‘Essen’ Conjugations

‘Essen’ conjugations translate to ‘I eat /ate/ will eat, etc.’ The infinitive verb ‘essen’ (‘to eat’ in English) is one of the very first German verbs you should learn.

‘Essen’ is a common German verb that you’ll need to use in various tenses and moods in order to communicate in everyday spoken & written German.

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‘Essen’ Conjugations
Written by Laura Bennett
-   Updated:
- 12 minute read
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Learning ‘essen’ is tricky because German verbs have more conjugation options compared to English verbs –so there’s more that our brains have to remember!

Key Takeaways

  • ‘Essen’ (‘to eat’) is a commonly used infinitive verb in German.
  • there are more ‘essen’ conjugation options than what we have in English.
  • you need to learn ‘essen’ conjugations for multiple tenses and moods.

How is ‘Essen’ Used in German?

Knowing how to correctly use ‘essen’ in its many diverse forms allows you to speak masterfully in German in a wide variety of contexts.

‘Essen’ allows you to talk about yourself and others ‘eating’ (He eats his steak medium rare/ They eat bread with every meal/Will you eat these leftovers for lunch? etc.) in all manner of situations past, present, future, and hypothetical. 

You’ll use ‘essen’ in order to …

  • ✅ Talk about what / how / when / etc. someone is eating.
  • ✅ Utilize certain idioms and other common figures of speech.
  • ✅ Say that someone eats, ate, will have eaten, will eat, etc.

What Are The 6 Conjugations of ‘Essen’? 

The 6 conjugations of ‘essen’ in the present tense line up with our 6 subject pronouns to give us ‘ich esse’, ‘du isst’, ‘er / sie / es isst’, ‘wir essen’, ‘ihr esst’, and ‘sie essen.’

There are, of course, even more forms of ‘essen’ in other tenses (and moods). 

But it’s best to first focus strictly on the present tense conjugations of ‘essen’, so let’s look at it side-by-side with the English ‘to eat’:

‘Essen’ (in English)

I eat
you eat
he/she/it eats
we eat
they eat

‘Essen’ in German is ‘to eat’ in English. And in the present tense, we have two possible conjugations: ‘eat’, and ‘eats’.

In the case of ‘eat’, it is recycled –that is, it’s used with multiple different pronouns (i.e. I, you, we, they). It’s only he/she/it that uses its own unique conjugation ‘eats’.

Those same conjugations in German look like this:  

‘Essen’ (Present Tense) English vs German

Essen Conjugation English vs. German in the Present Tense

Comparing German & English

It’s important to notice the patterns of similarities and differences at this point. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where does German ‘recycle’ the same conjugations?
  • Are the German & English changes to ‘essen’ (to eat) occurring with equivalent pronouns?
  • Which language includes more changes compared to the other? 

‘Essen’ in the Present Tense

The present tense conjugations of ‘essen’ are ich esse, du isst, er / sie / es isst, wir essen, ihr esst, and sie essen.

Put into a typical conjugation table, these options are presented like this:

Present Tense Conjugation Chart:
ich  esseWir essen
du isstihr esst
er/sie/es isstsie essen

You truly haven’t even begun to learn ‘essen’ until you know ALL the nominative case pronouns and which form of ‘essen’ each of them takes.

To talk about the conjugations of ‘essen’ used by the various pronouns, we have to work backward by starting with the pronouns

And in order to understand nominative case (i.e. subject) pronouns, we need to talk about the grammar concept of ‘persons’.

What are ‘persons’?

The ‘persons’ (I, you, they, etc.) are split into two categories that interact with each other: 

There are 3 subcategories of ‘persons’ (1st Person, 2nd Person, and 3rd Person) and each of these has a ‘singular’ and a ‘plural’ variant. 

When we intersect this information on Y and X axes, we get these ultra-familiar English subject pronouns:

English Subject Pronouns Chart

Now, here is the German version of the same table of subject pronouns: 

German Subject Pronouns Chart

German & English Pronouns Side-by-Side

Where do English and German line up and where are there differences?

English and German have 1-to-1 equivalents for all pronouns … except that German has extra pronouns for ‘you’ (highlighted).

FULL German Subject Pronouns Chart
2nd (informal)duihr

Understanding the ‘ihr’ plural of ‘du’ is straightforward enough: Americans might relate it to the concept of y’all. We’re simply talking to multiple ‘you’s at the same time.

But what is the deal with the singular and plural ‘Sie’?

Formal vs. Informal ‘You’

If you took high school Spanish, you’ve already been exposed to the idea of ‘you’ having an informal version and a formal version (e.g. ‘tu’ [informal] and ‘Usted’ [formal]).

