Having a past

The majority of German verbs use haben “to have” to form the compound past tense (das Perfekt), the remainder use sein “to be.” To help the learner keep track of which words take sein, these words are often characterized as describing a change of state or indicating motion. And indeed a lot of the sein verbs do fit this characterization. For example,

To fall asleep – einschlafen, ist eingeschlafen
To wake up – aufwachen, ist aufgewacht
To get up – aufstehen, ist aufgestanden

Makes sense. “Falling asleep” and “waking up” involve a change of consciousness and “getting up” involves motion. The more you examine the SLEEP family, though, the trickier it gets. For example, there is a closely related word that takes haben:

To sleep – schlafen, hat geschlafen

Now sleep could be considered a steady state like leben – “living” – another verb that surprises me by taking haben. Confusing, but still somewhat logical. Enter aufbleiben, ist aufgeblieben – “to stay up” – which as far as I’m concerned need not involve any motion and is a steady state much like sleeping or living. Moreover, it is a prefixed word which happens to inherit the sein status of its verb stem bleiben, unlike our friend einschlafen which has gone over to sein. And I am almost afraid to discuss stehen, the root of aufstehen, which pons.eu informs me takes haben here in Germany but sein Austria and Switxerland.

Perhaps sleeping on it will bring a bit of clarity!?

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