How do you express past habitual actions in German? (mit einem Beispiel) How do you express past habitual actions in German? In English, you use a verb form that looks like a conditional. For example, let's say I'm trying to say: "I'd listen to a few minutes of the Tintenherz audiobook in German. Then I'd read the same section in the paperback in English translation (ah-ha!!!!). Then I’d listen to it again in German, this time I’d be able to follow and understand each sentence much better of course..... Soll ich schreiben: (1) Ich habe ein paar Minuten von Tintenherz als Hörbuch in deutscher Sprache zugehört, dann.... (2) Ich würde ein paar Minuten von Tintenherz als Hörbuch in deutscher Sprache zuhören, dann.... Oder was anderes? Danke im Voraus!!!
Nov 30, 2014 8:25 PM
Answers · 20
Isn't the form you'd use for habitual actions in English some variant of reported speech? At least I've always understood it that way, sort of like you're quoting yourself. In German, it depends on the context, but if you want to describe a habitual action that you've done and still do frequently, you'd use Präsens together with an adverb like "normalerweise", "immer" and so on. So for example: Ich höre mir dann immer ein paar Minuten das Tintenherz-Hörbuch an. Dann lese ich denselben Abschnitt in der Taschenbuchausgabe der englischen Übersetzung (Aha!). Dann höre ich es wieder auf Deutsch, aber diesmal kann ich die Sätze natürlich viel besser verstehen und der Handlung wirklich folgen...
November 30, 2014
No, no, you cannot use the latter one to describe a habit, the latter one is an advice! When you want to describe a habit in the past you would say: Ich habe mir erst ein paar Minuten von dem Hörbuch Tintenherz angehört, dann den gleichen Abschnitt im Taschenbuch auf Englisch gelesen und ihn mir dann noch einmal auf Deutsch angehört. By the way, a good advice, I am going to try that myself.
November 30, 2014
Aha, ok, thanks for the info. I misunderstood your English. I may say, that those forms, in English and German, have always been problematic for me, but comparing English to German, might help, for non-English, non-German speaker. So if you really DID something, than you should use, the way, as our fellow German speakers, have shown.
December 1, 2014
Thanks a lot! However after reading all three answers, I will comment that I'm not really sure that this is right. My example isn't actually meant to involve conditional statements. I'm not saying 'if that were me I would listen/read....' or 'in this situation I would listen/read...' I'm saying that I DID in fact listen/read, as a habitual action in the past. This is another use of the 'would' form in English.
November 30, 2014
You mean "I would", don't you? So, it it will be the latter choice. Ich würde..... I would = Ich würde Some German speakers tend to say: Ich ließ....instead of Ich würde lesen and so on. Personally I prefer the latter choice, it is simpler, one has to know all the past forms or every verb, with "Ich würde...", it is simpler. I could have made a mistake with Ich ließ, because I don't remember all of these forms.
November 30, 2014
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