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The verb haben

This lesson contains topics:

  1. Conjugation of verb “haben”
  2. Forming question with "haben"
  3. Nominative case
  4. Adjective endings after indefinite article in the nominative Case


Two most verbs of English language “to be” (sein) and “to have” (haben) work almost similarly in German. We have already discussed sein (to be) in the previous two lessons.

Ich habe ein Auto. (I have a car.)
Er hat zwei Autos. (He has two cars.)

In English the verb "to have" has two conjugated forms i.e. "has" and "have".
Harry has a dog.
You have two cats.

We have learned the conjugation of verb "sein" (to be) in the previous two lessons. We have also seen that "sein" has more conjugated forms than its English counterpart "to be". Similarly "haben" has more conjugated forms than "to have". Conjugations of “haben” falls in the category of irregular verbs in German but after learning conjugations of “haben” you can have a rough idea of conjugation of all German verbs, because all German verbs are conjugated in more or less same manner as haben.

1. Conjugation of verb “haben”

Singular Plural
1. person
ich habe (I have) wir haben (we have)
2. person, familiar form
du hast (you have) ihr habt (you have)
2. person, polite form
Sie haben (you have) Sie haben (you have)
3. person
er hat (he has)
es hat (it has)
sie hat (she has)
sie haben (they have)

As already mentioned, most of the time “haben” is used similarly as “to have” in English.

Ich habe ein Problem. (I have a problem.)

Wir haben kein Problem. (We have no problem.)

Du hast viel Geld. (You have much money.)

Er hat ein Problem. (He has a problem.)

Mein Auto ist gut aber hat ein Problem. (My car is good but has a problem.)

Ich habe zwei Autos. (I have two cars.)

Ich habe eine Frage. (I have a question.)
Ja bitte? (Yes, please?)

Haben Sie etwas Wasser? (Have you some water?)

Ich habe kein Wasser. (I have no water.)

However, there are some exceptions like expressing feelings of hunger, thrust and fear, where verbs “to be” and “to have” are used interchangeably in English and German languages.

Ich habe Hunger (I am hungry.)

Ich habe Durst. (I am thirsty.)

Ich habe Angst. (I am scared.)

Forming question with "haben"

From the previous chapter we know that in a question without interrogative pronoun verb is the first element in the sentence.

Subject Verb Object
Hast du Problem?
Have you a problem?
Haben Sie kein Wasser?
Have you no water?
Hat er kein Geld?
Has he no money?



Herr Schäfer hat ein Auto. Das Auto ist halb VW und halb BMW, aber wie ist es möglich? (Mr. Schäfer has a car. The car is half VW and half BMW, but how is it possible?)

Herr Schäfer, Sie sagen Ihr Auto ist halb VW und halb BMW, aber wie? (Mr. Schäfer, you say your car is half VW and half BMW, but how?)

Ja, ich habe eigentlich ein VW und das hat Motor und noch ein paar Teile von BMW. Deswegen ist das halb VW und halb BMW. (Yes, I have actually a VW and it has an engine and a few other parts from BMW. That's why it's half VW and half BMW.)

Sind Sie Mechaniker? (Are you a mechanic?)

Nein, ich bin nicht, aber ich habe ein Freund. Der ist Mechaniker. Seine Werkstatt ist in Köln. (No, I am not, but I have a friend. He is a mechanic. His workshop is in Cologne.)

Hat er die Werkstatt in Köln-Süd? Der heißt Heiko Müller oder? Er ist auch mein Freund. (Does he has the workshop in Cologne South? His name is Heiko Müller right? He is also my friend.)

Echt? (Really?)

Seit 10 Jahren sind wir Freunde, aber das ist doch ein schönes Auto. (We have been friends for 10 years, but that's a nice car.)

Danke, und auch ein sehr schnelles Auto. (Thanks, and also a very fast car.)

