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The modal verb "dürfen" in German

Meaning of "dürfen"

The verb "dürfen" means:

To be allowed to.

Wir dürfen keine Zeit verlieren
We can’t lose any time

Darf ich dich zum Essen einladen?
May I invite you to dinner?

When "Dürfen" is negated, it means “should not”.

Ihr dürft nicht so gemein zu anderen Kindern sein
You should not be so mean to other kids

Grammar of "dürfen"

"dürfen" is a modal verb. Which means that normally it needs another verb to complement its meaning.

Like the rest of the modal verbs, its auxiliary verb is haben.

Verb3rd PersonPräteritumPartizip IIMeaning
dürfendarfdurftegedurftto be allowed to

"Dürfen" is an irregular verb

Conjugation of "dürfen"

Present simple (Präsens Indikativ)

ConjugationMeaning
ich darfI am allowed to
du darfstyou are allowed to
er/sie/es darfhe/she/it is allowed to
wir dürfenwe are allowed to
ihr dürftyou are allowed to
sie dürfenthey are allowed to

Wie schnell darf man in Deutschland fahren?
How fast can you drive in Germany?

Dürfen wir uns vor dem Schlafen noch einen Film ansehen?
Can we see a movie before going to sleep?

Darf ich Ihnen eine Frage stellen?
Can I ask you a question?

Simple past (Präteritum)

ConjugationMeaning
ich durfteI was allowed to
du durftestyou were allowed to
er/sie/es durftehe/she/it was allowed to
wir durftenwe were allowed to
ihr durftetyou were allowed to
sie durftenthey were allowed to

Durftest du mit 18 fahren?
Were you allowed to drive at 18?

Als Kinder durften wir fast gar nichts
When we were children, we weren't allowed to do a lot

Perfect (Perfekt)

"Dürfen", just like the rest of the modal verbs, forms the Perfekt with the following structure:

haben + FULL VERB + dürfen

ConjugationMeaning
ich habe essen dürfenI am allowed to eat
du hast essen dürfenyou are allowed to eat
er/sie/es hat essen dürfenhe/she/it is allowed to eat
wir haben essen dürfenwe are allowed to eat
ihr habt essen dürfenyou are allowed to eat
sie haben essen dürfenthey are allowed to eat

The Perfekt is rarely used with "dürfen"; it is common to use the Präteritum.

Subjunctive II (Konjunktiv II)

Conjugation
ich dürfte
du dürftest
er/sie/es dürfte
wir dürften
ihr dürftet
sie dürften

Participle (Partizip)

Partizip IPartizip II
dürfend
(being allowed to)
gedurft
(been allowed to)

Imperative (Imperativ)

dürfen like the rest of modal verbs. It does not have an imperative.




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