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:


ich werde

du wirst

er/sie/es wird

wir werden

ihr werdet

sie/Sie werden


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 Some outdated grammar books confusingly say that using werden implies that we are less certain that the events we're talking about will actually happen, but this is not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.


On our German Language Blog "Auf Deutsch, bitte!", you will find posts on many topics in German grammar- from adjective endings in German, the four German cases, genitive only prepositions in German, verbs with prepositions,

the past perfect tense (Plusquamperfekt) in German, the difference between aber and sondern in German, to German syntax. We also teach you helpful German words and phrases for your next trip to Germany, list the ten most useful German verbs to get your German off the ground, warn you about tricky false friends in German and English, give you tips on how to avoid the 5 most common mistakes in German and how to quickly improve your German, tell you if it is possible to learn German in one year, review of the language apps Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, and Busuu, explain how to translate the English word busy into German, and explain what some brilliant German compound nouns actually mean, and we compare the most popular online dictionaries Linguee, dict.cc, dict.leo and Collins. So check out our blog and let us know what you think.

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