It’s the exact same idea in German.

We need to use the formal ‘you’ when we address …

  • someone we don’t intimately know 
  • someone to whom we want to show additional respect
  • someone in a relative position of authority 

Of course, these separate categories have some obvious potential overlaps in that many times we perceive others as authority figures whom we also genuinely respect and with whom we wouldn’t go out to a pub for a beer because we don’t know them intimately enough.

When to Use the Formal ‘Sie’

As you can see in the table, if you’re using the formal address ‘Sie’, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to one person or multiple –the pronoun AND its conjugation of ‘essen’ stays the same:

German Subject Pronoun & ‘Essen’ Conjugations Chart:
1stich essewir essen
2nd (informal)du isstihr esst
(formal)Sie essenSie essen
3rder/sie/es isstsie essen

In German, you generally need to use this formal version of ‘you’ if you’re talking with…

  • professionals (e.g. clerks, police officers, doctors, plumbers, etc.) 
  • leaders (e.g. priests, politicians, choir directors, bosses, etc.)
  • elders (e.g. anyone clearly at least a generation older than you are)

Examples of ‘Essen’

Knowing how to use ‘essen’ in the present tense for all the 1st, 2nd (formal and informal) and 3rd persons, singular and plural, is exactly what you should know for now. 

1st Person, Singular & Plural

Ich esse im Restaurant. (I am eating at the restaurant.)
Ich esse einen Hamburger. (I am eating a hamburger.)

Wir essen im Restaurant. (We are eating at the restaurant.)
Wir essen Hamburger. (We are eating hamburgers.)

2nd Person (Informal), Singular & Plural

Du isst im Restaurant. (You are eating at the restaurant.)
Du isst einen Hamburger. (You are eating a hamburger.)

Ihr esst im Restaurant. (You are eating at the restaurant.)
Ihr esst Hamburger. (You are eating hamburgers.)

2nd Person (Formal), Singular & Plural

Sie essen im Restaurant. (You are eating at the restaurant.)
Sie essen einen Hamburger. (You are eating a hamburger.)

Sie essen im Restaurant. (You are eating at the restaurant.)
Sie essen Hamburger. (You are eating hamburgers.)

3rd Person, Singular & Plural

Der Gast isst im Restaurant. (The guest is eating at the restaurant.)
Der Gast isst einen Hamburger. (The guest is eating a hamburger.)

Die Gäste essen im Restaurant. (The guests are eating at the restaurant.)
Die Gäste essen Hamburger. (The guests are eating hamburgers.)


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Comparing German & English

There are several interesting points to make on the above examples so that you can further your general knowledge of German beyond specifics of ‘essen’.

  • Almost every English noun pluralizes simply with ‘s’ (e.g. hamburger -> hamburgers), but German has SEVEN different options that we have to know how to choose between! Particularly challenging is when the needed plural is the ‘no change’ plural such that we see here: ‘Hamburger’ is both singular AND plural (and other information / context makes it clear which). Notice a second plural option (adding and ‘e’ and and umlaut) that changes ‘Gast’ (guest) to ‘Gäste’ (guests). Learn more about German noun plurals here.
  • Did you notice the ‘einen’ in front of ‘Hamburger’ (‘a hamburger’)? Have you noticed elsewhere that sometimes ‘a/an’ is ein, eine, einem, einer or eines? Yikes! These little differences are called declensions and you can’t speak German unless you know how to use them.
  • How about both ‘der’ and ‘die’ being translated as ‘the’? The classic problem of ‘der die das’ relates to both German Noun Gender and German Noun Case.

Skills You’ll Need to Use ‘Essen’ Conjugations:

‘Essen’ makes it possible to relay information about what, when, where, how, etc. you (or somebody else) is eating  in all manner of situations past, present, future, and hypothetical. 

‘Essen’ is such a common, everyday verb that you can’t masterfully speak German if you don’t understand how to use its various conjugations.

You’ll use ‘essen’ in order to …

  • ✅ Talk about eating out, eating quickly, eating with friends, etc.
  • ✅ Use common figures of speech (e.g. ‘to eat like a bird / horse’)
  • ✅ Talk about ‘eating’ in the past, present, and future (I will eat…, etc.)
  • ✅ Speak hypothetically  (e.g. I would have eaten, if only …)
  • ✅  Give a command or make a suggestion (e.g. ‘eat your peas!’)

Building Blocks You Need For ‘Essen’

‘Essen’ conjugations empower you to express yourself in a LOT of different ways. You need to correctly wield ‘essen’ in a variety of contexts in order to speak German capably, comfortably, and confidently.