Vocabulary and explainations

möglich (possible)

sagen (to say), Was sagen Sie, sollen wir gehen? (What you say/What do you say, should we go?)

eigentlich (actually )

der Motor (engine)

noch (more, still, even)

ein paar (some, a few), Ich habe ein paar Freunde in Berlin und noch ein paar Freunde in Potsdam. (I have a few friends in Berlin and a few more friends in Potsdam.)

deswegen (that's why)

der Mechaniker (mechanic)

der Freund (friend)

die Werkstatt (workshop, garage, repair shop)

Köln (Cologne, a city in west Germany)

seit (since, for), Seit 10 Jahren (since 10 years)

schnell (fast)

In the above dialog, we have two sentences that have adjective endings.
1. Das ist doch ein schönes Auto.
2. Danke, und auch ein sehr schnelles Auto.

To understand what's happening with adjectives "schön" (beautiful) and "schnell" (fast), we have to learn two more topics:
1. Nominative case
2. Adjective endings in the nominative Case (subjective case)

Nominative case (Subjective case)

A case describes what grammatical role a noun or a pronoun plays in a sentence. If a noun or a pronoun is acting as a subject in a sentence it's in the nominative case or subjective case. In German, the subject is called "Nominativ-Ergänzung". We have already discussed sentence structure in German in lesson 4 (Articles in the nominative case).

There are some verbs in German that do not take any direct object (intransitive verbs). They only require a subject and some subject complement to complete the sentence. For example, the verb "sein" (to be). Complement is a word or a group of words that completes the sense of a sentence. In German complement is called "Qualitativ-Ergänzung".

Subject Verb Complement
Der König ist sehr reich.
The king is very rich
Der Bäcker ist arm.
The baker is poor

In the above table, nouns "Der König" and "Der Bäcker" are in the nominative case (subjective case), because they are acting as subjects in these sentences. "Sein" (to be) doesn't take any object so we need some complements to complete these sentences, and here we have "sehr reich" and "arm" as complements.

Adjective endings after indefinite article in the nominative case

After an indefinite articles (ein / eine) in the nominative case:

  1. adjective of a masculine noun takes "-er " ending,
  2. adjective of a feminine noun takes "-e " ending,
  3. adjective of a neuter noun takes "-es " ending.
  4. There's no plural indefinite article but we know "kein" declines as an indefinite article, so an adjective of a plural noun takes "-en " ending.

The simple table below summarizes the adjective endings in the nominative case.

Mas. Fem. Neu. pl.
indefinite article

For example:
fleißig (hardworking)
ein fleißiger Mann (a hardworking man)
ein guter Mann (a good man)
eine fleißige Frau (a hardworking woman)
eien gute Frau (a good woman)
ein fleißiges Mädchen (a hardworking girl), because Mädchen (girl) is neuter noun.
ein gutes Mädchen (a good girl)

In sentences:
1. Das ist doch ein schönes Auto.
2. Danke, und auch ein sehr schnelles Auto.
Das Auto is a neuter article. The above table shows that in nominative case the adjective of neuter noun takes "-es" ending after an indefinate article. That's why we have "-es" in "ein schönes Auto" and "ein sehr schnelles Auto".

Some more examples are:

Herr Schäfer ist ein guter Mann.
(Mr. Schäfer is good man.)

Adjectives after posseive pronouns (mein, dein, sein etc.) also decline similar to indefinate article.
Er ist mein guter Freund.
(He is my good friend.)

Der Bello ist ein intelligenter Hund.
(Bello is an intelligent dog.) Bello is name of the dog here.
But if the adjective comes after the noun, it takes no ending.
Mein Hund ist sehr intelligent.
(My dog is very intelligent.)
Der Bello ist sehr intelligent.
(The Bello is very intelligent.)

Sabine ist ein schönes Mädchen.
(Sabine is a beautiful girl.)
"das Mädchen" is a neuter noun. In nominative case (subjective case) any adjective preceding "das Mädchen" and succeeding an indefinite article would take "-es" ending. "Die Frau" is a feminine noun. In similar conditions, an adjective before "die Frau" would take "-e" ending.

Ihre Mutter ist eine gute Frau.
(Her mother is a good woman.)

Markus ist ein fleißiger Student.
(Markus is a hardworking student.)
Julia ist eine fleißige Studentin.
(Julia is a hardworking (female) student.)
Markus ist fleißig.
(Markus is hardworking.)
Julia ist auch fleißig.
(Julia is also hardworking.)
Beide sind Geschwister und fleißig.
(Both are siblings and hardworking.)