How to use the verb ‘to be’ in German

Sein (to be) is a very important verb, and it is used in many different situations, including describing people and things, giving opinions and saying where you are.

Sein is irregular. This means that it doesn’t follow the same pattern as regular verbs. Think about to be in English. You don’t say ‘I be, you be, he, she and it be’ - instead you say ‘I am, you are, he, she and it is.’ The German verb sein is similar!

'Sein' in the present tense

You can find the conjugations for sein in the present tense in the table below.

EnglishGermanExamples
I amich binIch bin groß - I am tall.
you aredu bistDu bist intelligent - You are intelligent.
he iser istEr ist freundlich - He is friendly.
she issie istSie ist Einzelkind - She is an only child.
it ises istEs ist klein - It is small.

When to use 'sein'

You can use sein to talk about lots of things, including:

  • Your age
    • Ich bin elf Jahre alt - I am eleven years old.
  • Your nationality
    • Icn bin Engländer - I am English.
  • Describing yourself or another person
    • Ich bin kreativ - I am creative.
    • Er ist sehr groß - He is very tall.
  • Describing personality
    • Meine Schwester ist sehr sympathisch - My sister is very kind.
  • What time it is
    • Es ist zwei Uhr - It is 02:00.
    • Abendessen ist um neunzehn Uhr - Dinner is at 19:00.
  • Describe where something is
    • Mein Bett ist neben dem Schreibtisch - My bed is next to the desk.
  • Giving your opinion
    • Mein Lieblingssport ist Tennis - My favourite sport is tennis.
Ich bin kreativ

Using 'sein' in questions

You can use sein to ask questions. In sentences, the verb needs to be the second idea, but in questions, the verb comes first. This is called inversion.

  • Du bist - You are
  • Bist du...? - Are you...?
  • Bist du sportlich? - Are you sporty?
  • Ist er kreativ? - Is he creative?
  • Ist deine Stadt ruhig? - Is your town quiet?

Using 'sein' in the past tense

To talk about the past, you can use ich war, meaning I was. This is the imperfect tense. You can find more conjugations in the table below.

EnglishGermanExamples
I wasich warIch war in der Stadt - I was in town.
you weredu warstDu warst im Kino - You were at the cinema.
he waser warEr war krank - He was sick.
she wassie warSie war sehr nett - She was very nice.
it wases warEs war gut - It was good.

Using 'sein' in the future tense

To talk about what will be in the future, you can use a conjugation of werden with sein. The form of werden has to be the second idea in the sentence and sein moves to the end of the sentence. You can find the conjugations of werden in the table below.

EnglishGermanExamples
I will beich werde ... seinIch werde kreativ sein - I will be creative.
you will bedu wirst ... seinDu wirst groß sein - You will be tall.
he will beer wird ... seinEr wird sportlich sein - He will be sporty.
she will besie wird ... seinSie wird dreizehn sein - She will be 13.
it will bees wird ... seinEs wird gut sein - It will be good.

Quiz

Find out how much you know about sein in this short quiz!

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