Tense

Jun. 17th, 2010 02:34 pm
In everyday speech, Southern Germans and Austrians (not sure about Northern Germans) refer to the past tense in the present/past perfect - i.e. instead of saying "I went to the park", they'll say "I have [or had] gone to the park". Now German grammar is such that perfect tenses have two forms: one for transitive verbs, one for intransitive. For transitive verbs, the construction is the same as in English -- "haben" (to have) + past participle -- while for intransitive, it's a little different -- "sein" (to be) + past participle. Thus, if you translate literally and quite crudely from German, you get: "I have cooked breakfast," but "I am traveled to the mountains."

So over breakfast I was wondering - is this rule hammered so hard into German speakers' heads that they will follow it no matter what? Or will they sometimes start out sentences intending to use a(n) (in)transitive verb and then change their minds midway so they end up with the other kind? If so, do they notice it, and do they auto-correct?

I'm thinking yes, they do make mistakes occasionally and correct themselves immediately after, but it will be fun gathering proof of this in conversations.

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Treppenwolf

May 2012

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