The German Verb “Haben”: The Key to Expressing Possession in German

Can you imagine having a German conversation without using the verb “haben”? I challenge you to give it a try! 😉

The German language loves to use the verb “haben” when it comes to possessions. Knowing its conjugated forms and how to use its different tenses is the only way you’ll be able to talk about things like your favorite book collection, the cozy couch in your living room, your shiny new bicycle, or even your adorable new puppy.

Knowing how to use the German verb “haben” is a must. In this article, we will provide a straightforward overview of the “haben” conjugation, including its present, past, and future forms. We’ll also explore its usage in different contexts, equipping you with realistic and easy-to-remember examples.

So, let’s dive in and explore the fascinating world of the German verb “haben”!

“Haben” in the Present Tense (Präsens)

Knowing the German verb “haben” in the present tense is like having a linguistic key that unlocks everything you own, possess, or simply have at your fingertips.

Let’s take a look at some examples that might come in handy for you:

Ich habe ein neues Fahrrad. → I have a new bicycle.

Hast du heute Zeit für mich? → Do you have time for me today?

Martin hat keinen Garten. → Martin does not have a backyard.

Wir haben viel zu tun. → We have a lot to do/a lot of work.

Habt ihr Lust, morgen vorbeizukommen? → Do you guys feel like coming over tomorrow?

Since haben is an irregular verb, you’ll need to memorize its conjugation in the present tense which you can find below.

sie, Siehaben

If you want to practice using the verb “haben” in German questions and improve your listening and pronunciation skills at the same time, check out this video with Jacqueline:

“Haben” in the Simple Past (Präteritum)

If you want to talk about the things you used to have or possess, or talk about the feelings you had in the past, it pays off to be familiar with the simple past tense of the German verb “haben” and its conjugation.

Let’s see how we can use the simple past tense of “haben” in a few examples:

Sie hatte gestern keine Zeit. → She didn’t have time yesterday.

Ich hatte heute Morgen keinen Hunger. → I wasn’t hungry this morning. (Literally: I had this morning no hunger.)

Hatten Sie heute viel zu tun? → Did you have a lot to do today?/Were you busy today?

Hattet ihr nach dem Sport Muskelkater? → Did you guys have sore muscles after exercising?

Now that you have a better idea of how you can use the verb “haben” in the simple past, let’s tackle its conjugation:

sie, Siehatten

Ready for more? Let’s move on to the perfect tense!

“Haben” in the Present Perfect (Perfekt)

Want to talk about everything that happened to you today and all the things you had and didn’t have? Then put on your thinking cap and get familiar with the conjugation of “haben” in the present perfect tense. It’s pretty repetitive once you get the gist of it!

So, without further ado, let’s explore how the verb “haben” can be used in a sentence in the present perfect tense. We’ll use “haben” both as the auxiliary and the main verb:

Wir haben Glück gehabt! → We were lucky! (Literally: We have luck had!)

Meine Chefin hat heute schlechte Laune gehabt. → My [female] boss was in a bad mood today.

Wir haben heute keine Meetings gehabt. → We didn’t have any meetings today.

Ich habe heute keine Zeit gehabt, mit ihr zu telefonieren. → I didn’t have any time today to talk to her on the phone.

A woman is speaking on the phone.

Conjugating the verb “haben” in the present perfect tense is pretty straightforward and follows the pattern of any regular verb, so here goes:

Perfect Tense with the Verb Haben Being Both the Auxiliary and the Main Verb
ichhabe gehabt
duhast gehabt
er/sie/eshat gehabt
wirhaben gehabt
ihrhabt gehabt
sie, Siehaben gehabt

In English, the past participle “gehabt” corresponds to “had”. “Ich habe gehabt” therefore has the literal translation “I have had”.

Now let’s find out how the verb “haben” is used with a different past participle:

Perfect Tense with the Verb Haben Being the Auxiliary and Arbeiten Being the Main Verb
ichhabe gearbeitet
duhast gearbeitet
er/sie/eshat gearbeitet
wirhaben gearbeitet
ihrhabt gearbeitet
sie, Siehaben gearbeitet

You can get some additional input and practice using regular German verbs in the present perfect tense by watching Jenny’s video:

“Haben” in the Imperative (Imperativ)

We use the imperative every day, just like in English. It’s a way to give instructions or orders, and you can use it in both professional and personal settings. Check out these examples:

Hab noch ein bisschen Geduld! → Have a bit more patience!

Hab einen schönen Tag! → Have a nice day!

Habt keine Angst! → Don’t be afraid, you guys!

“Haben” in the Future I Tense (Futur I)

Forming the future tense in German is actually pretty straightforward. All you need is the verb “werden” as an auxiliary verb and the infinitive of the main verb. You’ll find that “haben” is quite commonly used as an infinitive in the future tense. Let’s check out some examples to get a better grasp of it:

Wir werden kein Geld dafür haben. → We will not have any money for that.

Wirst du Zeit für mich haben? → Will you have time for me?

Natalia wird keinen Hunger haben, wenn sie nach Hause kommt. → Natalia will not be hungry when she gets home.

