null  User manual
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FOR
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DUMmIES
by Wendy Foster
WWW.IRANMEET.COM
Intermediate German For Dummies®
Published by
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River St.
Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
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Copyright © 2008 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published simultaneously in Canada
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About the Author
Wendy Foster was born in Connecticut and grew up in Scituate, Massachusetts.
While studying in France, she traveled around Europe, and became curious about
the German language and culture. After graduating with a teaching certificate and a
degree in French, she decided to return to Europe to study German. Her love of the
Alps inspired her to live in Munich, where she spent 30 years. During that time, she
studied German, completed her MA in French at Middlebury College in Paris, and
later learned Spanish in Spain. Her professional experience includes teaching
Business English, German, French, and intercultural communication skills, as well as
writing and translating. She recently returned to her New England roots, where she
works from her home overlooking a spectacular salt marsh that constantly beckons
her to go kayaking, walking, bird watching, and swimming.
Dedication
This book is dedicated to the marsh, its wildlife, Wingaersheek Beach, the Annisquam
River, and the man I share it with, Phil Kehoe.
Author’s Acknowledgments
I must thank several people for their unwavering encouragement and support as I
worked on this project. I thank my international friends Sandra Waller, Peter
Hirschmann, Crista Zecher, Adrienne Clark-Ott, Ludwig Ott, and Udo Alter. I thank my
American friends Barb and Neil Murphy, Holly and Franck Fleury, and Willie and
Darrell Wickman.
In addition, I would like to thank the editorial staff at Wiley for their insight, patience,
and expertise, especially my project editor Chad Sievers, copy editor Danielle Voirol,
acquisitions editor Michael Lewis, and technical editor Brian Tucker at Wabash
College. A special thanks to my literary agent Marilyn Allen.
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Publisher’s Acknowledgments
We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at
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Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:
Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development
Composition Services
Project Editor: Chad R. Sievers
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Stephanie D. Jumper, Laura Pence, Erin Zeltner
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Technical Editor: Brian Tucker, PhD
Editorial Manager: Michelle Hacker
Proofreaders: Laura Albert, John Greenough,
Joni Heredia
Indexer: Broccoli Information Management
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Cartoons: Rich Tennant (www.the5thwave.com)
Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies
Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies
Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies
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Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel
Publishing for Technology Dummies
Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User
Composition Services
Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services
Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services
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Contents at a Glance
Introduction.................................................................................1
Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German ..................................5
Chapter 1: Assembling the Basic Tools for German Sentences..............................................................7
Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case ......................................................................................19
Chapter 3: Laying the Foundations of German.......................................................................................37
Chapter 4: Building Your Word Power .....................................................................................................51
Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present .....................67
Chapter 5: Grasping the Present Tense ...................................................................................................69
Chapter 6: Are You Asking or Telling Me? Questions and Commands ................................................85
Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe .............................................................101
Chapter 8: Describing Your Mood: Summing Up the Subjunctive......................................................119
Chapter 9: In the Mood: Combining Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries....................................................133
Chapter 10: Sorting Out Separable- and Inseparable- Prefix Verbs....................................................149
Part III: Fine Tuning Your Writing with Flair ..............................165
Chapter 11: Sounding More Like a Native with Verb Combinations ..................................................167
Chapter 12: Adding Adjectives for Description....................................................................................179
Chapter 13: Comparing with Adjectives and Adverbs.........................................................................193
Chapter 14: Connecting with Conjunctions ..........................................................................................207
Chapter 15: Your Preposition Primer.....................................................................................................217
Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the
Past and the Future..................................................................231
Chapter 16: Conversing about the Past: Perfecting the Present Perfect...........................................233
Chapter 17: Narrating the (Simple) Past: Fact and Fiction .................................................................249
Chapter 18: Looking to the Future (and Avoiding It) ...........................................................................265
Part V: The Part of Tens ............................................................275
Chapter 19: Ten Tips for Optimizing Your German..............................................................................277
Chapter 20: Ten Pitfalls to Avoid in German.........................................................................................281
Part VI: Appendixes..................................................................287
Appendix A: Verb Charts .........................................................................................................................289
Appendix B: Case Charts.........................................................................................................................299
Appendix C: English-German Dictionary...............................................................................................307
Appendix D: German-English Dictionary...............................................................................................311
Index.......................................................................................315
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Table of Contents
Introduction .................................................................................1
About This Book.........................................................................................................................1
Conventions Used in This Book ...............................................................................................1
Foolish Assumptions .................................................................................................................2
How This Book Is Organized.....................................................................................................2
Part I: The Building Blocks of German...........................................................................3
Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present ....................................................3
Part III: Fine Tuning Your Writing with Flair..................................................................3
Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future ......................3
Part V: The Part of Tens...................................................................................................3
Part VI: Appendixes..........................................................................................................3
Icons Used in This Book............................................................................................................4
Where to Go from Here..............................................................................................................4
Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German ...................................5
Chapter 1: Assembling the Basic Tools for German Sentences ....................................7
Grasping German Grammar Terms ..........................................................................................7
Conjugating verbs and understanding tenses ..............................................................8
Getting gender, number, and case ..................................................................................9
Understanding word order............................................................................................10
Grammar terms that describe words, parts of words, and word groupings ..........10
Identifying Parts of Speech .....................................................................................................11
Finding Meaning through Context .........................................................................................13
Using a Bilingual Dictionary ...................................................................................................14
Making the right choice (at the bookstore)................................................................14
Performing a word search .............................................................................................15
Answer Key ...............................................................................................................................17
Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case ...............................................................19
Rounding Up Grammatical Genders ......................................................................................19
Identifying German genders and figuring out which one to use ..............................20
Corralling plurals............................................................................................................22
Lassoing indefinite articles ...........................................................................................24
Missing absentee articles ..............................................................................................25
Calling All Cases: The Roles Nouns and Pronouns Play......................................................26
Identifying the four cases..............................................................................................26
Eyeing the similarities and differences........................................................................27
Putting Pronouns in Place.......................................................................................................29
Personal pronouns .........................................................................................................29
Relating to relative pronouns .......................................................................................30
Demonstrating demonstrative pronouns....................................................................32
Answer Key ...............................................................................................................................34
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Chapter 3: Laying the Foundations of German.................................................................37
Doing the Numbers ..................................................................................................................37
Counting off with cardinal numbers ............................................................................37
Getting in line with ordinal numbers ...........................................................................40
Was Ist das Datum? Expressing Dates ...................................................................................42
On the Clock: Expressing Time ..............................................................................................44
Naming Countries, Nationalities, and Languages ................................................................46
Eyeing German-speaking countries..............................................................................46
Grammatically speaking about countries, nationalities, and languages.................47
German neighbors and trading partners.....................................................................48
Answer Key ...............................................................................................................................50
Chapter 4: Building Your Word Power..............................................................................51
Working With Word Combinations.........................................................................................51
Spotting compound nouns............................................................................................52
Describing picture compound nouns ..........................................................................54
Checking out verb combinations .................................................................................55
Grasping Word Families and Word Categories .....................................................................56
Working with word families...........................................................................................56
Picture that! Working with word categories ...............................................................58
Streamlining Word Storage .....................................................................................................60
Recognizing cognates and near cognates ...................................................................60
False friends: Bad buddies ............................................................................................62
Answer Key ...............................................................................................................................64
Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present......................67
Chapter 5: Grasping the Present Tense ............................................................................69
Simplifying Subject Pronouns and Their Relationship to Verbs ........................................69
Making sure “you” dresses for the occasion: The formality of du/ihr and Sie.......70
Distinguishing among sie, sie, and Sie.........................................................................71
Getting Your Verbs in Shape: Present-Tense Conjugations ................................................73
Agreeing with the regulars ............................................................................................73
Conjugating verbs with spelling changes....................................................................75
Conjugating the irregulars haben and sein: To have and to be................................78
Using the Very Versatile Present Tense.................................................................................81
Answer Key ...............................................................................................................................83
Chapter 6: Are You Asking or Telling Me? Questions and Commands .......................85
Inverting Word Order for Yes/No Questions.........................................................................85
Gathering Information with Question Words: Who, What, Why, and More......................87
Checking Information: Tag! You’re It, Aren’t You?................................................................90
Combining Question Words: Compounds with Wo-.............................................................91
Making Choices: Asking What Kind of . . .? ...........................................................................93
Using the Imperative: Do It! ....................................................................................................95
Giving orders...................................................................................................................95
Requests and suggestions: Looking at question-command hybrids .......................96
Answer Key ...............................................................................................................................98
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Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe ...................................101
Getting to Yes: Variations on Ja............................................................................................102
Responding with No: The Difference between Kein and Nicht ........................................104
Negating with nicht ......................................................................................................104
Negating with kein........................................................................................................106
Avoiding blunt negative replies ..................................................................................108
Explaining Answers Using Da- Compounds ........................................................................110
Sounding Diplomatic: Using Maybe, Suggesting, and Refusing Politely .........................112
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................116
Chapter 8: Describing Your Mood: Summing Up the Subjunctive .............................119
Terms and Conditions: Unraveling Subjunctive Terminology..........................................119
Getting in the mood .....................................................................................................119
Comparing subjunctive types and the conditional..................................................120
Selecting the Present Subjunctive II: How and When to Use It ........................................121
Creating the present Subjunctive II with würde .......................................................121
Forming the Subjunctive II of haben, sein, and modal verbs .................................123
Using the present Subjunctive II.................................................................................124
Forming and Using the Past Subjunctive II .........................................................................126
Forming the past Subjunctive II..................................................................................126
Using the past Subjunctive II ......................................................................................127
Two-timing the past subjunctive: Using double infinitives.....................................128
Subjunctive I: Used in Indirect Discourse ...........................................................................128
Recognizing the present Subjunctive I ......................................................................129
Recognizing the Past Subjunctive I ............................................................................130
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................131
Chapter 9: In the Mood: Combining Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries ..........................133
The 4-1-1 on Modal Verbs......................................................................................................133
Identifying modals: Assistants with attitude ............................................................134
Understanding word order and modals ....................................................................135
May I? Dürfen, the Permission Verb.....................................................................................135
You Can Do It! Können, the Ability Verb..............................................................................136
I Like That: Mögen, the Likeable Verb .................................................................................139
What Would You Like? Möchten, the Preference Verb ......................................................141
Do I Have To? Müssen, the Verb of Necessity ....................................................................142
Should I or Shouldn’t I? Sollen, the Duty Verb....................................................................143
I Want to Be Famous: Wollen, the Intention Verb...............................................................144
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................147
Chapter 10: Sorting Out Separable- and Inseparable- Prefix Verbs .........................149
Looking at the Prefix..............................................................................................................149
Simplifying Separable-Prefix Verbs ......................................................................................150
Using verbs in the present tense................................................................................152
Using verbs in the simple past ...................................................................................153
Using verbs in present perfect tense .........................................................................154
Investigating Inseparable-Prefix Verbs ................................................................................155
Dealing with Dual-Prefix Verbs: To Separate or Not to Separate?....................................159
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................162
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Part III: Fine Tuning Your Writing with Flair...............................165
Chapter 11: Sounding More Like a Native with Verb Combinations.........................167
Set in Their Ways: Grasping Idiomatic Verb Expressions .................................................167
In the Looking Glass: Reflecting on Reflexive Verbs ..........................................................168
Self-ish concerns: Meeting the reflexive pronouns ..................................................168
Identifying which verbs need to be reflexive............................................................170
Combining Verbs with Prepositions ....................................................................................172
ID-ing common combos in the accusative case .......................................................174
Eyeing common combos in the dative case..............................................................175
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................177
Chapter 12: Adding Adjectives for Description.............................................................179
Organizing Adjectives: Opposites, Cognates, and Collocations ......................................179
Letting opposites attract.............................................................................................180
A family resemblance: Describing with cognates ....................................................182
Traveling companions: Describing with collocations .............................................183
Helping Adjectives Meet a Satisfying End...........................................................................185
Forming endings on adjectives not preceded by der- or ein- words .....................185
Preceded adjectives: Forming the endings ...............................................................187
Using Possessive Adjectives: My Place or Your Place?.....................................................188
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................190
Chapter 13: Comparing with Adjectives and Adverbs .................................................193
Comparing Regular Adjectives and Adverbs: Fast, Faster, Fastest .................................193
Comparing two things .................................................................................................194
Absolutely the most! Discussing superlatives..........................................................195
Considering common comparisons ...........................................................................195
Adding the umlaut in regular comparisons ..............................................................198
Using Irregular Comparison Forms......................................................................................199
Comparing Equals and Nonequals.......................................................................................200
Identifying Unique Adjective and Adverb Groups .............................................................202
Adjectives that act as nouns.......................................................................................202
Participles that function as adjectives or adverbs ..................................................203
Adverbs that modify adjectives .................................................................................204
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................205
Chapter 14: Connecting with Conjunctions ...................................................................207
Conjunctions and Clauses: Terminating Terminology Tangles ........................................207
Connecting with Coordinating Conjunctions .....................................................................208
Working on word order: Coordinating conjunctions ...............................................209
Using coordinating conjunctions ...............................................................................211
Connecting with Subordinating Conjunctions ...................................................................212
Using subordinating conjunctions .............................................................................213
Using the correct word order .....................................................................................214
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................216
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Chapter 15: Your Preposition Primer...............................................................................217
Prepping for Prepositions: Basic Guidelines ......................................................................217
Getting the importance of case ..................................................................................218
Understanding what it all means................................................................................219
Accusative, Dative, and Genitive Cases: How the Rest of the Phrase Shapes Up..........219
No finger pointing: Accusative prepositions ............................................................220
Dative prepositions ......................................................................................................221
Genitive prepositions...................................................................................................224
Tackling Two-Way Prepositions: Accusative/Dative..........................................................225
Understanding Quirky Combinations..................................................................................227
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................229
Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the
Past and the Future ..................................................................231
Chapter 16: Conversing about the Past: Perfecting the Present Perfect..................233
Forming the Present Perfect with Haben ............................................................................233
Forming the present perfect with regular weak verbs ............................................234
Forming the present perfect with irregular weak verbs..........................................236
Forming the present perfect with strong verbs .......................................................237
Forming the Present Perfect with Sein ................................................................................239
Eyeing the Present Perfect: German versus English..........................................................241
One for all: Representing three English tenses.........................................................241
Opting for the German present...................................................................................242
Outing the Oddball Verbs......................................................................................................242
Separable-prefix verbs .................................................................................................242
Inseparable prefix verbs..............................................................................................244
Verbs ending in -ieren ..................................................................................................245
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................247
Chapter 17: Narrating the (Simple) Past: Fact and Fiction..........................................249
Conjugating the Simple Past .................................................................................................249
Forming regular (weak) verbs in simple past ...........................................................251
Forming irregular (strong) verbs in simple past ......................................................252
Forming haben and sein in simple past.....................................................................256
Forming modals in simple past ..................................................................................258
Contrasting Tenses ................................................................................................................259
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................261
Chapter 18: Looking to the Future (and Avoiding It) .....................................................265
The Future is Now: Using the Present Tense Instead ........................................................265
Seeing when German present works perfectly .........................................................266
Saying when: Using future time expressions with the present tense ....................267
Facing the Future with Werden ............................................................................................269
Forming the future: Werden + infinitive verb............................................................269
Using the future: Assuming, hoping, and emphasizing intentions.........................270
Using the future to express probability.....................................................................272
Answer Key .............................................................................................................................273
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Part V: The Part of Tens.............................................................275
Chapter 19: Ten Tips for Optimizing Your German ........................................................277
Think Like a Native Speaker .................................................................................................277
Break Down Word Combinations .........................................................................................278
Use What You Know...............................................................................................................278
Get Going on Grammar..........................................................................................................278
Read and Listen Actively.......................................................................................................279
Experiment with What Works Best ......................................................................................279
Germanify Your Home ...........................................................................................................279
Integrate German into Your Routine....................................................................................280
Embrace the Culture..............................................................................................................280
Set Goals and Reward Yourself.............................................................................................280
Chapter 20: Ten Pitfalls to Avoid in German ..................................................................281
Attempting Word-for-Word Translations.............................................................................281
Downplaying Gender and Case ............................................................................................282
Wondering Which Word Order .............................................................................................282
Think, Thought, Thunk: (Mis)handling Verbs ....................................................................283
(Mis)Placing Prepositions and Prefixes ..............................................................................283
Skipping Capitalization and Umlauts...................................................................................284
Slipping on Super Slick Sentences .......................................................................................284
Being Informal on the Wrong Occasion...............................................................................285
Rejecting Review ....................................................................................................................285
Giving Up.................................................................................................................................286
Part VI: Appendixes ..................................................................287
Appendix A: Verb Charts ...................................................................................................289
Conjugating Verbs in Present and Simple Past Tenses .....................................................289
Conjugating Verbs in the Present Perfect, Future, and Subjunctive................................290
Present perfect .............................................................................................................290
Future.............................................................................................................................290
Subjunctive....................................................................................................................290
Weak Verbs..............................................................................................................................291
Regular verbs (no stem change in the simple past) ................................................291
Regular verbs (with stem ending in -d, -t, -fn or -gn) ...............................................291
Irregular weak verbs (stem change in the simple past)..........................................292
Strong Verbs............................................................................................................................292
Verbs with auxiliary haben ........................................................................................292
Verbs with auxiliary sein .............................................................................................292
Verbs with present-tense vowel change in second- and third-person singular ...293
Separable-Prefix Verbs...........................................................................................................293
Inseparable-Prefix Verbs (without ge- prefix in the past participle) ...............................294
Verbs with a past participle ending in -t ...................................................................294
Verbs with a past participle ending in -en.................................................................294
Auxiliary Verbs Haben, Sein, and Werden...........................................................................294
Modal Auxiliary Verbs ...........................................................................................................295
Principal Parts of Weak Verbs ..............................................................................................296
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Table of Contents
Appendix B: Case Charts...................................................................................................299
Articles ....................................................................................................................................299
Definite articles (the)...................................................................................................299
Indefinite articles (a, an) and ein- words...................................................................299
Pronouns .................................................................................................................................300
Personal pronouns .......................................................................................................300
Relative and demonstrative pronouns ......................................................................301
Der- words .....................................................................................................................301
Reflexive pronouns ......................................................................................................302
Interrogative pronoun who .........................................................................................302
Adjectives................................................................................................................................302
Adjectives without der- or ein- words (not preceded) ............................................303
Preceded adjectives ....................................................................................................303
Irregular comparison (adjectives and adverbs).......................................................304
Prepositions............................................................................................................................304
Accusative, dative, and genitive prepositions..........................................................305
Two-way prepositions: Accusative/dative ...............................................................306
Appendix C: English-German Dictionary .......................................................................307
Appendix D: German-English Dictionary .......................................................................311
Index .......................................................................................315
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Intermediate German For Dummies
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Introduction
Y
ou may be standing in the aisle of a bookstore at the mall perusing this book.
Maybe the mail carrier has dropped Intermediate German For Dummies on your
doorstep, so you’ve decided to rip open the bubble pack envelope because you love
popping those bubbles. No matter how you came across this book, acquiring more
German helps you in a myriad of ways. Like it or not, globalization is taking place at
an ever-increasing pace. German is spoken by more members of the European Union
than any other language, and Germany plays a leading economic role in the European
Union. You may be a businessperson, adventurer, or student — it doesn’t matter. But
unless you plan to live as a hermit, then in some way or another you’re bound to
come in contact with German. So get a head start and be ready to speak, write, travel,
and most of all, have fun auf Deutsch (in German).
Using this book builds your confidence in no time — well, okay, you do need some
free hours here and there, but the time you do spend using this book will pay off
down the road. Consider what you can gain from Intermediate German For Dummies
as the equivalent of having invested a huge chunk of money, time, and effort at the
local health club to become super fit for a trek across the Alps. The obvious difference is that you have to plunk out only a small chunk of change and some time and
effort in order to reap personal and professional gain.
About This Book
Intermediate German For Dummies is your key to success in becoming confident in
both written and spoken German. In this book, you get straight talk, the nitty-gritty,
and enough detail to see you successfully through any major and minor roadblocks to
communicating in German.
You’ll find this book very user-friendly because you can go through it in any order
you choose, zeroing in on your priorities. You can skim or, better yet, skip over the
grammar you don’t need. Use the book to find answers to specific questions you may
have on a topic that comes up while you’re writing. All the chapters have ample practice exercises following the grammar explanations so you can check whether you’ve
grasped the material. Flip to the end of the chapter, and you find the Answer Key for
the exercises with explanations pertinent to problematic usage. Without even realizing it, your German vocabulary expands as you cruise through the book. The example
sentences and exercises use practical, everyday German so you can flex your vocabulary muscles as you complete the tasks. Most important, as you go through this book,
Viel Spaß! (Have a lot of fun!)
Conventions Used in This Book
To make your progress go as smoothly as possible, I use some conventions in this
book. They can help you spot essential elements in the text and exercises:
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Intermediate German For Dummies
U I boldface the essential elements in verb tables, which may be information like
verb endings or irregular conjugations. Elsewhere, I bold German words and example sentences.
U I italicize English translations that accompany German words and sentences. I
also italicize English terms that I immediately follow with a definition.
U The Answer Key at the end of each chapter has not only the solutions to the
practice exercises (in bold) but also italicized English translations. Answers have
explanations where I feel it’s important to clarify why the answer given is the
correct one.
U Before each group of practice exercises, I provide an example exercise in Q&A
format to show you how to complete the task. The example (Q.) is followed by
the answer (A.) and an explanation for that answer, as needed.
Foolish Assumptions
In writing Intermediate German For Dummies, I made the following assumptions about
you, dear reader:
U You’ve acquired at least a smattering of spoken and written German, or better
yet, more, and you’re acquainted with some basics of German grammar.
U You’re willing to jump into German at the deep end and start swimming, even if
you do need some water wings at first.
U Your goal is to expand your knowledge of German so that you feel comfortable
in both speaking and writing the language. (Alternatively, you want to dream in
German.)
U You don’t want to be burdened by long-winded explanations of unnecessary
grammatical terms, nor do you care to hold a scholarly discussion in German
about Goethe’s Faust. You just want to you express yourself in clear and reasonably accurate German.
U You’re enthusiastic about having some fun while honing your German skills
because the last thing you want from this book is to be reminded of boring
school days where success meant figuring out how to: a) sleep and learn at the
same time b) skip class and not be missed c) wrap the teacher around your little
finger so that no matter what you did, you still got good grades.
If any or all of these statements describe you, then you’re ready to get started using
this book. Willkommen! (Welcome!) If you don’t have at least a basic understanding
of German, I suggest you first check out German For Dummies by Paulina Christensen,
Anne Fox, and Juergen Lorenz (Wiley).
How This Book Is Organized
This book is divided into six parts on general topics. In turn, these six parts are divided
into several chapters containing explanations, tables, and exercises. Each chapter
and appendix addresses a different aspect of the specific part. Here’s the preview.
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Introduction
Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
In this part, you reacquaint yourself with the world of nouns and verbs, numbers and
dates, word order and more fundamentals. See the mysteries of gender and case
unveiled. Part I also contains a practical guide to increasing your word power exponentially. You understand how to retrieve newly acquired vocabulary and expressions.
Part II: Getting Started Now:
Writing in the Present
Here you get the tools needed to construct sentences in the present tense. I give you
ample practice combining nouns and pronouns with verbs. I include info on asking
and answering questions, as well as agreeing and disagreeing. You see how to express
certainty and uncertainty and how to make wishes and requests using subjunctive
verbs. This part also shows you the six modal verbs that help you be polite, ask for
help, and talk about what you can do, want to do, should do, or must do.
Part III: Fine Tuning Your Writing with Flair
You want to sound like a native, right? This part helps you find out how to express
yourself using two-part verbs and reflexive verbs. It also delves into the finer points
of expressing yourself using adjectives of description. The chapters here show you
how to put adjectives and adverbs to work for you by making comparisons, show
how to connect shorter ideas with conjunctions, and touch on using prepositions.
Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead:
Writing in the Past and the Future
In this part, you practice expressing yourself using past and future verbs. You become
familiar with the difference between the conversational past and the simple (narrative)
past, and you see how to choose the correct verb form to express yourself in the future.
Part V: The Part of Tens
Here you find my top ten easy and useful tips on the following topics: optimizing your
German (in other words, how to make your German writing the best it can be), and
avoiding pitfalls.
Part VI: Appendixes
The four appendixes provide an assortment of references to help you in your writing
and speech. The first appendix includes verb tables for conjugating verbs. The second
appendix covers case-ending tables to help you use nouns, pronouns, and adjectives
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4
Intermediate German For Dummies
correctly. Two mini-dictionaries allow you to find the meaning of a German word you
don’t understand or the German equivalent of an English word.
Icons Used in This Book
Consider these icons as key points as you take the journey through this book. You
find them in the left-hand margin throughout. The icons include the following:
Helpful hints like these would’ve made it a whole lot easier for me to feel more comfortable using German when I was living in Bavaria way back in the Dark Ages.
The Warning icon points out the hidden dangers you may encounter as you journey
through the deep forest of tangled words, slippery sentence structure, and the like.
This icon alerts you to key information that’s worth revisiting. You want to stash this
info in your mind because you’ll end up using it again and again.
Pay attention to these key points. By noticing similarities and differences between
German and English, you see patterns that show you how to assemble German into
meaningful statements.
This icon marks the core learning tool in this book: a set of exercises designed for you
to check your progress. Go ahead — grab a pencil and get started.
Where to Go from Here
Try scanning the Table of Contents for starters. Select a chapter that piques your
interest and take it from there. Read the section that presents a concept, point of
grammar, or guidelines. Study the example at the beginning of the practice section
and write your answers to a few of the exercises. You’ll soon find out what you know
or don’t know by checking your answers in the Answer Key at the back of the chapter.
When you’re satisfied with your results in one section, flip back to the Table of
Contents and find another section you’re ready to tackle.
Part I helps you assess what you already know. The other parts build up the confidence you need in order to successfully expand your German horizons. Work at your
own pace, proceeding in any order you choose. Skip over sections you’re not ready to
do yet. If you don’t get the hang of a section, reread the grammar explanation, check
out the example sentences, or look at the first couple of solutions in the Answer Key.
Anytime you feel like you’re losing steam, mach eine Pause (take a break), close your
eyes, and dream about die Romantische Straße (the Romantic Road — an enchanting
route through some of the most picturesque parts of southern Germany). Before you
realize it, you’ll be dreaming of storybook castles and court jesters auf Deutsch (in
German)!
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Part I
The Basic Building
Blocks of German
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I
In this part . . .
magine you’re building a house. Regardless of whether
it’s made of bricks, wood, or cards, a well-designed
house all boils down to whether the foundation is solid
enough to support the structure above it. So it is with Part I:
This is where you get a solid foundation for building your
German. Chapter 1 assembles the basic tools you need for
construction. Following this groundwork is Chapter 2;
there, you gain confidence in case and gender, which act
as the mortar that sets words into meaningful sentences.
With Chapter 3, you’re in the process of laying out some
supporting beams of German, including numbers, time,
dates, and nationalities. So far, so good. Chapter 4 adds
sparkle to your otherwise mundane construction job. You
get a jump start on increasing your word power by recognizing groups of words that fit together logically.
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Chapter 1
Assembling the Basic Tools
for German Sentences
In This Chapter
© Understanding terms used in German grammar
© Identifying parts of speech
© Using a bilingual dictionary
Y
ou need some basic grammar tools to help you assemble winning sentences. In
this chapter, I explain the roles of the grammar tools — such as your trusty cases,
clauses, and cognates — to help you boost your confidence in German. Next, you need
to find some parts to build a sentence: parts of speech such as a noun, or better yet, a
couple of nouns, a verb, an adjective or two, and a maybe a preposition. These spare
parts, er, words, are easy to find in a big dictionary. At the end of this chapter, I give
you pointers on how to navigate your way through a bilingual dictionary.
Throughout Intermediate German For Dummies, you encounter the terms I describe in
this chapter. I use these terms to explain grammar, vocabulary, and the idiosyncrasies
of building sentences in German. If you’re not familiar with such terms, getting the
hang of the exercises in later chapters will take longer. Lingering here before jumping
ahead can save you time in the future. At the very least, scan the headings and tables
in this chapter quickly; when you see a term that you’re fuzzy about, stop there and
have a look.
If English is your native language, chances are you don’t need to bother with deciding
whether the words you’re using are verbs, nouns, or adjectives because you know
how to fit words together. Along the path to success in German, it’s a different story.
You’re prone to roadblocks caused by not knowing which word to use, how to use it,
or where to place it in a sentence. This chapter removes the barriers to your progress
with German.
Grasping German Grammar Terms
To get a firm grasp on German grammar, you need to make sure you can keep track of
the many terms you encounter. This section clears up any fuzzy ideas you may have
about the names for tools of German grammar, such as gender, case, and tense. (I use
terms for parts of speech in this section, but I give a fuller explanation of nouns,
verbs, adjectives, and so on in a separate section of this chapter.)
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Conjugating verbs and understanding tenses
Verbs are the words of action, and a verb that isn’t yet part of a sentence is an infinitive or is in infinitive form. This is the verb as it’s seen in a dictionary entry, as in
wohnen (to live). In English, the to indicates that the word is in infinitive form; the
German equivalent is the -en ending on the verb.
When you conjugate a verb, you change the verb form so it fits in your sentence to
convey information such as which subject is doing the action and when something
happens. Conjugation involves breaking the verb down into its usable parts. Look at
the conjugation of the verb to work: I work, you work, he/she/it works, we work, you
work, they work. English has only two different spellings of work (with and without s).
The same conjugation in German — ich arbeite, du arbeitest, er/sie/es arbeitet, wir
arbeiten, ihr arbeitet, sie arbeiten, Sie arbeiten — reveals four different verb endings: -e, -est, -et, and -en.
Verbs are conjugated in different tenses, which describe time. The three main descriptions of time are past, present, and future. Here’s a briefing on the tenses I cover in
this book, with the relevant verbs underlined:
U Present tense: This tense describes an action that’s happening now, habitual
actions, or general facts. Look at the following sentence, which uses the verb
wohnen (to live) in the present tense: Ich wohne in den U.S.A. You can translate
it as I live in the U.S.A. or I’m living in the U.S.A. (See Chapter 5 for details on the
present.)
U Present perfect (conversational past): In German, the present perfect describes
something that happened in the past, whether finished or unfinished. It’s used in
conversational German. Ich habe in den U.S.A. gewohnt can mean I have lived
in the U.S.A. or I lived in the U.S.A. (See Chapter 16.)
U Simple past: The simple past is used in formal language to describe past actions.
Ich wohnte in den U.S.A. means I lived in the U.S.A. (See Chapter 17.)
U Future: The future, obviously, describes events that haven’t yet occurred. Ich
werde in den U.S.A. wohnen means I will live in the U.S.A. or I’m going to live in
the U.S.A. German makes much less use of the future tense than English, often
opting for the simple present instead. (Check out Chapter 18.)
English uses continuous (progressive) tenses — verbs with a form of to be and -ing, as
in am living or have been living — to describe a temporary or ongoing action. But
because German has no continuous forms, you can simply use the basic German
tenses you see in the preceding list for the continuous form in English. German also
uses other tenses slightly differently from English.
The subjunctive is not a tense but rather a mood, something that indicates how you
describe an action — for example, as a fact, a possibility, or an uncertainty; but as with
tenses, the subjunctive gets its own conjugation. (See Chapter 8 for the subjunctive.)
It’s a proven fact that you don’t retain vocabulary, grammar, or what-have-you the
first time you’re exposed to it. Or the second or third time. To combat this, use a
system of recording important information that works well for you: Try making flashcards, creating an alphabetical word list, writing new expressions in meaningful sentences, and incorporating new grammar points into a short dialogue. You can also
copy the questions you need to review, leaving the answers blank, so that you can
redo them later.
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Chapter 1: Assembling the Basic Tools for German Sentences
In the following exercise, the verb is indicated in bold. Decide which verb tense it is
and write your answer in the space provided (refer to the bold, underlined verbs in
this section for help). Then translate the verb. The example shows the English translation of the complete sentence. You find the complete translations to the exercises
like this in the Answer Key at the end of every chapter.
Q. Ich kaufte ein neues Auto.
A. Ich kaufte ein neues Auto. (I bought a new car.) Simple past, bought. The -te ending signals the simple past tense.
1. Ich werde ins Restaurant gehen. _________________, _________________.
2. Ich habe den Film gesehen. _________________, _________________.
3. Ich fahre morgen nach Chemnitz. _________________, _________________.
4. Ich arbeite dort an einem Projekt. _________________, _________________.
5. Ich studierte Mathematik an der Universität. _________________, _________________.
Getting gender, number, and case
The trio of gender, number, and case are closely linked to each other to help you
make sense out of single words and to connect them into sentences. You need to
know how to use gender, number, and case to express your ideas in understandable
language. Check out the following explanations:
U Gender: People are one of two genders, masculine or feminine, right? Dogs and
cats are, too. But do stones and water have a gender? In German, yes indeed!
Every noun has a gender; the triumvirate der (masculine), die (feminine), das
(neuter) are the choices. All three are the gender-specific versions of the English
word the. (If this were a soccer game, the German team would’ve already won by
a margin of two.)
When looking at German, don’t confuse gender. Gender has to do with the word
itself, not the meaning of the word.
U Number: Number refers to singular and plural, like one potato, two potatoes, three
potatoes. German plurals are more intricate than English plurals. In fact, German
offers five major different types of plural endings. Some plurals compare with the
irregular English plurals, like man, men (der Mann, die Männer). (Check out
Chapter 2 for more on making nouns plural.)
U Case: There are four cases in German: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. But what does that actually mean? Cases help tell you what role the word
plays in the sentence. They have to do with the difference between I and me or
she and her. Cases deal with the significance of the to in give it to me or the apostrophe s in dog’s Frisbee.
German case endings are numerous, and they show the relationship between the
words having those cases. English uses case far less often. (Chapter 2 has more
info on case.)
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Understanding word order
In many respects, German word order is more flexible than English word order
because case plays a key role in clarifying the meaning of a sentence, something
that’s not nearly as powerful of a tool in English. When positioning words in a German
sentence, however, there are a few major points to keep in mind.
U The simplest word order looks like English word order:
1. Subject in first position:
Meine Wohnung (My apartment)
2. Verb in second position:
hat (has)
3. Other information follows:
einen großen Balkon (a large balcony)
U Yes/no type questions have inverted word order; flip the conjugated verb with
the subject: Hat deine Wohnung einen Balkon? (Does your apartment have a
balcony?)
U More complex sentences — for example, a sentence with two verb parts —
require more understanding of where to position the verbs in a sentence. In various sections of this book, you find out more about correct word order.
Grammar terms that describe words,
parts of words, and word groupings
You need to know several terms that are used to describe words that you put
together to convey meaning — sentence, clause, phrase, and so on. The following list
shows the most important key words I use in this book:
U Phrase: A group of words without a subject or a verb; most often used to
describe a prepositional phrase, such as ohne Zweifel (without a doubt)
U Clause: A group of related words that has subject and a verb, such as wir
arbeiten . . . (we’re working . . .)
U Sentence: A group of words that represents a complete thought and has a complete sentence structure: subject, verb, and punctuation, such as Gehen wir!
(Let’s go!)
U Prefix: A “word beginning” attached to the front of a word that alters the word’s
meaning, such as un (un-) + freundlich (friendly) = unfreundlich (unfriendly)
U Suffix: A “word ending” attached to the back of a word that alters the word’s
meaning, such as (der) Kapital + ismus = Kapitalismus (capital + ism = capitalism)
U Cognates: Words that have the same meaning and the same (or nearly the same)
spelling in two languages, such as der Hammer (the hammer) or die Melodie
(the melody)
Note: Technically, cognates are simply two words that come from a common
ancestor.
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Chapter 1: Assembling the Basic Tools for German Sentences
Write the name of the term that describes the word(s) in the exercises.
Q. in der Nacht _________________
A. in der Nacht (in the night) phrase
6. der Safe _________________
7. Ich schwimme oft im Sommer. _________________
8. die Vorarbeit _________________
9. sie möchte gehen . . . _________________
10. mit meiner Familie _________________
11. wunderbar _________________
Identifying Parts of Speech
In order to build a sentence, you need to figure out which words to use and how to
put them together. To do this, you figure out what you want to say, identify the parts
of speech you need to express your ideas, and then decide which words you want to
use. Word order in a German sentence can depend on the parts of speech that you’re
using. In Table 1-1, I explain what these terms mean.
Table 1-1
Parts of Speech
Name
Definition
Examples
Notes
Noun
A person, place, animal,
thing, quality, concept,
and so on
Dracula
Hotel California
Känguruh (kangaroo)
Liebe (love)
In German, they’re
always capitalized. (See
Chapter 2.)
Pronoun
A word that replaces,
or stands in for a noun
er (he)
sie (she)
uns (us)
German has far more
pronoun variations; the
four cases influence
pronoun endings. (See
Chapter 2.)
Article
A word that indicates
the gender of a noun
der/die/das (the)
ein/eine/ein (a/an)
German has three different genders, so it uses
three different articles
for the — der/die/das —
and a/an — ein/eine/
ein. (See Chapter 2.)
(continued)
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Table 1-1 (continued)
Name
Definition
Examples
Notes
Verb
A word that shows
action or a state
of being
denken (to think )
haben (to have)
reisen (to travel )
Verbs are conjugated
according to person (I,
you, he, and so on),
tense (present, past, and
future), and mood (for
example, the difference
between it is and it
would be).
Adjective
A word that modifies
or describes a noun
or a pronoun
Adjectives may or
schön (beautiful )
may not have case
praktisch (practical )
interessant (interesting) endings. (See Chapters
12 and 13.)
