Where should we use the word being

Perfect formation with “haben” or “sein” - use of auxiliary verbs

In the following article the perfect formation is clarified with “have” or “to be”. The use of the auxiliary verbs is thus worked out precisely.

The perfect tense is one of the most important tenses in German grammar. It is almost always used when we talk about the past. As in many other European languages, the perfect tense is formed with an auxiliary verb and the past participle. Auxiliary verbs in German are either “sein” or “haben”. Basically, the auxiliary verb “sein” is used in verbs of movement and change of state. “Have” is used with all other verbs. But what does that mean exactly?

The auxiliary verb “sein” in verbs of movement

Verbs of movement are for example: run, go, drive, run, jump, fly, i.e. verbs that describe the movement from one place to another. If we want to form the perfect tense with these verbs, we have to use the auxiliary verb “sein” in conjugated form in the second position in the sentence and the corresponding participle II at the end of the sentence.
Example: I went to the bakery.
However, some verbs of movement can form the perfect tense with “haben” and “sein”. These verbs include “swim” or “jog”. In connection with an indication of direction or location, however, only the perfect formation with “to be” is possible:
I swam. I swam. I swam to the bank.
I've been jogging. I jogged. I jogged through the park.
All of the forms mentioned are correct. However, the perfect formation with “haben” tends to decrease with these verbs of movement.

The auxiliary verb “sein” in verbs of change of state

Verbs of change of state can be, for example: die, grow, dry, disappear; So all those verbs that describe the change from a state A to a state B:
alive -> die -> dead
small -> grow -> big
These verbs also form the perfect form with “sein”. Exception: if one of the verbs of the change of state is used transitive, i.e. together with an accusative object, it forms the perfect form with “haben”. Example:
The laundry is dried in the sun. BUT: The sun has dried the laundry.

The auxiliary verb “haben” - the “normal case”

For all verbs that do not describe any movement or change of state, the perfect form is formed with the auxiliary verb “haben”. This affects the majority of German verbs.
The following verbs always form the perfect form with "haben":
- transitive verbs, i.e. verbs in connection with an accusative object, for example: She ate an ice cream.
- reflexive verbs, for example: I washed myself.

Regional particularities

Despite the basic rules mentioned, according to which the auxiliary verb “sein” is only used in verbs of movement and change of state, the question “to be” or not “to be” is not so easy to answer, depending on the region. It is common in the southern German language area to also form the perfect tense of the verbs “sit”, “stand” and “lie” with the help of the auxiliary verb “sein”, although these verbs neither describe a movement nor a change of state. Formulations such as: “I have sat”, “He has stood” or “You are lying” are by all means standard in southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland and by no means wrong. Which of the two variants German learners acquire depends largely on the region in which they learn the language and where the people with whom they communicate in everyday life come from.

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