The future tense in German- on how to use werden
Surprisingly enough, the future tense is the easiest tense in German. Why? Because there is only one irregular verb (werden) whose conjugation you need to learn. All main verbs are left unconjugated and sent to the end of a German main clause.
E.g. Ich werde im Mai nach Mallorca fliegen.
Sie wird morgen arbeiten.
Ihr werdet nächstes Jahr nach Deutschland umziehen.
So as you see from the above examples, werden as the conjugated verb is second, whereas the main verb remains in its infinitive form at the end of the sentence. This is more straight forward than the conjugation of German verbs in the present tense where are there many other irregular verbs to learn.
Werden is an irregular verb, though. Its conjugation is as follows:
Unlike English, there is no difference between the will-future and the going-to-future. Instead, to communicate plans, German native speakers use the present tense.
e.g. Ich koche heute Abend griechisches Essen.
(I'm going to cook Greek food tonight)
Ich schicke dir später eine E-Mail.
(I'm going to send you an email later)
However, there are two pitfalls to avoid. One is that werden on its own (so when it doesn't act as the auxiliary verb for the future tense) means "to become". So if you forget to add a main verb at the end, the meaning of your sentence changes.
e.g. Ich werde alt (I become/get old)
Ich werde krank (I get sick)
By contrast, "Ich werde alt werden" means "I will get old" and "Ich werde krank werden" translates as "I will get sick".
The second pitfall is that German native speakers tend to drop "werden" not only if they want to discuss their plans but also if they are absolutely certain that something will happen.
e.g. Sie arbeitet morgen vs. Sie wird morgen arbeiten.
Ich fliege im Mai nach Mallorca vs. Ich werde im Mai nach Mallorca fliegen.
Both are grammatically correct, though using the future tense here with "werden" is more accurate grammatically speaking because of the adverbs of time "morgen" and "im Mai". Some outdated grammar books confusingly say that using werden implies that we are less certain that the events we're talking about will actually happen, but this is not correct, unless you add markers like "vielleicht", "wohl", "wahrscheinlich" to your sentence which do express various degrees of certainty.
e.g. Sie wird vielleicht morgen arbeiten, aber sie wartet noch auf einen Anruf von ihrem Chef.
(Perhaps she'll work tomorrow, but she's waiting for her boss to call her)
Ich werde wohl im Mai nach Mallorca fliegen, aber wegen der Pandemie bin ich mir noch nicht sicher.
(I might be able to fly to Mallorca in May, but I'm not quite sure yet because of the pandemic)
Ich werde wahrscheinlich im Mai nach Mallorca fliegen, aber ich warte nur noch auf die Bestätigung, dass der Flug wirklich stattfinden kann.
(I may fly to Mallorca in May, I'm just waiting for the official confirmation that my flight will take place)
So when you avoid these two pitfalls, the future tense in German is rather easy. Yet, "werden" is not just used as the auxiliary verb in the future tense, it is also used to form the passive voice in German. So check out my post on the latter.
You might also be interested in my Ultimate Guide to Learning German. Check it out to learn how to learn German fast.
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