Adverb
A word that modifies
or describes a verb,
an adjective, or another
adverb
schnell (fast, quickly )
sehr (very )
schrecklich (terribly )
Conjunction
und (and )
A word that connects
other words or sentence aber (but )
weil (because)
parts together
Preposition
A word that shows a
relationship between
its object (a noun or
pronoun) and another
word in a sentence
In German, adjectives
and adverbs can be the
same word. (See
Chapter 13.)
In German, some conjunctions affect the
word order of the sentence. (See Chapter 14.)
In German, a preposition
mit (mir) (with [me])
ohne (mich) (without [me]) uses case (dative,
während (des Tages)
accusative, or genitive)
to show the relationship
(during [the day ])
to its object. (See
Chapter 15.)
In the sentences that follow, identify the part of speech in boldface and write it next
to the sentence. Then try your hand at writing the sentence in English.
Q. Wo sind meine Schlüssel?
A. Wo sind meine Schlüssel? verb. A clue is that the verb is in second position, as is typical
in German word order. Where are my keys?
12. Sie sind auf dem Tisch. ____________________________________________________________
13. Im Zoo gibt es viele exotische Tiere. ________________________________________________
14. Ich mag die Pinguine, aber die Elefanten sind noch interessanter.
______________________________________________________________________________________
15. Im Zoo sind die Tiere nicht glücklich. _______________________________________________
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Chapter 1: Assembling the Basic Tools for German Sentences
16. Ich möchte im Park spazierengehen. ________________________________________________
17. Hast du meine schwarzen Schuhe gesehen? __________________________________________
18. Deine Schuhe liegen unter dem Sofa. ________________________________________________
19. Fahre bitte nicht so schnell! ________________________________________________________
Finding Meaning through Context
One essential tool for making sense of a foreign language is to consciously look for
meaning through the context of the words. You probably do the same thing in your
own language. Imagine you’re reading a text that’s not in your field of expertise. You
instinctively look at any headings, scan the text rapidly, and get more clues from any
illustrations, charts, or tables. When you’re looking at a text in German, you can meet
the challenge by employing the techniques you already use in your native language.
To understand what a whole sentence means, see how the words fit together. Identify
the verb or verbs and a noun or pronoun, and that’s the meat of your sentence. Check
out how the other words are related to the subject and verb — for example, look for a
prepositional phrase or a conjunction. (See the preceding section for the parts of
speech.) In short, use all the tools at your disposal to understand German sentences.
The following exercise combines the tools and parts explained in the previous sections of this chapter. Each sentence has one word missing. Decide which word of the
four choices is the correct one, and write your answer in the space.
Q. Viele Leute _____, dass München “die heimliche Hauptstadt Deutschlands” ist.
a) behaupten
b) Sonne
c) der
d) vorwärts
A. Viele Leute a) behaupten, dass München die heimliche Hauptstadt Deutschlands ist.
(Many people claim that Munich is “the secret capital of Germany.”) The verb behaupten is
in second position in the clause; next comes a second clause that is set apart by a
comma.
20. Es gibt noch _____ Bezeichnungen für München.
a) der
b) Personen
c) zwei
d) das
21. Die Einwohner sagen, München ist “die Weltstadt mit Herz,” _____ “das Millionendorf.”
a) in
b) arbeiten
c) oder
d) interessant
22. In der Tat _____ die Stadt voller Überraschungen.
a) von
b) ist
c) in
d) können
23. Jedes Jahr wird das grösste Volksfest der Welt in München _____.
a) gehabt
b) Stein
c) geworden
d) gefeiert
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
24. Millionen Touristen kommen zum Oktoberfest, aber _____ Leute kommen zu spät. Warum?
a) manche
b) haben
c) die
d) grün
25. Leider geht _____ Oktoberfest am ersten Sonntag im Oktober zu Ende.
a) nur
b) in
c) das
d) von
Using a Bilingual Dictionary
Horses are only as good for riding as their training is. And dictionaries are only as
useful for finding words as their owners’ knowledge of how to use a dictionary. Except
for the terms breaking in a horse and breaking in a book, that’s about it for parallels
(unless, of course, you want to speak German to your horse).
A bilingual dictionary is a challenge at first; take on the challenge and read the information at the front of the dictionary on how to use the dictionary. The symbols and
abbreviations are your key to successful scouting for the right word. This section
helps you sort out this handy tool.
Making the right choice (at the bookstore)
When choosing a bilingual dictionary, your first task is selecting the right dictionary.
First and foremost is the size and quality. Don’t scrimp here. Take your bathroom
scales to a serious bookstore at the mall and weigh all the German/English bilingual
dictionaries. Pick the two heaviest ones. (Okay, just kidding. You don’t need to bring
your scales, but do consider the obvious: that you’ll be able to find more information
in larger dictionaries.) Then compare three different entries. Start with a frequently
used verb like machen. The following shortened dictionary entry for the verb machen
shows you how a good dictionary organizes the information on the first two lines:
machen 1 vt (a) to do; (herstellen, zubereiten) to make. was ~ Sie (beruflich)? what do
you do for a living?; gut, wird gemacht right, I’ll get that done or will be done (coll).
You may notice two abbreviations and a symbol in this entry:
U The abbreviation vt stands for transitive verb; that’s a verb that can take a direct
object. Other verbs have the abbreviation vi, which stands for an intransitive
verb; that’s a verb without a direct object.
U The second abbreviation coll stands for colloquial; expressions or words marked
by this abbreviation are used in informal conversation.
U The ~ symbol represents the headword (the first word) machen. The complete
expression is Was machen Sie (beruflich)?
Start your dictionary comparison task by following these steps:
1. Look at how comprehensive the entries are.
Check for commonly used phrases, such as was machst du denn da? (what in
the world are you doing here?), mach schneller! (hurry up!), or mach’s gut (take
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Chapter 1: Assembling the Basic Tools for German Sentences
care), and compare their translations for detail and content. You should be able
to find complete sentences and phrases using machen. Comprehensive dictionaries should offer alternative words in German (at least for frequently used verbs
such as machen), along with possible translations. For example, after machen,
you may find herstellen (to produce, manufacture) or zubereiten (to prepare), as
in the example entry.
2. Ask yourself which dictionary is more user-friendly.
In other words, does the dictionary provide plenty of helpful abbreviations to
help you understand the entries? Do you see clearly marked sections under the
headword machen? They should be marked by numbers and letters in bold; in
the example entry, you find 1 and (a). Some quality dictionaries indent the numbered sections to make them even easier to locate. You can compare whether
there’s a phonetic pronunciation for tricky words. Also, check that the dictionary
makes ample use of symbols like coll to indicate usage of the word.
Apart from the abbreviations that show part of speech, gender, number, case, and
so on, you find many more details in any large, quality dictionary. A (very) short
list of such abbreviated terms should include fig (figurative), lit (literal), esp (especially), sl (slang), Tech (technology), Psych (psychology), Prov (proverb), Jur (law),
spec (specialist term), Aus (Austrian usage), Sw (Swiss usage), and many more.
Make your choice wisely, and start enjoying your new Wörterbuch (dictionary). Oh,
and don’t forget to take the scales home with you, too.
If you prefer an online dictionary and you’re not sure about how to make a good selection, follow the same criteria. Select a couple of reputable dictionary publishers, go to
their online dictionaries, and find out how extensive and (hopefully accurate) they are.
If you’re not familiar with dictionary publishers, go to www.google.de and check out
the dictionaries listed under “deutsch-englisches wörterbuch.” Do a thorough Web
search to find what’s available and compare the sources you find.
Performing a word search
Maybe you didn’t buy a paper dictionary because you found a nifty online alternative.
That’s all right. Online dictionaries are a good backup for finding out about words if
you’re on a limited budget. No matter whether you’re using a hard copy or an online
dictionary, you still have to know how to find the right word.
Familiarize yourself with the symbols and abbreviations used by looking up a few
nouns, verbs, adjectives, and so on. See whether you understand them in the context of
the dictionary entry. Instead of trying to memorize the meaning of all the abbreviations,
make a photocopy of the list and keep it as a bookmark in your dictionary. Better yet,
laminate it. That way you can use it as a mouse pad, a table mat, or whatever. You can
then cross-check definitions to get more information on words you’re looking up.
When you look up a word that has several definitions, read beyond the first or second
entry line and try to decide which one suits your needs. Think about context, and
decide which word fits best into the rest of the sentence. Besides meaning, here are
some other factors that may affect your word choice:
U Nouns: Think of gender and number as the vital statistics of a noun.
• Gender is indicated by m, f, and nt (for masculine, feminine, and neuter) in
some dictionaries.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
• Number is indicated with the plural ending form for that noun. There are
five main groups of noun endings. A common ending is -en; other nouns
add -s. With some nouns, you see the genitive case ending indicated for
that noun in addition to the plural ending.
U Verbs: Verbs also have vital statistics you need to know.
• A verb is transitive or intransitive (symbols like vt and vi). A transitive verb
takes a direct object; an intransitive verb doesn’t.
• A transitive verb may have a separable prefix (vt sep) or an inseparable
prefix (vt insep). If the prefix is separable, it usually gets booted to the end
of the sentence when the verb is conjugated.
• Some verbs are reflexive (vr), meaning they require a reflexive pronoun.
• The simple past form and the past participle are also indicated (in some
dictionaries with pret and ptp, respectively).
U Prepositions: Prepositions in German dictionary entries show which case they
have: accusative (prep + acc), dative (prep + dat), or genitive (prep + gen). Some
prepositions have more than one case, and most prepositions have more than
one meaning.
U Pronouns: Pronouns include personal pronouns (pers pron), such as ich (I);
demonstrative pronouns (dem pron), such as denen (them); relative pronouns
(rel pron), such as das (that); and reflexive pronouns (reflexive pron), such as
mich (myself). See Chapter 2 for details on pronoun types.
Adjectives and adverbs may be the same word in German. Memorize both, and you
have two words for the effort of looking up one.
Look at the dictionary entries and answer the questions about the words and
abbreviations.
Reise-: ~pafl m passport: ~scheck m travellerís cheque (Brit), traveler’s check (US);
~spesen pl: travelling (Brit) or traveling (US) expenses pl; ~versicherung f travel
insurance: ~ziel nt destination.
Key for abbreviations: m = masculine, (Brit) = British usage, (US) = North American
usage, pl = plural, f = feminine, nt = neuter
Q. In the entry for Reise-, which word is feminine? Is it one word or two words in German?
A. Reiseversicherung is feminine, and it’s one word in German.
26. The headword (first one) has a hyphen at the end of the word like this: Reise-: What does
the hyphen mean?
__________________________________________________________________________________
27. What’s the word for destination, and which gender is it?
__________________________________________________________________________________
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Chapter 1: Assembling the Basic Tools for German Sentences
Answer Key
a
Ich werde ins Restaurant gehen. (I’m going to go to the restaurant.) Future, will go/am going to
go. Either translation is appropriate; am going to go sounds more natural here because it
expresses an intention. Werde plus the verb at the end signals the future tense.
b
Ich habe den Film gesehen. (I have seen/saw the film.) Present perfect, have seen/saw. Habe
plus the participle at the end of the sentence signals present perfect tense.
c
Ich fahre morgen nach Chemnitz. (Tomorrow I’m driving to Chemnitz.) Present, am driving. The
ending -e signals the present tense.
d
Ich arbeite dort an einem Projekt. (I’m working on a project there.) Present, am working. The
infinitive is arbeiten. The simple present is formed by adding -e to the end of the stem arbeit-.
The simple past would be ich arbeitete = arbeit- + -ete.
e
Ich studierte Mathematik an der Universität. (I studied math at the university.) Simple past, studied. The -te ending signals the simple past tense.
f
der Safe (the safe/vault) cognate
g
Ich schwimme oft im Sommer. (I often swim in the summer.) sentence
h
die Vorarbeit (the preliminary work) prefix
i
sie möchte gehen . . . (she’d like to go . . .) clause
j
mit meiner Familie (with my family) phrase
k
wunderbar (wonderful) suffix
l
pronoun; They’re on the table. Sie is a pronoun. The usual German word order is subject +
verb. Here, the subject is a pronoun.
m
adjective; There are a lot of exotic animals in the zoo. Exotische describes the plural noun
Tiere. The suffix ending -isch is often comparable to the suffix -ic or -ical in English.
n
conjunction; I like the penguins, but the elephants are more interesting. The two sentence
parts are joined by the conjunction aber (but).
o
definite, plural article; In the zoo, the animals aren’t happy. Die is the plural article in nominative case, indicating that Tiere is plural.
p
preposition; I’d like to go for a walk in the park. Im is a preposition. The prepositional
phrase is im Park (in the park).
q
noun; Have you seen my black shoes? Schuhe is a plural noun.
r
verb; Your shoes are lying under the sofa. Liegen is a verb. It’s in second position in the sentence after the subject deine Schuhe.
s
adverb; Please don’t drive so fast! Schnell is an adverb in this sentence because it describes
how the person is driving (fahre), and driving is the verb.
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18
Part I: The Building Blocks of German
t
c. zwei; Es gibt noch zwei Bezeichnungen für München. (There are two other names for Munich.)
u
c. oder; Die Einwohner sagen, München ist “die Weltstadt mit Herz,” oder “das Millionendorf.”
(The inhabitants say [that] Munich is the “friendly city” or “the village with a million inhabitants.” )
Literally, the Weltstadt mit Herz is the world city with a heart.
v
b. ist; In der Tat ist die Stadt voller Überraschungen. (Indeed, the city is full of surprises.) Many
tourists aren’t aware of another celebration of beer known as das Starkbierfest. The Munich
carnival season is also very lively, with people taking to the streets to celebrate Mardi Gras.
w
d. gefeiert; Jedes Jahr wird das grösste Volksfest der Welt in München gefeiert. (Every year, the
largest folk fest in the world is celebrated in Munich.)
x
a. manche; Millionen Touristen kommen zum Oktoberfest, aber manche Leute kommen zu spät.
Warum? (Millions of tourists come to the Oktoberfest, but some people come too late. Why?)
y
c. das; Leider geht das Oktoberfest am ersten Sonntag im Oktober zu Ende. (Unfortunately, the
Oktoberfest ends on the first Sunday in October.) It’s actually better to get there before the
Oktoberfest begins if you don’t like crowds and just want to see the enormous venue. You may
even be able to drink a beer with the workers constructing the tents.
A
The hyphen means that all the words in that entry are connected to Reise-, in this case as compound words.
B
Das Reiseziel (destination) is neuter (nt).
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Chapter 2
Sorting Out Word Gender and Case
In This Chapter
© Getting word genders going
© Articulating the articles
© Subjects, objects, or possessions: Casing out noun and pronoun cases
© Doing some pronoun practice
M
ost words in a German sentence take their cues from the nouns (or their
esteemed representatives, the pronouns). When studying German, you really
don’t know a new noun unless you know its characteristics, which include gender. So
for each new noun you come across, you need to accept its gender as a part of the
word and commit it to memory. In order to use nouns and pronouns (as well as
adjectives and prepositions) in a German sentence, you need to know how they fit
together; this is the role of case. Case and gender are closely linked together, and I
consider them pieces of a puzzle in making German sentences. Case and gender may
look complicated at first, but as soon as you start fitting the pieces in, the picture
becomes clearer. In this chapter, you get the lowdown on how gender and case work
hand in hand to form various endings on the members of two large families of words:
the article family and the pronoun family.
Rounding Up Grammatical Genders
Not everything with gender lives and breathes. Listen to people talk about inanimate
objects, and you may hear them refer to the faithful bicycle they cherish, the noncompliant computer they want to throttle, or the old jalopy they’re trying to coax up a hill
as he or she. Like these other things you may have a love-hate relationship with,
German words have gender.
In German grammar, gender is the classification of a noun or a pronoun into one of
three categories: masculine, feminine, or neuter. These genders often have nothing to
do with the meaning of the word; they’re simply an identity bracelet. Note that gender
refers to the word, not whatever the word represents. You need to know a word’s
gender because it can dictate the spelling of other words in the sentence.
So how can you get a grasp of gender so you can form a word correctly? Each time
you come across a new noun, be firm with yourself; find out its gender (and how to
form its plural form). With a little time, you can master the concept. This section
helps you identify a word’s gender, form plural nouns (and note the effects on
gender), eye indefinite articles, and identify when not to use articles.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Identifying German genders and
figuring out which one to use
In English, you mark a noun as one of three genders: male (masculine), female (feminine), or inanimate/neither (neuter). The descriptions male, female, and inanimate
refer to living beings and things. The words in parentheses — masculine, feminine, and
neuter — refer to grammatical distinction, which is how German describes noun gender.
Gender distinction in English is natural, which means you need to know only whether
the noun refers to a female being, a male being, or an inanimate object (neither male
nor female). You can refer to the nouns as he, she, or it. And the articles you use — such
as the, a, and an — don’t tell you anything about gender at all. Look at these examples:
U Can you see the girl over there? She’s really tall. (You know the word girl refers to
a female, so you use she when you refer back to her in the second sentence.)
U The new German teacher is Herr Mangold. I think he comes from Bremen. (The
teacher is male, so you refer to him as he.)
U Have you seen the cool guitar in the shop window? It has 12 strings. (You refer to
an inanimate object as it.)
In German, you likewise have three genders, but gender distinction isn’t natural as it
is in English. It’s like a marker that refers to the word, not its meaning. The three
markers for the (singular) in German are der (masculine), die (feminine), and das
(neuter). For example, look at the words for eating utensils, where you have all three
bases covered: der Löffel (the spoon), die Gabel (the fork), and das Messer (the
knife). Why should a a spoon be masculine, a fork feminine, or a knife neuter? See any
logical pattern here? I don’t. Much of the gender designation in German is unnatural,
which means there’s no silver bullet to help you remember the gender of a word in
German. German dictionary entries identify nouns as der, die, or das. (Have a look at
Chapter 1 for more information on using a dictionary.)
The three gender markers, the definite articles der, die, and das, all mean the.
Compare the three following German sentences, which are the same as the three
English example sentences.
U Kannst du das Mädchen da drüben sehen? Es ist sehr groß. (Can you see the
girl over there? She’s really tall.) The girl in German is das Mädchen, a neuter
gender noun, as are all nouns ending in -chen. The ending indicates that a person
or thing is small or young. You refer to the girl as es, which means it. Remember,
this is simply a grammatical reference. It’s not an affront to you girls out there!
U Der neue Deutschlehrer ist Herr Mangold. Ich glaube, er kommt aus Bremen.
(The new German teacher is Herr Mangold. I think he comes from Bremen.) You
refer, grammatically speaking, to Herr Mangold as er (he). In most (but not all)
cases in German, male beings are der nouns, and female beings are die nouns.
U Hast du die tolle Gitarre im Schaufenster gesehen? Sie hat zwölf Seiten. (Have
you seen the cool guitar in the shop window? It has 12 strings.) Strange but true:
Grammatically speaking, a guitar is feminine, so you refer to it as sie (she). Most
nouns ending in -e are feminine nouns.
So how do you know exactly how to form/use genders correctly in German? First,
remember that gender is an integral part of each noun; it’s like a piece of the noun’s
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Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case
identity. When you see a new noun, there are several ways to find out its gender. A
dictionary can help, and some of the following noun gender categories can offer you a
reasonable guess.
Some categories of nouns are consistently masculine, feminine, or neuter. For
instance, noun gender usually does follow the gender of people: der Onkel (the
uncle), die Schwester (the sister). Most often, the noun groups have to do with the
ending of the noun. Look at some fairly reliable groups in Tables 2-1 and 2-2 (note,
however, that there are exceptions).
Table 2-1
Common Genders by Noun Ending (or Beginning)
Usually Masculine (der) Usually Feminine (die)
Usually Neuter (das)
-er (especially when
referring to male
people/jobs)
-ade, -age, -anz, -enz, -ette, -ine,
-ion, -tur (if foreign/borrowed
from another language)
-chen
-ich
-e
-ium
-ismus
-ei
-lein
-ist
-heit
-ment (if foreign/borrowed
from another language)
-ner
-ie
-o
-ik
-tum or -um
-in (when referring to female
people/occupations)
Starting with Ge-
-keit
-schaft
-tät
-ung
Table 2-2
Common Noun Genders by Subject
Usually Masculine (der) Usually Feminine (die)
Usually Neuter (das)
Days, months, and
seasons: der
Freitag (Friday)
Many flowers: die Rose
(the rose)
Colors (adjectives) used as
nouns: grün (green) → das
Grün (the green)
Map locations: der
Süd(en)(the south)
Many trees: die Buche
(the beech)
Geographic place names:
das Europa (Europe)
Names of cars: der Audi
(the Audi)
Infinitives used as nouns
(gerunds): schwimmen (to
swim) → das Schwimmen
(swimming)
(continued)
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Table 2-2 (continued)
Usually Masculine (der) Usually Feminine (die)
Usually Neuter (das)
Nationalities and words
showing citizenship:
der Amerikaner
(the American)
Young people and animals:
das Baby (the baby)
Occupations: der Arzt
(the doctor)
Note: Compound nouns (nouns with two or more nouns in one word) always have the
gender of the last noun: die Polizei (the police) + der Hund (the dog) = der Polizeihund
(the police dog).
Corralling plurals
When you want to make a noun plural in English, all you usually need to do is add an
-s or -es. However, you have five ways to choose from when forming plural nouns in
German. But before you throw your hands up in dismay, think about how English varies
from the one standard form of making plurals with -s or -es. Think of mouse/mice, tooth/
teeth, child/children, shelf/shelves, phenomenon/phenomena, man/men, or country/
countries. Better yet, you can form the plural of some words in two different ways. Think
about hoof/hoofs/hooves. See what I mean? Many English plurals are also a matter of
memorization. So with both languages, you have a variety of plural endings and/or
changes in the noun.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to worry much about gender in plural definite
articles in German because die (the in plural form) is all you need. Remember that die
corresponds to all three singular definite article forms: der (the, masculine), die (the,
feminine), and das (the, neuter).
Although die has a double duty of a singular feminine definite article and a plural definite article for all three genders, you can distinguish between singular and plural.
First, find out the difference in noun endings for each feminine noun in its singular
form and its plural form. Next, the context in the sentence may help you see whether
you’re dealing with a singular or plural form of the noun. You do have one more very
important factor that enters into the equation, and that’s case. Check out the section
“Calling all Cases: The Role Nouns and Pronouns Play.”
Table 2-3 shows you the five main ways of forming plural nouns in German. There’s no
hard and fast method of knowing which plural ending you need, but you can recognize some patterns as you expand your vocabulary. At any rate, you need to place
high priority on knowing plural forms. Look at some patterns for forming plural nouns
(and keep in mind that there may be exceptions):
U Feminine nouns with (feminine) suffixes -heit, -keit, and -ung usually have
an -en plural ending: die Möglichkeit (the possibility) → die Möglichkeiten
(possibilities).
U Singular nouns ending in -er may not have any ending in plural: das Fenster (the
window) → die Fenster (the windows).
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Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case
U Many nouns have an umlaut in the plural form, including many one-syllable
words: der Kuss (the kiss) → die Küsse (the kisses); der Traum (the dream) →
die Träume (the dreams).
U Some German nouns are used only in the plural or in the singular: die Ferien (the
[often: school] vacation) is always plural; die Milch (the milk) is always singular.
Table 2-3
The Five German Plural Groups
Change Needed
English Singular
and Plural
German
Singular
German
Plural
Add -s
the office(s)
das Büro
die Büros
the café(s)
das Café
die Cafés
the boss(es)
der Chef
die Chefs
the pen(s)
der Kuli
die Kulis
the computer(s)
der Computer
die Computer
the window(s)
das Fenster
die Fenster
the garden(s)
der Garten
die Gärten
the girl(s)
das Mädchen
die Mädchen
the father(s)
der Vater
die Väter
the train station(s)
der Bahnhof
die Banhöfe
the friend(s)
(singular is male)
der Freund
die Freunde
the problem(s)
das Problem
die Probleme
the city/cities
die Stadt
die Städte
the chair(s)
der Stuhl
die Stühle
the book(s)
das Buch
die Bücher
the bicycle(s)
das Fahrrad
die Fahrräder
the house(s)
das Haus
die Häuser
the child/children
das Kind
die Kinder
the castle(s)
das Schloss
die Schlösser
the idea(s)
die Idee
die Ideen
the boy(s)
der Junge
die Jungen
the sister(s)
die Schwester
die
Schwestern
the student(s)
(female)
die Studentin
die
Studentinnen
the newspaper(s)
die Zeitung
die Zeitungen
No change, or add umlaut (··)
Add -e or umlaut (··) + -e
Add -er or umlaut (··) + -er
Add -n, -en, or -nen
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Lassoing indefinite articles
Just like English has two indefinite articles — a and an — that you use with singular
nouns, German also has two indefinite articles (in the nominative case): ein for masculine and neuter-gender words and eine for feminine-gender words. An indefinite article
has many of the same uses in both languages. For example, you use it before a singular
noun that’s countable the first time it’s mentioned — Ein Mann geht um die Ecke
(A man is walking around the corner) — or when a singular countable noun represents a
class of things: for example, Ein Elefant vergisst nie (An elephant never forgets). You
can also use ein/eine together with a predicate noun (a noun that complements the
subject): Willy Brandt war ein geschickter Politiker (Willy Brandt was a skillful
politician).
Another similarity with English is that there’s no plural form of the German indefinite
article ein/eine. (Also, depending on how you’re describing something plural, you
may or may not need to use the plural definite article.) Look at the following generalized statement, which requires no article: In Zermatt sind Autos verboten (Cars are
forbidden in Zermatt [Switzerland]).
The following shows you the definite articles and the corresponding indefinite articles (nominative case):
Gender/Number
Definite (the)
Indefinite (a/an)
Masculine
der
ein
Feminine
die
eine
Neuter
das
ein
Plural
die
(no plural form)
With German nouns, the gender functions only as a grammatical marker. Table 2-4
shows some words for animals and other things you see on the farm. I chose this
vocabulary to illustrate how German noun gender appears random, but in effect, you
need to keep in mind that it’s grammatical, not natural gender — that is, the gender of
the word, not the animal itself. You find the English translation in the left-hand column
and the German noun in the column corresponding to its gender. For instance, ein
Pferd (a horse) appears in the neuter column. Note: However, a word that specifically
describes a male or female type of animal has the same gender as the animal; for example, genders match in eine Stute (a mare) and ein Hengst (a stallion).
Table 2-4
English Words
a barn
Indefinite Articles and Things on the Farm
Masculine
Feminine
eine Scheune
a calf
a cat
ein Kalb
eine Katze
a chicken
a cow
Neuter
ein Huhn
eine Kuh
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Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case
English Words
Masculine
a fence
ein Zaun
Feminine
a horse
Neuter
ein Pferd
an ox
ein Ochse
a tractor
ein Traktor
Missing absentee articles
In a few instances in German, you don’t use an article in the sentence. First of all, you
don’t use the indefinite article when you mention someone’s profession, nationality,
or religion. Look at the three examples:
Mein Onkel war General bei der Bundeswehr. (My uncle was [a] general in
the army.)
Sind Sie Australier oder Neuseeländer? (Are you [an] Australian or [a] New
Zealander?) Nationalities are nouns in German.
Ich glaube, sie ist Lutheranerin. (I think she’s [a] Lutheran.) Members of a religious affiliation (or an affiliation such as a political party) are nouns in German.
Secondly, just as in English, you don’t use the definite article in generalized statements
using plural nouns in German. But you do use the plural definite article when you’re
not making a generalization: Die Bäume haben keine Blätter (The trees have no leaves).
Thirdly, names of countries have genders in German, most often das, or neuter (see
Chapter 3), but you generally don’t include the definite article, such as in Viele
berühmte Komponisten sind aus Deutschland oder Österreich (Many famous composers are from Germany or Austria).
However, a small number of exceptions exist (see Chapter 3 for more countries that
are exceptions):
Die Schweiz gehört nicht zur Europäischen Union. (Switzerland doesn’t belong to
the European Union.) Note die, the feminine definite article.
Die Vereinigten Staaten sind die größte Volkswirtschaft der Welt. (The United
States has the largest economy in the world.) Note die, the plural definite article.
Fill in the missing German words as indicated by the English in parentheses. Refer to
the earlier tables for help in deciding whether you need der, die, das, ein, or eine and
for help selecting the correct endings for plurals.
Q. _________________ (a window) im Wohnzimmer ist kaputt.
A. Ein Fenster im Wohnzimmer ist kaputt. (A window in the living room is broken.)
1. _________________ (the piano) ist brandneu.
2. Haben _________________ (the two female students) einen Nebenjob?
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
3. _________________ (the hotels) in der Stadtmitte sind laut.
4. Siehst du? _________________ (the cat) sitzt auf deinem Auto.
5. Ist das _________________ (a barn) oder ein Haus?
6. Können _________________ (the boys) gut Fußball spielen?
7. _________________ (the horse) ist zu jung zu reiten.
8. _________________ (computers) sind heutzutage relativ billig.
Calling All Cases: The Roles
Nouns and Pronouns Play
Cases indicate the role or function of nouns and pronouns in the sentence. English
and German both have cases, as do most languages. Cases allow you to know the
function of these words and how they connect with other words in a sentence. This
section identifies the four German cases and how they’re used, as well as how English
and German cases compare.
Identifying the four cases
German has four cases, and you need to know the ins and outs of them because they’re
the reason nouns, pronouns, articles, and adjectives all go through changes in
spelling the way a chameleon changes its color. Here are the four cases:
U Nominative case (nom.): This case is for the subject of the sentence. The subject
is a person or thing acting like the quarterback and calling the shots. In a sentence, it’s who or what carries out the action. In Brady wirft den Ball (Brady
throws the ball), Brady is the subject.
Note: You use the nominative case for predicate nouns as well; these are nouns
(or noun phrases) that express more about the subject, such as a description or
an identification. For example, in he’s a remarkable football player, both the subject (he) and the predicate noun phrase (a remarkable football player) are in the
nominative case.
U Accusative case (acc.): This case is for the direct object of the sentence. The
direct object is a bit similar to the quarterback’s ball — the subject is acting on it.
In Ein Zuschauer fängt den Ball (A spectator catches the ball), the ball is the
direct object. Note: Prepositions also use the accusative case for the words they
connect. (See Chapter 15 for prepositions.)
U Dative case (dat.): This case is for the indirect object of the sentence. The indirect object receives the direct object — it’s like the person the spectator gives
the ball to. In Der Zuschauer gibt seinem Sohn den Ball (The spectator gives his
son the ball), seinem Sohn (his son) is the indirect object, so it’s in the dative
case. In both German and English, you generally use the verb geben (to give) the
same way; you give (the verb) something (den Ball, accusative case) to someone
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Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case
(seinem Sohn, dative case). Note: Prepositions also use the dative case for the
words they link with. (See Chapter 15 for prepositions.)
U Genitive case (gen.): This case shows possession. A person or thing can be the
possessor, or owner. In Die Mutter des Sohnes jubelt (The mother of the son
cheers), the son belongs to his cheering mother; des Sohnes is in the genitive
case. Note: Prepositions also use the genitive case for the words they link with.
(See Chapter 15 for prepositions.)
The word endings alter slightly according to the case. These changes are necessary
to identify what you want to express in a German sentence. (The case ending tables in
Appendix B come in extremely handy when you want to find the correct word and its
word ending.)
Eyeing the similarities and differences
When dealing with case, English and German have their share of similarities and differences. Before you can tackle the differences in cases, you first need to understand that
German and English do look at case in similar fashions. They include the following:
U The two languages share the same system of marking cases of personal pronouns. In other words, pronouns have different forms (spellings) according to
the case they’re taking in a sentence. For example, in er lebt dort (he lives there),
the pronoun er (he) is the subject, so it’s in the nominative case. However, in ich
kenne ihn gut (I know him well), ihn (him) is the direct object, so it’s in the
accusative case. Spelling changes indicate the role the pronoun is playing: ich
changes to mich (I changes to me) and wir changes to uns (we changes to us).
The same is even true for relative pronouns: Der changes to dessen (who
changes to whose). I discuss relative and personal pronouns later, in “Putting
Pronouns in Place.”
U They use the nominative case — the same case you use for subjects — when
you have a predicate noun as the object of a sentence. A predicate noun is a
person, thing, or a concept that you place on equal footing with the subject.
Such nouns state more about the subject. For English and German, the verb sein
(to be) is the prime example of a verb that’s followed by the predicate nominative. German also uses the predicate nominative with the verbs bleiben (to stay,
remain), heißen (to be named, called), and werden (to become). (In English,
people often call these verbs linking verbs.) Look at this example: Mein Zahnarzt
ist auch der Zahnarzt meiner Eltern (My dentist is also my parent’s dentist). Mein
Zahnarzt and der Zahnarzt are both nominative case.
As for differences, English doesn’t have case endings for nouns, so it relies on
word order to indicate which grammar hat the noun wears (English has case markers for
pronouns only). You usually have the following word order: subject-verb-object (or other
information, such as a prepositional phrase). Typically, you can recognize what the subject of the sentence is because you see it at the beginning of the sentence.
German does have different case spellings/endings for both articles and nouns, so word
order can be more flexible. Look at the word order of the two sentences that follow:
Der Junge liebt den Hund. (The boy loves the dog.)
Den Hund liebt der Junge. (The boy loves the dog.)
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
In both sentences, der Junge (the boy) is the subject and den Hund (the dog) is the
object of the sentence; you have no difference between the two sentences as far as
meaning goes. In German, however, you do have a different case ending for the definite article. In the nominative singular case, it’s der (Hund), but in the accusative
case, it’s den (Hund). So why put den Hund (the direct object) at the beginning of the
sentence? Because in German, you can use that word order to emphasize that it’s den
Hund (and not some other house pet) that the boy loves. To get that type of emphasis in English, you need to say something like It’s the dog that the boy loves. English
speakers tend to create this kind of emphasis vocally, whereas in German, you can
accomplish such a nuance in both writing and speech.
Table 2-5 shows how the definite article the changes in both gender and case. You see
the four cases and the three genders, plus the plural form of the definite article the.
Table 2-5
German Words That Mean The
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative (subjects,
predicate nouns)
der
die
das
die
Accusative (direct objects)
den
die
das
die
Dative (indirect objects)
dem
der
dem
den
Genitive (owned objects)
des
der
des
der
You have a grand total of six different definite articles in German and one lonely word,
the, in English. Practice makes perfect, so set your standards high for mastering the
definite article in German. Try your hand at the following exercises.
Put in the missing German definite articles. Use Table 2-5 for help in deciding whether
you need der, die, das, den, dem, or des. The grammar information in parentheses
offers you help in doing the exercises. You see these abbreviations: m. = masculine,
f. = feminine, n. = neuter, pl. = plural, nom. = nominative, acc. = accusative, dat. =
dative, and gen. = genitive. These abbreviations refer to the noun that directly precedes them.
Q. _________________ Mannschaft (f., nom.) spielt sehr gut Fußball.
A. Die Mannschaft spielt sehr gut Fußball. (The team plays soccer very well.)
9. Brauchst du _________________ Kuli (m., acc.)?
10. Ich möchte _________________ Auto (n., acc.) kaufen.
11. Was kostet _________________ Lampe? (f., acc.)
12. _________________ Radio (n., nom.) läuft nicht sehr gut.
13. Das ist _________________ Freund (m., nom.) meiner Schwester.
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Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case
14. Ich schreibe _________________ Firma (f., dat.) einen Brief.
15. _________________ Leute (pl., nom.) sind sehr freundlich.
16. _________________ Film (m., acc.) finde ich sehr lustig.
Putting Pronouns in Place
What’s the big deal about pronouns like you, me, it, them, this, that, and more? First of
all, these plentiful, useful, and essential critters are lurking in various corners of many
sentences. Second, they’re great for replacing or referring to nouns elsewhere in a
sentence. Third, like articles, they also need to change spelling/endings according to
the role they’re playing in a sentence (case) and the noun for which they may be
doing the pinch hitting.
This section discusses the three types of pronouns: personal, demonstrative, and relative pronouns. (See Chapter 11 for reflexive pronouns.) In German, they’re all more
affected by the gender/case patterns than in English, so I put them into tables for
your reference. These case tables help you to do the corresponding exercises in the
chapter, and you can also go to Appendix B for reference. I arrange such tables in
order of frequency of use: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive.
Note: One more group of pronouns, called the possessive pronouns — such as mein
(my), dein (your), unser (our), and so on — are, technically speaking, classified as
adjectives; they have endings that resemble those of descriptive adjectives such as
interesting, tiny, or pink. (See Chapter 12 for more details on possessive adjectives/pronouns.)
Personal pronouns
The personal pronoun family comes in very handy in all kinds of situations when you
want to talk (or write) about people, including yourself, without repeating names all
the time. You use the nominative case very frequently in most any language (every
sentence, after all, needs a subject), and German is no exception. (See the earlier
“Identifying the four cases” section for more on cases.)
Try to memorize the personal pronouns as soon as possible, and be sure you know all
three cases (no genitive here). With German personal pronouns, the biggest difference is that you have to distinguish among three ways to formulate how to say you to
your counterpart: du, ihr, and Sie. Other personal pronouns, like ich and mich (I and
me) or wir and uns (we and us), bear a closer resemblance to English. Note: The genitive case isn’t represented among the personal pronouns because it indicates possession; the personal pronoun mich (me) can represent only a person, not something he
or she possesses.
Check out Table 2-6 for the personal pronouns. Notice that you and it don’t change,
and the accusative (for direct objects) and dative (for indirect objects) pronouns are
identical in English. I’ve added the distinguishing factors for the three forms du, ihr,
and Sie in abbreviated form: singular = s., plural = pl., informal = inf., formal = form.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Table 2-6
German Personal Pronouns
Nominative (nom.)
Accusative (acc.)
