich werde dich nie vergessen means I will never forget you (or literally: I will you never forget) Sie wird es nicht tun means She won't do it (or literally: she will it not do) Sie werden eine Antwort schnellstmglich erhalten means You will get an answer as quickly as possible (or literally: You will an answer as quickly as possible receive) and Sie werden sehen, dass es ganz leicht ist means You will see that it's really easy (or literally: you will see that it really easy is). There are a couple of things to notice here. First of all, the verb werden takes the second position in the sentence the place where you'd have had your verb in the present tense. The second thing to notice is what happens to the other verb. It becomes an infinitive - that's the form of the verb you find in a dictionary, the form that's often translated with a to in front of it in English, for instance to give, to eat, to jump, to saunter. This infinitive then shoots along to the end of the clause, which is sometimes the end of the sentence, but sometimes not, as you can see from my sentence Sie werden sehen, dass es ganz leicht ist, literally: you will see that it really easy is. Here see is the verb that's been put into the future, and sits at the end of the first clause, but not at the end of the sentence as a whole, and is is the main verb in the second clause, and is sitting both the end of that clause and the end of the sentence. Knowing where a clause ends is one of those things that's pretty simple, once your German starts getting more advanced. Mainly, you'll have learnt what belongs in a clause; and there are also certain words that tip you off that you should start a new clause. I found that these stuck in my head really easily when I came across them because they had such an important effect on sentence structure. But, there are a lot of words like that and also quite a lot of rules about the way the whole thing works, and because of that, I don't want to go into that right now. So, instead, I'm going to give you a rough rule of thumb. That is that each clause contains only one main verb, although it can contain one or more auxiliary or helper verbs as well, such as werden when it's being used to indicate the future. For each main verb, you need a separate clause. So, in the sentence Sie werden sehen, dass es ganz leicht ist, sehen is the main verb in the first clause, and has the auxiliary verb werden that tells us the clause is in the future tense. Then ist is the main, and in fact only, verb in the second clause. Unfortunately, when you're first starting to learn German, aside from it often being hard to work out which are main verbs and which are auxiliary verbs, actually making sentences with more than one clause is quite tricky, as German doesn't do what English does. Being a native English speaker doesn't give you many clues as to where sentences separate into different clauses. And also, you need to know a lot of things about German word order and how various words affect it to be able to create a second or third clause correctly. So my advice for beginners is, where possible, try and stick to speaking in sentences which each only have one main verb. Then it's simple. I'll try and come back to how to have more than one clause in a sentence in a later episode. So that's the future tense, dealt with, now I'm going to go on and have a look at the other things the verb werden does. As I already mentioned, werden doesn't translate well into any single English

verb. Instead, it covers several things we do in English with different verbs. As we've just seen, we can use it to make the future tense, where it is the equivalent of the English verb will and for some people also of shall, depending on the variant of English you speak. But werden isn't just used to make the future tense. It also does a couple more things. If anyone thinks it's weird that a verb means more than one thing, just stop and think about the English verb to have for a minute, which can be used to mean a whole host of different things. For one, we use it as the auxiliary verb in one past tense form, for instance Peter has eaten a shark. For another, it can mean to possess, for instance Peter has a shark. For a third it can mean to eat, for instance Peter has shark for dinner, or for a fourth it can mean to receive visitors, for instance Peter has a shark to dinner. And you can combine it too, in sentences like Peter, who has a shark, has had a shark to dinner. Well, the same applies to werden in German. The first meaning I'm going to look at is when it can act as a main verb, itself. As a main verb, it tends to mean become or have a meaning pretty similar to it. For instance, ich werde Lehrerin means I'm becoming a teacher. Ich werde alt means I'm becoming old, or possibly the better translations I'm growing old or I'm getting old. Ich werde dick means I'm getting fat. You can also put these in the future tense, either by leaving them as they are, because the context makes it clear that they must be in the future tense, or by adding another werden in. So, you can have: Ich werde Lehrerin werden meaning I'm going to become a teacher. Ich werde alt werden meaning I'm going to grow old and Ich werde dick werden meaning I'll get fat. By the way, whether I translated those with a will or with a going to was random. I could just as well have done it the other way round. German doesn't have a specific form to indicate the sense of going to in English. So, we've got two meanings so far: werden can be used to form the future tense like will is in English, and it can be used as a verb in its own right, meaning to become or something similar to it. Time to take on board a third meaning. In it's third