I will jog a mile today.
I will finally write that novel.
I will drop off my shirt at the dry cleaners and get the car serviced and deep clean the attic and…
We’ve all got our own ideas of the future, but whether or not events pan out as we hope, it’s still important to at least express our intent.
You already know how to express a future scenario in your native language. But do you know how to do that in German?
It may be simpler than you think.
We’ll show you the formula for building German future tense sentences, so you can plan, prepare and project away.
Before we get started, a note for beginner German learners: this post assumes some basic knowledge of German grammar. You should be able to follow along with our guide and examples but may want to brush up on word order rules and verb conjugation before creating your own future tense sentences.
When Will You Need to Use the Future Tense?
You might find yourself wanting to express the desire that you will do something—at a later time. Knowing how to form the appropriate tense in German is key to expressing these desires.
Maybe you want to let German speakers know that an event is coming up. Maybe you want to make plans with your German friends. Maybe you need to tell your German professor when you’ll have handed in your next assignment.
For any instances like these, you’ll need the future tense.
German uses two tenses called the Future Tense I and Future Tense II to express ideas that will happen or will have happened at a future point.
In this post, we’ll show you how to form sentences in both tenses, along with samples and exercises to get you practicing.
2 Practical Formulas for Using the Future Tense in German
1. Future Tense I
This first form of the future tense expresses the intent to do something. In English, we use the word “will” along with the infinitive form of the main verb, as in, “I will jog five miles,” “I will sleep like a baby tonight” or “I will write that book—someday.”
In German, we similarly use the verb werden and the infinitive of the main action verb. Here’s an example of the structure:
subject – werden – infinitive
Now, of course, werden must be conjugated to correspond with your subject. Below are the conjugations of werden for the present tense:
Place your subject first, then the corresponding conjugation of werden. Follow regular German rules of word order for words and phrases after the appropriate conjugation of werden.
Finally, place the infinitive of your main action verb at the very end. Let’s work through some example sentences to practice.
How to Build Sentences in Future Tense I
Let’s take a look at a sentence in the English future tense, which we’ll use to demonstrate how to build Future Tense I sentences in German:
I will go to college in August.
First, identify the subject of the sentence we want to create in German. Our subject here is “I,” or ich in German. Because it’s starting our sentence, we’ll capitalize it. The structure of our sentence follows our formula:
subject – werden – infinitive
Ich – werden – infinitive
If we follow our conjugation chart, the proper conjugation of werden for ich is werde:
Ich – werde – infinitive
Next, let’s consider the rest of the sentence: we’ve begun with “I will go to college in August.” Since “to college” and “in August” are our prepositional phrases here, “go” must be our main action verb. Gehen means “to go” in German, so we’ll use that verb, in the infinitive form, for our sentence:
Ich – werde – gehen
There we have the “meat” of our Future Tense I sentence! Now let’s complete the sentence:
In German, if we’re talking about a university or college, we use the noun die Universität. The preposition zu is most often used with going to places. So “to college” becomes zu der Universität. One great thing about German is that instead of having to say zu der, we can say zur, as in zur Universität.
Following normal word order rules, we have:
Ich werde zur Universität gehen.
The words “in August” translate pretty much directly but in becomes im. So, we now have (corresponding to the original text):
Ich werde im August zur Universität gehen.
Ready to try it out yourself? See if you can put the following two sentences in the Future Tense I. Remember to use the formula: subject – werden – infinitive.
We will see Mount Everest someday.
She will drive me to the airport after work.
First, identify the subject and the main action verb. Place the subject first, werden (conjugated) second and the infinitive of the action verb last. Fill in the missing information as it appears in the original sentence.
How do the sentences below compare to your solutions?
Wir werden irgendwann Mount Everest sehen.
Sie wird mich nach der Arbeit zum Flughafen fahren.
2. Future Tense II
The second future tense we’re going to talk about expresses an act already having been done. In English, we would express this by saying, “after tomorrow, I will have written 12 pages.”
Here’s how to structure your sentence:
subject – werden – past participle of main verb – helping verb
Let’s work through a few sentences to practice this tense. We’ll use basically the same techniques as the first future tense, only this time making sure we denote the future event as already having happened.
How to Build Sentences in Future Tense II
Here’s the first sentence we’ll be working on:
He will have baked 200 cakes after this cake bakes.
Let’s refresh ourselves on the structure before we begin:
subject – werden – past participle – helping verb
Take the first part of the sentence: “He will have baked.” Those are the main ingredients we need to form this sentence in the second future tense.
“He” is our subject, so er becomes our German equivalent; we conjugate werden accordingly.
Backen means “to bake,” and the helping verb used with backen is haben. We include our past participle of backen and the infinitive of haben.
Here’s how it’s all shaping up:
He will have baked
Er wird gebacken haben
Now we’ve done the hard work for this tense! So let’s move on to the rest of the sentence:
Let’s look at “200 cakes” first. “The cakes” in German is die Kuchen, but we’re talking about 200 cakes, not “the” cakes. Zwei hundert means 200, so we say zwei hundert Kuchen. Let’s place that in our sentence next:
Er wird zwei hundert Kuchen gebacken haben
As we found out, “cakes” is die Kuchen, but one cake, or rather “the cake,” is der Kuchen. To specify “this,” we use the German word dies: dieser Kuchen.
Now, because “after” translates to nach, and nach is a dative preposition, our dieser Kuchen changes to diesem Kuchen, reflecting the masculine dative case. Lastly, we add our verb backen in, conjugated to “this cake,” and putting it all together, we have:
Er wird zwei hundert Kuchen gebacken haben, nach diesem Kuchen backt.
Quite a mouthful! It’s a lot to consider on its own, but by breaking down each step, we can come up with an accurate translation in Future Tense II.
Ready to give it a try? Practice these steps yourself with the example sentences below:
I will have gone to college for four years straight when I graduate in May.
They will have visited all 50 states once they arrive in Montana.
Did you come up with something like what’s below?
Ich werde für vier Jahren nachfolgend zur Universität gegangen sein, wann ich im Mai graduiere.
Sie werden alle Fünfziger Staaten besucht haben, sobald sie im Montana eintreffen.
Think You’ve Got It? Test What You’ve Learned
Think you’ve got it down? Here’s one last example:
We learn new German tenses.
Write the translation of this sentence out in (a) the German present, (b) future I and (c) future II. Do your sentences match?
- Wir lernen neue deutsche Zeitformen.
- Wir werden neue deutsche Zeitformen lernen.
- Wir werden neue deutsche Zeitformen gelernt haben.
Keep practicing your German future tenses and maybe, just maybe, you’ll achieve your goals someday. In the meantime, say them in German for motivation: Ich werde, ich werde, ich werde!