Dative (dat.)
ich (I)
mich (me)
mir (me)
du (you) (s., inf.)
dich (you)
dir (you)
er (he)
ihn (him)
ihm (him)
sie (she)
sie (her)
ihr (her)
es (it)
es (it)
ihm (it)
wir (we)
uns (us)
uns (us)
ihr (you) (pl., inf.)
euch (you)
euch (you)
sie (they)
sie (them)
ihnen (them)
Sie (you) (s. or pl., form.)
Sie (you)
Ihnen (you)
You have this exercise with the personal pronoun left out, followed by what you need
to insert in parentheses (the pronoun in English/the case/directives for you if that’s the
word needed). Go ahead and refer (liberally!) to Table 2-6.
Q. Wohnen _________________ in der Nähe? (you/nom./s., form.)
A. Wohnen Sie in der Nähe? (Do you live nearby?)
17. Ich glaube, _________________ arbeitet zu viel. (you/nom./pl., inf.)
18. Nein, _________________ arbeiten nicht genug. (we/nom.)
19. Spielst _________________ gern Karten? (you/nom. /s., inf.)
20. Ja, _________________ spiele gern Poker. (I/nom.)
21. Kennst du _________________? (him/acc.)
22. Ich gehe ohne _________________ in die Stadt. (you/acc./pl., inf.)
23. Wirklich? Ich dachte, du gehst mit _________________. (us/dat.)
24. Wie gefällt _________________ der neue Bürgermeister? (you/dat./s., form.)
Relating to relative pronouns
You use relative pronouns (who, whom, whose, that, and which) to include extra information about a noun or pronoun expressed beforehand. You typically see relative
pronouns at the front of a relative clause where they refer back to the noun in the
main clause. And what is a main clause? It’s a sentence fragment that can stand on its
own and still make sense. A relative clause is a type of subordinate clause, which, as
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Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case
you can probably guess, is the type of sentence fragment that can’t stand alone. (If
you find the terminology here — main clause and subordinate clause — confusing,
then refer to Chapter 1 for clarification.)
Look at the three key points for understanding what relative pronouns are all about:
U In German, you must use a relative pronoun to connect the two clauses. In
English, you don’t always have to. For example: Ist das der Mann, den du liebst?
(Is that the man [whom, that] you love?). In this sentence, the main clause is followed by the relative clause, den du liebst. The second den is the relative pronoun connecting the two parts of the sentence.
U You place a comma between the main clause and the relative clause. In
English, people usually include this comma only before the relative pronoun
which. Remember that the relative clause begins with the relative pronoun. For
example: Bestellen wir die Pizza, die wir meistens essen (Let’s order the pizza
that we usually eat). No comma needed in English, but you do have a comma separating the main clause Bestellen wir die Pizza from the relative clause die wir
meistens essen, which begins with the relative pronoun die.
U Word order comes into play in relative clauses. You push the conjugated verb to
the end of the clause. For example: Gestern habe ich eine gute Freundin getroffen, die ich seit Jahren nicht gesehen habe (Yesterday I met a good [female] friend
whom I haven’t seen for years). In the relative clause die ich seit Jahren nicht
gesehen habe, the verb has two parts, gesehen, the past participle, and habe,
which is the conjugated part of the verb. Habe is the last word in the sentence.
(For in-depth information on the present perfect verb tense, go to Chapter 16.)
Table 2-7 shows the breakdown of the relative pronouns (who, whom, whose, that) by
gender and case.
Table 2-7
Relative Pronouns
Gender/Number of the
Noun Being Replaced
Nominative
Case
Accusative
Case
Dative
Case
Genitive
Case
Masculine (m.)
der
den
dem
dessen
Feminine (f.)
die
die
der
deren
Neuter (n.)
das
das
dem
dessen
Plural (pl.)
die
die
denen
deren
For this relative pronoun exercise, correct the mistakes in the sentences. You have
only one mistake in each sentence. Here are three types of errors to look for:
U The wrong relative pronoun — think about gender and case
U No comma or a comma in the wrong place
U Wrong word order for verb(s) in the relative clause
Take your time as you hunt for the mistake. Check out Table 2-7. If you lose patience,
just guess. You find an explanation for the mistakes in the Answer Key.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Q. Sie sind die Kinder, den so viel Lärm machen.
A. Sie sind die Kinder, die so viel Lärm machen. (They’re the children who are making so
much noise.) The correct relative pronoun is die because you need the plural nominative
form; it refers to the plural die Kinder, and it functions as the subject (nominative case)
of the relative clause.
25. Hast du eine Hose, die passt besser? __________________________________
26. Ich kenne den Supermarkt, der du meinst. __________________________________
27. Ist das die Frau, die arbeitet bei der Polizei? __________________________________
28. Wie gefällt dir das Hemd, die ich anhabe? __________________________________
29. Du hast die CDs die mir gehören. __________________________________
30. Italien ist das Land das ich besuchen möchte. __________________________________
Demonstrating demonstrative pronouns
You use a demonstrative pronoun when you want to emphasize or point out the pronoun that’s replacing a noun. Besides the demonstrative pronouns he, it, they, and so
on, which are the translations (in parentheses) that you see in Table 2-8, you can also
translate these pronouns with the demonstratives this, that, these, or those. Similar to
English, the demonstrative pronoun generally comes at the beginning of a phrase. You
use demonstrative pronouns in the nominative case to emphasize the subject or in
the accusative case to emphasize the object.
There’s only a single difference between the nominative case and the accusative case,
and that’s with the masculine pronouns. Der is the nominative, and den is the accusative case. With the exception of the accusative den, you need to know only the
gender of the noun that you’re replacing — or whether it’s plural — and then use that
form of the demonstrative pronoun.
Table 2-8
Demonstrative Pronouns
Gender/Number of the
Noun Being Replaced
Case (for Subjects
and Predicate Nouns)
Accusative Case
(for Direct Objects)
Masculine (m.)
der (he/it)
den (him/it)
Feminine (f.)
die (she/it)
die (her/it)
Neuter (n.)
das (it)
das (it)
Plural (pl.)
die (they)
die (them)
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Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case
The words in bold are the nouns and the demonstrative pronouns that are standing in
for the noun to show emphasis:
U Ist der Flug ausgebucht? (Is the flight completely booked?) Der Flug is a masculine singular noun.
Ja, der ist voll. (Yes, it’s full.) Der is the subject of the sentence, so it’s in the
nominative case, and it replaces der Flug, which is masculine singular. Der is the
masculine singular demonstrative pronoun in the nominative case.
U Wie findest du die Trauben? (How do you like the grapes?) Die Trauben is plural.
Die finde ich herrlich! (I think they’re terrific!) Die is the direct object of the sentence, so it’s accusative. Die pinch hits for die Trauben, which is plural, so you
use the plural accusative demonstrative pronoun, die.
In the following exercise, decide which demonstrative pronoun is missing and write it
in the space provided. You need to determine whether the pronoun is replacing the
subject or the object in the sentence and which gender it takes.
Q. Ist die Straße relativ ruhig? Ja, _________________ ist absolut ruhig.
A. Ist die Straße relativ ruhig? Ja, die ist absolut ruhig. (Is the street relatively quiet? Yes, it’s
absolutely quiet.) Die Straße is a feminine singular noun. In the second sentence, die is the
subject (nominative case) that replaces die Straße, a feminine singular noun, so you use
die, the feminine singular nominative case demonstrative pronoun.
31. Kaufst du den Kuchen für das Geburtstagsfest? Nein, _________________ backe ich heute
Nachmittag.
32. Ist das Fahrrad da drüben kaputt? Nein, _________________ ist in Ordnung.
33. Kennen Sie diese Frauen? Ja, _________________ kenne ich sehr gut.
34. Wie findest du den Film? _________________ finde ich ganz schlecht.
35. Sind die Pferde freundlich? Ja, _________________ sind freundlich.
36. Ist Frau Lachner im Büro? Nein, _________________ ist im Urlaub.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Answer Key
a
Das Klavier ist brandneu. (The piano is brand new.)
b
Haben die zwei Studentinnen einen Nebenjob? (Do the two students have a side job/part
time job?)
c
Die Hotels in der Stadtmitte sind laut. (The hotels in the middle of the city are loud.)
d
Siehst du? Die Katze sitzt auf deinem Auto. (Do you see? The cat is sitting on your car.)
e
Ist das eine Scheune oder ein Haus? (Is that a barn or a house?)
f
Können die Jungen gut Fußball spielen? (Can the boys play soccer well?)
g
Das Pferd ist zu jung zu reiten. (The horse is too young to ride.)
h
Computer sind heutzutage relativ billig. (Computers are relatively cheap these days.)
i
Brauchst du den Kuli? (Do you need the pen?)
j
Ich möchte das Auto kaufen. (I’d like to buy the car.)
k
Was kostet die Lampe? (What/how much does the lamp cost?)
l
Das Radio läuft nicht sehr gut. (The radio doesn’t work very well.)
m
Das ist der Freund meiner Schwester. (That’s my sister’s friend.)
n
Ich schreibe der Firma einen Brief. (I’m writing the company a letter.)
o
Die Leute sind sehr freundlich. (The people are very friendly.)
p
Den Film finde ich sehr lustig. (I find the film very funny/I think the film’s very funny.)
q
Ich glaube, ihr arbeitet zu viel. (I think you work too much.)
r
Nein, wir arbeiten nicht genug. (No, we don’t work enough.)
s
Spielst du gern Karten? (Do you like to play cards?)
t
Ja, ich spiele gern Poker. (Yes, I like to play poker.)
u
Kennst du ihn? (Do you know him?)
v
Ich gehe ohne euch in die Stadt. (I’m going downtown without you.)
w
Wirklich? Ich dachte, du gehst mit uns. (Really? I thought you were going with us.)
x
Wie gefällt Ihnen der neue Bürgermeister? (How do you like the new mayor?)
y
Hast du eine Hose, die besser passt? (Do you have a pair of pants that fits better?) Watch out for
word order. If you translate in your head word for word, you may fall into the trap of thinking
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Chapter 2: Sorting Out Word Gender and Case
that the sentence looks okay. However, the verb (passt) needs to be at the end of the sentence,
even though in English, you usually place the adverb (besser) after the verb you’re describing.
A
Ich kenne den Supermarkt, den du meinst. (I know the supermarket you mean/are talking about.)
You need den as the pronoun in the accusative because you’re talking about a masculine noun,
der Supermarkt, and den is the direct object of the verb meinen (here: meinst), which is in the
relative clause den du meinst.
B
Ist das die Frau, die bei der Polizei arbeitet? (Is that the woman who works for the police?) The
word order is incorrect because the verb arbeitet needs to be at the end of the relative clause.
C
Wie gefällt dir das Hemd, das ich anhabe? (How do you like the shirt [that] I’m wearing?) I promise not to lay too many traps. You need das because it replaces a neuter noun (das Hemd) and
it refers to the direct object [accusative case] of anhaben in the relative clause.
D
Du hast die CDs, die mir gehören. (You have the CDs that belong to me.) Mind your commas.
Even though English doesn’t need a comma between CDs and die, German does.
E
Italien ist das Land, das ich besuchen möchte. (Italy is the country [that] I’d like to visit.) Once
again, the comma is missing. However, in English, you don’t even need the word that in the relative clause.
F
Kaufst du den Kuchen für das Geburtstagsfest? Nein, den backe ich heute Nachmittag. (Are you
buying the cake for the birthday party? No, I’m baking it this afternoon.) Der Kuchen is masculine
singular. In the second sentence, den is the object of the sentence, so it’s accusative; it refers to
a masculine singular noun, der Kuchen. You need den, the masculine singular accusative
demonstrative pronoun.
G
Ist das Fahrrad da drüben kaputt? Nein, das ist in Ordnung. (Is that bicycle over there broken?
No, it’s [working] all right.) Das Fahrrad is neuter and singular. In the second sentence, das is
the subject, so it’s nominative. It replaces das Fahrrad, a neuter singular noun. You need das,
the neuter singular nominative demonstrative pronoun.
H
Kennen Sie diese Frauen? Ja, die kenne ich sehr gut. (Do you know these women? Yes, I know
them well.) Diese Frauen is plural. In the second sentence, die is the direct object, so it’s accusative. Die pinch hits for die Frauen, which is plural, so you use the plural accusative demonstrative pronoun die.
I
Wie findest du den Film? Den finde ich ganz schlecht. (What do you think of the film? I think it’s
really bad.) Der Film is masculine singular. In the second sentence, den is the object, in accusative case, and it punts for a masculine singular noun, der Film. You need the masculine singular
accusative demonstrative pronoun den.
J
Sind die Pferde freundlich? Ja, die sind freundlich. (Are the horses friendly? Yes, they’re friendly.)
Die Pferde is plural. In the second sentence, die is the subject, so it’s nominative. Die pinch
hits for die Pferde, which is plural, so you use the plural nominative demonstrative pronoun
die.
K
Ist Frau Lachner im Büro? Nein, die ist im Urlaub. (Is Frau Lachner in the office? No, she’s on
vacation.) Frau Lachner is feminine. In the second sentence, die is the subject, so it’s nominative, and it’s the placeholder for Frau Lachner, which is feminine singular. You use die, the feminine singular demonstrative pronoun in the nominative case.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
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Chapter 3
Laying the Foundations of German
In This Chapter
© Using ordinal and cardinal numbers
© Discussing dates
© Telling time
© Talking about countries, citizens, and languages
I
n German-speaking countries, I love seeing die Bedienung (the server) in street
cafés walking around with a bulging black leather change purse either tucked in
the back of the pants (the male version) or attached at the waist in front, neatly
camouflaged under a starched white apron (the female version). When you say die
Rechnung, bitte, or its more informal version, Zahlen, bitte (the check, please),
they have a crafty way of whipping it out of hiding and opening it wide, ready for
action. The next part is my favorite: watching the seasoned Kellner (waiter) take a
quick look, add up the tab without pen and paper, and blurt out, “Das macht siebenundzwanzig Euro” (That’ll be twenty-seven euros). That’s the moment of reckoning:
How good are you at understanding numbers in German?
In this chapter, you work with basic building blocks: numbers, dates, time, countries,
and nationalities. Feeling confident that you can use these elements without any hesitation means you’re ready to feed the waiter’s portable cash wallet. You can likewise
understand which Bahnsteig (track) the train is leaving from (and at what time) and
jump on the correct train when there’s been a last-minute track change.
Doing the Numbers
Forming and using German Zahlen (numbers) isn’t difficult. In fact, barring a few
exceptions — notably the one I call the cart-before-the-horse — most numbers follow
a logical pattern. This section covers cardinal and ordinal numbers as well as a few
other number situations so you can write and speak numbers in German without any
problems.
Counting off with cardinal numbers
Cardinal numbers have nothing to do with religious numbers colored red or a songbird that can sing numbers. These numbers are just plain, unadulterated numbers like
25, 654, or 300,000. In this section, you get a list of cardinal numbers, details on differences, and practice using these numbers.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Table 3-1 shows numbers 1–29. Notice a couple of points about numbers 21 and up:
U They’re written as one word: einundzwanzig (21), zweiundzwanzig (22).
U They follow the cart-before-the-horse rule — that is, you say the ones digit
before the tens digit, linking the words with und: for example, vierundzwanzig
(24; Literally: four and twenty). Does that remind you of the “four and twenty
blackbirds” from the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”?
Table 3-1
Cardinal Numbers 1–29
Numbers 0–9
Numbers 10–19
Numbers 20–29
0 null
10 zehn
20 zwanzig
1 eins
11 elf
21 einundzwanzig
2 zwei
12 zwölf
22 zweiundzwanzig
3 drei
13 dreizehn
23 dreiundzwanzig
4 vier
14 vierzehn
24 vierundzwanzig
5 fünf
15 fünfzehn
25 fünfundzwanzig
6 sechs
16 sechzehn
26 sechsundzwanzig
7 sieben
17 siebzehn
27 siebenundzwanzig
8 acht
18 achtzehn
28 achtundzwanzig
9 neun
19 neunzehn
29 neunundzwanzig
In spoken German, people commonly use zwo instead of zwei. This avoids the
confusion — acoustically speaking — with drei. To double-check that you heard zwei
and not drei in credit card numbers, prices, telephone numbers, room numbers, and
so on, simply ask, or repeat the number(s) using zwo. Say, for example, Ich wiederhole vier-zwo-acht (I’ll repeat four-two-eight). If you’re still not sure of the numbers
even after repeating them back to the speaker, try the failsafe route — ask for them
via e-mail: E-mailen Sie mir bitte diese Zahlen/ihre Telefonnummer (Please e-mail
me these numbers/your telephone number). In writing, the number two is always zwei.
Table 3-2 shows representative numbers spanning 30–999. Double-digit numbers
follow the same pattern as 20–29 do in Table 3-1: einunddreißig (31; literally: one
and thirty), zweiunddreißig (32; literally: two and thirty), and the like. Numbers with
more digits likewise flip the ones and tens digits: For instance, you’d read 384 as dreihundertvierundachtzig, which literally means three hundred four and eighty.
Note that 30, unlike the other multiples of ten (40, 50, and so on) is spelled slightly differently. Dreißig has no z in its ending, whereas the other double-digits do (vierzig,
fünfzig, and so on). This spelling difference affects pronunciation. Dreißig has an s
sound, and vierzig has a ts sound in the ending.
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Chapter 3: Laying the Foundations of German
Table 3-2
Cardinal Numbers 30–999
Numbers 30–100
Numbers 101–114
Numbers 220–999
30 dreißig
101 hunderteins
220 zweihundertzwanzig
40 vierzig
102 hundertzwei
348 dreihundertachtundvierzig
50 fünfzig
103 hundertdrei
452 vierhundertzweiundfünfzig
60 sechzig
104 hundertvier
573 fünfhundertdreiundsiebzig
70 siebzig
111 hundertelf
641 sechshunderteinundvierzig
80 achtzig
112 hundertzwölf
767 siebenhundertsiebenundsechzig
90 neunzig
113 hundertdreizehn
850 achthundertfünfzig
100 hundert
114 hundertvierzehn
999 neunhundertneunundneuzig
In German, people often say telephone numbers in double digits, so that’s when you
need to be super careful to get the sequence right as you write the number. The
number 76 20 93 88 would be sechsundsiebzig, zwanzig, dreiundneunzig, achtundachtzig (six and seventy, twenty, three and ninety, eight and eighty). You may find it
easier to write the second digit first like this: You hear fünfundvierzig, so you write
5 (fünf), leaving room in front of the digit (_5). Then write the 4 (und vierzig [and
forty]) in the tens place (45). German native speakers don’t do this, however, in case
you were wondering!
Especially in spoken German, you can use einhundert (one hundred) instead of
hundert (hundred). This makes the number clearer to the listener.
When referring to currency, you can talk about the bills like this: Imagine you’re cashing 400€ in traveler’s checks and you want three 100€ bills and five 20€ bills. You say
Ich möchte drei Hunderter und fünf Zwanziger (I’d like three hundreds [euro bills]
and five twenties). The numbers Hunderter and Zwanziger are nouns, and you form
them like this: Take the number, for example hundert, and add -er to the end of the
number: hundert + -er = Hunderter.
For numbers higher than 999, look at Table 3-3. Notice that the decimal point in
German numbers represents the comma in English (see the “Other number-related
info” section later in this chapter).
Table 3-3
Numbers over 999
English Numerals
German Numerals
Numbers Written in German
1,000
1.000
tausend or ein tausend
1,000,000
1.000.000
Million or eine Milllion
1,650,000
1.650.000
eine Million sechshundertfünzigtausend
2,000,000
2.000.000
zwei Millionen
1,000,000,000
1.000.000.000
eine Milliarde
2,000,000,000
2.000.000.000
zwei Milliarden
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
In English, you use a comma to indicate thousands and a period to show decimals.
German (and many other languages) does the reverse: It uses a period (Punkt) for
indicating thousands, and the comma (Komma) works as a decimal point. Look at
these examples:
English
Deutsch
1 inch = 2.54 centimeters
1 Zentimeter (centimeters) = 0,39 Zoll (inches)
0,39 is read as null Komma drei neun
Mount Everest is 29,029 feet high.
Mount Everest ist 8.848 Meter hoch.
8.848 is read as achttausendachthundertachtundvierzig
You’re hearing numbers on the phone, and you have to write them down. Write each
number in numerical form the German way, remembering that the comma and decimal
point are switched in German.
Q. zweiundneunzig _________________
A. 92
1. siebenundvierzig _________________
2. achthundertdreiundsiebzig _________________
3. eintausenddreihunderteinundsiebzig _________________
4. vierzehn Komma fünf _________________
5. zwanzigtausendzweihundertneunundsechzig _________________
6. siebzehntausendneunhundertachtunddreißig _________________
7. vierundachtzigtausendzweihundertsieben _________________
Getting in line with ordinal numbers
Ordinal numbers are the kinds of numbers that show what order things come in. (Was
that a duh moment for you?) You need ordinal numbers when you’re talking about
das Datum (the date), die Feiertage (the holidays), die Stockwerke in einem Hotel
(the floors in a hotel), and stuff like that.
Ordinal numbers function as adjectives, so they have the adjective endings you normally use in a sentence. (Go to Chapter 13 for specifics on adjectives.) The general rule
for forming ordinal numbers is to add -te to the numbers 1 through 19 and then -ste to
the numbers 20 and above. For example, Nach der achten Tasse Kaffee, ist er am
Schreibtisch eingeschlafen (After the eighth cup of coffee, he fell asleep on the desk).
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Chapter 3: Laying the Foundations of German
This rule has three exceptions: erste (first); dritte (third); and siebte (seventh). For
example, Reinhold Messner war der erste Mensch, der Mount Everest ohne
Sauerstoffmaske bestieg (Reinhold Messner was the first person to climb Mt. Everest
without an oxygen mask).
Here are two other adjectives you need to know when putting things in order: letzte
(last) and nächste (next). You can use them to refer to a sequence of numbers, people,
things, or the like:
Könnten Sie bitte die letzte Nummer wiederholen? (Could you repeat the last
number please?)
2006 wurde Bruno, der letzte wildlebende Bär in Deutschland, erschossen.
(In 2006, Bruno, the last wild bear in Germany, was shot.)
In order to write dates as numerals, write the digit followed by a period: Der 1. Mai ist
ein Feiertag in Deutschland (May 1st is a holiday in Germany). If you say the same
sentence, it’s Der erste Mai ist ein Feiertag in Deutschland.
Look at the examples of ordinal numbers in Table 3-4. The first column shows the
ordinal numbers as digits, the second column shows the same ordinal numbers as
words, and the third column shows how to say on the (fifth floor, sixth of December,
and so on).
Note: In Table 3-4, you see how to formulate the expression on the (first). It’s am +
ordinal number + en. Am is the contraction of an (on) + dem (the); it’s formed by
taking the preposition an, which uses the dative case here plus dem, the masculine
dative of der. You need to show dative case agreement with the adjective erste, so
you add -n: erste + n = ersten. (See Chapter 15 for more on prepositions.)
Table 3-4
Ordinal Numbers
Ordinals as Numerals
Ordinals as Words
On the (First . . .)
1st
der erste (the first)
am ersten (on the first)
2nd
der zweite (the second)
am zweiten (on the second)
3rd
der dritte (the third)
am dritten (on the third)
4th
der vierte (the fourth)
am vierten (on the fourth)
5th
der fünfte (the fifth)
am fünften (on the fifth)
6th
der sechste (the sixth)
am sechsten (on the sixth)
7th
der siebte (the seventh)
am siebten (on the seventh)
18th
der achtzehnte (the eighteenth)
am achtzehnten (on the
eighteenth)
22nd
der zweiundzwanzigste
(the twenty-second)
am zweiundzwanzigsten
(on the twenty-second)
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Was Ist das Datum? Expressing Dates
To make sure you know how to express dates correctly, you need to know how to correctly use die Tage der Woche (the days of the week), die Jahreszeiten (the seasons),
and die Monate (the months) in your writing and speech. That way, you can clearly
and correctly ask and answer Was ist das Datum? (What is the date?).
Die Tage der Woche (the days of the week), their short forms used in calendars, and
some pertinent notes are as follows:
U Montag (Mo) (Monday)
U Dienstag (Di) (Tuesday)
U Mittwoch (Mi) (Wednesday)
U Donnerstag (Do) (Thursday)
U Freitag (Fr) (Friday)
U Samstag (Sa) (Saturday; used in most of Germany, as well as Austria and Germanspeaking Switzerland) or Sonnabend (Sa) (Saturday; used in eastern and northern
Germany)
U Sonntag (So) (Sunday)
Note: In German-speaking countries, calendars begin with Montag.
You also need to have a firm grasp of the seasons and months when writing and
speaking German because they’re major parts of dates. (The last thing you want to do
is invite someone to your July barbeque and tell them it’s in the winter.) The following
outlines die Jahreszeiten (the seasons):
U der Frühling or das Frühjahr (the spring); you can use either term interchangeably in German speaking regions
U der Sommer (the summer)
U der Herbst (the autumn)
U der Winter (the winter)
The following list lays out die Monate (the months) of the year:
U Januar (January) or Jenner (January; often used in Austria)
U Februar (February)
U März (March)
U April (April)
U Mai (May)
U Juni (June; some German speakers say Juno to distinguish it, acoustically
speaking, from Juli)
U Juli (July; some German speakers pronounce it as “you lie” instead of “ju lee” to
avoid confusion with Juni)
U August (August)
U September (September)
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Chapter 3: Laying the Foundations of German
U Oktober (October)
U November (November)
U Dezember (December)
When you refer to each day of the week, season, and month, remember that they’re all
masculine (der), except for das Frühjahr. When speaking or writing days of the week
and months, you generally leave out the article der. However, some combinations with
the dative prepositions an (on) and in (in) do include der in its dative form (see
Chapter 15 for more on prepositions). Also, seasons use the definite article. Take a
look at the examples, two of which include an and in with the article der:
Gestern war Dienstag, heute ist Mittwoch, und morgen ist Donnerstag. (Yesterday
was Tuesday, today is Wednesday, and tomorrow is Thursday.) The article der isn’t
used; you’re referring to the name of the day of the week.
Am kommenden Freitag fahre ich nach Flensburg. (I’m driving to Flensburg this
coming Friday.) An + dem = am; an is a dative preposition, and dem is the dative
masculine article derived from der. (The phrase am kommenden Freitag
describes the specific Friday; Literally: on this coming Friday.)
Im Frühling gibt es viele Feiertage in Deutschland. (In [the] spring there are a lot
of holidays in Germany.) In + dem = im; in is a dative preposition, and dem is the
dative masculine article.
Warum trägst du Sommerkleidung bei herbstlichen Temperaturen? (Why are
you wearing summer clothes during fall-like temperatures?) Bei is a dative preposition, so to form the dative plural ending to the adjective herbstlich, you add -en.
Note: Sommerkleidung is a combination of two nouns. Because the last word of
any noun combination determines the gender, you have der Sommer + die
Kleidung = die Sommerkleidung. In the prepositional phrase bei herbstlichen
Temperaturen, the preposition bei takes the dative case, so the adjective herbstlichen is in the dative plural.
Dates are written in the order of day-month-year in German (and in the other European
languages as well), such as Die Berliner Mauer ist am 09.11.1989 gefallen (The Berlin
Wall fell on 11/09/1989, or The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989). You need the periods in dates in German, just as you need to write the date in English with a slash
between the month, day, and year. If you said the date with ordinal numbers, it’d be
like this: Die Berliner Mauer ist am neunten elften neunzehnhundertneunundachtzig gefallen. Alternatively, you could say, . . . am neunten November.
Fill in the missing information shown in English in parentheses. Write the numbers as
words, remembering to include am (on the) if necessary. (For more info on numbers,
see “Doing the Numbers,” earlier in this chapter.)
Q. Er hat Geburtstag _____________________________________________. (on February 29th)
A. Er hat Geburtstag am neunundzwanzigsten Februar. (It’s his birthday on February 29th.)
8. Morgen ist _____________________________________________. (Saturday)
9. _____________________________________________. ist meine Lieblingsjahreszeit. (spring)
10. Nikolaustag ist _____________________________________________. (on December 6th)
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
11. Haben Sie _____________________________________________ gesagt? (March)
12. Wir fliegen am kommenden _____________________________________________ nach
Mallorca. (this [coming] Sunday)
On the Clock: Expressing Time
You’re in Interlaken (in der Schweiz) (Interlaken, Switzerland) and you want to know
what time it is. You have four choices: Look at your own watch; look at the nearest
clock tower (most are absolutely stunning — many have four clocks, one for each
side) and find out how accurate the Swiss are in keeping time (very!); buy a Rolex for
1,399 Swiss francs (no euros in Switzerland); or practice understanding German clock
time by asking someone on the street, Wie viel Uhr ist es? (What time is it?). You’re
just about guaranteed he or she will tell you the precise time.
In conversational German, you use the system comparable to English, in which nach
(past) refers to times past the hour up until half past. Vor (to) refers to the times from
half past to the next hour.
You use Halb (Literally: half ) to refer to half past the hour. However, in German, you
name the next hour; for example, halb acht (Literally: half eight) means half past
seven, or 7:30.
For official time, such as train or plane schedules (and frequently in everyday German),
you use the 24-hour system, reading the numbers as you’d read a digital clock. In other
words, for 1 p.m. and later, you add 12; 2 p.m. + 12 is therefore 14 Uhr: Unser Zug fährt
um 14.45 Uhr (pronounced vierzehn Uhr fünfundvierzig) (Our train leaves at 2:45
p.m.). Table 3-5 shows the German time expressions and their English equivalents.
Table 3-5
Expressing Time
German (Conversational
Language)
English
Equivalent
German
(Official Time)
English
Equivalent
drei (Uhr)
three (o’clock)
drei (Uhr)
three (o’clock)
zehn (Minuten) nach
drei
ten (minutes) past
three
drei Uhr zehn
three ten
Viertel nach drei
quarter past three
drei Uhr fünfzehn
three fifteen
fünf (Minuten) vor
halb vier
no equivalent; Literally:
five minutes before
half four
drei Uhr fünfundzwanzig
three twentyfive
halb vier
half past three
drei Uhr dreißig
three thirty
fünf (Minuten) nach
halb vier
no equivalent; Literally:
five minutes past
half four
drei Uhr
fünfunddreißig
three thirty-five
Viertel vor vier
quarter to four
drei Uhr
three forty-five
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Chapter 3: Laying the Foundations of German
fünfundvierzig
German (Conversational
Language)
English
Equivalent
German
(Official Time)
English
Equivalent
zehn vor vier
ten to four
drei Uhr fünfzig
three fifty
vier (Uhr)
four (o’clock)
vier (Uhr)
four (o’clock)
Note: You say es ist ein Uhr (it’s one o’clock) the same way as in English, but you say
es ist eins (it’s one) when you leave out the word Uhr. All other clock times are the
same number with or without the word Uhr, as seen in Table 3-5.
The numerical method of telling time may be the easiest. German traditionally uses a
period where English uses a colon. Note that when you read the time, you say Uhr
(o’clock) where the period appears. Alternatively, you can leave it out, just as you can
leave out the o’clock in English. For example, Um wie viel Uhr kommst du? Um sechs
oder um sieben? (What time are you coming? At six or at seven? ). Note also that the
use of Uhr in the question means the word time in English. You can also say Die Bank
öffnet um 8.30 Uhr (pronounced acht Uhr dreißig) (The bank opens at 8:30 a.m.).
Read the times given in words in the sentences that follow, and write the correct time,
German style (using the 24-hour system) as numerals. To help you out, some examples have two German alternatives for the time given. Then write the English translation of the sentence.
Q. Der Flug 629 landet um _________________. (einundwanzig Uhr fünfundzwanzig)
A. Der Flug 629 landet um 21.25 Uhr. (Flight 629 lands at 9:25 p.m.)
13. Die Geschäfte schließen schon um _________________. (sechzehn Uhr)
__________________________________________________________________________________
14. Der erste Anruf kam um _________________. (sieben Uhr fünfundvierzig/Viertel vor acht)
__________________________________________________________________________________
15. Wir kommen um _________________ in Dortmund an. (siebzehn Uhr zwanzig)
__________________________________________________________________________________
16. Am Donnerstag spiele ich Tennis um _________________. (vierzehn Uhr)
__________________________________________________________________________________
17. Gestern Abend sind sie um _________________ ins Bett gegangen.
(ein Uhr dreißig/halb zwei)
__________________________________________________________________________________
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Naming Countries, Nationalities,
and Languages
As the world appears to be shriveling up in size due to telecommunication, English
seems to be relentlessly pushing its way into other languages. That may be true in
some respects, but one area in which countries and nationalities are holding their
own is that of place names. Each country has its own spelling, pronunciation, and
even a different word altogether for one-and-the-same place. One of my favorites is
Munich, the capital of Bayern (Bavaria). In German, it’s called München, and it’s
world-famous for its Oktoberfest (no translation: think beer). So far, so good.
In Frankreich (France), Munich is pronounced the distinctive French way, with the
stress on the last syllable (Mu neek). Yet the Italians call it Monaco, which can be really
confusing if you’ve just come to Munich from the French Riviera (luckily, that’s called
the Côte d’Azur in French and German) and you’ve passed through a tiny country you
thought was the home of the Grimaldi dynasty and not the home of the Oktoberfest.
The point is that place names often change between languages; for example, one of
the largest lakes nestled in the Alps, Lake Constance, is called Bodensee (Literally:
ground/bottom lake) in German, although there is a town of Konstanz situated on
Bodensee.
Take heart! In this section, I get you off the ground with a simplified bird’s-eye view of
names in German. You have an overview of the German names for countries, nationalities, languages, and some regions that are relevant to German-speaking Europeans,
both geographically and economically. As you go through this section, imagine you’re
traveling through Europe. By the end, you should understand a lot about which
places German speakers are referring to.
When traveling in Europe, looking at maps is likely to be very confusing when you’re
not aware of what a place is called in English, let alone how it’s named in other languages. Using maps that have both English and the place names in their own language
is a huge help when you’re not familiar with different spellings of place names.
Eyeing German-speaking countries
Deutschsprachige Länder (German-speaking countries) are mostly located in the
center of western Europe. In the countries in Table 3-6, German is the dominant language. You see the English and German names, nationalities, and adjectives.
Table 3-6
German-Speaking Countries
Country Name in
English (Country)
Country Name in
German (Land)
Nationality
(Nationalität)
Adjective
(Adjektiv)
Germany
Deutschland
der/die Deutsche
deutsch
Austria
Österreich
der/die Österreicher/-in
österreichisch
Switzerland
die Schweiz
der/die Schweizer/-in
schweizer(isch)
Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
der/die Lichtensteiner/-in
lichtensteinisch
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Chapter 3: Laying the Foundations of German
In Table 3-7, German has an official status alongside another language or languages in
that country. Some of the people in these places speak German.
Table 3-7
Other Countries That Speak German
Country Name in
English (Country)
Country Name in
German (Land)
Nationality
(Nationalität)
Adjective
(Adjektiv)
Luxembourg
Luxemburg
der/die Luxemburger/-in
luxemburgisch
Italy (in South Tyrol,
a region in the north
of Italy bordering
on Austria)
Italien (Südtirol)
der/die Italiener/-in
(Südtiroler/-in)
italienisch
(südtirolisch)
Belgium
Belgien
der/die Belgier/-in
belgisch
More than a million French in the region of Alsace speak a dialect of German. Large
numbers of people still speak German in the countries under the influence of the
former Soviet Union. And there are German-speaking people in Namibia, the former
German Southwest Africa.
Grammatically speaking about countries,
nationalities, and languages
When dealing with languages, terms for citizens, and adjectives of countries, use
the standard rules for making sentences. Nouns and adjectives need to follow rules
on gender (der, die, das), case (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive), and
number (singular or plural). (For these rules, see Chapter 2 for nouns and Chapter 12
for adjectives.) Notice that the adjectives aren’t capitalized but names of languages
are capitalized, as are terms for citizens because they’re nouns.
BMW, Mercedes, und VW sind deutsche Autos. (BMW, Mercedes, and VW are
German cars.) The adjective deutsche is plural, in the nominative case.
Sie sprechen fließend Deutsch. (You speak fluent German.) Here, Deutsch is the
language, so it’s capitalized.
For the most part, countries in German, such as Kanada (Canada) or Mexiko
(Mexico), are neuter. You don’t need das (the) if you want to say something like Mein
Schwager kommt aus Brasilien (My brother-in-law is from Brazil). You need the article
das only when an adjective comes in front of the name of the country, as in Das grüne
Grönland gibt es nicht (There is no green Greenland).
A few countries have plural, feminine, or masculine gender. You need to know them
because you always include the article when you name such countries:
U A few plurals are die Vereinigten Staaten, die Philippinen, and die Niederlande
(the United States, the Philippines, and the Netherlands).
U A few countries with feminine gender are die Schweiz, die Türkei, and die
Ukraine (Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine).
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
U Masculine-gender countries are usually Muslim countries: der Irak (Iraq) and der
Iran (Iran).
As for the actual languages, remember that a language is a noun, so it’s capitalized.
To form the name of a language, you generally take the country name, add or subtract
a few letters (mostly for pronunciation purposes), and put -isch onto the end:
Portugal → Portugiesisch (Portugal → Portugese). Of course, there are a few oddballs
like Aseri, spoken in Azerbaijan.
German neighbors and trading partners
Germany enjoys a solid reputation for its high quality of Exportartikel (export goods)
and Dienstleistungen (services). With the introduction of the euro in 2002 and the
recent expansion of the Europäische Union (European Union) to 27 members in 2007,
Germany’s major trading partners are still — for the most part — its European neighbors. Table 3-8 lists Germany’s major trading partners in alphabetical order, showing
the country name in English and German, the nationalities, and the adjective for that
country.
