Forum Rocket German German Grammar Verb tense to use when writing a to-do list

Verb tense to use when writing a to-do list



Hi there,

I was wondering which verb tense to use, if you are writing a to do list do yourself.

If I am writing it to someone else, I would use the imperative form. However, when referring to yourself, I would assume it is correct to use the stem form? As I cannot see any “ich” form on this site for the imperative form “”

Example of a to-do list in English:
1. Buy food
2. Pick-up package
3. Wash clothes

Here is my translation using the the imperative form:
1. Kauf Essen
2. Abhold Packung
3. Wasch Kleidung


Hallo RexV,

When you're talking to yourself, you're still giving a command in the second person - e.g. if you say to yourself in English, "Quick, hurry!" because you're running late, you're treating yourself like you're another person.

So when you're writing a to-do list, you'll use the second person form of the imperative, and you'll use du (unless you are very formal with yourself :) ). It is also more common in German to keep the articles in. So your list would be:

1. Kauf das Essen
2. Hol die Packung ab
3. Wasch die Kleidung

Note that in the du form of the imperative, the -e ending is optional with most verbs - so you could also say:

1. Kaufe das Essen
2. Hole die Packung ab
 Wasche die Kleidung 

This is actually more proper, but in speech or casual situations, the -e is usually dropped.

Bis zum nächsten Mal,



Quick follow-up questions

1. Is it correct there is only four forms for imperative verbs? I was just checking the word “kaufen” and could only see the following:

Du kaufe
Wir kaufen
Ihr Kauft
Sie Kaufen
2. Is it common do only use the “du” form when giving a command? Or would “Sie” be more appropriate in some situations? For example the police giving an order to a group of people
3. So every time I use the imperative form of “du” I can actually skip the “e”? However, I assume when I use the three other forms, I cannot cut anything of the ending?


Hallo RexV,

I'll jump right in:

1. You're right, those are the four forms of the imperative that exist in German. 

2. All four forms are equally common - it just depends on who you are talking to. If you would normally use du, Sie or ihr with a particular person/group of people, then you simply stick with that form when using the imperative with them. If you're including yourself in the group (which you'll do essentially whenever you would say "let's" in English), then you use wir.

Note that you will include the pronoun when using the imperative with Sie or wir. For example: Bitte setzen Sie sich "Please sit down" or Gehen wir ins Kino "(Let's) go to the movies." 

As you can see from these examples, the imperative isn't always direct or impolite - it can be used in polite situations as well.

3. When you're using the du form of the imperative, the -e ending is optional with most verbs - but not with all of them. With some, it has to be included. These are usually verbs whose stems end in -t or -d, or verbs whose stems end in most consonants followed by -m or -n. So for example, the -e must be included in Warte! "Wait!" and in Öffne das Fenster "Open the window."

For the imperative forms other than du, generally speaking, there aren't any new ending rules to worry about. There are of course always irregular verbs to watch out for, though.

Note that a full lesson on the imperative is currently planned for Level 2.

I hope that that is helpful!




P.S. - In thinking a bit further about your original question, I've noted another possibility as well: when you're writing a list, you can also just use the infinitive. So you could also write:

Essen kaufen
Packung abholen
Kleidung waschen

(Note that for the second item, if you mean to talk about picking up a "parcel / package" that was sent to you, it should actually be a Paket - I apologize for not having thought of the context earlier! Packung would mean "package" in the sense of either "packaging" or "pack.")

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