Go to the homepage of this German Course The Future Tense University of Portsmouth
The future tense

Formation of the future tense
The German future tense is formed by using the present tense of the auxiliary verb "werden" followed by the infinitive of the verb in question:

ich werde kaufen I will buy
du wirst kaufen
Sie werden kaufen
You will buy
er/sie/es wird kaufen He/she/it will buy
wir werden kaufen We will buy
ihr werdet kaufen
Sie werden kaufen
You will buy
sie werden kaufen They will buy

Notes on word order
1. The infinitive of the main verb in the future tense should always be placed at the end of a clause or sentence.

  • Aber sie wird nicht mehr hier sein.
    (But she won't be here any more.)
  • Marlene wird Mitte Oktober ausziehen.
    (Marlene will be moving out in the middle of October.)

2. When a clause is "inverted" - i.e. in a question or when an adverb is the first element -, the auxiliary verb "werden" precedes the subject and the infinitive is again placed at the end of the clause.

  • Wann wirst du einziehen?
    (When will you move in?)
  • Natürlich wird Marlene den Wecker und den Computer mitnehmen.
    (Of course Marlene will take the alarm clock and the computer with her.)
  • Ab dem kommenden Semester werde ich hier Jura studieren.
    (From this term onwards I shall be studying law here.)

3. It is not necessary to repeat the auxiliary verb "werden" when the same noun is the subject of two or more future verbs in the same sentence.

  • Sie wird heiraten und dann in ein Zweifamilienhaus umziehen.
    (She will get married and will then move into a semi-detached house.)

The future tense and the present tense
In practice, the future tense is used much less frequently in German than it is in English. As we have seen in previous chapters, the present tense is often used indicate a future action, especially when an adverb already shows that the event takes place in the future:

  • Wir kommen morgen.
    (We will be coming tomorrow.)
  • Übermorgen fährt er nach Hause.
    (He'll be going home the day after tomorrow.)
  • Ich bin gleich fertig.
    (I'll be ready in a moment.)
  • Ich gehe in die Küche und mache Kaffee.
    (I'll just go into the kitchen and make some coffee.)
  • Heute Abend schreibe ich den Brief.
    (I'll write the letter this evening.)

The future tense is mainly used to refer to the future if the present tense could be misunderstood.

  • Ich werde keine Antwort bekommen.
    ("I won't get an answer". The present tense might imply that you "aren't getting an answer".)
  • Kai wird wieder bei der Post arbeiten.
    ("Kai will be working for the post office". Using the present tense would imply that Kai "is working for the post office again".)

The future tense can also indicate probability:

  • Ich bekomme keine Antwort. Sie wird wohl nicht da sein.
    (I'm not getting a reply. She's probably not in.)

Modal verbs and the future tense
Take care to distinguish between "werden" and "wollen" when expressing the future tense - English "will" is not the same as German "will"! Whereas the auxiliary verb "werden" should be used to translate a future action, "wollen" should only be used to translate what a person "plans" or "intends" to do.

  • Wir werden jetzt nach Italien fahren.
    (We are going to go to Italy now.)
  • Wir wollen jetzt nach Italien fahren.
    (We intend to go to Italy now.)
  • Wir möchten jetzt nach Italien fahren.
    (We would like to go to Italy now.)

In first person plural questions "wollen" has the sense of English "Shall we...?":

  • Wollen wir eine Tasse Kaffee trinken?
    (Shall we have a cup of coffee?)
  • Was wollen wir heute machen?
    (What shall we do today?)

Distinguishing between different forms of "werden"
As we have seen in the previous chapter, the auxiliary verb "werden" can be used to indicate a number of different tenses and moods in German. You should take care to distinguish between the future (= werden + Infinitive) and the passive (werden + Past Participle).

  • Wird Lutz die Wohnung sanieren?
    (Will Lutz renovate the flat?)
  • Die Wohnung wird schon saniert!
    (The flat is already being renovated.)

Note too that when "werden" is used with an adjective it means "to become":

  • Wir werden ausziehen und unsere Wohnung wird bald frei.
    (We will move out and our flat will soon become free.)

Weiter!German Imperative

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German Verb Tables
© Paul Joyce