Table 3-8
Major German Trading Partners
Country
Country (Land)
in German
Nationality
(Nationalität)
Adjective
(Adjektiv)
Belgium
Belgien
der/die Belgier/-in
belgisch
China
China
der Chinese/die Chinesin
chinesisch
France
Frankreich
der Franzose/die Französin
französisch
Great Britain
Großbritannien
der Brite/die Britin
britisch
Italy
Italien
der/die Italiener/-in
italienisch
the Netherlands
die Niederlande
(plural)
der/die Niederländer/-in
niederländisch
Spain
Spanien
der/die Spanier/in
spanisch
the United States
die Vereinigten
Staaten (plural)
der/die Amerikaner/-in
amerikanisch
Read the following sentences and fill in the correct country, nationality, language, or
adjective. Using the preceding information, together with the occasional help in
parentheses, you should be able to come up with the correct solutions.
Q. Frankreich ist das Land, in dem man _________________ spricht.
A. Frankreich das Land, in dem man Französisch spricht. (France is the country where French
is spoken.)
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18. Die “Union Jack” ist die _________________ Flagge.
19. Südtirol ist eine Gegend in Italien, wo man _________________ spricht.
20. Viele Produkte aus Plastik kommen aus _________________. (Hint: This country has the
largest population in the world.)
21. Sie kommt aus Spanien; sie ist _________________.
22. In _________________ spricht man Deutsch. (Hint: Its capital is Vienna.)
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Part I: The Building Blocks of German
Answer Key
a
siebenundvierzig: 47
b
achthundertdreiundsiebzig: 873
c
eintausenddreihunderteinundsiebzig: 1.371
d
vierzehn Komma fünf: 14,5
e
zwanzigtausendzweihundertneunundsechzig: 20.269
f
siebzehntausendneunhundertachtunddreißig: 17.938
g
vierundachtzigtausendzweihundertsieben: 84.207
h
Morgen ist Sonnabend/Samstag. (Tomorrow is Saturday.)
i
Der Frühling ist meine Lieblingsjahreszeit. (Spring is my favorite season.)
j
Nikolaustag ist am sechsten Dezember. (St. Nicholas Day is on the sixth of December.) Instead of
getting a visit from Santa Claus on December 24, German children awaken on December 6 to
find that St. Nikolaus has filled their shoes with small gifts and sweets (assuming good behavior, of course).
k
Haben Sie März gesagt? (Did you say March?)
l
Wir fliegen am kommenden Sonntag nach Mallorca. (We’re flying to Mallorca this coming Sunday.)
m
Die Geschäfte schließen schon um 16 Uhr. (The stores close [already] at 4 p.m.)
n
Der erste Anruf kam um 7.45 Uhr. (The first call came at 7:45 a.m.)
o
Wir kommen um 17.20 Uhr in Dortmund an. (We’re arriving in Dortmund at 5:20 p.m.)
p
Am Donnerstag spiele ich Tennis um 14 Uhr. (I’m playing tennis at 2 p.m. on Thursday.)
q
Gestern Abend sind sie um 1.30 Uhr ins Bett gegangen. (Last night they went to bed at 1:30 a.m.)
r
Die “Union Jack” ist die britische Flagge. (The Union Jack is the British flag.)
s
Südtirol ist eine Gegend in Italien, wo man Deutsch spricht. (South Tyrol is a region in Italy
where German is spoken.)
t
Viele Produkte aus Plastik kommen aus China. (Many products made of plastic come from China.)
u
Sie kommt aus Spanien; sie ist Spanierin. (She’s from Spain; she’s Spanish.)
v
In Österreich spricht man Deutsch. (People speak German in Austria.)
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Chapter 4
Building Your Word Power
In This Chapter
© Picking out combination words
© Grasping word families and friends
© Understanding word structure
U
nless you want to confine your conversations to things like The girl is pretty, I’m
hungry, and Do you speak English? you probably want to develop your German
vocabulary. Luckily, paying attention to how words are related to each other can boost
your word power exponentially. As you discover how words are formed, you can categorize and store them in logical groups, such as word families, word categories, opposites, prefixes, and suffixes. You can also practice identifying cognates (words with a
common source that mean the same thing in two languages), near cognates (words
with a common source that mean nearly the same in two languages), and false friends
(words that look the same but mean something different in two languages).
Even when you encounter a word you don’t know, if you can identify something about
that word, you may be able to figure out its meaning. For example, the word das
Reisefieber has two easily recognizable parts, Reise (travel) and Fieber (fever);
together they approximate the idea of excitement about traveling. This chapter takes a
look at word structures specific to the German language, providing great opportunities for interesting word storage, among them compound nouns and picture language.
Working with Word Combinations
Word combinations are the kinds of words that have two or more parts, some of
which may be separate words combined into one; others may be combinations of a
prefix together with a noun, adjective, or verb. You find them frequently in both
English and German, and in the case of German nouns, they can sometimes look
daunting from the standpoint of sheer length, yet when you’re familiar with one or
more parts of the word, you can often piece the others together.
Your key to increasing your vocabulary beyond the basics is getting the hang
of recognizing the separate parts that fit together to form word combinations.
Before you know it, you’ll be feeling comfortable with the likes of words like das
Außendienstverkaufspersonal (field sales force/personnel ) without thinking twice
because you’re able to figure out what the separate parts mean: außen = external,
outside, Dienst = service, employment, Verkauf = sales (the verb verkaufen = to sell,
kaufen = to buy), and Personal = personnel, staff . Each word element is useful as a
separate word, so you’re getting five words for the price, er, effort of one. This section
takes a closer look at word combinations, including compound nouns, picture
compound nouns, and verb combinations.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Spotting compound nouns
At times, German looks like a language made up of complicated, extremely long
words. In fact, some people say it not only sounds heavy and ponderous but also looks
heavy and ponderous. Most of these culprit words, called compound words, are really
quite innocuous. After all, they’re nothing more than a few smaller words strung
together. German is rife with compound words that may or may not be two or more
separate words in English: Der Geschäftsmann (the businessman) is one word in both
languages, but der Kugelschreiber (the ballpoint pen) is two words in English.
Recognizing the parts of compound words is a great way to increase your vocabulary
threefold, sometimes more, depending on how many words combine to form a single
word. When you break down a long word into its parts, you can generally make a very
accurate guess about what the compound means.
A compound noun is a combination of two or more words, usually both nouns. Some
compound nouns are the exact equivalent of two words in English. For instance, das
Fotoalbum (photo album) is a combination of das Foto (photo) + das Album (album).
Others have a slightly different meaning when compared to their usage as separate
words: Der Ruhetag (closing day) is die Ruhe (quiet, calm) + der Tag (day); “Montag
Ruhetag” could be a sign outside a restaurant indicating that it’s closed on Monday.
My personal favorites among the compound nouns are what I call picture words; they
describe the meaning of the word in visual language that differs from the descriptions
in English. I deal with picture words in the next section of this chapter.
There are a small number of changes in spelling in some compound words. The
most common added letter you find is s; for example, it appears in the middle of die
Arbeitszeit (the working hours), a combination of die Arbeit (the work) and die Zeit
(the time). In the word der Orangensaft (the orange juice) the n added in the middle
indicates the plural of die Orange (die Orangen). Sometimes a letter or two are
dropped: Das Fernsehprogramm (the TV program) is comprised of der Fernseher
or das Fernsehen (both mean TV ) with the last two letters dropped (-en or -er) plus
das Programm.
Compound nouns take the gender of the last word in the combination. Note that the
following combination is feminine: der Sport (sport[s]) + die Abteilung (department) =
die Sportabteilung (sports department in a department store).
Wo sind meine Tennisschuhe? (Where are my tennis shoes?) Die Tennisschuhe =
das Tennis (Tennis) + die Schuhe (shoes).
Sie sind im Wohnzimmer. (They’re in the living room.) Das Wohnzimmer =
wohnen (to live) + das Zimmer (room).
Was ist deine Lieblingsspeise? (What’s your favorite food?) Die Lieblingsspeise =
Lieblings (favorite, combined with other words) + die Speise (food).
Ich liebe Himbeereis. (I love raspberry ice cream.) Das Himbeereis = die
Himbeere (raspberry) + das Eis (ice cream).
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There’s no easy test to determine whether a word is in fact a compound noun. Just look at
the word, try to see where it breaks down, figure out what the parts mean, and put it back
together again, making a reasonable stab at the meaning of that compound word. You
may recognize one part as the noun form of a verb you know, or you may see a prefix that
you’re familiar with. The context of the word in a sentence is usually a good means of
making an educated guess. And good dictionaries are your best bet if you’re still stumped.
Combine the words from the word bank with the words in the exercise to form compound nouns in the exercise. Include the definite article. Some words undergo a slight
change. Then write the English definition of the word next to the compound noun.
Q. der Rock _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________.
A. das Rockkonzert (the rock concert). The definite article is das because das Konzert is
the last word in the combination.
das Konzert
das Eis
die Stadt
die Tasche
der Knödel
das Essen
die Zeit
das Zimmer
der Kasten
das Brot
das Spiel
1. der Käse _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________. (Hint: The Earl of . . . may have
invented them.) Literally, it means cheese bread.
2. Haupt _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________.
3. die Erdbeere _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________.
4. der Brief _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________. (Hint: You find letters in it.)
5. essen _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________. (Hint: Look at the examples in this
section)
6. der Computer _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________.
7. das Jahr _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________. (Hint: There are four every year.
Add -es between the two words.)
8. die Kartoffel _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________. (Hint: It’s a southern German/Austrian
specialty often served with Schweinebraten [roast pork].)
9. die Hand _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________.
10. der Mittag _____________________________________________.
_____________________________________________.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Describing picture compound nouns
With most compound nouns, you can easily get the general idea of what they mean
by putting the meanings of the two (or more) parts together to form one meaning.
However, with picture compound words, meaning isn’t exactly obvious at first glance.
These nouns may be only single words in English or English words that appear to be
descriptive, making it a challenge to figure out their meaning.
das Haus (house) + die Schuhe (shoes) = die Hausschuhe (slippers, shoes you
wear in the house)
The key to understanding the meaning of a picture compound word is using your
imagination to think figuratively if the literal meaning doesn’t make sense.
Alternatively, try thinking (way) outside the box. For example, take the word der
Zahnstein. It’s made up of two reasonably common nouns, Zahn (tooth) and Stein
(stone). So what in the world is a tooth stone? You may first conjure a picture of a
stone that looks like a tooth. Good idea; close, but no cigar. Now imagine what it
would look like to have stones, or stone-like material attached to a tooth. Does that
sound like a possible description of tartar? That’s it! Zahnstein is the reason the
dental hygienist is always reprimanding you!
Read the hints in the following exercise; each hint is for the picture compound noun
that follows. Try to translate words of the compound noun separately, and then guess
the meaning of the compound word.
Q. (Ich gebrauche ihn mit einer Nadel und Faden.) der Fingerhut _________________ +
_________________ = _________________.
A. finger + hat = thimble (I need it with a needle and thread.)
11. (Ich brauche sie im Winter.) die Handschuhe _________________ + _________________ =
_________________.
12. (Ich brauche sie in der Nacht.) die Taschenlampe _________________ + _________________ =
_________________.
13. (Früher waren sie alle schwarz/weiß.) das Fernsehen _________________ +
_________________ = _________________.
14. (Damit kann ich gut schreiben.) der Kugelschreiber _________________ + _________________ =
_________________.
15. (Darin lese ich interessante Artikel.) die Zeitschrift _________________ + _________________ =
_________________.
16. (Ich trage ihn wenn ich ins Bett gehe.) der Schlafanzug _________________ +
_________________ = _________________.
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Checking out verb combinations
Nouns aren’t the only ones that can combine to form long words; verbs are guilty of
the same habit. Figuring out the meaning of a verb combination is just as easy when
you can break down the parts, which may be prefixes, prepositions, or verbs that
combine with another verb.
How do you figure out the meaning of the verb? You need to break down the verb into
its parts, try to figure out what each part means, and put it back together again. The
following tips can help:
U Try to recognize the discrete parts of the verb. Look for prefixes or prepositions at the beginning of the word.
U Find out what these prefixes or prepositions mean if you don’t know already.
(Chapter 10 deals with separable- and inseparable-prefix verbs, Chapter 15 handles prepositions, and Chapter 11 includes a section on verbs and prepositions.)
Some prefixes or prepositions have equivalents in English. Take the example of
vor: It usually means before, and as far as pronunciation goes, it resembles the
prefix fore- in words like foreshadow or foresight. With others, you may need to
find out what they mean: Zusammen (together) doesn’t resemble English, but it
has the same number of syllables, so that may be a method of remembering its
meaning.
Take the verb regenerieren. Break it down into re- + gener- + -ieren. The prefix rehas the same meaning in English (to repeat an action), and -ieren is a variation on the
regular infinitive verb ending -en; it often means -ate or -ify in English. Putting the
word together, you can make a correct guess that regenerieren means to regenerate.
Ich möchte zum Hotel zurückgehen. (I’d like to go back to the hotel.) The prefix
zurück means back or return, and the verb gehen is to go or walk.
Die Familie ist zum Erntedankfest zusammengekommen. (The family gathered
together for Thanksgiving.) The verb zusammenkommen is in present perfect tense;
the prefix zusammen means together, and kommen means to come.
Furthermore, many nouns are derived from the verb combinations. Most have different endings. Look at these examples:
The verb is fortsetzen (to continue); the noun is die Fortsetzung (continuation,
sequel).
The verb is zubringen (to take to); the noun is der Zubringer (feeder). Ein
Zubringerbus is a shuttle bus.
Match the English definitions of the verbs with the given German verb. Look at the
prefix/preposition/verb tables in Chapters 10 and 11 first, or try to make an educated
guess. Refer to the English word bank; if you want to challenge yourself more, cover
the list — now! Then write the English definition without looking.
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Q. zusammenbrechen _________________
A. to collapse, break down
to collapse, break down
to require, presume
to plan
to spend [money]
to leave, take off
to arrive
to be fond of
to assemble
to go for a drive
17. ankommen _________________
21. spazierenfahren _________________
18. abfahren _________________
22. ausgeben _________________
19. vorhaben _________________
23. zusammensetzen _________________
20. voraussetzen _________________
24. liebhaben _________________
Grasping Word Families
and Word Categories
Memory works best when your brain can make lots of connections, so grouping
German words in word families and word fields can help you remember vocab for the
long term. This is good news because enhancing your vocabulary dramatically
increases the ways you can express yourself.
When you come across a new verb, especially a frequently used verb, find out some
other words related to it. Use a good German-English dictionary as a reference (see
Chapter 1 for information on using a bilingual dictionary). You often find related
words and expressions under the headword (main dictionary entry), especially if
it’s a frequently used verb. Scan for words in bold under that headword, and record
new words in groups using the headword for reference. For example, under the
headword kommen (to come), you find ankommen (to arrive), herkommen (to come
over), hervorkommen (to come out, like the sun or blossoms), and a large number of
expressions using kommen; for example, Wie komme nach Wien? (How do I get to
Vienna?) or auf etwas kommen (to think of something, to get into something).
This section discusses how you can use word families and word categories to your
advantage to strengthen your German vocabulary.
Working with word families
Picture a family seated around a bountiful table at Thanksgiving. Replace the family
members with words, put the family elder(s) at the head of the table, and there you
have it: a word family. It’s made up of words that have the same root or origin. Some
word families are very numerous, including ten or more nouns (descendants of the
elders), a verb (family elder), adjectives, and maybe even an adverb that are all related.
Some word families have an extended family: cousin words that have the same root but
are words combined from other families.
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Nouns and verbs in an English word family may be exactly the same or slightly different: to heat and the heat, to live and the life. German follows suit, but it puts an infinitive ending, -en, on verbs: arbeiten, die Arbeit. Some English and German words have
suffixes — endings to words. English adjective endings include -able, -y, and -al, as in
likeable, windy, and critical. Some German adjective endings are -lich, -ig, and -isch, as
in lieblich (delightful, or sweet as in wine), windig (windy), and kritisch (critical). (See
Chapter 13 for more on adjectives.)
Consider, for example, the verb arbeiten (to work). It’s pretty much the same as the
noun die Arbeit (the work). Other words in the same family include der Arbeiter (the
worker) and die Arbeiterin (the female worker). The extended family includes word
combinations like die Arbeiterschaft (the workforce), der Arbeitsablauf (the workflow), arbeitswütig (workaholic — an adjective in German), and so on.
Match the English definitions in the word bank to the German words in the exercise.
Some hints are indicated in parentheses; adj. is the abbreviation for adjective. The
root (family elder) is arbeiten (to work).
Q. das Arbeitsamt _________________
A. the employment office; das Amt means the (public) office.
the employment office
labor saving
the employer
the attitude to work
the employee
the working class
the place of work, workstation
the workroom
the unemployment compensation
jobless
25. die Arbeiterklasse _________________
26. der Arbeitgeber (geben = to give) _________________
27. das Arbeitslosengeld _________________
28. arbeitsparend (adj.) _________________
29. arbeitslos (adj.) _________________
30. der Arbeitnehmer (nehmen = to take) _________________
31. der Arbeitsplatz _________________
32. die Arbeitsmoral _________________
33. der Arbeitsraum _________________
Write each English translation from the word bank next to its German equivalent.
Some hints are indicated in parentheses; adj. is the abbreviation for adjective. The
root is fahren (to drive, go).
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
Q. die Fahrbahn (of traffic on a highway) _________________
A. the lane
the lane
the direction of traffic
the exit
itinerant (for example, folk)
the ticket
the driving instructor
negligent, reckless
the passenger
the entrance
the schedule
34. die Fahrkarte _________________
35. die Einfahrt (here: to a highway) _________________
36. der Fahrgast (der Gast = the guest) _________________
37. die Fahrtrichtung _________________
38. fahrend (adj.) _________________
39. fahrlässig (adj.) _________________
40. der Fahrlehrer _________________
41. der Fahrplan _________________
42. die Ausfahrt (here: from a highway) _________________
Picture that! Working with word categories
Imagine a traditional family farm scene: succulent green fields with horses and cows
grazing contently in them. Next to the fields is a pond with a few ducks and geese
paddling around in it. Over by the barn is a cat on the prowl for mice hiding in the
straw, and the farmer is climbing onto his tractor. So is this section about German
farms? Not quite. It’s about helping you organize words into logical categories or
groups to make it easier to retrieve them at a later time. In the case of this scene, if
you start with the category der Bauernhof (the farm), you’d include a list of farm animals and the words for barn, farmer, tractor, and so on.
To record new vocabulary in categories, use the techniques that work best with that
category. For example, draw a picture of a farm scene and label it in as much detail as
you can. You won’t need to use any English translations at all. (Even if your rendition
of a duck does look like a seagull, you know what it is.) The types of categories are
practically limitless, and they can include wherever your interests in German lie.
The key to successful word storage is choosing the best means of organizing words. By
organizing the words well, you usually don’t need to translate them into English. You’re
now on the road to thinking in German. Select meaningful categories that correspond to
any interests you have, personal or professional, sports or hobbies, intellectual or
mundane — the sky’s the limit. When you’re motivated by such topics, you’re bound
to find it extremely easy and fun to find and store words in your area of interest.
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Chapter 4: Building Your Word Power
Here are some great ways to store new words:
U List related words in an order that’s meaningful to you. For instance, write the
names of vegetables from best to worst tasting, or arrange colors from light to
dark: white, beige, yellow, orange, red, and so on. Or tell a story — put words
describing your morning routine in sequential order.
U Write words in a way that reflects their meaning. For instance, write color
words in German in the color they represent.
U Develop a “word fan” showing the spectrum of words in a range of description, such as verbs of speed starting with kriechen (to crawl ) on up to laufen
(to run). Other categories of words that work well arranged in this fashion are
adverbs of frequency, arranged from niemals (never) to immer (always), and
a range of emotions, starting with deprimiert (depressed) on up to entzückt
(delighted).
U Describe how to do simple tasks or routines like making coffee, hanging a picture on the wall, or getting ready to go to work, using as many verbs as possible.
U Label words describing location where they belong on a picture or a map. To
remember prepositions like over, under, beside, and in front of, draw a picture of
a living room, and write the word über (above) over the coffee table. Or draw an
object, say a cat under the table, and write a sentence like Die Katze ist unter
dem Tisch (The cat’s under the table). Use a street map for labeling links (left),
rechts (right), an der Kreuzung (at the intersection), and so on.
U Make a web or chart to show how ideas relate. For instance, if you’re listing
words related to air travel, write the word der Flughafen (the airport) in the
middle. Then add several branches for word groups like die Abfertigung
(check-in), die Sicherheitskontrolle (security check), im Flugzeug (in the
airplane), and so on.
U Create a diagram. Sketch a computer and label the parts (most are the same
in English and German). Remember to include the articles der/die/das.
U For individual words within a group, draw a picture of that word and incorporate the word into the picture. Nouns, adjectives, and even verbs lend themselves well to this storage method. Take, for example, der Berg (the mountain).
Draw a the outline of a mountain and fill it with the word der Berg inside it. Draw
adjectives to resemble what they mean: Write gross and klein (large and small)
using huge letters and tiny letters. Picture-compound nouns are great fun to
draw. With der Leckerbissen (the treat; Literally: tasty + bite), draw someone licking their lips or whose mouth is watering, add a plus sign (+), and draw some
teeth biting down on something you love to eat.
Write die Farben (the colors) in the exercise, listed in order from light to dark. The
hints can help you get the order I’ve come up with.
Q. _________________ (die Farbe von Schnee)
A. weiß (white) (the color of snow)
43. _________________ (dasselbe Wort auf Englisch)
44. _________________ (die Farbe von Osterglocken [daffodils])
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
45. _________________ (ich esse sie gern)
46. _________________ (eine Farbe von Nelken [carnations])
47. _________________ (ich sehe . . .)
48. _________________ (im Frühling sind die Blätter der Bäume . . .)
Streamlining Word Storage
In reading and listening to German, you’re likely to find a surprisingly large number of
words that are comparable in the two languages (words that have the same common
source and mean the same thing); they’re called cognates. Their cousins are the near
cognates: Words that have a common source, mean nearly the same in two languages,
and may be spelled somewhat differently. And then you run across the false friends,
the ones that have a surprisingly different meaning in the other language, even
though they look the same.
Half the battle of vocabulary acquisition is a matter of knowing how a word fits into a
larger group, and of course, how to use it. Imagine a chest of many drawers marked
cognates, near cognates, and false friends. As you open the drawers of this section one
by one, you find hands-on opportunities to increase your awareness of storing words
in ways that you can easily retrieve them.
Recognizing cognates and near cognates
Cognates and near cognates are words with a common source that mean the same or
nearly the same thing in two languages. In the case of German and English, many
words have the same roots, although some have undergone spelling changes over
time. Aside from der Arm, der Kindergarten, der Rucksack, die Wanderlust, die
Zeitgeist, and other such classics, you can discover a plethora of others, many of
which you can group by the similarity of their structure. As you recognize the similarities, place the words accurately into their groups. Some minor spelling changes are
easy to recognize; for instance, the letter c in English is usually k in German, sh in
English is sch in German, and so on.
Here’s a small sampling of characteristics that signal English/German cognates:
U Nouns ending in -er often denote a person who works doing the job that word
describes. Someone who designs is a designer, which is a cognate — der Designer.
Nouns ending in -or build a similar group of cognates: der Professor.
U Adjectives ending in -al are often cognates: liberal.
U Verbs ending in -ieren are often near cognates: vibrieren = to vibrate.
U French words used in English and German are sometimes cognates: das Portrait.
U German words used in English aren’t exactly cognates because they’re the same
word, but why not make use of this precious resource? der Ersatz = the alternative, replacement
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Here are some verbs that are near cognates: denunzieren (denounce), existieren
(exist), fotografieren (photograph), frustrieren (frustrate), reformieren (reform),
regulieren (regulate), and simulieren (simulate).
Arrange the following words from the word bank into groups according to five
characteristics for categorizing cognates described in this section: nouns ending in
-er, nouns ending in -or, adjectives ending in -al, French words, and German words.
To challenge you, the words that belong to the three categories with endings (-er, -or,
and -al) are written without the ending. Add the ending to the word after the hyphen,
and list the word in the correct category.
Q. Nouns ending in -er
A. der Jogger
der Jogg-
norm-
das Café
der Reakt-
kitschig
form-
der Priest-
der Direkt-
das Restaurant
der Design-
gemütlich
diagon-
der Report-
optim-
der Chauffeur
der Profess-
der Fisch-
das Dekolleté
der Poltergeist
liber-
das Portrait
der Ventilat-
kaputt
die Angst
der Radiat-
49. Nouns ending in -er
der Jogger
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
_________________
50. Nouns ending in -or
_________________
_________________
51. Adjectives ending in -al
_________________
_________________
52. French words
_________________
_________________
53. German words
_________________
_________________
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Part I: The Basic Building Blocks of German
False friends: Bad buddies
The following can easily happen: You start getting chummy with some words that are the
same in both languages. You’re borrowing English words left and right, plopping them
into German phrases with great success. Along comes a word in German that looks like
an English word, so you decide to use it. It’s your new German colleague’s birthday, so
you buy a little present, walk up, and say “Ein Gift für Sie.” You’ve just offered him some
poison! (Yes, it’s a unique gift, but did you have to blurt it out and ruin the surprise?)
That’s right: Das Gift means poison. The word for present is das Geschenk.
If you assume that you can blithely use a word you read in German without being sure
of what it actually means, watch out! German is rife with potential bloopers, called
false friends or false cognates, like das Gift. Conversely, German has borrowed words
from English, using them differently. A cellphone is called ein Handy in German.
When cellphones were new on the market, some German speakers would swear up
and down that handy was the correct expression in English as well. Without a handy
bilingual dictionary, leave any questionable words out of your active vocabulary for
the time being. Better safe than sorry.
Take a look at some words that can potentially lead to mix-ups. For example, Das
ist ein bekanntes Gymnasium. A famous gym? Strange, you think, as the tour guide
points out a large building that looks an awful lot like a school. That’s because das
Gymnasium is a high school in German. Another one: Das ist ein grosses (large) Bad.
What, a big bad somebody, like big bad John? Well, that’s one way to remember what
it means; das Bad is a bathroom, john, loo, head, whatever you want to call it.
To remember some tricky false friends, draw a picture of what the word means and
label it, show what the word means by incorporating the word into the picture itself,
or make the letters of the word take the shape of an object. You may be visualizing
something slightly bizarre, and that’s the fun part of it, which will probably help you
remember the word more readily. Der Herd (stove, range) may work if in your mind’s
eye, you see a whole bunch of stoves with horns out on the range in Texas. (Note: Die
Herde means the herd, as in a group of cows. It’s a different entry in the dictionary,
however, because it has a different meaning, spelling, and gender.)
The following 12 German words embedded in sentences have a different meaning from
their English lookalikes. Read the word in the context of the sentence, look at the
English definitions in the word bank, and write the definition that logically fits.
Q. Ich arbeite am Samstag, also schlafe ich am Sonntag. _________________
A. so, therefore, thus (I’m working on Saturday, so I’ll sleep on Sunday.)
so, therefore, thus
daily special
vintage car
friendly, likeable
consistent, logical
good, well behaved
condom
sensitive
prescription
advice
soon
dung
perhaps, possibly
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54. Ich komme bald — warte nur fünf Minuten. _________________
55. Diese Kinder sind brav. Sie gehorchen (obey) ihren Eltern. _________________
56. Ein Präservativ hilft gegen Schwangerschaften (pregnancies). _________________
57. Du bist sehr logisch und konsequent — bravo. _________________
58. Was ist das Menü heute im Restaurant? _________________
59. Ich habe Mist unter meinen Schuhen. Es stinkt! _________________
60. Kommen Sie? Ich weiß nicht — eventuell. _________________
61. Er geht zum Arzt; er braucht ein Rezept. _________________
62. Was soll ich tun? Ich brauche einen Rat. _________________
63. Sie hat viele Freunde; sie ist sehr sympathisch. _________________
64. Das ist ein schönes Auto — ein echtes Oldtimer. _________________
65. Sie sind zu sensibel; das ist nicht gut. _________________
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Part I: The Building Blocks of German
Answer Key
a
das Käsebrot (cheese sandwich) Literally, it means cheese bread.
b
die Hauptstadt (capital city) Literally, it means main city.
c
das Erdbeereis (strawberry ice cream) The last -e from Erdbeere is dropped for pronunciation
purposes.
d
der Briefkasten (mailbox)
e
das Esszimmer (dining room) The verb essen drops the -en infinitive ending.
f
das Computerspiel (computer game)
g
die Jahreszeit (season)
h
der Kartoffelknödel (potato dumpling)
i
die Handtasche (handbag)
j
das Mittagessen (lunch) Literally, it means noon meal.
k
die Handschuhe: hand + shoes = gloves (I use them in the winter.)
l
die Taschenlampe: pocket + light = flashlight (I use it in the night.)
m
das Fernsehen: distance + see = TV (They all used to be black and white.)
n
der Kugelschreiber: ball/sphere + writer = ballpoint pen (I can write well with it.)
o
die Zeitschrift: time + script/text = magazine (I read interesting articles in it.)
p
der Schlafanzug: sleep + suit = pajamas (I wear it when I go to bed.)
q
ankommen: to arrive
r
abfahren: to leave
s
vorhaben: to plan
t
voraussetzen: to require, presume
u
spazierenfahren: to go for a drive, like a Sunday drive
v
ausgeben: to spend (money)
w
zusammensetzen: to assemble
x
liebhaben: to be fond of; there’s also lieben (to love)
y
die Arbeiterklasse: the working class
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A
der Arbeitgeber: the employer
B
das Arbeitslosengeld: the unemployment compensation
C
arbeitsparend: labor-saving
D
arbeitslos: jobless
E
der Arbeitnehmer: the employee
F
der Arbeitsplatz: the place of work, workstation
G
die Arbeitsmoral: the attitude to work
H
der Arbeitsraum: the workroom
I
die Fahrkarte: the ticket
J
die Einfahrt: the entrance
K
der Fahrgast: the passenger
L
die Fahrtrichtung: the direction of traffic
M
fahrend: itinerant (for example, folk); the suffix -end means -ing
N
fahrlässig: negligent, reckless; lässig can also mean casual
O
der Fahrlehrer: the driving instructor
P
der Fahrplan: the schedule
Q
die Ausfahrt: the exit
R
beige (beige) (the same word in English)
S
gelb (yellow) (the color of daffodils)
Ostern (Easter) + Glocken (bells) is literally Easter bells. Daffodils tend to appear around
Easter time.
T
orange (orange) (I like to eat them); same word in German for the fruit
U
rosa (pink) (a color of carnations)
V
rot (red) (I see . . .)
W
grün (green) (In spring, the leaves on the trees are . . .)
X
Nouns ending in -er: der Jogger, der Designer, der Fischer, der Priester, der Reporter
Y
Nouns ending in -or: der Direktor, der Professor, der Radiator, der Reaktor, der Ventilator
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Part I: The Building Blocks of German
z
Adjectives ending in -al: diagonal, formal, liberal, normal, optimal
Z
French words: das Café, der Chauffeur, das Decolleté, das Portrait, das Restaurant
1
German words: die Angst, gemütlich, kaputt, kitschig, der Poltergeist
2
bald: soon (I’m coming soon, wait just five minutes.)
3
brav: good, well-behaved (These children are well-behaved. They obey their parents.)
4
Ein Präservativ: condom (A condom helps against pregnancies.)
5
konsequent: consistent, logical (You’re very logical and consistent.)
6
das Menü: daily special (What’s the daily special in this restaurant today?)
7
Mist: dung (I’ve got dung under my shoes. It stinks!)
8
eventuell: perhaps, possibly (Are you coming? I don’t know.)
9
ein Rezept: prescription (He’s going to the doctor; he needs a prescription.)
0
einen Rat: advice (What should I do? I need advice.)
!
sympathisch: friendly, likeable (She has many friends; she’s very friendly.)
@
ein Oldtimer: vintage car (That’s a beautiful car — a vintage car.)
#
sensibel: sensitive (They’re too sensitive; that’s not good.)
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Part II
Getting Started Now:
Writing in the Present
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T
In this part . . .
his part explains how to express yourself in the here
and now. The present tense is a versatile workhorse in
German, standing in for a variety of past, present, and
future English tenses in a surprising array of situations;
Chapter 5 deals with the particulars. Chapters 6 and 7 provide you with the nuts and bolts you need to formulate
questions, and they tell you how to give reasonably
accurate and understandable answers. Wondering what
comes next? Speculation is one part of Chapter 8. That
chapter also lets you practice expressing doubt, hope,
uncertainty, and hypothetical situations.
Chapter 9 is where you find the lowdown on modal verbs,
the kind that help you say things such as may I, I’d like to,
should we, and I can. In Chapter 10, you get the hang of
separable and inseparable prefix verbs. Separable prefix
verbs have two parts that sometimes get separated in a
sentence. Easy? Sort of. In a dictionary, the verb is listed
with the two parts stuck together, so you need to be able
to recognize such verbs in their stuck and unstuck usage.
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Chapter 5
Grasping the Present Tense
In This Chapter
© Using subject pronouns
© Conjugating present-tense verbs
© Conjugating sein (to be) and haben (to have)
Y
ou’re driving down the road when you see a small herd of cows. Some are grazing, others are chewing their cud. Okay, so they might be drooling, too, but even
so, it gets you on to thoughts about milk, and the idea hits you: You’re going to get
some ice cream. You say to yourself, “I think I’ll go to Jan and Berry’s because I really
do owe myself a treat. After all, I’ve been working hard, and —” you wake up and realize you’ve been dreaming for the past five minutes. Darn!
Believe it or not, this isn’t a plug for ice cream. It is, however, a superb example of
how streamlined German can be, because you can put all the verbs in the preceding
paragraph (marked in italics) in the present tense in German. This multitalented
player stands in for the plain old simple present tense (gets, wake up), the present
continuous (are driving, are chewing), an emphatic form (do owe), some futures (are
going to get, will go), and even references to actions that started in the past (have
been working, have been dreaming). Das hört sich gut an, oder? (That sounds good,
doesn’t it?) (For more information on the terminology of verb tenses, see Chapter 1.)
And all along, you thought I was going to start out with something along the lines of
“First things first: The present tense is the verb form you use to talk about the present.
Period.” Well, that’s true for sure, but there’s more to it. In this chapter, you see how
to use subject pronouns with the present tense and how to conjugate regular and
irregular verbs. You also see how versatile the present tense is.
Simplifying Subject Pronouns and
Their Relationship to Verbs
Before you can understand the present tense (and all other verb tenses), you need a
firm grasp of the subject pronouns. These pronouns stand in for long-winded nouns
and pop up everywhere in any language, and they play a key role in helping you get
your verbs in shape. You always see them in tables that conjugate verbs, so get them
down pat before you start work on the verbs that accompany them.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
You use subject pronouns — ich (I), du (you), er (he), sie (she), es (it), and so on — to
express who or what is carrying out the action or idea of the verb. They refer to the
noun without naming it, which means they can serve as placeholders so you don’t
have to sound redundant by repeating the noun. (For more discussion on pronouns,
check out Chapters 1 and 2.) In order to use subject pronouns, you need to know
which person (first, second, or third) and number (singular or plural) the pronoun represents; for example, ich (I) = first person, singular. To connect the correct subject pronoun to a present-tense verb, you need to know which conjugated verb form to use. I
lay out this information in “Getting Your Verbs in Shape: Present-Tense Conjugations.
Table 5-1 shows you the breakdown of subject pronouns in German and English. Notice
the format with singular on the left, plural on the right, and the pronoun Sie (you) at the
bottom. I use the same setup throughout the verb tables in this book.
Table 5-1
Subject Pronouns
Person
Singular
Plural
First
ich (I)
wir (we)
Second (familiar)
du (you)
ihr (you)
Third
er (he, it)
sie (she, it)
es (it)
sie (they)
Second (formal)
Sie (you, both singular and plural)
Think of the subject pronouns as persona because they impersonate the subject that
they represent. You characterize them by their grammatical person (based on who’s
speaking and listening), number (singular or plural), and sometimes formality (which
I discuss in the next section). Here’s a closer look at the three persons:
U First person: The one(s) speaking: ich (I) or wir (we).
U Second person: The one(s) spoken to: du, ihr, Sie. All three mean you in English;
du is the singular, familiar form, which you’d use with a friend; ihr is the plural,
familiar form, which you’d use with a group of friends; and Sie is the formal form,
whether singular or plural, which you’d use with the chancellor of Germany and
her cabinet ministers (and everyone else you’re not on a first-name basis with).
U Third person: Who or what is spoken about: er (he, it), sie (she, it), or es (it); sie
(they). If you’re talking about an inanimate object (it), the choice among er, sie,
and es depends on the gender of the noun — see Chapter 2 for details.
Making sure “you” dresses for the occasion:
The formality of du/ihr and Sie
Hopefully, if you’re hobnobbing with some business moguls, the mayor, and a throng
of socialites at the charity benefit of the year, you’re on your best behavior. On the
other hand, most people do and say whatever they feel like while hanging out with
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Chapter 5: Grasping the Present Tense
their buddies at a backyard barbecue on a Saturday afternoon. That
formality/informality factor is what you need to keep in mind when you address
people in German because there are three ways to say you: du, ihr, and Sie.
Use Sie, which is always capitalized, to speak to one or more people with whom you
have a more distant, formal relationship. It’s appropriate
U When you aren’t sure about whether du/ihr or Sie is correct
U When you’re not yet on a first-name basis with someone (for example, using
Herr Kuhnagel or Frau Zitzelsberger, not Sigmund or Hildegard)
U When you’re talking to adults you don’t know well
U In business or at your place of work
U In public situations to a person in uniform (police officer, airport official, and
other such individuals)
Use du when you talk to one person (or animal) in an informal way, and use ihr,
the plural version of du, to address more than one person (or animal) informally.