meaning, werden is again being used as an auxiliary verb, but this time it makes the passive instead of the future. The passive or passive voice is a way of structuring a sentence so that you can leave out who was doing the action if you want to. So for instance, you can say The door is opened instead of John opens the door either if you don't want to mention that it was John who did the action, or you don't know who did it. Interestingly, you can also use the passive and mention that John was the one who opened the door in the sentence The door is opened by John. In German, instead of using is which is a present tense form of the verb to be you would use wird which is a present tense form of the verb werden, so you get Die Tr wird geffnet or Die Tr wird von John geffnet. Notice how, just like in the future tense, when my main verb got an auxiliary verb, it shot right along to the end of the clause. But also notice, that unlike in the future tense, my main verb appeared not in the infinitive, but in a past tense form, in what's called a past participle. In German, as a rule of thumb, to get a past participle form, you add a ge- on the beginning of the infinitive and sometimes you replace the <n>on the end with a <t> . So, I got my past participle from the verb ffnen, to open, by adding a ge- to the beginning, knocking the <n> off the end and replacing it with a <t>, to get geffnet. But not all of them work quite like that, so we'll be coming back to past participles next time when I look at the past tense. In fact, the form the main verb takes is the best way to spot whether you're dealing with a future tense or passive sentence. A future tense sentence has an infinitive and werden in the present tense. A passive sentence doesn't have the main verb in the infinitive, it has a past participle, one of those

words that generally begin with a ge-, instead, and its werden can be in any tense. That's because passive sentences don't automatically have to be in any particular tense, they can also be in a past tense or the future tense instead of in the present. For instance, if you want to do a passive in the future tense, then you can either use exactly the same form as the present, because like I said earlier, you can use the present to mean the future in German, unless that would make your sentence really ambiguous. Alternatively, you can use werden twice once to show you're in the future tense, and once to show you're in the passive, with the main verb as a past participle. So you get Die Tr wird geffnet werden, meaning The door will be opened. Alternatively, you can put it in the past tense, using any of the three ways of doing the past, all of which I'm going to be talking about next time. In the past tense, the pattern is: Die Tr ist von John geffnet worden. Die Tr wurde von John geffnet. Die Tr war von John geffnet worden Because of the fact that the German past tenses don't correspond precisely to the English past tenses (despite looking like they ought to), these have a meaning along the lines of The door was opened by John, but some of them could also be used to cover the meaning The door has been opened by John and some cover The door had been opened by John. This will all become clearer next time when I cover the past tense. The key thing to notice about these is the form of werden which sits on the end of the first and the last one, the worden. Although this doesn't look like the past participles I've already talked about that have a <ge> on the front and sometimes swap the <n> of the infinitive for a <t> on the end, that's exactly what this word is. It's a past participle and it's still just a plain worden like werden except with an <o> instead of the first <e>. Whenever you see this, you know that you're looking at a passive, because the word worden is only used to form past tense forms of the passive in German. The reason worden only turns up in passive sentences is because neither werden as the verb with which you form the future tense nor werden as a main verb meaning to become uses it. You don't need a past tense form of werden at all when you're using it to make a future tense. And if you're using werden as a main verb to mean become or something similar, then its past participle is geworden with a ge- on the front, just like you'd expect from a past participle. It's like in English where to lie can mean either to tell a lie or to lie down, and you don't see or hear a difference between the two verbs until you get to the past tense forms, where you get lied meaning told a lie or lay meaning lay down. There's one more thing you need to know about werden and the passive by the way, and that's that German divides the passive into two sorts of passive that English doesn't distinguish between. The split is between whether an action has been performed or whether is is simply a state that's being described. To give you an example of this, if you say the door is shut by John, you are using what in German would be a passive of action, because it is the action of the door going from being open to being shut which is described. But if you just say the door is shut meaning simply that it's not open rather than describing the action of taking it from being open to being shut, then you're talking about a state that the door is in, so you'd use a passive of state in German. Another example would be a table being laid. If you say the table is being laid, which means that the laying is going on now, then you'd use a passive of action in German. But if you just say the table is laid meaning there's some cutlery on it and some glasses, then you're not describing an action of laying that's taken place, but the state the table's in and you use the passive of state.