To correctly use ‘essen’ in various tenses and moods, to give commands or offer suggestions, or to speak hypothetically, you need to build these foundational skills:

  1. Know the subject [i.e. nominative] pronouns for all singular & plural persons.
  2. Learn the present and simple past tense conjugations of ‘essen’ for all persons.
  3. Learn the ‘essen’ conjugations for the conditional, subjunctive, and imperative moods.
  4. Know when to use the infinitive form vs. past participle of ‘essen’.

Terminology Explained

subject pronouns are the words ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘we’ and ‘they’ in English. German has these same options BUT also three more! These pronouns are categorized as ‘persons’ that are either singular (e.g. ‘I’) or plural (e.g. ‘we’). 

conjugations are slight changes to a verb that line up with different ‘persons’ –for example, ‘I eat’ (base verb) vs. ‘he eats’ (with the added ‘s’). English generally has only these two conjugations, but German typically uses four conjugations.

tense & mood are simply variants of a verb such as present tense (‘I eat’), past tense (‘I ate’), future tense (‘I will eat’), and subjunctive mood (‘I would eat, [if]…’). German and English have all the same verb tenses and moods and they function similarly.

infinitive verbs are the base form of German verbs and typically end with an -en that is removed (producing the ‘root’ /’stem’) before then adding on conjugations. Also, some particular sentence formulations utilize a verb (or even two) in its infinitive form.

past participles are a form of a verb that is used to formulate the 3 ‘perfect’ tenses and also in the utilization of the passive voice. Every verb has just one past participle that is used by all persons in conjunction with a ‘helping verb’ (either ‘haben’ or ‘sein’).

“HELP! This Feels Overwhelming!”

This can understandably feel like a LOT, but the good news is that you DON’T have to fully master all the applications of ‘essen’ right now as a beginner learner –which also means you don’t have to have all the relevant lingo totally down yet, either.

The ideal place to start is by learning just the German subject pronouns and the present tense conjugations of ‘essen’. We covered this in depth above, but here is the table with both pieces of information, again, here:

essen conjugation table

Repetitious, simple sentences (like the examples I gave you above in an earlier section) will help you drill these present tense ‘essen’ conjugations into your memory. 

And since all the subject pronouns are exactly the same no matter what German verb conjugations we’re learning, we’ll get lots of mileage out of learning our ‘ich’ and ‘du’, etc.

If you’re beyond a beginner level already, you’ll see those ‘ich’s and ‘du’s repeated again and again in the following tables of ALL the ‘essen’ conjugations. 


Learning all of this is a big task for almost every German learner.

I’ll teach you step-by-step.

Get Started Now

‘Essen’ Conjugations in ALL Tenses & Moods

‘Essen’ is used in 6 tenses (of the indicative mood), and in two additional moods (the subjunctive and imperative). We use ‘essen’ to talk about ‘eating’ in the past, present, and future (e.g. I eat, I ate, I will eat). ‘Essen’ is also used to say ‘I would eat’ (subjunctive) or to give a command such as ‘eat quietly!’

For those of you who are ready for it, here are the full conjugation tables for ‘essen’:

Indicative (Indikativ)

The indicative mood is how we talk most of the time: about real facts (We will eat dinner at 6:00 p.m. sharp. You should eat more fruit. I need to eat more slowly.) 

The indicative mood subcategories into SIX tenses in both English and German. Most of these tenses are used very similarly. 

It’s essential to learn the Present Tense first, and then the Present Perfect. After that, you’ll get the most utility out of the Simple Future, then Simple Past, then Past Perfect, and then Future Perfect.

Present (Präsens)

‘ESSEN’- Present Tense (Präsens) Table
1stich ess(e)⁵wir essen
2nddu isstihr esst
3rder isstsie essen

Simple Past (Präteritum)

‘ESSEN’- Simple Past (Präteritum) Table
1stich aßwir aßen
2nddu aß(es)tihr aß(e)t
3rder aßsie aßen

Present Perfect (Perfekt)

‘ESSEN’ – Present Perfect (Perfekt) Table
1stich habe gegessenwir haben gegessen
2nddu hast gegessenihr habt gegessen
3rder hat gegessensie haben gegessen

Past Perfect (Plusquamperfekt)

‘ESSEN’ – Past Perfect (Plusquamperfekt) Table
1stich hatte gegessenwir hatten gegessen
2nddu hattest gegessenihr hattet gegessen
3rder hatte gegessensie hatten gegessen

Simple Future (Futur I)

‘ESSEN’ – Simple Future (Futur I) Table
1stich werde essenwir werden essen
2nddu wirst essenihr werdet essen
3rder wird essensie werden essen

Future Perfect (Futur II)

‘ESSEN’ – Future Perfect (Futur II) Table
1stich werde gegessen habenwir werden gegessen haben
2nddu wirst gegessen habenihr werdet gegessen haben
3rder wird gegessen habensie werden gegessen haben
Important Notes on German Tenses

Although German and English HAVE all the same tenses, they aren’t necessarily all used the same way.