An informal pronoun is appropriate
U When a German speaker invites you to use du
U For talking to a close friend or relative
U For addressing children and teens younger than 16 or so
U When you talk to pets
You may hear du among close working colleagues, students, members of a sports
team, or people hiking in the mountains, but unless someone asks you, “Wollen wir
uns dutzen?” (Shall we say du to each other?), try to stick with Sie.
Using first names and addressing people with du (or ihr) when it isn’t appropriate
can turn German speakers off — fast. Language and culture are bonded together with
superglue, so avoid pasting your culture on the German-speaking world. Be careful
with recent crossover scenarios at the workplace: people addressing each other with
Sie, although they use first names: Heinz, haben Sie meine E-mail gelesen? (Heinz,
have you read my e-mail?). If you use last names (Frau Dinkelhuber and Herr
Sternhagel), using Sie is best.
Distinguishing among sie, sie, and Sie
I have a threesome tangle to help you unravel, and then you’re on your way to
success with subject pronouns. Look back at Table 5-1, and you find the Three
Musketeers, sie (she), sie (they), and Sie (you), lurking in their separate boxes.
Seeing them in what looks like random places may seem daunting, but a few clues
can help you sort them out. First, you know the meanings by their context. The conjugated verb and capitalization also help reveal the meaning. Here’s what to watch:
U Conjugation: When sie means she, its verb form is distinct; in the present tense,
the conjugated verb usually ends in -t. When sie/Sie means they or you, the
present-tense verb ends in -en. (For more on conjugation, see the next section.)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
U Capitalization: The they and you forms of sie/Sie have identical conjugations,
but only the you version, which is formal, is capitalized.
The following examples show how you figure out which one to use when:
Wo wohnt sie? (Where does she live?) The verb is in third-person singular form.
Wo wohnen sie? (Where do they live?) The verb is in third-person plural form, and
sie isn’t capitalized.
Wo wohnen Sie? (Where do you live?) The verb is in second-person plural form
(which is identical to the third-person plural form), and Sie is capitalized.
When you’re speaking, listen carefully for cues in the context that help you distinguish between sentences like Wo wohnen sie? and wo wohnen Sie? If you’re still not
sure, just ask, “Meinen Sie mich?” (Do you mean me?). If you’re on a first-name basis
with the speaker, then you’re all set; no confusion here because if someone asks you
where you live, you hear the informal version: Wo wohnst du?
In the following situations, decide which subject pronoun you would use (ich, du, er,
sie, es, wir, ihr, sie, or Sie) and write it in the space provided. Refer to Table 5-1 on
subject pronouns.
Q. Someone talking about his father uses _________________.
A. er
1. Friends talking to each other use (plural form) _________________.
2. You’re talking about your friends, so you use _________________.
3. An adult meeting another adult for the first time uses _________________.
4. When you talk about yourself, you use _________________.
5. An adult talking to three children aged 8, 11, and 14 uses _________________.
6. You’re talking to an animal, so you use _________________.
7. A man talking about his wife uses _________________.
8. When you talk about your cousin and yourself, you use _________________.
9. You’re talking about your colleagues, so you use _________________.
10. A teenaged customer talking to a sales assistant uses _________________.
11. When you talk to someone on a ski lift in Switzerland, you use _________________.
12. A military comrade talking to another comrade uses _________________.
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Chapter 5: Grasping the Present Tense
Getting Your Verbs in Shape:
Present-Tense Conjugations
I love to talk — about myself, family, friends, job, and what’s going on in my life. Talking
(and writing) about all these things and more in German is usually a matter of knowing
how to construct a verb in the present tense with the help of a noun (subject) and a few
other elements. Most German verbs are regular, meaning they follow a standard pattern
of conjugation. Think of conjugation as activating a verb from its sleepy infinitive form
found in dusty dictionaries (leben, lachen, lieben) and its English equivalent with that
pesky to (to live, to laugh, to love) into a form that’s compatible with the subject.
This section shows how to put verbs through their paces by conjugating them and
combining them with nouns, pronouns, and other grammar goodies so you can start
talking and writing with confidence in German.
Agreeing with the regulars
Regular verbs don’t have any change in their basic form, which I call the stem. You
conjugate a verb by taking the stem — which is almost always the result of lobbing
off -en from the infinitive form of the verb (the not-yet conjugated form) — and
adding the right ending to the verb. In the present tense, English has only the ending
-s or no ending at all (I live, you live, he lives), whereas German has four endings (-e,
-st, -t, and -en).
To conjugate a regular verb in the present tense, just drop the -en from the infinitive
and add the appropriate ending to the stem. The endings are -e, -st, -t, -en, -t, -en, and
-en. The following verb table shows how to conjugate the verb kommen (to come).
I’ve simply added the present-tense endings, marked in bold, onto the stem komm-.
(Make sure you know the meanings of the subject pronouns by checking Table 5-1
earlier in this chapter.)
kommen (to come)
ich komme
wir kommen
du kommst
ihr kommt
er/sie/es kommt
sie kommen
Sie kommen
Er kommt aus Irland. (He comes from Ireland.)
If the verb stem ends in -d or -t, place an e in front of the verb endings -st and -t. The
following table shows how you conjugate the regular verb like arbeiten (to work) in
the present tense. The endings are marked in bold. The stem arbeit- ends in -t, so you
add an e before the verb endings for the second- and third-person singular (du
arbeitest, er/sie/es arbeitet) and the second-person plural familiar form (ihr
arbeitet).
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
arbeiten (to work )
ich arbeite
wir arbeiten
du arbeitest
ihr arbeitet
er/sie/es arbeitet
sie arbeiten
Sie arbeiten
Du arbeitest sehr schnell. (You work very fast.)
Both English and German sometimes insert extra vowels to make a verb understandable. Just try saying she teachs as one syllable — it’s not easy. English adds an e
before the -s so teaches expands to two syllables; the listener can then recognize that
the speaker is using the third-person singular. German adds -est and -et to du arbeitand er/sie/es arbeit- for the same reason: pronunciation. Adding the e lets speakers
pronounce arbeitet with three syllables.
With a few verbs that don’t have an -en infinitive ending, notably wandern (to hike)
and tun (to do), drop -n from the infinitive and add only -n to
U The first-person plural form: wir wandern (we hike) and wir tun (we do)
U The third-person plural form: sie wandern (they hike) and sie tun (they do)
U The formal second-person singular and plural form: Sie wandern (you hike) and
Sie tun (you do)
The following lists other common regular German verbs. You can use the regular conjugation on all of them:
U arbeiten (to work)
U kosten (to cost)
U bringen (to bring)
U lernen (to learn)
U finden (to find, have an opinion)
U reisen (to travel)
U gehen (to go, walk)
U sagen (to say)
U heißen (to be called, named)
U schreiben (to write)
U kaufen (to buy)
U spielen (to play [a game, cards])
U kennen (to know [a person])
U wandern (to hike, wander)
U kommen (to come)
U wohnen (to live)
In the following exercise, decide which verb conjugation to insert in the space provided. The English verb is at the end of the phrase, and the personal pronoun provides
the clue for the German ending. If you don’t see the personal pronoun, think which one
would replace the noun(s) or name(s) that you do see and conjugate as you would for
that pronoun.
Q. Was _________________ ihr? (to play)
A. Was spielt ihr? (What are you playing?)
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Chapter 5: Grasping the Present Tense
13. Sabina und Moritz _________________ nach Australien. (to travel)
14. Der Computer _________________ 599€. (to cost)
15. Meine Großmutter und ich _________________ beide Monika. (to be named, called)
16. _________________ du oft Briefe? (to write)
17. Ich _________________ sehr gern in den Bergen. (to hike)
18. Wo _________________ Sie? (to live)
19. Manfred _________________ heute Abend spät nach Hause. (to come)
20. _________________ ihr den Mann da drüben? (to know)
21. Ja, mein Mann _________________ mit ihm in derselben Firma. (to work)
22. Wohin _________________ Sie? (to go)
23. Heute _________________ Florian und Maria ein Auto. (to buy)
24. Ich _________________ Deutsch sehr leicht zu lernen. (to find, have the opinion)
Conjugating verbs with spelling changes
The verbs in this section are more or less regular, but their stems undergo a few small
changes in spelling. Luckily — or unluckily, depending on how you see it — many of
the spelling-change verbs are frequently used, so perhaps you can acquire them by
osmosis! You may notice that some of the verbs here are cognates, words that come
from a common ancestor and are often similar in meaning and spelling. For instance,
fallen and to fall are the same, taking into account the German infinitive ending -en,
and helfen and to help closely resemble each other (check out Chapter 4 for more
about cognates).
These verbs with spelling changes are technically classified as verbs with stem-vowel
changes because — you guessed it — the vowel(s) in the stem changes when you
conjugate the verb. The stem is the part of the infinitive left after you slice off the -en
ending: Sprechen (to speak) is the infinitive, and sprech- is the stem.
The stem-vowel changes take place in the du and er/sie/es forms (and in one verb
type, the ich form). When dealing with these types of verbs, you encounter the following changes:
U a→ä; au→äu (very small group including laufen [to run])
U e→i
U e→ie
U e→i (nehmen); also, consonant change hm to mm (see the nehmen verb table)
U i→ei (wissen); also, ich and er/sie/es forms have no endings (see the wissen
verb table)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
The next five tables show each of these stem-vowel changes, along with the additional changes in nehmen (to take) and wissen (to know as a fact) groups. In these
tables, only the stem-vowel changing verb forms are in bold.
fahren (to drive): a→ä
ich fahre
wir fahren
du fährst
ihr fahrt
er/sie/es fährt
sie fahren
Sie fahren
Du fährst sehr vorsichtig. (You drive very carefully.)
Other a→ä verbs include the following:
U backen (to bake)
U laufen (to run)
U fallen (to fall)
U schlafen (to sleep)
U gefallen (to like, enjoy)
U tragen (to carry, wear)
U halten (to stop, think about)
U waschen (to wash)
sprechen (to speak ): e→i
ich spreche
wir sprechen
du sprichst
ihr sprecht
er/sie/es spricht
sie sprechen
Sie sprechen
Adrienne spricht fließend Englisch, Deutsch, und Französisch.
(Adrienne speaks fluent English, German, and French.)
Here are some other e→i verbs:
U essen (to eat)
U geben (to give)
U helfen (to help)
U vergessen (to forget)
lesen (to read ): e→ie
ich lese
wir lesen
du liest
ihr lest
er/sie/es liest
sie lesen
Sie lesen
Das Kind liest schon Romane. (The child already reads novels.)
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Chapter 5: Grasping the Present Tense
Sehen (to see) is also an e→ie verb.
nehmen (to take): e→i, hm→mm
ich nehme
wir nehmen
du nimmst
ihr nehmt
er/sie/es nimmt
sie nehmen
Sie nehmen
Du nimmst zu viele Kekse! (You’re taking too many cookies!)
wissen (to know as a fact ): i→ei
ich weiß
wir wissen
du weißt
ihr wisst
er/sie/es weiß
sie wissen
Sie wissen
Weißt du, wer das ist? (Do you know who that is?)
When you use wissen to refer to information in the sentence, you use a comma to
separate the two sentence parts.
Try your hand at mastering the fine art of stem-vowel changes: In the following exercise, decide which verb conjugation to insert in the space provided. Remember, the
stem-vowel changes take place in the du and er/sie/es (second-person singular
familiar and third-person singular). You may have to make a few other changes, so
make sure you refer to the preceding tables.
Q. _________________ du eine Jacke zum Abendessen? (to wear)
A. Trägst du eine Jacke zum Abendessen? (Are you wearing a jacket to dinner?)
25. Helena _________________ am schnellsten. (to run)
26. Ich _________________ sehr schlecht ohne meine Brille. (to see)
27. Mein Vater _________________ mir viel Geld. (to give)
28. Was _________________ ihr zum Frühstück? (to eat)
29. Meistens _________________ die Kinder nur bis 6.00 Uhr. (to sleep)
30. Wohin _________________ du am Wochenende? (to drive)
31. Ludwig _________________ Deutsch mit einem schwäbischen Akzent. (to speak)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Conjugating the irregulars haben
and sein: To have and to be
To have and to be: It sounds like a cross between a book title by an adventurous journalist turned author and a famous quote in English literature or a remake of a movie
from the ’40s. Whatever comes to mind when you think of these two verbs, haben
(to have) and sein (to be) are stars in their own right.
These two common verbs are irregular. Just as in English, you come across them as
full-fledged, free-standing, autonomous verbs and as auxiliary (helping) verbs. (For
more on auxiliary verbs, see Chapter 9.) The auxiliary verb function of haben and
sein is to work with other verbs in a frequently used verb tense: the present perfect,
which I discuss in Chapter 16. For now, I simply show you what haben and sein look
like in the present tense and explain how the English and German uses of these verbs
compare.
Haben: Let me have it
Look at the conjugation of haben in the present tense. Notice that the verb actually
has only two irregular verb forms: du hast and er/sie/es hat. The rest follow the regular verb conjugation pattern of taking the stem (in this case hab-) and adding the
usual ending.
haben (to have)
ich habe
wir haben
du hast
ihr habt
er/sie/es hat
sie haben
Sie haben
Sie hat eine grosse Familie. (She has a large family.)
German, like English, has many expressions that involve the verb to have. Many of them
are the same in German and in English: Zeit haben (to have time). Others aren’t — for
example, English has two ways to express that something is absolutely necessary, must
and have to. German has only one, müssen (must): Ich muß anfangen (I have to start).
In other cases, German uses the verb haben when English has a different construction:
U Expressing likes with haben and the adverb gern: Gern means gladly, with
pleasure when you use it alone. When expressing likes, gern is usually placed at
the end of the sentence: Hast du klassische Musik gern? (Do you like classical
music?). You find more on this expression in Chapter 11.
U Talking about your birthday: You say Ich habe am achten Oktober Geburtstag
(My birthday is on the eighth of October).
U With expressions that describe a physical condition, an emotional condition,
or a state of being: Five common expressions are
• Angst haben (to be afraid)
• Durst haben (to be thirsty)
• Glück haben (to be lucky, fortunate)
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Chapter 5: Grasping the Present Tense
• Hunger haben (to be hungry)
• Recht haben (to be right)
Try these exercises using the verb haben. First, write the sentence in German. You
have the elements you need to form the sentence (or question) separated by a slash
(/). Combine the parts, making sure you use the right conjugated form of haben.
Second, try to write the same sentence in English. If you find this task difficult, look
at the Answer Key at the end of this chapter.
Q. Haben / du / einen Hund?
A. Hast du einen Hund? (Do you have a dog? )
32. Nein, ich / haben / eine Katze.
__________________________________________________________________________________
33. Wann / haben / ihr / Zeit?
__________________________________________________________________________________
34. Wir / haben / kein Wasser.
__________________________________________________________________________________
35. Ein Polizist / haben / immer Recht.
__________________________________________________________________________________
36. Ihr / haben / viele CDs.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Sein: To be or not to be
Look at the conjugation of sein (to be) in the present tense. Notice that all the verb
forms are irregular, although wir sind, sie sind, and Sie sind are identical. Regular
verb conjugations in the present tense also have the same endings for wir, sie, and
Sie pronouns. For comparison, consider the regular verb gehen (to go, walk): wir
gehen, sie gehen, and Sie gehen.
sein (to be)
ich bin
wir sind
du bist
ihr seid
er/sie/es ist
sie sind
Sie sind
Sind Sie Herr Schumpich? (Are you Mr. Schumpich?)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
The verb sein is a true workhorse in German. Not only does it tell you what is and
what isn’t, but you also use it to form the present perfect — although haben is the
main auxiliary verb for that task. (For more information on the present perfect tense,
see Chapter 16.)
German and English use the verb sein (to be) in similar ways (What’s your boss like? Is
it time yet? Who’s that? Is it quiet? Are you ready? No, we’re not. Am I too old? How much
is that? What’s up? Where are we? Isn’t she funny? Where are you? I’m lost.). Here’s how
you can use sein:
U With an adjective: This way is the most common:
Du bist sehr lustig. (You’re very funny.)
Mein Sohn ist nicht musikalisch. (My son is not musical.)
Some expressions in German use the verb sein with an adjective plus a noun or
pronoun in the dative case. (For more information on cases, refer to Chapter 4.)
A couple of common expressions are
Mir ist kalt/warm. (I’m cold/warm.) Mir is the dative case of the
pronoun ich.
Ihm ist schlecht/übel. (He’s feeling sick/sick to his stomach.) Ihm is the
dative case of the pronoun er.
U With an adverb:
Wir sind morgen nicht hier. (We’re not here tomorrow.)
Sie ist dort. (She’s there.)
U With nouns:
Sind Sie Kanadier? (Are you a Canadian?)
Ich bin Bauingenieur. (I’m a civil engineer.)
Note that German leaves out the article ein (a) for professions. (See Chapter 4
for more information.)
A few expressions using sein are expressed slightly differently from their English
equivalents:
U Wie ist ihre Telefonnummer/Adresse? (What’s your phone number/address?
Literally, wie means how.) Chapter 7 deals with questions.
U Hier ist Frau Becker. (I’m Mrs. Becker. — to identify yourself on the telephone)
U Ihr seid hier richtig. (You’re in the right place.)
Try these exercises using the verb sein. First, write the sentence in German. You have
the elements needed to form the sentence (or question) separated by a slash (/).
Combine the parts, making sure you use the right conjugated form of sein. Then try
to write the same sentence in English. Remember that in some situations, the present
tense in German is used for continuous and future tenses, as well as actions that
started in the past in English.
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Chapter 5: Grasping the Present Tense
Q. Unser Haus / sein/ nicht sehr groß.
A. Unser Haus ist nicht sehr groß. (Our house isn’t very large.)
37. Wie alt / sein / die Kinder?
__________________________________________________________________________________
38. Nächste Woche / sein / ihr in Freiburg.
__________________________________________________________________________________
39. Du / sein / sehr ruhig.
__________________________________________________________________________________
40. Uns / sein / kalt.
__________________________________________________________________________________
41. Seit wie lange / sein / Sie schon fertig?
__________________________________________________________________________________
Using the Very Versatile Present Tense
When you want to gain confidence speaking and writing in any language, you work on
polishing your verb skills so you feel competent using the present, the past, and the
future tenses. In German, grasping the present tense opens the door to several ways
of expressing yourself. Knowing how versatile the present tense is in German means
that you economize with this handy verb tense.
When you want to talk about something in German, first figure out whether you can
use the present tense. In virtually all the situations where you use the present in
English, you also use the present in German. In addition, you have a lot of opportunities in German to use the present tense when you have to use other verb tenses in
English. It certainly makes your life easier when you know these various situations!
The primary difference in usage is that English has a continuous verb form and German
doesn’t. English uses the present continuous (Our guests are staying until Sunday) to
indicate that an action is happening now, and it uses the present tense for habitual
actions or facts without expressing whether the action is going on at the time (My
brother lives on a lake). Because German doesn’t verbally express such time distinctions, the listener can interpret sentences such as Was denkst du? in two ways: What
are you thinking?/What’s on your mind? or What do you think?/What’s your opinion?
Look at Table 5-2 for three ways to translate one German sentence into English.
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Table 5-2
English Present Tense Translations
for German Present
German Present Tense
Possible English Translations
Intended Idea
Jörg spielt sehr gut
Basketball.
Jörg plays basketball very
well.
Stating a general fact, common
knowledge (simple present)
Jörg spielt sehr gut
Basketball.
Jörg is playing basketball
very well.
Happening now, today, this
week, and so on (present
continuous)
Jörg spielt sehr gut
Basketball.
Jörg does play basketball
very well.
Showing emphasis, or to
contradict someone’s opinion
(simple present with auxiliary do)
Hold on — there’s more to come on the versatility of the simple present tense in
German. You even use it to talk about future plans, predictions, spontaneous decisions made at the time of speaking, and for activities that started in the past and are
still going on. Table 5-3 shows how German uses the present tense for talking about
the future and the past.
Table 5-3
Future and Present Perfect Tense Translations
for German Present
German Present Tense
English uses other tenses
Intended idea
Wir treffen uns um
acht Uhr, oder?
We’re meeting/going to meet
at eight o’clock, aren’t we?
Stating a plan or intention
Vielleicht regnet es
morgen.
Maybe it’ll rain tomorrow.
Predicting or speculating
Warte mal, ich helfe
dir. (colloquial)
Wait a sec, I’ll help you.
Making a spontaneous decision
at the time of speaking, such as
offering help or promising
Sie arbeitet seit 20
Jahren bei der Firma.
She’s been working at the
company for 20 years.
Expressing an action that
started in the past and is still
going on
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Chapter 5: Grasping the Present Tense
Answer Key
a
Friends talking to each other use (plural form) ihr. Talking to is your key for second person,
and friends is your key for the informal, plural form.
b
You’re talking about your friends, so you use sie. Talking about tells you that you need third
person, and friends is your key for plural form.
c
An adult meeting another adult for the first time uses Sie. You show respect and formality
with Sie.
d
When you talk about yourself, you use ich.
e
An adult talking to three children aged 8, 11, and 14 uses ihr.
f
You’re talking to an animal, so you use du.
g
A man talking about his wife uses sie. He says she, so you need sie, the third-person
singular form.
h
When you talk about your cousin and yourself, you use wir.
i
You’re talking about your colleagues, so you use sie. Here, sie stands for they.
j
A teenaged customer talking to a sales assistant uses Sie. The teen’s age doesn’t matter; saying
Sie is polite and respectful. Even an adult would use Sie.
k
When you talk to someone on a ski lift in Switzerland, you use Sie. Start out with Sie; you’re
always safe. However, maybe you’ll hear the person using du. Or you may hear something like,
“Sollen wir uns dutzen?” (Shall we say du to one another?”) That’s your opportunity to answer,
“Gern!” (Yes, I’d like to! or Gladly!).
l
A military comrade talking to another comrade uses du. Especially in times of stress, people
working side by side need the support of each other, and familiarity and closeness are indicated by du.
m
Sabina und Moritz reisen nach Australien. (Sabina and Moritz are traveling to Australia.)
n
Der Computer kostet 599€. (The computer costs 599€.)
o
Meine Großmutter und ich heißen beide Monika. (My grandmother and I are both named Monika.)
p
Schreibst du oft Briefe? (Do you often write letters?)
q
Ich wandere sehr gern in den Bergen. (I like to hike in the mountains.)
r
Wo wohnen Sie? (Where do you live?)
s
Manfred kommt heute Abend spät nach Hause. (Manfred is coming home late this evening.)
t
Kennt ihr den Mann da drüben? (Do you know the man over there?)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
u
Ja, mein Mann arbeitet mit ihm in derselben Firma. (Yes, my husband works with him in the
same company.)
v
Wohin gehen Sie? (Where are you going?)
w
Heute kaufen Florian und Maria ein Auto. (Florian and Maria are buying a car today.)
x
Ich finde Deutsch sehr leicht zu lernen. (I find it very easy to learn German/I think it’s very easy
to learn German.)
y
Helena läuft am schnellsten. (Helena runs the fastest.)
A
Ich sehe sehr schlecht ohne meine Brille. (I see very poorly without my glasses.)
B
Mein Vater gibt mir viel Geld. (My father gives/is giving me a lot of money.)
C
Was esst ihr zum Frühstück? (What do you eat/are you eating for breakfast?)
D
Meistens schlafen die Kinder nur bis 6.00 Uhr. (The children usually sleep only until 6 a.m.)
E
Wohin fährst du am Wochenende? (Where are you driving to/going on the weekend?)
F
Ludwig spricht Deutsch mit einem schwäbischen Akzent. (Ludwig speaks German with a Swabian
accent.) Swabia is a region in the southwest of Germany, where the inhabitants have a distinct
accent somewhat similar to Swiss German.
G
Nein, ich habe eine Katze. (No, I have a cat.)
H
Wann habt ihr Zeit? (When do you have time?)
I
Wir haben kein Wasser. (We don’t have any water.)
J
Ein Polizist hat immer Recht. (A policeman is always right.) This is one that’s expressed
differently in English.
K
Ihr habt viele CDs. (You have a lot of CDs.)
L
Wie alt sind die Kinder? (How old are the children?)
M
Nächste Woche seid ihr in Freiburg. (Next week you’ll be in Freiburg.) In German, you can
express this type of future using the present tense.
N
Du bist sehr ruhig. (You’re very quiet.)
O
Uns ist kalt. (We’re cold.) Uns is the dative case pronoun; it’s like saying to us it’s cold.
P
Seit wie lange sind Sie schon fertig? (How long have you been ready?) In German, you use the
present tense (are) here, not the present perfect (have been), as you do in English.
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Chapter 6
Are You Asking or Telling Me?
Questions and Commands
In This Chapter
© Asking yes/no questions
© Calling all question words: Who, where, what, why?
© Tagging questions: You can do it, can’t you?
© Commanding the imperative: Do it!
A
sking questions puts you in the conversational driver’s seat. You use questions
to initiate dialogues, find out what you need to know, and clarify information
you’re not sure about. When you’re studying a new language, you may find that your
counterpart is speaking so fast that you can barely understand the first word, let
alone the barrage that follows. So you ask the person to slow down: Langsamer, bitte
(Slower, please). This isn’t bad for a start, but you still don’t know what the person
just said. You feel like asking where the stop button (or at least the rewind button) is,
but instead you ask, Können Sie das bitte wiederholen? (Could you repeat that,
please?). But you’re still in the back seat, and your goal is to get behind the wheel.
How you achieve that is simple: You implement effective question techniques.
This chapter gets you up to speed on formulating questions. At the end of each section, you can go for a test drive (not exactly racing on the Nürburgring, leider [unfortunately]) and see how skillful you are at making questions. (Refer to Chapter 7 for
detailed practice in answering questions.) Verstehen Sie, was ich meine? (Do you
understand what I mean?)
In addition to questions, you also need to know how to tell someone to do something.
You use the imperative form for giving commands, giving instruction, persuading
people, and offering encouragement. This chapter also gives you tools for understanding and using the imperative. Read on.
Inverting Word Order for Yes/No Questions
German word order is easy to follow when you form a question that merits a yes or no
answer. You simply flip the subject and the conjugated (main) verb: The verb is in first
place, and the subject is in second place (where the verb usually goes in statements).
English is more complicated because you usually use the auxiliary (helping) verb to do
or to be together with the main verb; in English, only the auxiliary verb goes in first
place. Take a look at the German and its translations:
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Leben Sie in einer Großstadt? (Do you live in a large city?)
Bleibt sie hier? (Is she staying here?)
Ist es kalt bei Ihnen im Winter? (Is it cold where you live in the winter?)
The German present tense encompasses two English verb tenses (and more). The present continuous doesn’t exist in German, so in the second question here, you use the
present. (See Chapter 5 for more on the present tense.) The inverted word order in
German is the same for both the present tense and present-continuous tense in English.
Am Bahnhof (at the train station): Imagine you’re in München (Munich), and you’re
planning an Ausflug (outing, excursion) to Berlin. You decide to take the train, so you
go the window marked Reiseauskunft (travel information). In this exercise, you see a
list of questions followed by a dialogue. Write the questions in the correct spaces provided. Read everything before you start to fill in the questions so you get the gist of
the conversation.
Haben Sie viel Gepäck dabei?
Fährt ein Zug am Nachmittag?
Kann ich Ihnen helfen?
Ist das Ticket 1. Klasse sehr teuer?
Gibt es ein gutes Hotel am Bahnhof in Berlin?
Wollen Sie ein Ticket 1. Klasse oder 2. Klasse nehmen?
Fahren Sie innerhalb Deutschlands?
Ist der Transport für das Fahrrad sehr teuer?
Kann ich aber ein Fahrrad mitnehmen?
Reisen Sie nach Berlin hin und zurück?
Q. Bahnhofsangestellter (train station clerk): Grüß Gott. __________________________________?
Reisender (traveler): Ja, ich brauche eine Auskunft. Kann ich hier Tickets kaufen?
A. Grüß Gott. Kann ich ihnen helfen? (Hello. Can I help you?)
R: Ja, ich brauche eine Auskunft. Kann ich hier Tickets kaufen? (Yes. I need some information. Can I buy tickets here?)
1. B: Ja. ___________________________________________________________________________?
R: Ja. Ich möchte nach Berlin fahren.
2. B: ______________________________________________________________________________?
3. R: Ich weiß nicht. ________________________________________________________________?
4. B: Nein, es kostet nur 45€ mehr. ___________________________________________________?
R: Ja, genau.
5. B: ______________________________________________________________________________?
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Chapter 6: Are You Asking or Telling Me? Questions and Commands
6. R: Nein, nur eine Tasche. __________________________________________________________?
B: Sicher, kein Problem.
7. R: ______________________________________________________________________________?
B: Nun, Sie müssen 20€ für das Rad bezahlen.
8. R: ______________________________________________________________________________?
B: Ja, Sie können um 13.30 Uhr oder um 15.15 Uhr abfahren.
9. R: Gut, dann nehme ich den Zug um 13.30 Uhr. ______________________________________?
B: Ja, es gibt mehrere Hotels.
R: Sehr freundlich, vielen Dank für ihre Auskunft.
Gathering Information with Question
Words: Who, What, Why, and More
When kids reach the age of asking why, it’s marvelous at first, but after weeks of nonstop questioning, you may wonder whether they’re practicing for a career in some government spy agency. Asking why is a kid’s way of engaging an adult in conversation just
as much as it is a way of gathering information. As you progress in German, you need
question words (interrogative pronouns) such as who, what, where, and when to gather
specific information, but you can also use the kid’s tactic of asking wer (who), was
(what), warum (why), and so on as a tool for engaging people in conversation. Doing so
is a useful tactic because it gives you more control over the direction of the discussion.
The inverted word order for yes/no questions (see the preceding section) is the same
for information-gathering questions, only the question word (or phrase) comes first.
Thus, the word order for info-gathering questions is question word + verb + subject,
such as Warum ist der Himmel blau? (Why is the sky blue?) or Wann fahren wir
nach Hause? (When are we driving home?).
Table 6-1 lists 12 German question words and phrases, the English equivalent in
alphabetical order, and an example question in English with its German equivalent.
Table 6-1
Question Words and Example Questions
Question Word
Example Sentence
Translation
wie (how)
Wie heißen Sie?
What is your name?
wie viele (how many)
Wie viele Personen arbeiten
in Ihrer Firma?
How many people work
in your company?
wie viel (how much)
Wie viel kostet die Karte?
How much is the ticket?
(continued)
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Table 6-1 (continued)
Question Word
Example Sentence
Translation
was (what)
Was machen wir nach
der Pause?
What are we doing after
the break?
was für (what kind of)
Was für ein Auto fahren Sie?
What kind of car do you
drive?
wann (when)
Wann beginnt das Konzert?
When does the concert
begin?
wo (where)
Wo wohnen Sie?
Where do you live?
woher (where . . . from)
Woher kommen Sie?
Where are you from?
wohin (where . . . [to])
Wohin fährt der Bus?
Where does the bus go
(to)?
welcher/welche/
welches (which)
Welche Straßenbahn soll
Which tram should I
ich nehmen? (die Straßenbahn) take?
wer (nominative)(who),
Wer ist Ihr Chef?
wen (accusative )(whom, who),
wem (dative)(who),
wessen (genitive)(whose)
warum (why)
Warum hält der Zug jetzt (an)?
Who is your boss?
Why is the train stopping
now?
Welcher/welche/welches (which) is an interrogative pronoun with three versions to
correspond with the three noun genders der/die/das: welcher Computer (which computer), welche Frau (which woman), welches Auto (which car). You need to remember
that it has adjective endings — in other words, the case endings of the noun it’s
describing. For example, consider Mit welchem Bus soll ich fahren? (Which bus
should I take? Literally: With which bus should I drive/travel?). The preposition mit uses
the dative case, and der Bus is masculine, so mit welchem Bus uses the masculine
dative singular form of welch- in the prepositional phrase.
Wer (who) is an interrogative pronoun that has three other forms. Wer is the nominative case, wen (whom, who) is accusative, wem (who) is dative, and wessen (whose)
is genitive.
In the following dialogue, Julian is interested in language courses for his company. He
telephones Angelika, the coordinator at Interface Sprachenschule, who answers his
questions. Put the appropriate question words from Table 6-1 into the spaces.
Q. _________________ Buch benutzen Sie in Ihrer Sprachenschule? (das Buch)
A. Welches Buch benutzen Sie in Ihrer Sprachenschule? (Which book do you use in your
language school?)
10. Angelika: Interface Sprachenschule, guten Morgen!
Julian: Guten Morgen, Julian Stromberger von der Firma Nordstern.
A: Kann ich Ihnen helfen?
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Chapter 6: Are You Asking or Telling Me? Questions and Commands
J: Ja, wir möchten einen Sprachkurs für Spanisch machen.
A: Kein Problem, sehr gerne.
J: _________________ kostet so ein Sprachkurs?
11. A: _________________ Personen machen den Kurs?
J: Wir sind vier Personen.
A: Dann kostet der Kurs 500€ pro Person.
12. J: _________________ Stunden sind es?
A: Es sind 40 Stunden.
13. J: _________________ ist es so teuer?
A: Weil es nur vier Personen sind.
14. J: _________________ ist der Unterricht?
A: Der Unterricht kann in Ihrer Firma sein.
J: Oh, in Ordnung, einverstanden.
15. A: _________________ soll die Lehrerin fahren?
J: Sie muß nach Starnberg fahren.
A: Einverstanden.
16. J: _________________ macht den Unterricht?
A: Eine junge Lehrerin.
17. J: _________________ heißt die Lehrerin?
A: Sie heißt Cristina.
18. J: _________________ kommt sie?
A: Sie kommt aus Santiago de Chile.
19. J: _________________ können wir anfangen?
A: Sie können nächste Woche am Montag anfangen.
J: Ah, gut, vielen Dank. Auf Wiederhören.
A: Danke für Ihren Anruf. Auf Wiederhören.
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Checking Information: Tag!
You’re It, Aren’t You?
When you’re talking to someone and you want to check some information, you may
say something like this, expecting the listener to agree with you: The mall opens at 10,
doesn’t it? The same tactic is handy when you’re not sure whether the other person is
actually listening to you or is more engrossed in the game on TV.
As you delve into the depths of the German language, you can easily wonder at how
much more complicated German grammar seems than English grammar. Then you stumble upon the realm of tag questions, and you can giggle at how simple it is to play tag in
German. A tag question is simply what you tack onto the end of a statement to make it
into a question. In English, the tag depends on the subject and verb in the statement.
The possibilities are practically endless in English: isn’t she?, do you?, can’t you?, wasn’t
it?, were you?, wouldn’t it?, are you?, and so on. The German equivalent is far simpler.
To form a tag question in German, just add nicht? (Literally: not?) or nicht wahr?
(Literally: not true?) to the end of the sentence. Both expressions serve the same function as the long list of tag question equivalents in English: to shake out a sign of agreement, disagreement, or even just a grunt of acknowledgement from the listener. You can
use tag questions interchangeably. They aren’t grammatically linked to the first part of
the sentence, as they are in English, so any time you want to elicit a response from
someone as a means of checking your information, to show agreement or disagreement,
and so on, you can use nicht or nicht war, even if you’re talking about something in the
past, present, or future or something that is negative or positive.
Sie fahren morgen nach Düsseldorf, nicht wahr? (You’re going/driving to
Düsseldorf tomorrow, aren’t you?)
Der Film war nicht besonders gut, nicht? (The movie wasn’t especially good, was it?)
Other tags abound in colloquial German. One common tag is oder? (Literally: or?),
and another one you may hear in the southern German-speaking regions is gell?
(loosely translated as right?). Sticking with the two “official” tag elements is best, but
if you hear people around you using oder? or gell?, you may want to try them out as
well, keeping in mind that they’re colloquial and regional German. Both of these tags
are used the same way as nicht and nicht wahr — in other words, to check that you
understand some information, to elicit a response from someone, to show agreement
or disagreement, and so on.
If you’re using the Sie form, stick to the standard German tags, nicht and
nicht wahr.
In this exercise, you’re checking some information. Add on your choice of the four
German tags — nicht? nicht wahr? oder? gell? — to the end of the statement.
Q. Sie wohnen in Graz, _________________?
A. Sie wohnen in Graz, nicht wahr? (You live in Graz, don’t you?)
20. Der Mann da drüben heißt Herr Storch, _________________?
21. Wir haben noch eine Stunde Zeit, _________________?
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Chapter 6: Are You Asking or Telling Me? Questions and Commands
22. Hier regnet es oft im Frühling, _________________?
23. Sie sind morgen im Büro, _________________?
24. Sie hat uns alle wichtigen Informationen gegeben, _________________?
Combining Question Words:
Compounds with WoYou’re listening to the German businessman sitting next to you on the plane telling
you something like Ich bin gegen höhere Benzinpreise (I’m against higher gas
prices). You hear the first part of the statement, ich bin gegen, but you don’t catch
the rest — what’s he against? That one song about Benzin by Rammstein? You ask, Sie
sind gegen was? (You’re against what?). The businessman can understand your question, but it sounds as though you’re challenging his opinion. It’s a bit like saying, Just
what is it that you claim you’re against?! and insinuating that you don’t agree at all.
How do you communicate that you don’t want to challenge his judgment, but you do
need a repeat of the statement? You ask, Wogegen sind Sie? (What are you against?).
The question Wogegen sind Sie literally means What against are you? Wogegen asks
for the object of the preposition gegen (against). In German, you stick wo- in front of
the preposition. The wo- signals to the listener that a question is coming up and that
it’s going to be about the object of the preposition. The listener gets the most important information first in the question.
The German word order in questions beginning with wo- compounds like worüber
(what about, what over) may seem odd at first: Worüber spricht sie? (What’s she talking about? Literally: What over [about] is she talking?). However, compare it to a similar structure in really formal English: To whom am I speaking? instead of the far more
natural sounding, Who am I speaking to? Remember: Such word order may seem odd
in English, yet it’s standard fare in German.
