German Future Tense: Mastering Future Intent and Future Perfect
German uses two tenses called Future intent and Future perfect to talk about things that will happen or will have happened at a future point.
To formulate the future tense in German, you need to take the subject, then add the conjugated form of the verb werden (to become), add the rest of the sentence and the infinitive of the main action verb.
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.
In this post, we’ll show you how to form sentences in both tenses, along with samples and exercises to get you practicing.
- 1. Future intent
- 2. Future perfect
- Think You’ve Got It? Test What You’ve Learned
- And One More Thing...
1. Future intent
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:
|Future Conjugation||English Translation|
|Ich werde||I will|
|Du wirst ||You will|
|Er/sie/es wird ||He/she/it will|
|Wir werden||We will|
|Ihr werdet||You (plural) will|
|Sie werden||They/you (formal) will|
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 intent
Let’s take a look at a sentence in the English future tense, which we’ll use to demonstrate how to build Future intent 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 intent 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 intent. 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 perfect
The second future tense we’re going to talk about is used to express an assumption that an event or action act will have already been done by the time of speaking or by a certain point in the future.
In English, we have a future perfect tense to talk about a past event from the perspective of the future and we would express this, for example, 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 verbs (haben/sein)
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 the Future perfect
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 perfect.
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.
If you want to take your learning even further, you can study how the future tense is used in different contexts on FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
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 intent and (c) future perfect. 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!
And One More Thing...
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