The passive of action is the one that uses werden as the auxiliary verb. In the passive of state, you use sein which means to be. So in German, you know that if I say Die Tr wird geschlossen an action's involved and that the door is going from being open to being closed. Whereas if I say Die Tr ist geschlossen then I'm telling you about its state, it's shut not open. It may have been shut recently, or it may have been standing shut for a hundred years. I've not given you that information. All I've let you know is the state that the door is in now. The same with the table. If I say Der Tisch wird gedeckt I mean that someone is undertaking the action of laying it. I'm telling you about the process. Whereas if I say Der Tisch ist gedeckt, then I'm letting you know about its state. The table is laid. There's some cutlery on it and some glasses and whatever else belongs on a laid table. It might have been like that for two minutes or it might have been like that for a week. I haven't let you know anything about when the laying was done or how, just that that's the state that the table's now in. If you're still finding his confusing, don't worry. The trick is to remember that most passives turn out to be passives of action. If you can't make up your mind which one it is, then go with a passive of action and use werden. In my experience, passives of state turn up a lot less often. Also, when they do turn up, passives of state tend to look a lot like descriptions using an adjective anyway, which automatically makes me want to use a sein instead of a werden. The door is wooden, the door is blue, the door is shut. The table is white, the table is too big for the room, the table is laid. To make sure that's all clear, I'm now going to give you some more concrete examples of werden in action, with a few sentences that illustrate the different uses of werden I've been talking about. In ich werde alt, there's only one verb and that's the werden, so it has to be the main verb and therefore to have a meaning relating to to become. So the sentence we're looking at translates as I'm getting old. In Er ist alt geworden, there are actually two verbs. One is an auxiliary verb and the other one a main verb. We have a little extra clue in the fact that our version of werden is geworden, which is the past participle of werden when it's acting as a main verb and therefore has a meaning related to to become. So we're looking at a meaning relating to become in the past tense. This means that this time the sentence translates as he's grown old. By the way, the fact I used to grow as my translation of werden this time, but to get last time was nothing to do with the tense used. It was simply a choice I made. Without further context, either verb could have worked either time. But if I had had more context giving me more information about the formality of the text or the linguistic style of the speaker or writer, then I might have felt strongly that one choice was better than the other as the translation. Back on my examples of werden, in er wird die Tr schliessen, our main verb, the one at the end of the clause, is an infinitive. Together with the present tense form of werden, this means our sentence must be a future tense sentence, so you get he will close the door. In contrast, in die Tr wird geschlossen, you've got a past participle as the main verb, so you're looking at a passive, which means our sentence means the door is shut, and more specifically still, it means not that that's the state the door is in, but that the door is undergoing the process of being shut. By the way, if I had more context, then it might turn out that either the door is being shut or the door will be shut was the more appropriate translation, as both of those are possible other meanings of the sentence. Beginners shouldn't worry about trying to remember all those possibilities, by the way. The chances are that by the time it's important to be able to get the precise tense right in your English translation, noticing that another tense might be better won't be too hard

or too much of a test of memory. But until then, I wouldn't spend your learning time on it. For people who aren't beginners, getting more complicated still you can combine the meanings and have: Sie werden alt werden they will get old Die Tr wird geschlossen werden the door will be shut Es wird gesagt, dass wir alt werden werden It is said that we will grow old. I can't come up with one where werden as a main verb meaning become or something similar is in the passive, either in German or in English, and I rather think that combination's not possible at all. Another use of the verb werden, is that the conditional form of the verb is often used to form conditional sentences. That's sentences like if I were rich I would buy a mansion. Roughly speaking, the form wrden means the same as would in English. But that's a topic in its own right, and because it only involves the conditional form of the verb and therefore can't be confused with other senses of the verb werden, and because I'd like this episode not to be overly long, I'm not going to go into it this time. So, to sum up, you can create a future tense in either of two ways. The easiest way to do it, which is also the way most often used by Germans, is to just use the present tense. Alternatively, if that would be ambiguous from the context, you can use werden in the relevant present tense form together with your main verb in the infinitive. Using werden to create the future tense is one of three major uses of the verb that I've gone into in detail this time. Another use is as a main verb meaning to become or a related verb. And the final meaning I've talked about in depth is to create a sentence in the passive voice, when you're describing an action rather than a state. Sentences in the passive can be in the present tense, or in a past tense or the future tense, but whichever tense they're in, the main verb will turn up as a past participle form - that's the form that usually has a <ge> on the front and sometimes has a <t> on the end. The way that you show which tense the passive is in isn't related to the main verb, which will always be a past participle. Instead, it's shown by the auxiliary verbs which can be put in either the past, present or future tense. One final reminder about werden's own past participle, when werden is being used as a main verb meaning to become or something similar, then its past participle is geworden, but when it's the past participle of the werden as an auxiliary verb that you use to make the passive, then the past participle is worden. That's it for German GrammarPod this week. I hope you enjoyed it and thanks to everyone who's been writing to me with feedback. I really appreciate it. Thanks for listening and goodbye.