A second important function of the compound question words using wo- is to prompt
the listener that the question you’re asking allows an open-ended answer: Wofür sind
Sie? (What are you for?). The listener may answer like this: Ich bin für den Frieden (I’m
for peace) or Ich bin für einen Spaziergang im Park (I’m [up] for a walk in the park).
The meaning of the preposition in the compound with wo- may be different from the
original meaning. Remember that many German verbs require particular prepositions
in particular contexts (check out Chapter 15 for more on prepositions), which sometimes can determine which preposition you choose to combine with wo-, such as
Worauf warten Sie? (What are you waiting for?) or Ich warte auf den Bus (I’m waiting
for the bus). The person posing the question uses the phrase warten auf . . . in question form. The reply contains the complete phrase (ich warte auf) with the object of
the preposition (den Bus).
When you know the most common verb-preposition combinations, you’re on the road
to success at forming wo- compounds. (Chapter 11 and Chapter 15 help you with such
combinations.) However, you also need to know which grammatical case to use with
prepositions. Most important is being aware that prepositions can change meaning
depending on the context of the sentence, so it’s wise to know fixed expressions.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Table 6-2 shows the most common compounds formed by adding wo- to the prepositions. The English equivalents can help you to get a feel for the preposition, but they
change meaning according to the context of the sentence. When the preposition
begins with a vowel, the letter r is inserted between the two elements of the question
word (for instance, wo + r + in = worin).
Table 6-2
Questioning Using wo- Compounds
German Preposition
Translation
Wo- Compound
an
on, at, to
woran
auf
on top of, to
worauf
aus
out of, from
woraus
durch
through, by
wodurch
für
for
wofür
gegen
against
wogegen
in
in, inside of
worin
hinter
behind, after
wohinter
mit
with, by
womit
nach
after, to
wonach
über
over, above
worüber
um
around
worum
unter
under
worunter
von
from, by
wovon
vor
in front of, before
wovor
zu
to, at
wozu
The following exercise provides two tasks. First, you see a question with the wo- question
compound missing; use the answers for each question to help you decide which woword you need to insert. Then try your hand at translating the reply into English.
Q. _________________ haben Sie Respekt? Ich habe Respekt vor anderen Menschen.
A. Wovor haben Sie Respekt? (What/Whom do you have respect for?)
Ich habe Respekt vor anderen Menschen. (I have respect for other people.)
25. _________________ wartest du? Ich warte auf meine Freundin.
__________________________________________________________________________________
26. _________________ ist er? Er ist für mehr Freiheit.
__________________________________________________________________________________
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Chapter 6: Are You Asking or Telling Me? Questions and Commands
27. _________________ bitten Sie? Ich bitte um einen Stift.
__________________________________________________________________________________
28. _________________ werden Sie krank? Durch schlechten Fisch werde ich krank.
__________________________________________________________________________________
29. _________________ halten Sie sich? Ich halte mich an die Gesetze.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Making Choices: Asking What Kind of . . . ?
You’re looking at a ticket machine for the public transportation system in a major
German city. You know the system is really extensive because on the wall next to the
machine is a huge subway/light rail map, the U-Bahn/S-Bahn Netzplan (U-Bahn is
short for Untergrundbahn [subway], and S-Bahn stands for Schnellbahn [commuter
rail/light rail]). The shiny blue and silver ticket machine is a real gem from a technical
standpoint, but it doesn’t look very user-friendly to Ausländer (foreigners) like you.
The machine must provide lots of ticket choices because there are all kinds of buttons to push and various slots for inserting money and taking out tickets; still, no one
seems to be having any trouble. You have two choices: Pretend you’re at a slot
machine in Las Vegas, press a few buttons, and hope you’ll get a ticket out of the deal,
or use the phrase was für (ein) and ask a likely victim, “Was für eine Karte brauche
ich?” (What kind of ticket do I need?) — or, pointing to the ticket in her hand, ask,
“Was für eine Karte ist das?” (What kind of a ticket is that?).
Obviously, I suggest you try the second option: To form this type of question, you use
the phrase was für (ein) with a noun as the subject (nominative case) or the direct
object (accusative case) of a question. I break down two questions to show you how
this works. First, Was für eine Karte ist das? (What kind of a ticket is that?). In this
question, you start as always with was für. Next, add the subject of the sentence,
eine Karte (a ticket), and then the verb ist (is) and das (that, indicating the ticket the
passenger is holding). The second question, Was für eine Karte brauche ich? (What
kind of ticket do I need?) starts the same way with was für, followed by eine Karte,
which is the object of the sentence. The verb brauche (need) follows, and then comes
the subject of the question, ich (I).
If you’re having trouble figuring out what a subject (nominative case) is and what
a direct object (accusative case) is, turn the question into a normal, declarative
sentence. To Was für eine Karte ist das? you may hear the answer Das ist eine
Streifenkarte (That’s a strip ticket). Eine Streifenkarte is nominative case; you use it
with the verb sein (to be). To answer Was für eine Karte brauche ich? you may hear
Sie brauchen eine Streifenkarte (You need a strip ticket). The subject is Sie, in nominative case, and the object is eine Streifenkarte, in accusative case.
Table 6-3 shows the breakdown of the grammatical structure for asking was für ein . . .?
(what kind of . . .?) Notice the case and gender endings of the subject and object in each
question; remember that the preposition für in was für doesn’t determine the case;
rather, the other information in the question does so.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Table 6-3
Was Für: Showing Case and Gender Endings
Gender/
Number
Nominative
(Was Für . . .?)
Translation
Accusative
(Was Für . . .?)
Translation
Masculine
Was für ein
Fahrschein ist das?
What kind of
ticket is that?
Was für einen
Fahrschein
brauche ich?
What kind of
ticket do I
need?
Feminine
Was für eine
Fahrkarte ist das?
What kind of
ticket is that?
Was für eine
Fahrkarte
brauche ich?
What kind of
ticket do I
need?
Neuter
Was für ein
Bier ist das?
What kind of
beer is that?
Was für ein Bier
trinken Sie?
What kind of
beer are you
drinking?
Plural
Was für Geschäfte
sind hier im Ort?
(no article needed)
What kinds of
shops are (there)
in this town?
Was für Geschäfte What kinds of
verkaufen
shops sell
Bierkrüge?
beer steins?
In the following exercise, you’re spending some time in Munich. You’re curious about
everything around you, so you ask a lot of questions. Write the questions in German
using the cues in English. Table 6-3 can help you decide the case and gender endings;
the noun and its gender are given in German in parentheses.
Q. What kind of ticket is the “Streifenkarte”? (German has two words for transport ticket: die
Fahrkarte and der Fahrschein. You also see the word das Ticket in German usage.)
A. Was für eine Fahrkarte/ein Fahrschein ist die “Streifenkarte”? (What kind of ticket is
the “Streifenkarte”? ) Die Streifenkarte is a strip ticket, and it’s your best choice when you
want to take a few rides over a period of a couple of days. Nominative case here; the verb
sein (to be) uses nominative.
30. What kind of a museum is that? (the museum = das Museum)
__________________________________________________________________________________
31. What kind of a salad are you eating? (the salad = der Salat)
__________________________________________________________________________________
32. What kind of a beverage is that? (the beverage = das Getränk)
__________________________________________________________________________________
33. What kind of a store is that? (the store = das Geschäft)
__________________________________________________________________________________
34. What kind of music does this pub/bar have? (the music = die Musik)
__________________________________________________________________________________
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Chapter 6: Are You Asking or Telling Me? Questions and Commands
Using the Imperative: Do It!
When you want to give someone orders to do something, you can use the imperative
form, also called the command form. However, you can also use the imperative form
in other situations, such as giving instructions, offering encouragement, making suggestions, and persuading people. This section gives the lowdown on the imperative.
Giving orders
When telling someone to do something, you use the imperative. You want to ensure you
use the correct verb form and punctuation so the person you’re talking to understands.
(However, that still doesn’t mean he or she will do what you say.) Keep reading to see
how to use the imperative correctly.
Verb forms
English has one verb form for the imperative (stop here please, get me a pen please,
go home, watch out!). You may be talking to one person, several people, a bus driver, a
friend, or your neighbor’s dog. On the other hand, German has three forms, depending
on whom you’re addressing. They correspond to the three German pronouns that represent you — Sie, ihr, and du. Table 6-4 shows examples of these three imperative forms
and explains how to form the verbs. I mention the few exceptions right after the table.
The Three German Imperative Forms of You
Table 6-4
German
Pronoun
Translation
German Example
Sentence
Translation
How to Form
the Verb
Sie
you (formal,
singular or plural)
Zeigen Sie mir,
bitte! (zeigen)
Please show me.
Same as presenttense Sie form
ihr
you (informal,
plural)
Öffnet bitte die
Fenster! (öffnen)
Please open
the windows.
Same as presenttense ihr form
du
you (informal,
singular)
Fahre vorsichtig!
(fahren)
Drive carefully.
Stem of a verb + -e
Normally, the du imperative form is straightforward: verb stem + -e (for example,
geh + -e = gehe [go]). Here are the three du imperative exceptions:
U In informal German, the -e is often dropped: pass auf (watch out)
U In verbs with a stem ending in -d or -t, you often don’t drop the -e: arbeite (work)
U If the verb has a stem vowel change, the imperative has this vowel change and
does not have -e at the end of the verb: essen = iss (eat). (See Chapter 4 for verbs
with stem vowel changes.)
The verb sein (to be) is irregular (of course!) in the imperative:
U Sie form: seien Sie
U ihr form: seid
U du form: sei
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Punctuation
When you write a command in German, put an exclamation mark at the end of the
phrase. It isn’t intended to make the command sound like a do-or-die situation; it’s
simply a grammatical element of the imperative form, just as a question mark belongs
at the end of a question.
The liberal use of exclamation marks on German signage as a means of signaling warning can be a bit overwhelming at first. Rasen nicht betreten! (Don’t walk on the grass)
may seem threatening, but don’t let it give you the impression that you’ll go straight to
jail if you dare to place even one toe on the grass. The exclamation mark is meant to
draw your attention to the sign so you recognize it as a directive that you need to
adhere to. Grammatically speaking, the format of Rasen nicht betreten! is an imperative, but it’s the infinitive form of the verb that you see more often on signs, and it often
takes the form of a prohibition with nicht preceding the infinitive. Nicht hinauslehnen!
(Don’t lean out!) is an example of a sign posted on a train window. The exclamation
mark adds strength to the message.
Requests and suggestions: Looking
at question-command hybrids
In some cases, the imperative walks the fine line between asking and telling someone
to do something. Both have inverted word order with the verb first, followed by the
subject. Look at the question Können Sie das bitte machen? (Could you do that,
please?). You’re asking someone to do something, so you generally formulate your
request more politely using a helping verb such as können (could). In addition, you
end the request in a rising voice, and you use a question mark. By contrast, when you
want to tell someone to do something in more direct but polite language, you make a
request such as Machen Sie das, bitte (Please do that). Your voice falls at the end, and
you use a period.
Können Sie mir bitte helfen? (Could you help me, please?) The question form,
können, and bitte indicate a request that you’re asking someone (politely) to do
something. When you say it, your voice rises at the end.
Helfen Sie mir, bitte. (Please help me/Give me a hand, please.) The imperative
form is a request in more direct language, but bitte makes it sound polite. This is
probably something you’d say, not write.
Another use of the imperative is for making suggestions. When referring to wir (we)
as the people who may follow the suggestion, the German looks like this: Fahren wir
Fahrrad (Let’s go bicycling). It’s the wir verb form with inverted word order.
For each infinitive, provide the imperative verb forms for Sie, ihr, and du. Use all the
preceding information to help you form the three different imperative forms. Because
these are commands, they all need the exclamation mark.
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Chapter 6: Are You Asking or Telling Me? Questions and Commands
Q. schneller arbeiten (to work faster)
A. Sie: Arbeiten Sie schneller!
ihr: Arbeitet schneller!
du: Arbeite schneller!
35. langsam essen (to eat slowly)
Sie: _________________ ihr: _________________
du: _________________
36. vorsichtig fahren (to drive carefully)
Sie: _________________ ihr: _________________
du: _________________
37. nicht gehen (to not walk)
Sie: _________________ ihr: _________________
du: _________________
38. lesen (to read)
Sie: _________________ ihr: _________________
du: _________________
39. machen (to make, do)
Sie: _________________ ihr: _________________
du: _________________
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Answer Key
a
B: Ja. Fahren Sie innerhalb Deutschlands? (Yes. Are you traveling within Germany?)
R: Ja. Ich möchte nach Berlin fahren. (Yes. I’d like to go to Berlin.)
b
B: Wollen Sie ein Ticket 1. Klasse oder 2. Klasse nehmen? (Do you want a first- or second-class
ticket?)
c
R: Ich weiß nicht. Ist das Ticket 1. Klasse sehr teuer? (I don’t know. Is the first class ticket very
expensive?)
d
B: Nein, es kostet nur 45€ mehr. Reisen Sie nach Berlin hin und zurück? (No, it’s only 45€
more. Are you going round trip to Berlin?)
R: Ja, genau. (Yes, exactly.)
e
B: Haben Sie viel Gepäck dabei? (Do you have much luggage with you?) For an extra fee, you
may have your luggage picked up at your home and delivered to your destination.
f
R: Nein, nur eine Tasche. Kann ich aber ein Fahrrad mitnehmen? (No, only one bag. But can I
take a bicycle with me?)
B: Sicher, kein Problem. (Of course. No problem.) You can also rent bicycles from many train
stations.
g
R: Ist der Transport für das Fahrrad sehr teuer? (Is it expensive to transport the bicycle?)
B: Nun, Sie müssen 20€ für das Rad bezahlen. (Well, you have to pay 20€ for the bicycle.)
h
R: Fährt ein Zug am Nachmittag? (Is there a train leaving in the afternoon?)
B: Ja, Sie können um 13.30 Uhr oder um 15.15 Uhr abfahren. (Yes. You can leave at 1:30 p.m. or
3:15 p.m.) The 24-hour clock time system is easily calculated by adding 12 to p.m. times.
i
R: Gut, dann nehme ich den Zug um 13.30 Uhr. Gibt es ein gutes Hotel am Bahnhof in Berlin?
(Good, then I’ll take the train at 1:30 p.m. Is there a good hotel at the train station in Berlin?)
B: Ja, es gibt mehrere Hotels. (Yes, there are several hotels.)
R: Sehr freundlich, vielen Dank für Ihre Auskunft. (That’s very kind of you. Thank you for your
information.)
j
A: Interface Sprachenschule, guten Morgen! (Interface Language School. Good morning.)
J: Guten Morgen, Julian Stromberger von der Firma Nordstern. (Good morning. This is Julian
Stromberger from Nordstern Company.) Note: In German business situations, and even with private telephone calls, people answer the phone and identify themselves with their last name,
but there is a trend to give the whole name.
A: Kann ich Ihnen helfen? (Can I help you?)
J: Ja, wir möchten einen Sprachkurs für Spanisch machen. (Yes.We’d like to do a Spanish
language course.)
A: Kein Problem, sehr gerne. (No problem. That’s fine.)
J: Wie viel kostet so ein Sprachkurs? (How much does such a language course cost?)
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Chapter 6: Are You Asking or Telling Me? Questions and Commands
k
A: Wie viele Personen machen den Kurs? (How many people are taking the course?)
J: Wir sind vier Personen. (There are four of us. Literally: We are four people.)
A: Dann kostet der Kurs 500€ pro Person. (Then it costs 500€ per person.)
l
J: Wie viele Stunden sind es? (How many hours is it?)
A: Es sind 40 Stunden. (It’s 40 hours.)
m
J: Warum ist es so teuer? (Why is it so expensive?)
A: Weil es nur vier Personen sind. (Because there are only four people.) The conjunction weil
requires that the verb be placed at the end of the phrase.
n
J: Wo ist der Unterricht? (Where is the class?)
A: Der Unterricht kann in Ihrer Firma sein. (The class can take place in your company.)
J: Oh, in Ordnung, einverstanden. (Oh, all right. That’s agreed.) Another alternative translation
for einverstanden is very well.
o
A: Wohin soll die Lehrerin fahren? (Where should the teacher go?)
J: Sie muß nach Starnberg fahren. (She’ll need to go to Starnberg.) Müssen means must, but it
carries a stronger connotation in English than in German.
A: Einverstanden. (Very well.) Another alternative translation for einverstanden is agreed or
that’s agreed.
p
J: Wer macht den Unterricht? (Who is teaching the class?)
A: Eine junge Lehrerin. (A young teacher.)
q
J: Wie heißt die Lehrerin? (What is the teacher’s name?) The fixed expression you use to ask
someone’s name, wie heißen Sie? literally means how are you called?
A: Sie heißt Cristina. (Her name is Cristina.)
r
J: Woher kommt sie? (Where is she from?)
A: Sie kommt aus Santiago de Chile. (She’s from Santiago de Chile.)
s
J: Wann können wir anfangen? (When can we begin?)
A: Sie können nächste Woche am Montag anfangen. (You can start on Monday next week.)
J: Ah, gut, vielen Dank. Auf Wiederhören. (Oh, great, thank you very much. Goodbye.) In telephone language, you say, literally speaking, hear you later.
A: Danke für Ihren Anruf. Auf Wiederhören. (Thank you for you call. Goodbye.)
t
Der Mann da drüben heißt Herr Storch, nicht? (The man over there is Herr Storch, isn’t he?) This
sounds like a business situation, or at least formal situation, because the man is described with
his last name, so definitely you should use the “official” tags.
u
Wir haben noch eine Stunde Zeit, nicht wahr? (We have another hour, don’t we?) If you’re talking with a good friend, you can use gell or oder.
v
Hier regnet es oft im Frühling, nicht wahr? (It often rains here, doesn’t it?) If you’re talking with a
good friend, you can use gell or oder.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
w
Sie sind morgen im Büro, nicht? (You’ll be in the office tomorrow, won’t you?) Stick to the
nicht/nicht wahr — it’s a formal situation.
x
Sie hat uns alle wichtigen Informationen gegeben, nicht wahr? (She gave us all the important
information, didn’t she?) If you’re talking with a good friend, you can use gell or oder.
y
Worauf wartest du? (What are you waiting for?) Ich warte auf meine Freundin. (I’m waiting for
my [girl] friend.) The fixed expression is auf etwas warten. The preposition auf takes the
accusative.
A
Wofür ist er? (What is he for?) Er ist für mehr Freiheit. (He’s for more freedom.) The opposite
of für is gegen (against): Er ist gegen die Freiheit. (He’s against freedom.)
B
Worum bitten Sie? (What are you asking for?) Ich bitte um einen Stift. (I’m asking for a pencil.)
Um etwas bitten is the fixed expression. Um takes the accusative.
C
Wodurch werden Sie krank? (What can you get sick from?) Durch schlechten Fisch werde ich
krank. (I get sick from bad fish.) The preposition durch changes meaning when used in the
expression, but its original meaning through helps you to get the gist of the expression durch
etwas krank werden.
D
Woran halten Sie sich? (What do you adhere to/observe?) Ich halte mich an die Gesetze.
(I adhere to/observe the laws.) The literal translation of sich an etwas halten (to hold
oneself to) makes enough sense to help you understand the question.
E
F
Was für ein Museum ist das? Nominative case here; the verb sein (to be) uses the nominative.
Was für einen Salat essen Sie? Accusative case here; einen Salat is the direct object, and the
subject is Sie.
G
Was für ein Getränk ist das? Nominative case here; the verb sein (to be) uses the nominative.
The plural of Getränk is Getränke.
H
I
Was für ein Geschäft ist das? Nominative case here; the verb sein (to be) uses the nominative.
Was für eine Musik hat dieses Lokal/diese Bar? Accusative case here; eine Musik is the direct
object. Lokal/Bar is the subject. Das Lokal is a popular word to describe an eatery that tends
to have a more casual atmosphere — and music — than ein Restaurant.
J
Sie: Essen Sie langsam!
ihr: Esst langsam!
du and er/sie/es present tense)
K
L
M
Sie: Fahren Sie vorsichtig!
N
Sie: Machen Sie!
Sie: Gehen Sie nicht!
Sie: Lesen Sie!
tense)
du: Iss langsam! (stem vowel-change verb in
ihr: Fahrt vorsichtig!
ihr: Geht nicht!
ihr: Lest!
ihr: Macht!
du: Fahr vorsichtig!
du: Geh nicht!
du: Lies! (stem vowel-change verb in du and er/sie/es present
du: Mach!
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Chapter 7
Answering Intelligently with Yes,
No, and Maybe
In This Chapter
© Responding with yes or no
© Understanding kein and nicht
© Getting into da- compounds
© Being diplomatic: Agreeing and disagreeing
Y
ou’re listening as your aunt talks on the phone in the room next to you, and you
know the conversation can’t be very interesting, because all you hear is yes, yes,
no, yeah, yes, yeah, no, no, yes. Your aunt is probably employing most of those yeses
and nos for more than answering a question; she’s likely signaling that she’s still listening or is simply being polite. If she were in the same room as the person she’s talking to, she likely wouldn’t even need to talk — it’d suffice for her to bob her head
around, nodding in agreement or shaking it to express disagreement.
You have to agree that knowing how to say yes and no in German is essential, but oneword answers to questions can be as off-putting as the wrong answer. You certainly
need to use ja (yes) and nein (no) in many different situations when answering questions, responding to information, or agreeing and disagreeing with others. Yet even
with an answer that’s a complete sentence, you can get in trouble if you don’t express
it clearly enough. The humor in yes, we have no bananas isn’t an issue of poor grammar but rather the confusion of yes and no in one sentence. In this chapter, I present
various ways to clearly express yes and no and the shades in between for situations
when you don’t want to commit yourself to a definite answer because you’d rather
bide your time, or vielleicht (maybe) you’d like to suggest an alternative.
Knowing a range of positive and negative responses to show agreement and disagreement is another section in this chapter. I also take you through the steps you need to
know in order to choose between kein and nicht, which are the two ways of negating
information in German. This chapter also describes the ins and outs of dacompounds: how to form them and when and how you use the range of these handy
prepositional combinations. (Chapter 6 deals with the kissing cousins of dacompounds, the wo- compounds, which are used in questions.)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Getting to Yes: Variations on Ja
When you want to show someone that you understand, that you’re listening, and so
on, you use ja (yes) and its extended family: Ja, das ist richtig (Yes, that’s right). In
these instances, all you need to do is add ja to what you want to say. Use ja the way
you do in English: To answer a question in the affirmative, or to say that you agree to
something. It can stand alone, or if ja is in a sentence, it generally comes at the beginning of an affirmative sentence, just as it does in English.
When you get bored with saying ja all the time, try a few variations that render the
same meaning with slightly different emphasis. Table 7-1 contains nine alternatives
for good old ja. The example sentences put these common substitutes into a context,
and the English explanations describe the implications behind these expressions.
Table 7-1
Alternatives for Ja
Ja Equivalent
Explanation
Example Sentence
Translation
genau
exactly, precisely —
the English translation
sounds stilted, but not
so to the German ear
Genau, mein
Familienname ist
Schranner.
Exactly, my family
name is Schranner.
gewiss
of course, sure
enough — somewhat
formal sounding in
German
Gewiss. Sie werden Of course. You’ll be
um 7.00 Uhr geweckt. woken up at 7 a.m.
ja, ja
yes, yes — can express
enthusiasm or
skepticism
Ja, ja, das weiß
ich schon.
Yes, yes, I already
know that.
jawohl
exactly — has a
somewhat formal ring
Jawohl, meine Frau
kommt aus Sydney.
Exactly, my wife is
from Sydney.
klar
of course (Literally:
clear or clearly) —
somewhat casual,
colloquial tone
Klar kann ich segeln. Of course I know
how to sail.
natürlich
naturally — neutral,
neither formal nor
colloquial
Natürlich helfen wir
Ihnen.
Naturally, we’ll help
you.
richtig
right — neutral, neither
formal nor colloquial
Richtig. Er mietet ein
Auto.
Right. He’s renting a
car.
selbstverständlich
certainly — good choice Selbstverständlich
for business, formal
lade ich Sie zum
situations
Mittagessen ein.
sicher
certainly, sure
Sicher mache ich
das Licht aus.
Certainly, I’m inviting
you to lunch.
Sure, I’ll turn off the
light.
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Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe
Notice in the example sentences, when the ja substitute is followed by a comma or a
period, you start the next phrase in the usual German word order of subject followed
by the verb in second position. (In the example sentences, the comma and period are
interchangeable.) When the ja replacement word functions as the first element in the
sentence (no comma or period), the verb follows in second position.
When you want to add more emphasis to show that you really understand or agree
with someone, you can add ja or aber (but) to the preceding expressions. Take a look:
Ja, klar! (Yes, of course!)
Aber natürlich! (Certainly!)
Aber selbstverständlich! (Why, certainly!)
Ja, sicher! (Yes, sure!)
The preceding examples place the ja words at the beginning of the sentence.
However, when you want to express understanding or agreement within a sentence,
you can construct sentences that use these words in more or less fixed expressions
like genau richtig or es ist (mir) klar. In addition, genau, gewiss, klar, natürlich,
richtig, selbstverständlich, and sicher can work as adjectives or in some cases as
adverbs, and they have similar meanings. (See Chapter 12 for more on adjectives.)
Das wird selbstverständlich gemacht. (That will certainly be done.)
Es ist mir klar, daß ich abnehmen soll. (I realize that I should lose weight.
Literally: It’s clear to me that I should lose weight.)
Die Straßen waren gewiss sehr gefährlich nach dem Sturm. (The streets were
certainly very dangerous after the storm.)
Sie haben es genau richtig geraten. (You guessed it exactly right.)
In the following exercise, insert one of the alternatives for ja in each space provided.
In all cases, several solutions are possible. (Hint: The choices have something to do
with comma and period usage.) Use Table 7-1 to decide which words to use.
Q. _________________ können wir zu Fuß zum Bahnhof gehen.
A. Klar können wir zu Fuß zum Bahnhof gehen. (Of course we can walk to the train station.)
Other alternatives are natürlich, selbstvertändlich, and sicher because these expressions don’t need to be separated by a comma or a period, which means that the next
word is the verb.
1. _________________, ich komme morgen.
2. _________________ können wir mit dem Zug nach Köln fahren.
3. _________________, das ist in Ordnung.
4. _________________ geht die ganze Familie in Urlaub.
5. _________________, wir fliegen am Dienstag nach Genf.
6. _________________. Mein Chef kann bis morgen warten.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
7. _________________, das ist überhaupt kein Problem.
8. _________________ helfe ich Ihnen.
9. _________________. Ich bin Herr Gravenstein.
Responding with No: The Difference
between Kein and Nicht
Saying no in German is plain and simple: nein. However, when you want to negate an
action, or an object or person, you have two ways to express not (or not any): kein
and nicht. Getting them straight is a matter of knowing what they negate in a sentence. The word order of these negations is important to know, as is how to form the
endings of kein (nicht doesn’t change). In this section, I take you through the steps of
when and how to use nicht and kein.
Negating with nicht
The nuts and bolts of nicht are straightforward as far as its form is concerned. Nicht
is all you need to know (unlike kein, which has case and gender endings — see the
next section). Nicht generally negates a verb: nicht einladen (not to invite), nicht
fahren (not to drive, travel), nicht feiern (not to celebrate). It can also negate an adjective, as in nicht interessant (not interesting), or an adverb, as in nicht pünktlich (not
on time). What you do need to figure out is how to position nicht in a sentence.
Because nicht is an adverb, it negates the action of the verb or modifies an adjective
or an adverb, and it’s generally next to these parts of speech. For example:
Sie fliegen nicht nach London. (They’re not flying to London.) Nicht directly follows the verb in this sentence, negating the idea that they’re flying.
Martin spricht nicht gut Deutsch. (Martin doesn’t speak good German.) In this sentence, nicht tells you that Martin’s ability to speak German is not good, so nicht
immediately follows the verb.
Gestern kamen wir nicht pünktlich zum Termin. (Yesterday we didn’t get to our
appointment on time.) Nicht links with the adverb pünktlich (on time), and you
place it before pünktlich.
Das Buch ist nicht interessant. (The book isn’t interesting.) The negation connects
the verb ist (is) and the adjective interessant (interesting); nicht modifies interessant, so you place it in front of the adjective.
Placement is the more complex part of nicht, but most of the time, if you’re not perfect with word order, you’ll still be understandable in spoken or written German.
Table 7-2 explains some guidelines when using nicht, which should help you to sort
out where to put this valuable chess piece.
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Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe
Table 7-2
Position of Nicht
Guidelines for Positioning Nicht
Example Sentence
Translation
A conjugated verb
Maria fährt nicht nach Kiel.
Maria isn’t driving to Kiel.
A conjugated verb and
precedes a separable
prefix
Felix und Gretl sehen nicht
fern. (Fernsehen is a separableprefix verb.)
Felix and Gretl aren’t
watching TV.
Most specific adverbs
of time
Ich war gestern nicht zu Hause.
(Gestern is the specific adverb
of time.)
I wasn’t at home yesterday.
Yes/no questions
Essen Sie den Apfel nicht?
Aren’t you going to eat the
apple?
A sentence or question
with a direct object
Ich kenne diesen Mann nicht.
I don’t know that man.
(Diesen Mann is the direct object.)
Follows
Comes at the end of
Precedes
Most adjectives
Das Hotel ist nicht gemütlich.
(Gemütlich is the adjective.)
The hotel isn’t cozy.
Most adverbs, except for
specific adverbs of time
Ihr lauft nicht schnell. (Schnell is
the adverb.)
You don’t run fast.
Infinitives connected to
a verb
Ich gehe nicht einkaufen.
(Einkaufen is the infinitive.)
I’m not going shopping.
Most prepositional
phrases
Dieser Käse kommt nicht aus
Frankreich. (Aus Frankreich is
the prepositional phrase.)
This cheese isn’t from
France.
The combinations of
parts in a sentence
(usually)
Matthias geht nicht sehr oft in
die Bibliothek. (Two parts are
here — sehr oft and in die
Bibliothek.)
Matthias doesn’t go to the
library very often.
In this exercise, your task is to figure out the word order of the reply to the question.
Read the question, and then write the reply in the correct word order using Table 7-2
to show you where to place nicht in the sentence. The replies in this exercise all
begin with nein, followed by a comma. When all else fails, sneak a look at the answer
key to help you get started.
Q. Gehst du heute Abend ins Kino?
Nein,/ich/Kino/gehe/heute/nicht/ins/Abend
A. Gehst du heute Abend ins Kino? (Are you going to the cinema this evening?)
Nein, ich gehe heute Abend nicht ins Kino. (No, I’m not going to the cinema this evening.)
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10. Ist das dein Haus?
Nein,/Haus/das/mein/nicht/ist __________________________________
11. Kommen Sie am Mittwoch zu uns?
Nein,/nicht/wir/am Mittwoch/zu/kommen/Ihnen. __________________________________
12. Gehen Sie jetzt Golf spielen?
Nein,/ich/spielen/Golf/nicht/gehe. __________________________________
13. Trinken Sie den Orangensaft nicht?
Nein,/ihn/nicht/trinke/ich. __________________________________
14. Liegt Duisburg in einer schönen Gegend?
Nein,/liegt/schönen/nicht/einer/in/Gegend/Duisburg.
__________________________________
15. Geht ihr heute Nachmittag schwimmen?
Nein,/heute/nicht/Nachmittag/gehen/schwimmen/wir.
__________________________________
Negating with kein
Using kein (no, not, not any) is almost as easy as using nicht (see the preceding section). Kein functions as an adjective; it describes nouns by expressing negation such
as keiner Polizist (no policeman), keine Jeans (no jeans), kein Brot (no bread), and
so on. However, before you can jump in and start adding kein into your sentences,
you need to know the gender and case of the noun you’re negating. Look at the following sentence: Keiner Polizist hat einen leichten Job (no policeman has an easy
job). Keiner Polizist is the subject of the sentence, so it’s in nominative case. Polizist
is masculine (der), so you add -er to kein = keiner Polizist. Keiner is the singular
masculine form of kein in nominative case. (See Chapter 2 for more on gender and
case.)
When you look at kein, you can see the indefinite article ein (a, an). Good news again
on the grammar front: The indefinite article ein and other very commonly used words
are often referred to as ein- words because they follow the same pattern in case and
gender endings. In the nominative case, ein and kein are the masculine and neuter
forms, and eine and keine are the feminine and plural forms.
You need to remember only one set of endings for the following words:
U ein (a, an), the indefinite article
U kein (no, not, not any), the adjective that negates a noun
U mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, eurer, ihr, Ihr (my, your, his, her, our, your, their,
your), the possessive adjectives
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Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe
Table 7-3 shows how to remember the endings for kein, with the case and gender
endings in bold. (Chapter 2 provides background information on case and gender.)
Masculine and neuter are grouped together, and feminine and plural are in one column.
This table is also valid for ein- words except for ein itself, which has no plural form.
Table 7-3
Endings of Kein
Case
Masculine / Neuter
Feminine / Plural
Nominative
kein
keine
Accusative
keinen (masc.), kein (n.)
keine
Dative
keinem
keiner (fem.), keinen (pl.)
Genitive
keines
keiner
Notice that masculine and neuter endings are almost all the same for kein and einwords; the accusative is the only one that differs. You can also remember feminine
and plural together, keeping in mind that the dative is the only one that isn’t the same
for the two genders. Look at the example sentences with kein in the four cases, followed by the English equivalent and the grammar note explaining the gender:
U Nominative case: Keine Menschen leben auf der Insel. (No people live on the
island.) Menschen (plural) is the subject of the sentence, so keine Menschen is
nominative plural.
U Accusative case: Nach dem grossen Abendessen hatte ich keinen Hunger.
(I wasn’t hungry after the big dinner.) Literally, ich hatte keinen Hunger means
I had no hunger. Der Hunger (masculine) changes to the accusative singular
keinen Hunger because it’s the object of the sentence.
U Dative case: In keinem alten Auto gibt es GPS. (There’s no GPS in any old car[s].)
Literally, in keinem alten Auto gibt es GPS means in no old car is there GPS. The
prepositional phrase in keinem alten Auto is in dative case; therefore, das Auto
becomes keinem (alten) Auto.
U Genitive case: Während keiner Nacht in der letzten Woche habe ich gut
geschlafen. (I didn’t sleep well [during] any night last week.) Literally, während
keiner Nacht in der letzten Woche habe ich gut geschlafen means during no
night in the past week did I sleep well. Während (during) is a genitive preposition,
and die Nacht is feminine singular. (Chapter 15 shows you details of prepositions.) You need the genitive case ending -er for kein.
When you’re reading German, use the examples you see to understand the grammar
involved. Train yourself to take a step back and think carefully about which word endings you’re dealing with in a sentence. The pieces of the grammar puzzle begin to fit
into place when you recognize which gender and case you’re looking at.
The purpose of the next exercise is to put the correct ending on kein. You need to
know the gender of the noun, and when a preposition is involved, you need to know
which case the preposition takes. Here’s the situation: Daniel is writing a good riddance letter to Susanne, who has run off with Jonas.
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14/ 3/08
Liebe Susanne,
dieser Brief ist (16)
typischer Brief von mir. Ich
habe (17)
guten Worte für dich, und
(18)
Zeit, sehr lange zu schreiben. Du bist
(19)
Frau für mich, weil du (20)
Interesse mehr an mir hast. Warum bist du so? Ich habe mit
(21)
anderen Frau geflirtet.
Du hast (22)
Grund, mit Jonas zu flirten. Er schenkt
dir (23)
Blumen wie ich es immer tue, er hat (24)
Auto, und noch schlimmer, er hat (25)
Arbeit. Ich sage dir, Jonas ist (26)
Mann für dich.
Veilleicht magst du mich nicht, weil ich (27)
Haare habe und auch (28)
Muskeln. Was kann ich
dazu sagen? Du bist auch (29)
Schönheit. Leb wohl.
Daniel
Avoiding blunt negative replies
You don’t want to sound overly negative when answering yes/no-type questions with
a straight nein. You can politely answer some questions negatively by adding a few
words to cushion the impact.
How can you avoid being blunt in polite conversation? You can make a positive
impression on German speakers when giving positive and even negative replies by
using idiomatic expressions — fixed phrases — that help you avoid sounding overly
negative. Keep a handful stored in the corner of your brain marked Deutscher
Wortschatz (German vocabulary). Literally speaking, Wortschatz means word
treasures, which is a great way to regard vocabulary! Consider this exchange:
Haben Sie Kleingeld für 2€? (Do you have change for 2€?)
Nein, es tut mir leid. (No, I’m sorry. I don’t.)
In the response, you soften the blow of nein by adding the apology es tut mir leid
(I’m sorry). You can also give an excuse (hopefully a plausible one) such as nein, da
mein Portmonnaie zu Hause ist (No, because my wallet is at home).
Table 7-4 provides a sampling of expressions that help you avoid sounding too
strongly negative.
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Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe
Table 7-4
Avoiding Bluntness with Negative Answers
Phrase
English Equivalent
Comments
Es tut mir leid
I’m sorry
The apology Es tut mir leid prefaces the rest of the information.
fast keine (Zeit)
hardly any (time)
Fast keine Zeit (hardly any time)
is the same as kaum Zeit.
praktisch kein
practically no
You can also use praktisch in
the positive sense: Sie ist praktisch fertig (She’s practically/virtually ready).
Im Grunde genommen
basically
The signal of a refusal — Im
Grunde genommen — comes at
the beginning of the sentence,
softening the negative.
nicht hundertprozentig/
nicht ganz
not 100%/
not completely
You don’t need to admit that you
understand only 70%. Chances
are, the speaker will repeat
him/herself. Stating nein flatly
may not get you anywhere.
nicht nur (. . . sondern auch)
not only (. . . but also)
nicht nur (not only) can be linked
like this: Nicht nur mein Vater,
sondern auch mein Großvater
kam aus Irland. (Not only my
father but also my grandfather
came from Ireland.)