In German …

  • The Present Tense covers three different English options: for example, I eat, I do eat, I am eating would ALL simply be ‘Ich esse’ in German. 
  • The Present Perfect Tense (which would technically translate to, e.g. I have eaten) actually correlates with English’s simple past (i.e.  I ate) in terms of usage.
  • The Simple Future tense is frequently avoided in favor of the Present tense and a time adverbial. 

Imperative (Imperativ)

The imperative mood is used in both English and German for giving commands. Note that a ‘du’ or ‘ihr’ subject is generally omitted, but that a ‘wir’ and ‘Sie’ must be present.

‘ESSEN’- Imperative (Imperativ) Table
1stessen wir!
2nd Informaliss [du]!esst [ihr]!
2nd Formalessen Sie!essen Sie!

Subjunctive (Konjunktiv)

The subjunctive mood is used in both English and German (but much more frequently in German!) to communicate hypothetical (i.e. not factual [indicative]) situations. 

The subjunctive can be used to communicate a present or future likelihood (but not certainty) OR a complete impossibility in the past, present, or future. 

The subjunctive is also used for expressing polite requests vs. the commands of the imperative mood.

Present Subjunctive (Konjunktiv I) 

‘ESSEN’- Present Subjunctive (Konjunktiv I) Table
1stich essewir essen
2nddu essestihr esset
3rder essesie essen

Past Subjunctive (Konjunktiv II) 

‘ESSEN’- Past Subjunctive (Konjunktiv II)  Table
1stich äßewir äßen
2nddu äßestihr äßet
3rder äßesie äßen

Perfect Subjunctive (Konjunktiv Perfekt) 

‘ESSEN’ – Perfect Subjunctive (Konjunktiv Perfekt) Table
1stich habe gegessenwir haben gegessen
2nddu habest gegessenihr habet gegessen
3rder habe gegessensie haben gegessen

Past Perfect Subjunctive (Konjunktiv Plusquamperfekt) 

‘ESSEN’ – Past Perfect Subjunctive (Konjunktiv Plusquamperfekt) Table
1stich hätte gegessenwir hätten gegessen
2nddu hättest gegessenihr hättet gegessen
3rder hätte gegessensie hätten gegessen

Future Subjunctive (Konjunktiv Futur I) 

‘ESSEN’ – Future Subjunctive (Konjunktiv Futur I) Table
1stich werde essenwir werden essen
2nddu werdest essenihr werdet essen
3rder werde essensie werden essen

Future Perfect Subjunctive (Konjunktiv Futur II)

‘ESSEN’ – Future Perfect Subjunctive (Konjunktiv Futur II) Table
1stich werde gegessen habenwir werden gegessen haben
2nddu werdest gegessen habenihr werdet gegessen haben
3rder werde gegessen habensie werden gegessen haben

Common Confusion

 ‘Was isst ihr’ or ‘esst ihr’?

‘Was esst ihr’ is the correct version. The conjugated form of ‘isst’ would be used with du and er/sie/es.

‘Habe gegessen’ or ‘aß’?

Both options can be correct. It’s the difference between using the past tense or the present perfect tense. Past tense would be ‘ich aß’ (I ate) vs the present perfect tense being ‘ich habe gegessen’ (I have eaten).

Is ‘essen’ a dative or accusative verb?

‘Essen’ is an accusative verb, which means the verb requires an accusative object to make a complete sentence. We need to know who is eating what (e.g. a sandwich).

 Is ‘essen’ an accusative verb?

Yes, ‘essen’ is an accusative verb. (See above!)

Rapid Q&A

Is ‘essen’ an irregular verb?

Yes! The term ‘irregular verb’ is another way of saying ‘strong verb’. All strong verbs will take a vowel change in the simple past tense, some take an additional vowel change in their past participles, and some –such as ‘essen’– even take a vowel change in the present tense (but just for ‘du’ and ‘er / sie / es’).

What is the present participle of ‘essen’?

The present participle of ‘essen’ is ‘essend’. Learn more about present participles here. 

What is the infinitive of ‘essen’?

‘Essen’ is actually the infinitive form. You will see other present tense conjugations form from ‘essen’, such as ‘isst’ and ‘esst.’

What are the 3 forms of ‘essen’?

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