Ihr werdet sandige Füße haben. → You guys will have sandy feet.

“Haben” in the Future II Tense (Futur II)

The Future II tense in German is formed by using the verb “werden” in its conjugated form, then adding the past participle of the main verb, and finally putting either “sein” or “haben” in the infinitive form.

  1. Future II is like a time machine that lets you talk about things that are going to be completed in the future. (Just remember, you have to mention the specific time it’s going to happen.)
  2. It’s also used to guess what may have happened in the past.

Check out these examples to see how it’s done:

Sie wird bis morgen Abend den Blogpost geschrieben haben. → She will have written the blog post by tomorrow night.

Wir werden bis nächsten Monat die Wohnung renoviert haben. → We will have renovated the apartment by next month.

Er wird das Auto noch nicht verkauft haben. → He will not have sold the car yet.

Antonia und Florian werden die Stühle reingetragen haben. → Antonia and Florian will have carried the chairs inside.

“Haben” in the Subjunctive Present (Konjunktiv II in der Gegenwart)

If you want to chat about hypothetical scenarios, share your dreams, or speculate about future events, you’ll need to master the subjunctive present. Plus, it’s your go-to for making polite requests and asking those all-important courteous questions!

How does the subjunctive present come into play in everyday life? Let’s delve into some German sentences that reflect real-life situations:

Ich hätte gern ein Glas Wasser. → I would like to have a glass of water.

Sie hätte gern mehr Zeit für ihre Hobbys. → She would like to have more time for her hobbies.

Hätten Sie einen Moment Zeit für mich? → Would you have a moment for me?

Hättest du Lust, mit uns auf den Spielplatz zu gehen? → Would you like to go to the playground with us?

Now, let’s tackle the last step: memorizing the not-so-super-complicated conjugation of “haben” in the present subjunctive.

Konjunktiv II in der Gegenwart
sie, Siehätten

“Haben” in the Subjunctive Past (Konjunktiv II in der Vergangenheit)

Imagine a scenario where you’re discussing things that could have happened, but didn’t. In German, we use the Subjunctive Past (Konjunktiv II in der Vergangenheit) for this purpose. It’s used to talk about actions that will never actually come true. To create this structure, you’ll need to use the verb “haben” in the Subjunctive Present forms and add a past participle.

Konjunktiv II in der Vergangenheit with Haben Being Both the Auxiliary and the Main Verb
ichhätte gehabt
duhättest gehabt
er/sie/eshätte gehabt
wirhätten gehabt
ihrhättet gehabt
sie, Siehätten gehabt

Here are examples using “haben” both as an auxiliary verb and as a main verb:

Ich hätte gerne einen Bruder gehabt. → I would have liked to have a brother. (An older person, reflecting on their life, might express regret for never having had a brother.)

In meinem letzten Job hätte ich gerne mehr Freizeit gehabt. → In my last job, I would have liked to have more free time. (This statement might come from someone discussing their past employment. Having moved on to a new job, the individual no longer has the opportunity for increased free time in their previous position.)

Now let’s take a look at how it works if we choose a different main verb:

Konjunktiv II in der Vergangenheit with Haben Being the Auxiliary Verb and Tun Being the Main Verb
ichhätte getan
duhättest getan
er/sie/eshätte getan
wirhätten getan
ihrhättet getan
sie, Siehätten getan

Let’s explore some German sentences that illustrate the use of “haben” and the main verb “tun” in the subjunctive past.

Ich hätte das für dich getan, wenn du mich gefragt hättest. → I would have done that for you if you had asked me.

Miriam hätte alles getan, um zu helfen. → Miriam would have done anything to help.

Hättest du das auch getan, wenn du an meiner Stelle gewesen wärst? → Would you have done the same if you had been in my place?

Wir hätten es so getan, wie du es vorgeschlagen hast. → We would have done it the way you suggested.

“Haben” in the Infinitive Form (Infinitiv)

The English infinitive “to have” translates to “haben” in German. As we’ve already learned, if you want to talk about the future, all you have to do is conjugate the verb “werden” and pair it with an infinitive. And guess what? More often than not, that infinitive is “haben”. Let’s check out some examples to see how it all comes together:

Sie wird großen Hunger haben. → She will have a lot to do.

In combination with modal verbs, the infinitive “haben” is frequently used. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Du musst Geduld haben! → You have to have patience!

Wir dürfen keine Angst haben! → We must not be afraid!

Sie will kein Bier haben. → She doesn’t want to have a beer.

Final Thoughts

The verb “haben” is absolutely essential in the German language. It’s used to talk about your possessions and ask about what others have available to them.

Since “haben” is an irregular verb, you’ll need to commit its conjugated forms to memory across different verb tenses.

Don’t fret! You can make the learning process more manageable by studying examples and German texts, and by writing your own sentences. If you need extra practice, our app is here to help! It offers downloadable worksheets, quizzes, and even podcasts featuring native speakers engaging in conversations that showcase the usage of “haben.” With these resources, you’ll be well on your way to mastering this crucial German verb!

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