Ich habe nicht die leiseste
Ahnung
I haven’t the faintest idea
This is a fixed expression that
can also be stated like this: Ich
habe keine Ahnung (I have no
idea).
The following points show these expressions embedded in dialogue. For each example, a question is followed by an answer with a softener that avoids the bluntness of
kein and nicht. The modifying words are set in bold:
U Können wir noch einen Kaffee trinken? (Can we have another cup of coffee?)
Es tut mir leid, aber wir haben fast keine Zeit. (I’m sorry, but we have hardly any
time.)
U Interessieren Sie sich für diese Musik? (Are you interested in this music?)
Ich habe praktisch kein Interesse für solche Musik. (I have practically no interest
in such music.)
U Können Sie in diesem Fall eine Ausnahme machen? (Can you make an exception
in this case?)
Im Grunde genommen, dürfen wir keine Ausnahmen machen. (Basically, we
can’t make any exceptions.)
Note: You can also use nicht with a verb: Im Grunde genommen, geht das nicht.
(Basically, that won’t work).
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U Verstehen Sie, was ich meine? (Do you understand what I mean?)
Nicht hundertprozentig/Nicht ganz. (Not one hundred percent/Not completely.)
U Sie Sind Engländer, nicht wahr? (You’re English, aren’t you?)
Nicht nur Engländer, da mein Vater aus Irland kam. (Not only English, because my
father came from Ireland.)
U Ändert sich das Klima heutzutage? (Is the climate changing nowadays?)
Ich habe nicht die leiseste Ahnung. (I haven’t the faintest idea.)
Explaining Answers Using Da- Compounds
You’re probably aware of German’s propensity for combining words or word fragments into one humongous word that’s as long as its definition (if you’re not, check
out Chapter 4). Da- compounds are far simpler because they combine only two parts:
da- and a preposition. These compounds are handy for replacing the object of the
preposition; da- can be translated as it or that, and in the case of plural nouns, them.
You don’t need to repeat the prepositional phrase, making you sound intelligent as
well as fluent in German.
Use combinations of da- + preposition when you want to refer to the prepositional
phrase (mit meinem neuen Computer [with my new computer]) without repeating it —
for example, in a reply or to make reference to a prepositional phrase that someone
has already mentioned before — just as you say something like I like to work with it
(Ich arbeite gern damit) in English. Damit is a combination of da- + mit
(literally it + with), and it can stand in for mit meinem neuen Computer.
Look at this example question with two different replies. Clearly, the second reply is
much less redundant than the first one, and you sound much more like you know
what you’re talking about — even though you say that you verstehe nichts davon
(understand nothing about it)!
U Verstehen Sie etwas von dieser Grammatik? (Do you know/understand anything
about this grammar?)
U Nein, ich verstehe nichts von dieser Grammatik. (No, I don’t know/understand
anything about this grammar.)
Nein, ich verstehe nichts davon. (No, I know/understand nothing about it.)
Notice how davon translates in the second reply: about it. You can also translate
davon as about that, though in Table 7-5, von has two translations, from and by. That’s
because the meaning of the preposition can change when it’s plunked into a prepositional phrase or (especially) a verbal phrase that includes a preposition (a verbal
phrase is a more or less fixed expression that has a verb in it). The verbal phrase in
the example is etwas von etwas verstehen, which is what you’d see in a dictionary
entry under the headword verstehen, translated as to know sth about sth (sth is a
standard abbreviation for something).
To form these compounds with da-, study Table 7-5 and then find the appropriate
compound for the practice exercise that follows. The table shows the most common
compounds formed by adding da- to the prepositions. The English equivalents help
you to get a feel for the preposition, but keep in mind that they can alter their meaning according to the context of the sentence. When the preposition begins with a
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Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe
vowel, the letter r is inserted between the two elements of the word (as in da + r +
über = darüber)
Table 7-5
Answering with Da- Compounds
German Preposition
Translation
Da- Compound (Preposition + it, that, them)
an
on, at, to
daran
auf
on top of, to
darauf
aus
out of, from
daraus
bei
at, with
dabei
durch
through, by
dadurch
für
for
dafür
gegen
against
dagegen
in
in, inside of
darin
hinter
behind, after
dahinter
mit
with, by
damit
nach
after, to
danach
neben
next to
daneben
über
over, above
darüber
um
around
darum
unter
under
darunter
von
from, by
davon
vor
in front of, before
davor
zu
to, at
dazu
zwischen
between
dazwischen
In this exercise, read the question and the answer. Decide which da- compound to
place in the spaces, and cut and paste the appropriate compound into the answer
that follows the question. Then try your hand at translating the complete answer (not
the question) into English.
Q. Haben Sie etwas gegen diesen Vorschlag?
Nein, ich habe nichts _________________.
A. Haben Sie etwas gegen diesen Vorschlag? (Do you have anything against this suggestion?)
Nein, ich habe nichts dagegen. (No, I have nothing against it.)
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30. Denken Sie an die Besprechung?
Ja, ich denke _________________.
English: __________________________________________________________________________
31. Warten Sie noch auf Ihre Bestellung?
Ja, ich warte noch _________________.
English: __________________________________________________________________________
32. Schreibst du mit dem Laptop?
Nein, ich schreibe nicht _________________.
English: __________________________________________________________________________
33. Arbeitet er für 8€ in der Stunde?
Nein, _________________ arbeitet er nicht.
English: __________________________________________________________________________
34. Steht der Stuhl vor dem Fenster oder hinter dem Tisch?
Der Stuhl steht nicht _________________ und nicht _________________; er steht in einem
anderen Zimmer.
English: __________________________________________________________________________
Sounding Diplomatic: Using Maybe,
Suggesting, and Refusing Politely
Ever feel like blurting out a resounding No! in the middle of a meeting when you
totally disagree with the proposal being discussed? Ever wanted to shake someone
who’s always negative into saying an unequivocal Yes to something you suggest? If so,
you likely used a bit more tact when you actually did speak up. Even if you haven’t
had such experiences, you do need to practice diplomacy in a great deal of situations,
and it’s even more crucial to know how to couch your agreement or disagreement in
diplomatic words when you speak another language. Although German may —
acoustically speaking — sound direct and even harsh at times, you can sound more
diplomatic and polite simply by adding a few measures of maybes and wells to replies
that may otherwise sound too blunt.
Add words such as vielleicht (maybe) or nun (well) where you would in English,
namely at the beginning of the idea that you intend to disagree with or answer with a
negative reply. Longer expressions are generally at the beginning of the sentence you’re
expressiong doubts about; these need to be memorized as fixed expressions.
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Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe
Es kann sein, dass der Bericht einige Fehler hat. (It could be that the report has
some mistakes.) The expression es kann sein is a fixed expression connected to
the rest of the sentence by the conjunction dass. (For more on conjunctions, see
Chapter 14.)
Um ehrlich zu sein, das wäre schwierig. (To be honest, that would be difficult.) The
expression um ehrlich zu sein is a fixed expression. Following it is the information that you’re being honest about.
North Americans — and possibly even more so, the British — enjoy a great reputation for using a broad range of polite language when expressing indecision, agreement, and disagreement with others. The German language isn’t quite as famous for
sounding reserved. Why? The language itself has a stronger ring to the ears than
English because of the Tonfall (inflection or tone) and the fact that it bunches more
consonants together. Speakers of German don’t deliberately try to be blunt; rather,
the effect comes from the sound of the language.
Table 7-6 walks you through a wider range of ways you can respond diplomatically
when you want to signal your reservations. Each German expression is followed by an
example phrase and its English equivalent. Some of the expressions are one-word
introductory signals that you use to preface your opinion; others are longer phrases
that you use in German to sound diplomatic, to qualify your standpoint, or to negotiate acceptance of your suggestion.
Another bonus for using such expressions is that you gain time while you decide
whether you really want to agree or disagree with the person you’re conversing with.
That’s a thankful bonus when you’re speaking a language that isn’t your own and you
want to sound intelligent — and intelligible — in what you say.
Table 7-6
German Expression
Diplomatic Answering Gambits
Example Phrase
English Equivalent
Expressing maybe/perhaps
Vielleicht . . .
Vielleicht kommt er . . .
Maybe he’ll come . . .
Eventuell . . .
Eventuell kann man . . .
You could possibly . . .
Möglicherweise . . .
Möglicherweise regnet es nicht . . .
Perhaps it won’t rain . . .
Nun . . .
Nun, wenn es so ist . . .
Well, if it’s like that . . .
Eigentlich . . .
Eigentlich dachte ich . . .
Actually, I thought . . .
. . . aber . . .
Ich verstehe, aber . . .
I understand, but . . .
Introducing doubt
Mit allem Respekt . . . Mit allem Respekt muss ich
dazu sagen . . .
With all due respect, I must
say . . .
Suggesting
Machen wir so, . . .
Machen wir so, wir schieben . . .
Let’s do it like this: We’ll
delay . . .
Wir könnten . . .
Wir könnten morgen mit einander
treffen . . .
We could meet tomorrow . . .
(continued)
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Table 7-6 (continued)
German Expression
Wie wäre es . . .
Example Phrase
Wie wäre es wenn wir versuchen
würden . . .
English Equivalent
How would it be if we tried . . .
(The introduction to the sentence wie wäre es implies that it will continue in the subjunctive
because you’re imagining something.)
Was halten Sie davon, Was halten Sie davon, wenn wir
wenn . . .
abwarten . . .
What do you think about
waiting . . .
Modifying negation
. . . kaum . . .
Das ist kaum möglich . . .
That’s hardly possible . . .
. . . fast nicht . . .
Das ist fast nicht machbar . . .
That’s just about impossible
to do . . .
Ich habe einige
Bedenken . . .
Ich habe einige Bedenken dazu . . .
I have a few doubts about
that . . .
. . . etwas zu . . .
Der Preis ist etwas zu hoch . . .
The price is somewhat too
high . . .
. . . ein bißchen . . .
Wir brauchen ein bißchen mehr
Zeit . . .
We need a bit more time . . .
Leider . . .
Leider kann ich nicht
mitkommen . . .
Unfortunately, I can’t come
along . . .
Es tut mir leid . . .
Es tut mir leid, aber das geht
nicht . . .
I’m sorry, but that won’t
work . . .
Refusing diplomatically
Entschuldigung, aber . . . Entschuldigung, aber ich habe
wenig Zeit . . .
Sorry, but I have little time . . .
Ist das nicht . . .
Isn’t that a bit early?
Ist das nicht etwas früh?
In this exercise, you’re overseas conducting business with an Austrian ski manufacturer who wants you to buy their products, which are very good but overpriced. You
have the opportunity to express your doubt, make a counter suggestion, refuse diplomatically, or say maybe. Use the phrases in Table 7-6 to practice straddling the fence
politely without sounding like you’re too rough at refusing or too wishy-washy about
decision making. There may be two or three solutions for each reply.
Q. Ich möchte Sie morgen zum Abendessen einladen.
__________________________________.
A. Ich möchte Sie morgen zum Abendessen einladen. (I’d like to invite you to dinner
tomorrow.)
Leider kann ich nicht. (Unfortunately, I can’t.)
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Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe
35. Die Preise unserer Skier sind ganz in Ordnung.
_________________, Ihre Preise sind uns zu hoch.
36. Sie müssen sich jetzt entscheiden.
Ist das nicht _________________ früh?
37. Ich denke, Sie finden keine besseren Preise.
_________________ ich finde Ihre Preise zu hoch.
38. Es gibt eine billigere Alternative zu diesem Produkt.
_________________ können Sie sie uns zeigen.
39. Möchten Sie eine Woche skifahren - auf unseren Kosten?
Da habe ich _________________.
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Answer Key
a
Genau, ich komme morgen. (Exactly. I’ll come tomorrow.) All other alternatives are possible; with
a comma (or a period) separating the two sentence parts, you start the next part with a subject.
b
Natürlich können wir mit dem Zug nach Köln fahren. (Naturally, we can take the train to Cologne.)
Other alternatives are klar, selbstvertändlich, and sicher because these expressions don’t need
to be separated by a comma or a period, which means that the next word is the verb.
c
Ja, ja, das ist in Ordnung. (Yes, that’s fine.) All other alternatives are possible; with a comma
(or a period) separating the two sentence parts, you start the next part with a subject.
d
Klar geht die ganze Familie in Urlaub. (Of course the whole family is going on vacation.) Other
alternatives are natürlich, selbstvertändlich, and sicher because these expressions don’t need
to be separated by a comma or a period, which means that the next word is the verb.
e
Sicher, wir fliegen am Dienstag nach Genf. (Sure, we’re flying to Geneva on Tuesday.) All other
alternatives are possible; with a comma (or a period) separating the two sentence parts, you
start the next part with a subject.
f
Gewiss. Mein Chef kann bis morgen warten. (Of course. My boss can wait until tomorrow.) All
other alternatives are possible; with a period (or a comma) separating the two sentence parts,
you start the next part with a subject.
g
Jawohl, das ist überhaupt kein Problem. (Yes, that’s no problem at all.) All other alternatives are
possible; with a comma (or a period) separating the two sentence parts, you start the next part
with a subject.
h
Selbstverständlichhelfe ich Ihnen. (Certainly, I’ll help you.) Other alternatives are klar, natürlich, and sicher because these expressions don’t need to be separated by a comma or a period,
which means that the next word is the verb.
i
Richtig. Ich bin Herr Gravenstein. (Right. I’m Herr Gravenstein.) All other alternatives are possible;
with a period (or a comma) separating the two sentence parts, you start the next part with a subject.
j
Ist das dein Haus? (Is that your house?)
Nein, das ist nicht mein Haus. (No, it isn’t my house.) Nicht follows the verb.
k
Kommen Sie am Mittwoch zu uns? (Are you coming to see us on Wednesday?)
Nein, am Mittwoch kommen wir nicht zu Ihnen. (No, we’re not coming on Wednesday to see you.)
Nicht precedes the prepositional phrase zu Ihnen.
l
Gehen Sie jetzt Golf spielen? (Are you going to play golf now?)
Nein, ich gehe nicht Golf spielen. (No, I’m not going to play golf.) Nicht precedes the infinitive
expression Golf spielen.
m
Trinken Sie den Orangensaft nicht? (Aren’t you going to drink the orange juice?)
Nein, ich trinke ihn nicht. (No, I’m not going to drink it.) Nicht follows the direct object ihn.
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Chapter 7: Answering Intelligently with Yes, No, and Maybe
n
Liegt Duisburg in einer schönen Gegend? (Is Duisburg in a pretty area?)
Nein, Duisburg liegt nicht in einer schönen Gegend. (No, Duisburg isn’t in a pretty area.) Nicht
precedes the prepositional phrase in einer schönen Gegend.
o
Geht ihr heute Nachmittag schwimmen? (Are you going swimming this afternoon?)
Nein, wir gehen heute Nachmittag nicht schwimmen. (No we’re not going swimming this afternoon.) Nicht precedes the infinitive schwimmen.
In the following letter, the reason for the endings on kein are shown in parentheses at the end
of each negation.
p–D
Liebe Susanne,
dieser Brief ist (16) kein typischer Brief (der Brief is nominative) von mir.
Ich habe (17) keine guten Worte (die Worte is plural, accusative.) für dich,
und (18) keine Zeit, (die Zeit is accusative) sehr lange zu schreiben. Du
bist (19) keine Frau (die Frau is nominative) für mich, weil du (20) kein
Interesse (das Interesse is accusative) mehr an mir hast. Warum bist du
so? Ich habe mit (21) keiner anderen Frau (die Frau is dative because mit
is a dative preposition) geflirtet.
Du hast (22) keinen Grund, (der Grund is accusative) mit Jonas zu flirten.
Er schenkt dir (23) keine Blumen (die Blumen is plural, accusative) wie ich
es immer tue, er hat (24) kein Auto, (das Ato is accusative) und noch
schlimmer, er hat (25) keine Arbeit (die Arbeit is accusative). Ich sag’
dir, Jonas ist (26) kein Mann (der Mann is nominative ) für dich.
Vielleicht magst du mich nicht, weil ich (27) keine Haare (die Haare is plural,
accusative) habe und auch (28) keine Muskeln (die Muskeln is plural,
accusative). Was kann ich dazu sagen? Du bist auch (29) keine Schonheit
(die Schönheit is nominative). Leb wohl.
Daniel
Dear Susanne,
This letter is no typical letter from me. I donít have any good words for you,
and no time to write a long letter. You’re not the woman for me because
you have no more interest in me. Why are you like that? I didn’t flirt with
any woman.
You have no reason to flirt with Jonas. He doesn’t give you flowers like I
always do, he doesn’t have a car, and even worse, he has no work. I’m
telling you, Jonas is not the man for you.
Perhaps you don’t like me because I don’t have any hair or muscles. What
can I say? You’re no beauty queen yourself. Farewell.
Daniel
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E
Denken Sie an die Besprechung? (Will you remember/ think about the meeting?)
Ja, ich denke daran. (Yes, I’ll remember it.)
F
Warten Sie noch auf Ihre Bestellung? (Are you waiting for your order?)
Ja, ich warte noch darauf. (Yes, I’m still waiting for it.)
G
Schreibst du mit dem Laptop? (Are you writing with the laptop?)
Nein, ich schreibe nicht damit. (No, I’m not writing with it.)
H
Arbeitet er für 8€ in der Stunde? (Does he work for 8€ an hour?)
Nein, dafür arbeitet er nicht. (No, he doesn’t/won’t work for that.)
I
Steht der Stuhl vor dem Fenster oder hinter dem Tisch? (Is the chair in front of the window or
behind the table?)
Der Stuhl steht nicht davor und nicht dahinter; er steht in einem anderen Zimmer. (The chair
isn’t in front of or behind it; it’s in another room.)
J
Die Preise unserer Skier sind ganz in Ordnung. (The prices of our skis are completely right.)
Mit allem Respekt, Ihre Preise sind uns zu hoch. (With all due respect, your prices are too high
for us.)
K
Sie müssen sich jetzt entscheiden. (You need to make a decision now.)
Ist das nicht etwas zu früh? (Isn’t that a bit too early?) An alternative is ein bißchen.
L
Ich denke, Sie finden keine besseren Preise. (I think you won’t find any better prices.)
Entschuldigung, aber ich finde Ihre Preise zu hoch. (Excuse me, but I think your prices are too
high.)
M
Es gibt eine billigere Alternative zu diesem Produkt. (There’s a more inexpensive alternative to
this product.)
Vielleicht können Sie sie uns zeigen. (Perhaps you could show them to us.) Alternatives are
eventuell or möglicherweise.
N
Möchten Sie eine Woche skifahren — auf unseren Kosten? (Would you like to ski for a week — at
our expense?)
Da habe ich einige Bedenken. (I have a few doubts about that.)
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Chapter 8
Describing Your Mood: Summing
Up the Subjunctive
In This Chapter
© Clearing up subjunctive terms
© Stating something subjunctively in present and past
© Getting subjunctive word order
M
ost English and German speakers who aren’t used to analyzing their language —
and that probably includes zillions of otherwise perfectly normal people —
would be seriously challenged if they had to explain the ins and outs of the subjunctive. Although the word subjunctive may conjure up thoughts of doctors discussing an
unpleasant eye infection, it’s actually an innocuous description for the way verbs tell
events that are contrary to fact. Consider the subjunctive as an umbrella term for
describing all sorts of unreal situations: hypothetical, unlikely, uncertain, potential,
probable, or doubtful events.
In German, the subjunctive gets extra mileage because you also use it to describe
polite requests. This chapter deals with how to construct the various forms of the
subjunctive and how to use them in German. You also find out the differences
between the subjunctive and conditional in German and English. To get you off and
running, the next section explains the terminology surrounding the subjunctive.
Terms and Conditions: Unraveling
Subjunctive Terminology
Discussing the subjunctive is pretty tough if you’re not familiar with the lingo. The
following sections help you keep the terms straight so you can better understand the
subjunctive and how to use it.
Getting in the mood
If someone asks you what your mood is today, you’re unlikely to answer, “Oh, I’m in a
real indicative mood today, but yesterday I was kind of subjunctive.” But if sentences
could speak about themselves, that’s exactly what they’d say. See, a mood in language
terms (as opposed to emotional terms) is the manner in which the speaker perceives
an action. Take a look:
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U Indicative mood: The indicative mood states a fact or deals with a real situation,
usually in the form of a statement or a question, such as I live in Waterford or
Where are you from originally?
U Imperative mood: This mood is the command form (which I discuss in Chapter 6),
such as Get out of here!
U Subjunctive mood: The subjunctive mood expresses non-factual, hypothetical,
or similar “unreal” actions and thoughts as a statement or a question. In German,
you’d use the subjunctive form in these example sentences:
I’d like 200 grams of that cheese, please.
Would you marry someone 25 years younger than you?
Comparing subjunctive types
and the conditional
In English grammar terms, the conditional can refer to a clause or a sentence that
describes circumstances in varying stages of “reality.” A typical example of a conditional
sentence in English is the if-type question: What would you do if you were to win a million
in the lottery? The verb in the main clause what would you do is in the conditional.
In German, you use verbs in the subjunctive form in if-type conditional sentences that
express a condition contrary to fact. But that’s not the only use of the subjunctive —
you find two subjunctive groups in German. Here’s how they compare:
U Subjunctive I: People use Subjunctive I in indirect discourse (indirect speech),
most often in the printed media to report what someone says. For this reason,
when you do come across this subjunctive form, try to recognize what the verbs
mean; you’ll probably never need to use Subjunctive I yourself.
U Subjunctive II: In terms of importance to you, Subjunctive I takes a back seat to
Subjunctive II. You use Subjunctive II for expressing imagined things, describing
information contrary to fact, or making wishes and requests.
(Note: Both Subjunctive I and Subjunctive II forms can refer to events in the present,
past, and future.)
The common denominator of subjunctives in both English and German is that they
express a specific mood, namely — you’ll never believe it! — the subjunctive mood.
Beyond that, in everyday German, the Subjunctive II form is very much alive and kicking, but in English, it’s relegated to a dusty corner in terms of how often you use it.
Both groups, the German Subjunctive I and Subjunctive II, have definite differences in
form and function from each other and from verbs in the indicative mood. In contrast,
very few English verbs even have a special subjunctive form, so you may be using it
without realizing it. One example of the subjunctive in English is If I were you. In a sentence without if, you’d say I was, but with if (the element that adds unreality to the
action), you use the subjunctive: If I were you.
In the following sections, I first map out what you need to know about the present and
past Subjunctive II forms so that you can recognize them, form them, and use them in
everyday spoken and written German. After that, I discuss the present and past forms
of the not-so-common Subjunctive I.
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Chapter 8: Describing Your Mood: Summing Up the Subjunctive
Selecting the Present Subjunctive II:
How and When to Use It
When you pack your suitcase to travel to a German-speaking region, remember to
include the Subjunctive II form. That way, you can order in a café: Ich möchte eine
Tasse Kaffee bitte (I’d like a cup of coffee) or agree with the tour guide’s suggestion to
visit the king’s private quarters: Ich hätte schon Interesse daran (I’d be really interested in that). With a few more subjunctive expressions in your bag, you can express
actions that are contrary to fact and more.
Even though the subjunctive is used a lot more frequently in German than in English,
the average German speaker would probably get tangled up trying to explain the
Subjunctive II, let alone listing all its uses. It’s so embedded in the language that its
use isn’t obvious to the native speaker. So relax, take a deep breath, and read on.
In this section, I show you two ways to form the present Subjunctive II to make hypothetical statements, request something, and express wishes. The most frequent form
of present Subjunctive II is the construction of würde + infinitive. Look at this example: Ich würde gern nach Hamburg fahren (I’d like to go to Hamburg). Most verbs
use this two-part construction.
The other means of forming the present Subjunctive II that I show you in this section
is common for only a small but important group of verbs. You form this subjunctive
by putting the main verb itself into the subjunctive form. All verbs have subjunctive
forms, but in formal written German, you find only a few — and an even smaller
number is in everyday written and spoken German. The verbs that do commonly use
the present Subjunctive II in the main verb are the modal verbs (see Chapter 9 for
modal verbs), the auxiliaries haben (to have) and sein (to be) (see Chapter 5 for more
on haben and sein), and a few others. I describe this present subjunctive form in the
section “Forming the Subjunctive II of haben, sein, and modal verbs.” After that, I go
over how to use these two forms of the Subjunctive II. Read on.
Creating the present Subjunctive II with würde
The present Subjunctive II form using würde + infinitive has many uses. To make a
request, you need to sound polite, especially when you’re asking someone to do (or not
do) something; therefore, you use this form — for example, Würden Sie mir bitte
helfen? (Would you help me please?). In this section, I show you how to form the würde
construction to make hypothetical statements, request something, and express wishes.
The common form of present subjunctive, using the würde construction, is easy to
remember. It uses the simple past form of the infinitive werden (which translates to
will in this context) plus an umlaut: Wurde changes to würde, the subjunctive of
werden, and becomes equivalent to would in English. (In other words, it uses the
present subjunctive form of werden like a modal verb — see Chapter 9 for more on
modal verbs.) Add the infinitive form of the main verb you want to express in a subjunctive mood, and presto!
Look at the conjugation of werden in the verb table. It builds the würde subjunctive
construction in the present. You use the subjunctive form of werden plus the main
verb in the infinitive. In the verb table, arbeiten (to work) is the main verb.
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würde arbeiten (subjunctive: would work)
ich würde arbeiten
wir würden arbeiten
du würdest arbeiten
ihr würdet arbeiten
er/sie/es würde arbeiten
sie würden arbeiten
Sie würden arbeiten
Ich würde gerne in Wien arbeiten. (I’d [really] like to work in Vienna.)
Look at some examples:
Würden Sie mir bitte mit meinem Koffer helfen? (Would you help me with my
suitcase, please?) The speaker is making a polite request.
Ich würde gerne nach Salzburg reisen. (I’d love to travel to Salzburg.) The
speaker is wishfully thinking of traveling to Salzburg.
An deiner Stelle würde ich lieber den Kilimanjaro anschauen. (If I were you, I’d
rather see Kilimanjaro.) The speaker is making a hypothetical statement with the
condition if I were you.
The modal verbs dürfen, können, mögen, müssen, sollen, and wollen, as well as the
auxiliaries haben and sein, don’t generally use the subjunctive construction using
würde. See the next section for details.
Complete the sentences, putting the correct form of würden into the spaces. The
people I mention are imagining they’ve made a windfall profit in the stock market (no
harm in imagining, right?). The sentences all answer the question Was würden sie
tun? (What would they do?).
Q. Mein Bruder _________________ uns das Geld geben.
A. Mein Bruder würde uns das Geld geben. (My brother would give us the money.)
1. Die Großeltern _________________ nach Florida umziehen.
2. Ich _________________ eine lange Reise machen.
3. Helga _________________ ein kleines Segelboot kaufen.
4. Du _________________ das Geld auf die Bank bringen.
5. Ihr _________________ ein neues Auto kaufen.
6. Johannes weiß nicht, was er machen _________________.
7. Marianne und Michael _________________ den ganzen Tag singen.
8. Ich _________________ nicht alles ausgeben.
9. Der Nachbar _________________ eine gigantische Party organisieren.
10. Und was _________________ du tun?
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Chapter 8: Describing Your Mood: Summing Up the Subjunctive
Forming the Subjunctive II of haben,
sein, and modal verbs
German speakers often use haben (to have) and sein (to be) in the present subjunctive form to express wishes, hypothetical situations, and things contrary to fact, such
as ich hätte mehr Zeit (I would have more time) or es wäre einfacher (it would be
easier). The modal auxiliary verbs use the present subjunctive for expressing wishes
and other situations by combining with another verb in the infinitive form — for
example, Sie sollten vorsichtig fahren (You/they should drive carefully). All these
verbs — plus a few strong verbs — take the same subjunctive endings.
Haben and sein
To form the subjunctive with haben (to have), start with hatte (the simple past tense),
remove the -e, and add an umlaut plus the appropriate subjunctive ending: -e, -est, -e,
-en, -et, -en, and -en.
hätte (subjunctive: would have)
ich hätte
wir hätten
du hättest
ihr hättet
er/sie/es hätte
sie hätten
Sie hätten
Ich hätte lieber ein umweltfreundliches Auto. (I’d rather have an environmentally friendly car.)
As for sein (to be), to form the present subjunctive, start with war (the simple past
tense) and add an umlaut and the appropriate subjunctive ending: -e, -est, -e, -en, -et,
-en, and -en.
wäre (subjunctive: would be)
ich wäre
wir wären
du wärest
ihr wäret
er/sie/es wäre
sie wären
Sie wären
Wir wären sicher reich. (We’d certainly be rich.)
Modal verbs and other special verbs
German uses the present Subjunctive II with modal verbs (dürfen, können, mögen,
müssen, sollen, and wollen) quite frequently, and forming the present subjunctive
with these verbs isn’t that difficult. Just take the simple past form of the verb, add an
umlaut if there’s one in the infinitive, and add the appropriate subjunctive endings: -e,
-est, -e, -en, -et, -en, and -en. Only two modals — sollen and wollen — have no umlaut
in the infinitive. (For information on simple past tense of modals, see Chapter 17.)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
könnte (subjunctive: could, would be able to)
ich könnte
wir könnten
du könntest
ihr könntet
er/sie/es könnte
sie könnten
Sie könnten
Sie könnte uns helfen. (She could/would be able to help us.)
As you see in the three preceding verb tables, the meaning in the subjunctive is different from the present-tense indicative form. You see would in the English translation of
the subjunctive verb. Have changes to would have, and be changes to would be. In the
case of können, both of its meanings undergo a transformation: Able to changes to
would be able to, and can changes to could.
Note: Although all verbs have subjunctive forms of the main verb, only a few are
common in informal written and spoken German. These verbs use the subjunctive form
of the main verb instead of the würde + infinitive construction. The verbs you are most
likely to come across include gehen (to go), heißen (to be called), tun (to do), werden
(to become), and wissen (to know [a fact]). These verbs form the subjunctive as follows:
U For strong verbs, as with modal verbs, the present subjunctive is based on the
simple past form of the verb + umlaut (when applicable) + subjunctive endings -e,
-est, -e, en, -et, -en, and -en — for example, gehen (to go) becomes ginge (would go).
U For weak verbs, the present subjunctive is the same as the simple past tense
(you use the same simple-past endings) — for example, kaufen (to buy) becomes
kaufte (would buy).
See Chapter 16 and Appendix A for more on strong and weak verbs.
Using the present Subjunctive II
This section breaks down the ways you can use the present Subjunctive II. In everyday German, you can use this multi-tasker to express a variety of contrary-to-fact situations. In addition, you can express wishes and make polite requests. For example,
imagine you’re planning what do to during your three-day stay in Wien (Vienna). You
say, Wir könnten die Spanische Reitschule sehen (We could see the Spanish Riding
School). In the example, könnten is the subjunctive form (in the present) of the verb
können (can). Look at the most important uses of the present Subjunctive II.
Describing a hypothetical situation or a wish
When you want to express a hypothetical situation or a wish that can or can’t be fulfilled, you often imagine a scenario. German uses the subjunctive in such situations:
Wenn ich nur etwas mehr Zeit hätte! (If only I had a little more time!) You don’t
have more time, so you’re wishing you did. Hätte (had) is the subjunctive form of
haben (to have).
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Chapter 8: Describing Your Mood: Summing Up the Subjunctive
Ich wollte, ich hätte mehr Geschwister. (I wish I had more siblings.) This sentence
contains two subjunctives, wollte and hätte. If you want to get technical, ich
wollte actually means I would wish.
Describing a condition
You use the subjunctive to talk about a condition that’s contrary to fact — for example, when you’re considering what you would (or wouldn’t) do if something that isn’t
true now were true. (See the earlier section “Terms and Conditions: Unraveling
Subjunctive Terminology” for more on conditional sentences with if.) Look at the
examples:
Wenn du kein Affe wärest, würde ich dich heiraten. (If you weren’t a monkey,
I’d marry you.) The verbs wärest (were) and würde (would) + infinitive heiraten
(to marry) are both subjunctive forms. In English, the verb in the main clause
(I’d marry you) is a conditional; technically speaking, the if-clause uses the subjunctive mood, expressed by weren’t.
Hätte ich die Zeit, so würde ich den Roman lesen. (If I had time, I’d read that
novel.) Both verbs hätte (had) and würde (would) + infinitive lesen (to read) are
subjunctives; in English, the verb in the main clause (I’d read novels) is a conditional; the if-clause uses the subjunctive mood, expressed by had.
Politely making a request
You use the subjunctive to make a polite request — for example, when you’re hungry
and you’d like to have something:
Könnte ich noch ein Stück Fleisch nehmen? (Could I take another piece of meat?)
Könnte (could) is the subjunctive form of können (can, to be able to), and using it
makes your request sound polite. Kann ich . . . ? (Can I . . . ?), where the verb is in
the indicative mood, is direct; it lacks the politeness of the subjunctive Könnte
ich . . . ?
Ich möchte die Speisekarte, bitte. (I’d like the menu, please.) The subjunctive Ich
möchte (I’d like) is the polite way of ordering food, selecting an item in a store,
and so on.
Expressing your feelings and/or opinion
When you state your feelings or express your opinion on something, you often use
the subjunctive in German:
Das wäre prima! (That would be fantastic!) Your enthusiastic reply to someone’s
suggestion about going to hear your favorite band includes the subjunctive wäre
(would be).
Wir sollten diese Wurst probieren. (We should try this sausage.) You think something would be a good idea, so you use the subjunctive. Here, the subjunctive is
sollten (should) + infinitive probieren (try).
Some employees are planning a party for Peter, a colleague who is relocating to India.
It’s supposed to be eine Überraschung (a surprise). Complete the sentences by filling in
the forms of the subjunctive verbs using the infinitive verbs in parentheses.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Q. Walbie _________________ (sollen) das Wohnzimmer dekorieren.
A. Walbie sollte das Wohnzimmer dekorieren. (Walbie should decorate the living room.)
11. Hartmut und Richard _________________ (sein) bereit, das Essen zu machen.
12. Wir _________________ (dürfen) unsere Familien nicht einladen.
13. Es _________________ (können) bis Mitternacht dauern . . .
14. . . . aber leider_________________ (müssen) Peter früher nach Hause gehen.
15. Ich _________________ (mögen) die Musik organisieren.
Forming and Using the Past Subjunctive II
When you want to express events that might have taken place in the past, you use the
past Subjunctive II. Perhaps you wish you’d accomplished something, but you never
got around to it. You may regret having done something — or the other way around.
You use the past Subjunctive II for such situations.
Imagine you want to describe something that you would (or wouldn’t) have done in a
certain situation in the past; you say, Ich hätte das nicht gemacht (I wouldn’t have
done that). You form the past Subjunctive II with the present subjunctive form of
either haben or sein + the past participle of the main verb that you want to express
in the subjunctive. In the preceding example, the past subjunctive is hätte (would
have) + gemacht (done).
This section runs through the details of forming and using the past Subjunctive II.
Forming the past Subjunctive II
The past subjunctive deals with past actions and events that might have happened in
the past. At first glance, the past subjunctive seems to be a clone of the past perfect
(see Chapter 17 for past perfect). Indeed, it’s the same, with the exception of an
umlaut in hätte and wäre. You can simply remember that the past subjunctive is
formed like this:
U Present subjunctive of haben = hätte + past participle (geholfen) = hätte
(geholfen)
U Present subjunctive of sein = wäre + past participle (gegangen) = wäre (gegangen)
The endings for the present subjunctive are always the same (in this case, you add
them to hätt- and wär-): -e, -est, -e, -en, -et, -en, -en.
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Chapter 8: Describing Your Mood: Summing Up the Subjunctive
Using the past Subjunctive II
Do you reflect on situations? Time slips by, and events, relationships, and memories
drop off into oblivion. Before that happens, though, you may catch yourself saying,
“I wouldn’t have jumped into marriage so quickly,” or “I might have dyed my hair
green.” The past subjunctive lets you do this type of reminiscing in German, describing scenarios that may or may not have happened. And even if you aren’t the type to
dwell on the past, you’ll be able to understand what other people are talking about
when they say ich hätte sie angerufen (I would have called her).
You can use three past-tense verb forms in the indicative, but you need only one form
of the past subjunctive. Look at the examples:
U Er hätte uns geholfen. (He would have helped us.) This past Subjunctive II form
stands in for three indicative sentences in the past:
Er hat uns geholfen. (He helped/has helped us.)
Er half uns. (He helped us.)
Er hatte uns geholfen. (He had helped us.)
U Sie wäre gegangen. (She would have gone.) This past Subjunctive II form stands
in for three indicative sentences in the past:
Sie ist gegangen. (She went/has gone.)
Sie ging. (She went.)
Sie war gegangen. (She had gone.)
In order to get the hang of putting your ideas into the past Subjunctive II, try changing
past actions from fact into a hypothetical situation; in other words, start with a sentence
that describes something that did or didn’t happen (that’s the indicative mood). Write it
down in German — for example, Ich habe eine Katze gehabt. (I had a cat.). Now imagine
you didn’t have a cat, but you would’ve had one if your parents hadn’t had allergies.
Change the verb as a fact (had) into past subjunctive (would have had) by changing
habe to hätte. Now you have Ich hätte eine Katze gehabt (I would have had a cat).
In the following exercise, you see sentences written in the indicative mood. They
describe some event that has happened. Change them into the past subjunctive mood
to indicate that these events could have happened in the past (but didn’t). Before you
start, review the verb tables for the subjunctive of haben and sein, and check out the
information in the bulleted list showing how the three types of indicative past forms
change into the past subjunctive. The example sentence leads the way.
Q. Sascha hat einen Job gefunden.
A. Sascha hätte einen Job gefunden. (Sascha would have found a job.)
16. Liselotte und Heinz haben ein Haus in Ludwigshafen gekauft.
__________________________________________________________________________________
17. Ich ging mit euch ins Theater.
__________________________________________________________________________________
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18. Sie hatten uns im Sommer besucht.
__________________________________________________________________________________
19. Du hast die Reise besser geplant.
__________________________________________________________________________________
20. Er wanderte den ganzen Tag in den Bergen.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Two-timing the past subjunctive:
Using double infinitives
If only more wishful thinking using the subjunctive were coming your way . . . oh, it is!
This time, the infinitive verb comes in a double pack, and one of the verbs is a modal
verb — dürfen, können, mögen, müssen, sollen, or wollen. The purpose of adding
the modal verb to another verb is to express what you might have been allowed to do
(hätte machen dürfen), could have done (hätte machen können), and so on.
The construction consists of the present Subjunctive II, hätte. (Wäre doesn’t combine
with the modal verbs.) The two infinitive verbs are together at the end of the phrase,
with the modal in the second position. Look at the two example sentences:
Ich hätte eine längere Reise machen können. (I could have made/could have
been able to make a longer trip.) The word order follows the standard procedure,
with the active verb hätte in second position in the sentence. The verb machen
precedes the modal verb können at the end of the phrase.
Er hätte früher nach Hause fahren sollen. (He should have driven home earlier.)
The word order follows the standard procedure with the active verb hätte in
second position in the sentence. The main verb fahren and the modal sollen go to
the very end of the sentence.
Subjunctive I: Used in Indirect Discourse
Another way to describe indirect discourse is indirect speech. It’s the kind of information you read in print when someone writes something that someone else said, but
it’s not in quotation marks. Journalists use this form of writing to avoid quoting
someone directly. Indirect speech frees the writer from taking responsibility for the
statement’s accuracy. As far as your needs go, you can leave its usage to the media
pundits. Just get the hang of what this subjunctive looks like by understanding how
you form the Subjunctive I, knowing where you run across it, and what it means, and
you’re all set.
Note: In English and German, you encounter this subjunctive form almost exclusively
in the third-person singular — er (he), sie (she), es (it) — or the plural sie (they). In
English, the present Subjunctive I is the infinitive form of the verb. In its rare appearances in English, it may be be a (somewhat obsolete) statement such as so be it, or it
may invoke a higher power: May the spirit of the holiday season be with you.
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Chapter 8: Describing Your Mood: Summing Up the Subjunctive
Recognizing the present Subjunctive I
As you read a German newspaper or magazine, you encounter the present
Subjunctive I when the writer wants to report someone else’s original statement. The
information — an indirect quotation — may be a opinion, a fact, a plan, and so on, as
in Sie meinte, sie habe nicht genug Zeit (She thought [that] she didn’t have enough
time). You always use a comma to separate the indirect statement from the person
who’s telling the information.
You form the present Subjunctive I by taking the infinitive stem of the verb and
adding the subjunctive verb endings: -e, -est, -e, -en, -et, -en, and -en. All verbs follow
this pattern with one exception: sein (to be). Look at the verb table showing gehen
(to go, walk), paying special attention to the commonly used third-person forms. The
infinitive stem is geh-. The endings are indicated in bold.
gehe (present Subjunctive I: go/walk)
ich gehe
wir gehen
du gehest
ihr gehet
er/sie/es gehe
sie gehen
Sie gehen
Er sagte, er gehe nicht. (He said he wasn’t going.)
Look at the only irregular exception for present Subjunctive I, the verb sein:
sei (present Subjunctive I: am/is/are/was/were)
ich sei
wir seien
du seist
ihr seiet
er/sie/es sei
sie seien
Sie seien
Sie sagte, es sei zu früh. (She said it was too early.)
Note: In indirect speech in English, journalists often use the past tense to describe
events that may still be occurring (to reflect that the original statement referred to
events as they were at the time of speech). Thus, I use the past tense in the English
translations.
Look at the examples of present Subjunctive I:
Er sagte, er habe eine neue Freundin. (He said he had a new girlfriend.) Habe is
the present Subjunctive I form of haben. Although you say He said he had . . . , the
information (usually) has present meaning.
Der Bundeskanzler sagte, er werde das Problem lösen. (The German Chancellor
said he would solve the problem.) Werde is the present Subjunctive I form of
werden. This statement expresses a future event using werde + lösen.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Recognizing the Past Subjunctive I
The past Subjunctive I is the subjunctive you find in the press to describe actions that
are what someone else has said about an event in the past. German uses the past subjunctive to describe three past tenses: simple past (see Chapter 17), present perfect
(Chapter 16), and past perfect (Chapter 17).
You form the past Subjunctive I by using the appropriate conjugated form of the present subjunctive of haben (to have) or sein (to be) and adding the past participle (for
information on the past participle, see Chapter 16). All verbs follow this pattern. Look
at the past Subjunctive I conjugation of the verb wohnen (to live, reside), which uses
the auxiliary verb haben.
habe gewohnt (past Subjunctive I: had lived)
ich habe gewohnt
wir haben gewohnt
du habest gewohnt
ihr habet gewohnt
er/sie/es habe gewohnt
sie haben gewohnt
Sie haben gewohnt
Sie sagte, sie habe in einer kleinen Wohnung gewohnt.
(She said she had lived in a small apartment.)
Look at the past Subjunctive I conjugation of gehen, which uses the auxiliary verb sein.
sei gegangen (past Subjunctive I: had gone )
ich sei gegangen
wir seien gegangen
du seist gegangen
ihr seiet gegangen
er/sie/es sei gegangen
sie seien gegangen
Sie seien gegangen
Er sagte, er sei in die Stadt gegangen. (He said he had gone into the city.)
Look at the examples of past Subjunctive I. The most common use for indirect discourse (indirect speech) is to report what someone said.
Er sagte, er habe letzte Woche Golf gespielt. (He said he had played golf last
week.) To form the past Subjunctive I, you combine habe, the present Subjunctive
I form of haben, with the past participle of spielen: habe gespielt.
Die Bundeskanzlerin sagte, sie sei nicht mit dem Verteidigungsminister geflogen. (The German Chancellor said she hadn’t flown with the Defense Secretary.) To
form the past Subjunctive I, you combine sei, the present Subjunctive I form of
sein, with the past participle of fliegen: sei geflogen.
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Chapter 8: Describing Your Mood: Summing Up the Subjunctive
131
Answer Key
a
Die Großeltern würden nach Florida umziehen. (The grandparents would move to Florida.)
b
Ich würde eine lange Reise machen. (I’d take a long trip.)
c
Helga würde ein kleines Segelboot kaufen. (Helga would buy a small sailboat.)
d
Du würdest das Geld auf die Bank bringen. (You’d take the money to the bank.)
e
Ihr würdet ein neues Auto kaufen. (You’d buy a new car.)
f
Johannes weiß nicht, was er machen würde. (Johannes doesn’t know what he’d do.) The verb
(würde) is at the end of subordinate clauses.
g
Marianne und Michael würden den ganzen Tag singen. (Marianne and Michael would sing all
day long.)
h
Ich würde nicht alles ausgeben. (I wouldn’t spend all of it.) The verb ausgeben literally means to
give out.
i
Der Nachbar würde eine gigantische Party organisieren. (The neighbor would organize a
gigantic party.)
j
Und was würdest du tun? (And what would you do?)
k
Hartmut und Richard wären bereit, das Essen zu machen. (Hartmut and Richard would be willing to make the food.)
l
Wir dürften unsere Familien nicht einladen. (We wouldn’t be allowed to invite our families.)
m
Es könnte bis Mitternacht dauern . . . (It could last until midnight . . .)
n
. . . aber leider müsste Peter früher nach Hause gehen. (. . . but unfortunately Peter would have to
go home earlier.) Word order in German is time (früher) before place (nach Hause).
o
Ich möchte die Musik organisieren. (I’d like to organize the music.)
p
Liselotte und Heinz hätten ein Haus in Ludwigshafen gekauft. (Liselotte and Heinz would have
bought a house in Ludwigshafen.)
q
Ich wäre mit euch ins Theater gegangen. (I would have gone to the theater with you.) Gehen
(to go) is the infinitive, and its helping verb is sein. Be careful: The simple past ging has only
one verb, but the past subjunctive has two parts, wäre and gegangen.
r
Sie hätten uns im Sommer besucht. (They/you would have visited us in the summer.)
s
Du hättest die Reise besser geplant. (You would have planned the trip better.)
t
Jonas hätte gestern in einem teuren Restaurant gegessen. (Jonas would have eaten in an expensive restaurant yesterday.)
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Chapter 9
In the Mood: Combining Verbs
with Modal Auxiliaries
In This Chapter
© Modifying with modals: The what and the why
© Putting modals to work: Conjugating the present tense
© Clearing up confusion: English and German differences
© Choosing between similar verbs
I
hope you’re in a good mood as you start on this chapter about modal auxiliary
verbs. I’m talking about attitude with a capital A in the next few pages. In grammar
mumbo jumbo, modals are auxiliary (helping) verbs that indicate an attitude about
the main verb, even though they don’t directly alter the main verb’s action.
This motley band of modal verbs helps set the mood of the sentence. They can, at times,
be quite influential in their mood-altering abilities — and all without illegal substances.
Mood is grammarspeak for how something is expressed in a sentence: The mood of a
verb indicates a wide range of, yes, moods such as probability, impossibility, certainty,
doubt, or even just plain old facts, without all the Schnickschnack (bells and whistles).
If you’re asking yourself whether you can get by without using modals, the answer is
plain and simple: No way, José — not unless you’re willing to put up with being misunderstood in daily situations in which the modals should make your intended thought
clear to the listener. In this chapter, you find out what the seven modal verbs are,
together with their equivalents in English, and you discover the importance of modal
verbs in everyday situations. You get the present-tense conjugation of these verbs and
the particulars on important characteristics of these verbs. Then you put the information all together and try your hand at the exercises at the end of each verb section.
The 4-1-1 on Modal Verbs
Modal verbs modify the main verb in the sentence. Here’s how they work: You take a
plain old verb or phrase like eat, sleep, walk, plant a garden, play tennis, learn how to
play chess, or do nothing. Then you think about your attitude toward these activities,
and you decide you want to say I like to eat, I must sleep more, I would like to walk
every day, I should plant a garden, I can play tennis well, I want to learn how to play
chess, or I may do nothing. The underlined modal verbs offer you a wide range of ways
to express your attitude toward actions such as eat, sleep, play, and learn.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
You find modals working their magic in sentences in the indicative mood. This type of
mood is for stating facts. Modal verbs also crop up in sentences expressed in the subjunctive mood. That’s what you use when you want to sound polite when requesting
or suggesting something or when you want to make hypothetical statements.
(Chapter 8 is where you find out about the subjunctive.) This section gives you a
quick overview of what modal verbs are and how they work. The rest of this chapter
focuses on the seven specific modal verbs.
Identifying modals: Assistants with attitude
Modals are your ticket to conveying your attitude or how you feel about an action.
They usually accompany another verb and appear in the second position of a
sentence. The verb they assist generally appears at the end of the clause.
Table 9-1 shows the German modal verbs in infinitive form and the English translation, followed by a statement using the modal verb. Look at the various ways of modifying the statement Ich lerne Deutsch (I learn German) with the modal verbs. Notice
that the modal verb is in second position in the sentence, and the main verb gets
booted to the end.
Table 9-1
German Modal Verbs
German
Modal Verb
Translation
Example
English Equivalent
dürfen
may, to be allowed to
Ich darf Deutsch lernen.
l may/am allowed to
learn German.
können
can, to be able to
Ich kann Deutsch lernen.
l can/am able to learn
German.
mögen
to like to
Ich mag Deutsch lernen.
l like to learn German.
möchten
would like to
Ich möchte Deutsch lernen.
l would like to learn
German.
müssen
must, to have to
Ich muss Deutsch lernen.
l must/have to learn
German.
sollen
should, to be
supposed to
Ich soll Deutsch lernen.
I’m supposed to learn
German/I should learn
German.
wollen
to want to
Ich will Deutsch lernen.
I want to learn German.
These verbs all have regular verb endings in their plural forms (wir, ihr, sie, and Sie).
Most of them also have irregular verb changes, some of which you can see in the
examples in Table 9-1. As you go through Die Glorreichen Sieben (The Magnificent
Seven — modal verbs, that is) in this chapter, you see the irregular verb endings of
these verbs in the present tense.
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Chapter 9: In the Mood: Combining Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries
In English, you typically have two verbs in a sentence that has a modal verb; the
second one is described as the main verb. In German, however, the modal verb may
be the only verb. The one true rogue is the verb mögen, which frequently stands
alone, and to a lesser extent, its sidekick möchten. (Check out the sections “I Like
That: Mögen, the Likeable Verb” and “What Would You Like? Möchten, the Preference
Verb” for more information on these two.)
Understanding word order and modals
In terms of word order for modals, German uses pretty much the same order as for
other verbs that require an auxiliary verb to complete the meaning of the main verb.
The present perfect and the future tenses also use a secondary, auxiliary verb to complete the main verb’s meaning. With these verb types (and tenses), you conjugate the
auxiliary verb, put it in second position in the sentence, and generally put the main
verb at the end of the clause or phrase. (See Chapter 16 for present perfect verbs and
Chapter 18 for future tense verbs and their word order.)
Look at the examples in Table 9-1. The conjugated, active verb is in second position in
the sentence. It directly follows the subject or other elements, such as a reference to
time or a prepositional phrase. When you need more than one verb, the others go to
the very end of the sentence.
Questions follow a slightly different word order (inverted word order) if they’re the
type of question that can be answered with yes, no, or maybe. See Chapter 6 for more
on forming questions.
May I? Dürfen, the Permission Verb
Some people feel rules and customs crimp their personal style, but such guidelines
give people an idea of what they can expect from each other. The rules of the road
allow you to do something (or not) — you may proceed with caution at a yield sign,
but you’re not allowed to cross the double yellow line. And being polite by asking permission — May I use your bathroom? May I have another cookie? — is certainly not
limited to little boys and girls. Adults in all parts of the world know that asking for
and granting permission is part of the code of polite interaction.
You use the modal verb dürfen to ask for and grant permission. Look at the conjugation of dürfen. It’s irregular in the singular forms: ich, du, and er/sie/es. In the table,
the irregular forms are bold, and the regular forms show the endings in bold.
dürfen (may, to be allowed to, to be permitted to)
ich darf
wir dürfen
du darfst
ihr dürft
er/sie/es darf
sie dürfen
Sie dürfen
Sie dürfen dort nicht parken. (You’re not allowed to park there.)
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German uses dürfen in a wide variety of everyday situations. Table 9-2 lists four commonly used idiomatic expressions with dürfen, followed by an example sentence in
German and the English equivalent. You frequently hear these expressions in polite
exchanges between people who don’t know each other well.
Table 9-2
Uses of Dürfen In Polite Conversation
Situation
Example
English Equivalent
to ask whether a customer
needs assistance
Was darf es sein?
May I help you?
to signal someone to do a favor
such as opening the door
Darf ich Sie bitten?
May I trouble you?
to say that you’d like to introduce
two people to each other
Darf ich Ihnen Frau
Feuerstein vorstellen?
May I introduce you to
Mrs. Feuerstein?
to explain that something is
not allowed
Das Obst dürfen Sie nicht
anfassen.
You may not/must not
touch the fruit.
Generally speaking, German and English use dürfen (may, to be allowed to, to be permitted to) in very similar ways: to ask for permission, to grant permission, and to state
that something is (or is not) permitted or allowed.
German sometimes uses the impersonal form man (it, one, you) with dürfen; in
English, you use the passive construction (parking/passing/stopping isn’t allowed
here), or you simply say no parking/passing/stopping (allowed here).
English uses may to express possibility, whereas dürfen doesn’t have this meaning.
Instead, you’d use vielleicht (maybe/perhaps) to express possibility or chance. For
instance, you can translate Vielleicht komme ich spät nach Hause as I may come
home late. However, Perhaps I’ll come home late is closer to the word-for-word translation, even though German doesn’t use the future tense in the example sentence. (For
more information on the present tense, see Chapter 5.)
Watch out for false friends (which I discuss in Chapter 4). The modal verb müssen
looks somewhat similar to the English must, which is the correct meaning in English;
however, you express must not in German with nicht dürfen: Sie dürfen hier nicht
rauchen (You must not/are not allowed to smoke here).
You Can Do It! Können, the Ability Verb
Can you run a marathon barefoot? Do you know how to play chess (and win) against a
computer? Are you able to make a five-course dinner for 12 guests without batting an
eye? No matter what your hidden talents may be, if you have a healthy ego, then
chances are you enjoy talking about yourself. Know-how, ability, and can-do attitude —
all are expressed with the verb können.
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Chapter 9: In the Mood: Combining Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries
As one of the seven players in the modal verb dugout, können (can, to be able to, to
know how to) is a true champ. In general, German and English use können in similar
ways. The verb goes up to bat whenever you need to express that
U You can or can’t do something: Kannst du Tennis/Tischtennis/Volleyball/
Schach/Poker spielen? (Can you play tennis/table tennis/volleyball/chess/
poker?)
U You know or don’t know how to do something: Er kann Geige/Klavier/
Keyboards/Gitarre/Klarinette/Saxophon spielen. (He knows how to play the
violin/piano/keyboards/guitar/clarinet/saxophone.) In German, you don’t use the
definite article der, die, das [the] to talk about playing an instrument.
U You are able to do something: Ich kann bis Mittag schlafen. (I’m able to/can
sleep until noon.)
U You want to request or offer help in a polite but direct way: Können Sie mir
sagen, wo der Bahnhof/die Straßenbahnhaltestelle/das Hotel Blaue Gans/
das Kunstmuseum ist? (Can you tell me where the train station/the streetcar
stop/the Hotel Blaue Gans/the art museum is?)
Note: Notice the comma after the first clause. In German, you need this comma
to separate the subordinate clause (. . . wo der Bahnhof ist?) from the main
clause (Können Sie mir sagen, . . .). Subordinate clauses often begin with words
like wo (where), was (what), wie viel (how much), wer (who), and warum (why).
The conjugated verb in the subordinate clause, ist (is), gets the boot and lands at
the end of the sentence. (For more on subordinate clauses, see Chapter 14.)
Look at the conjugation of können. It’s irregular in the singular forms: ich, du, and
er/sie/es. The irregular forms are bold, and the regular forms show the endings in
bold.
können (can, to be able to, to know how to)
ich kann
wir können
du kannst
ihr könnt
er/sie/es kann
sie können
Sie können
Ich kann Ihnen mit ihrem Gepäck helfen. (I can help you with your luggage.)
One striking difference between English and German is that German sometimes
describes what can or can’t be done using können but no main verb. Typically, you
hear the following expressions in spoken, casual conversation. Table 9-3 lists the situation, an example sentence in German, and its equivalent in English.
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Table 9-3
Uses of Können without a Main Verb
Situation
Example
English Equivalent
to say someone can speak a
language
Meine Frau kann sehr gut
Französisch.
My wife can speak French
very well.
to say that you give up trying
Ich kann nicht weiter.
Es ist zu schwer.
I can’t go on. It’s too
difficult.
to explain that you can’t help
doing
Ich kann nichts dafür.
Es schmeckt so gut!
I can’t help it. It tastes so
good! (excusing yourself for
taking a third piece of
chocolate cake)
to interject that you can do
something
Das kann ich wohl!
Of course I can do that!
A number of common können expressions are reflexive (they use a reflexive pronoun
[me, you, us, and so on] with the verb) in German but not in English. German uses the
reflexive much more frequently than English. (For more information on reflexive
verbs, check out Chapter 11.) Table 9-4 lists these common expressions, an example
sentence in German, and the English translation.
Table 9-4
Uses of Können with a Reflexive Verb
Situation
Example
English Equivalent
to say you can(‘t) decide
Ich kann mich nicht
entscheiden.
I can’t decide.
to express that you can get
away with something
Wie kannst du dir so etwas How can you get away with
erlauben?
something like that?
to be able (or unable) to afford
something
Wir können uns kein
teueres Auto leisten.
to give assurance that someone/ Sie können sich auf mich
something can be trusted
verlassen.
We can’t afford an expensive car.
You can depend on me.
Decide whether the word order for the following expressions is correct. If not, make
the necessary correction in word order. Remember that when there are two verbs, the
main verb (the one that’s in infinitive form) gets kicked to the end of the sentence.
(Harsh treatment for some decent, upstanding verbs, but it’s true!)
Q. Sie kann spielen Klarinette.
A. Sie kann Klarinette spielen. (She can play the clarinet.) The word order needs to have the
conjugated verb kann in second position and the main verb spielen (in the infinitive
form) at the end of the sentence.
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Chapter 9: In the Mood: Combining Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries
1. Können Sie helfen mir?
__________________________________________________________________________________
2. Wir können uns kein neues Auto leisten.
__________________________________________________________________________________
3. Könnt ihr gut Tennis spielen?
__________________________________________________________________________________
4. Ich kann Englisch, Deutsch, und Spanisch.
__________________________________________________________________________________
5. Ich kann spielen Fußball.
__________________________________________________________________________________
I Like That: Mögen, the Likeable Verb
Want to talk about likes and dislikes? Mögen is the verb for you. Consider these
sentences: Magst du kaltes Wetter? (Do you like cold weather?) Nein, ich mag den
Winter überhaupt nicht. (No, I don’t like the winter at all.) Want to express your
feelings toward someone? Try ich mag dich (I like you).
The main definition of mögen is that of liking or disliking someone or something.
When talking about such preferences, you usually don’t need an additional verb:
Magst du diese Sängerin? (Do you like this female singer?)
Er mag kein Starkbier. (He doesn’t like strong beer.)
The modal verb mögen comes as a double dipper. Why? Because mögen (to like, to
care for) is so likeable that it has a sidekick, möchten (would like, would like to do),
which is similar in meaning to mögen. (Check out the next section for more on
möchten.)
This verb table shows you the conjugation of mögen. It follows the typical pattern of
modal verbs: the singular verb forms are the irregular ones — ich mag, du magst,
er/sie/es mag. The irregular forms are shown in bold, and the regular forms show the
endings in bold.
mögen (to like, to care for)
ich mag
wir mögen
du magst
ihr mögt
er/sie/es mag
sie mögen
Sie mögen
Ich mag klassische Musik. (I like classical music.)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
When you want to express dislike for someone or something, you put nicht at the end
of the sentence when no other verb is along for the ride:
Ihr mögt diese Farbe nicht. (You don’t like this color.)
Mögen sie Schokoladeneis nicht? (Don’t they like chocolate ice cream?)
To add some oomph to mögen, you can use a number of expressions with gern (gern
is similar to a lot when you add it to other words). I arranged the list in order of most
positive to most negative:
U mögen . . . besonders gern (to especially like): Ich mag Bratkartoffeln besonders
gern. (I especially like roast potatoes.) They’re similar to home fries.
U mögen . . . (sehr) gern (to like [very much]): Ich mag Kartoffelklöße (sehr)
gern. (I like potato dumplings very much.) In southern Germany and Austria,
Klöße are referred to as Knödel, both of which are dumplings.
U mögen . . . nicht gern (not to like very much): Ich mag Pommes frites nicht
gern. (I don’t like French fries very much.)
U mögen . . . überhaupt nicht gern (not to like at all): Ich mag Salzkartoffeln
überhaupt nicht gern. (I don’t like boiled potatoes at all.)
A few idiomatic expressions use mögen:
U Das mag sein. (That could be true.)
U Ich mag ihn leiden. (I care for him.) You can also leave off leiden without changing the meaning much, but leiden stresses the emotion of caring.
U Darin mögen Sie Recht haben. (You have a point there.)
Take a crack at these exercises. Put the correct form of mögen into the sentence. The
example gets you started.
Q. Meine Eltern _________________ die Oper sehr gern.
A. Meine Eltern mögen die Oper sehr gern.
6. _________________ du den Salat?
7. Nein, ich _________________ ihn überhaupt nicht.
8. Er _________________ Horrorfilme.
9. _________________ ihr Klaviermusik nicht?
10. Ja, aber wir _________________ alle Musikarten gern.
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Chapter 9: In the Mood: Combining Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries
What Would You Like? Möchten,
the Preference Verb
Life is full of choices, and you’re likely to have some opinions on what you like best.
When the Kellner/Kellnerin (waiter/waitress) in a German restaurant asks me “Was
möchten Sie?” (What would you like?), I make sure I order something to drink first —
“Ich möchte eine Apfelsaftschorle” (I’d like an apple juice/mineral water drink). That
way, I have time to peruse the eight-page menu and order the meal later.
To say you’d like to do something in German, you use the modal verb möchten.
Although möchten (would like [to do]) is often lumped together with mögen (to like,
care for) (see the preceding section for more info), it’s definitely important enough to
get top billing in the modal verb lineup. Look at the conjugation of möchten. The verb
endings are in bold.
möchten (would like [to] )
ich möchte
wir möchten
du möchtest
ihr möchtet
er/sie/es möchte
sie möchten
Sie möchten
Ich möchte am Wochenende Rad fahren. (I’d like to go bicycling on the weekend.)
The important similarity that möchten and mögen share, aside from their meanings, is
that neither modal verb needs a main verb to express something clearly. For instance,
when ordering in a restaurant, the context can typically indicate what you’d like to
have. Using möchten as the modal verb, you can omit the following main verbs:
U essen (to eat)
U trinken (to drink)
U haben (to have)
U fahren (to drive)
U gehen (to go, walk)
Look at the two example sentences, one with and one without the main verb.
Assuming you know they’re spoken in a restaurant, the meaning of the first sentence,
which has no main verb, is clear:
Ich möchte ein Glas Rotwein, bitte. (I’d like a glass of red wine, please.)
Ich möchte ein Glas Rotwein trinken, bitte. (I’d like to drink a glass of red wine,
please.) Or you can use haben (to have) instead of trinken, and you’d still get a
glass of red wine.
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German often expresses a preference by using möchten in combination with lieber
(rather). The example dialogue shows haben in parentheses to indicate that it’s not
necessary in the context of the situation:
Möchten Sie einen Fensterplatz (haben)? (Would you like a window seat?)
Nein, ich möchte lieber einen Gangplatz (haben). (No, I’d rather have an aisle
seat.)
It’s your turn to see how polite you sound in German and how good you are at expressing things people would like to do. Write the sentences or questions in German, using
the English cues. To help you, I’ve indicated some difficult elements in bold.
Q. I’d like a cup of coffee.
A. Ich möchte eine Tasse Kaffee.
11. I’d like a pizza, please.
__________________________________________________________________________________
12. We’d like to learn German.
__________________________________________________________________________________
13. I’d like to stay here. (hier bleiben means to stay here)
__________________________________________________________________________________
14. She’d like to dance with Andreas.
__________________________________________________________________________________
15. Would you like a glass of water? (s., fam.)
__________________________________________________________________________________
Do I Have To? Müssen, the Verb of Necessity
As a child, you may have heard something along the lines of “No, you don’t have to
finish your broccoli au gratin, but you have to try at least three bites.” So now that
you’ve grown up — or at least other people think you have — far more serious obligations haunt you, such as paying taxes, mowing the lawn, and having the first local
strawberries of the season before anyone else.
Müssen bears a vague resemblance to must, making it easier to get down to the nittygritty of how this modal works, when you need it, when you have to use it, when it’s a
must, and when you don’t have to deal with it. What about must not? Oddly enough,
must not is darf nicht in German, with the modal verb dürfen (to be allowed to).
(Check out the earlier section on dürfen if you’re a bit foggy on the difference
between the two verbs.)
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Chapter 9: In the Mood: Combining Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries
Necessity and obligation are the core meanings of müssen in both English and German,
although in the English-speaking world and among North Americans in particular,
there’s a tendency to downplay the use of must because it sounds so strong to the ear.
Do I have to? works just fine at getting the obligation message across (especially when
uttered by whining 10-year-olds after you’ve told them to turn off the TV and go to bed).
Take a look at the conjugation of müssen. Like most of its fellow modal verbs, it’s
irregular in the singular forms: ich, du, and er/sie/es. The irregular forms are in bold,
and the regular forms show the endings in bold.
müssen (must, to have to, need to)
ich muss
wir müssen
du musst
ihr müsst
er/sie/es muss
sie müssen
Sie müssen
Er muss morgen früh aufstehen. (He has to get up early tomorrow.)
Don’t get lulled into thinking that muss nicht is equivalent to must not. When you turn
müssen into a negative expression, the similarities between German an English go
down the drain. German has two expressions for indicating whether something is forbidden or simply not necessary:
U nicht dürfen (not allowed, must not, not permitted): A no-no; strong prohibition,
such as Du darfst das nicht trinken (You mustn’t drink that).
U nicht müssen (not necessary, don’t need to): An absence of necessity or obligation, such as Du musst das nicht trinken (You don’t need to drink that).
Should I or Shouldn’t I?
Sollen, the Duty Verb
There are things in life that you have to do and things you’re supposed to do. I prefer
the latter because they’re easier to put off. But wasting valuable vacation time to
accomplish everything on your checklist is something you really shouldn’t do. So the
to-do list just gets longer and longer until the day it fortuitously gets lost in the trash.
When you want to describe an action you should or shouldn’t do or that you’re
supposed to or not supposed to do, sollen is the verb to use. Look at the conjugation of
this modal verb in the table that follows. Sollen is irregular only in two places — the
ich and er/sie/es forms. The irregular forms are in bold, and the regular forms show
the endings in bold.
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sollen (should, to be supposed to)
ich soll
wir sollen
du sollst
ihr sollt
er/sie/es soll
sie sollen
Sie sollen
Du sollst die Katze füttern. (You should feed the cat.)
You, the non-native speaker of German, should be careful not to sound too forceful
when it isn’t necessary. Sollen, the modal duty verb, is the verb you use for giving
advice or expressing a duty that’s an expected, right-kind-of-thing-to-do action. The
negative version, nicht sollen, expresses what you shouldn’t do. The cousin müssen
is the modal verb of necessity and strong directives — see the earlier section on
müssen.
How’s your sense of duty in German? Finish the sentences with the right conjugated
form of sollen or nicht sollen. The second sentence of these exercises has a clue to
help you decide which one is logical. The sample exercise shows how to proceed.
Q. Ich _________________ etwas trinken. Ich habe Durst.
A. Ich soll etwas trinken. Ich habe Durst. (I should drink something. I’m thirsty.)
16. Wir _________________ unsere Schuhe putzen. Sie sind schmutzig.
17. Du _________________ spät ins Bett gehen. Du siehst sehr müde aus.
18. Ich _________________ den neuen Film sehen. Er ist super.
19. Maria _________________ ein kleineres Auto kaufen. Das Benzin ist sehr teuer.
20. Du _________________ zum Konzert gehen. Die Gruppe ist wirklich schlecht.
I Want to Be Famous: Wollen,
the Intention Verb
When you were little, did you want to travel around the world in a hot air balloon?
Chances are, by now you’ve scaled back such grand intentions: You wish you could
just remember the names of three famous movie stars. However, you do intend to
travel more — to your son’s soccer games. No matter how grandiose or mundane your
wants and desires may be, you can express them all with wollen, the intention verb.
Expressing your wants (as well as intentions, desires, and a secret wish or two) in
German is simple when you know how to use wollen. Like some others in the band of
modal verbs, it’s irregular in the following forms: ich, du, and er/sie/es — the singular
forms. The irregular forms are in bold, and the regular forms show the endings in
bold. Look at the verb conjugation.
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Chapter 9: In the Mood: Combining Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries
wollen (to want to, intend to, wish)
ich will
wir wollen
du willst
ihr wollt
er/sie/es will
sie wollen
Sie wollen
Ich will jetzt nach Hause fahren. (I want to drive home now.)
When you’re expressing something you want to do or intend to do, you can substitute
möchten for wollen and come up with virtually the same results (see the earlier section “What Would You Like? Möchten, the Preference Verb”). Look at the following
examples. The difference between them is minimal in both languages. The speaker
could be talking to someone or doing some wishful thinking:
Ich will ein neues Auto kaufen. (I want to buy a new car.)
Ich möchte ein neues Auto kaufen. (I would like to buy a new car.)
When you want something from someone else, the two verbs are not interchangeable.
Wollen is direct: You want something. Möchten does express a want in the form of
would like to, but it carries the ring of politeness. Compare the two example sentences that follow. The speaker is a dinner guest in someone’s living room.
Ich will fernsehen. (I want to watch TV.) The guest is simply stating what he or
she wants or intends to do. There’s no hint, direct or indirect, of a request.
Ich möchte fernsehen. (I would like to watch TV.) The guest sounds polite by
using möchte. A request is likely to follow up the stated intention with a question,
such as Haben Sie etwas dagegen? (Do you mind?).
The expressions using wollen in the following sentences show how its meaning can
bend slightly in conjunction with another word or words:
U wollen . . . gern + infinitive: Stresses desire. (Note: Look at the section in this
chapter on mögen for more ways to use gern.) For example, Er will gern Musik
hören (He feels like listening to music).
U wollen . . . unbedingt: Underscores that you absolutely want something, without
fail, such as Ich will unbedingt nach Australien reisen (I’m dying to travel to
Australia).
U wie + subject + wollen: Notes that a decision is up to somebody else, such as
Wie Sie wollen (It’s up to you). The German title of Shakespeare’s As You Like It is
Wie Ihr Wollt.
U wollen . . . nicht + past participle + haben/sein: Expresses that someone
doesn’t want to admit having done something (see Chapter 16 for more on past
participles), such as Sie wollen den Unfall nicht gesehen haben (They claim not
to have seen the accident). In other words, they don’t want to admit to having
seen the accident.
U wollen nichts damit zu tun haben: Notes that the subject doesn’t want to be
involved with something, such as Ich will nichts damit zu tun haben
(I want no part of that or I don’t want anything to do with it).
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Check that you know how to use the modal verb wollen in the following exercise.
What do these people want to do? Change the German sentence by adding the correct
form of the modal verb wollen. Word order is important here: Remember to replace
the main verb with the conjugated form of wollen; then throw the main verb to the
back (of the sentence, that is), changing it in midair into the infinitive form. Look at
the example to get you going.
Q. Du machst einen Salat.
A. Du willst einen Salat machen. (You want to make a salad.) Machst changes to machen
before it lands at the end of the sentence.
21. Ich spiele morgen um 17.00 Uhr Tennis. _____________________________________________
22. Wir trinken Orangensaft. __________________________________________________________
23. Ihr geht in die Stadt. ______________________________________________________________
24. Heidi und Thomas gehen heute Abend ins Restaurant.
_________________________________________________________________________________
25. Sophie isst ein Stück Apfelkuchen. __________________________________________________
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Chapter 9: In the Mood: Combining Verbs with Modal Auxiliaries
147
Answer Key
a
Können Sie mir helfen? (Can you help me?) Können is the conjugated verb, and in a yes/no
question, it’s first; the verb helfen needs to be at the end.
b
Wir können uns kein neues Auto leisten. (We can’t afford a new car.) The word order
is correct.
c
Könnt ihr gut Tennis spielen? (Can you play tennis well?) The word order is correct.
d
Ich kann Englisch, Deutsch, und Spanisch. (I can speak English, German, and Spanish.) The
sentence is correct. Können needs no other verb here. However, you can add sprechen
(to speak) at the end of the sentence, especially if you want to go on and say something different about another language: Ich kann Französisch verstehen, aber nicht sprechen. (I can
understand French but not speak it.)
e
Ich kann Fußball spielen. (I can play soccer.) The word order is incorrect; in the correct order,
the conjugated modal verb kann is in second position, and the main verb spielen (in infinitive
form) is at the end of the sentence.
f
Magst du den Salat? (Do you like the salad?)
g
Nein, ich mag ihn überhaupt nicht. (No, I don’t like it at all.) The strong negative is expressed
with überhaupt nicht. Ihn is the accusative case pronoun that replaces the accusative,
masculine noun den Salat.
h
Er mag Horrorfilme. (He likes horror movies.)
i
Mögt ihr Klaviermusik nicht? (Don’t you like piano music?) Notice that nicht is at the end of the
sentence.
j
Ja, aber wir mögen alle Musikarten gern. (Yes, but we fancy/really like all kinds of music.)
k
Ich möchte eine Pizza, bitte.
l
Wir möchten Deutsch lernen.
m
Ich möchte hier bleiben.
n
Sie möchte mit Andreas tanzen.
o
Möchtest du ein Glas Wasser?
p
Wir sollen unsere Schuhe putzen. Sie sind schmutzig. (We should clean our shoes. They’re dirty.)
q
Du sollst nicht spät ins Bett gehen. Du siehst sehr müde aus. (You shouldn’t go to bed late. You
look very tired.)
r
Ich soll den neuen Film sehen. Er ist super. (I should see the new movie. It’s super.)
s
Maria soll ein kleineres Auto kaufen. Das Benzin ist sehr teuer. (Maria should buy a smaller car.
Gas is very expensive.)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
t
Du sollst nicht zum Konzert gehen. Die Gruppe ist wirklich schlecht. (You shouldn’t go to the
concert. The group is really bad.)
u
Ich will morgen um 17.00 Uhr Tennis spielen. (I want to play tennis tomorrow at 5 p.m.)
v
Wir wollen Orangensaft (trinken). (We want to drink [some] orange juice.)
w
Ihr wollt in die Stadt gehen. (You want to go into the city.) In die Stadt gehen usually means to
the city center, which typically has a pleasant pedestrian area with stores and cafés.
x
Heidi und Thomas wollen heute Abend ins Restaurant gehen. (Heidi and Thomas want to go to
a/the restaurant this evening.)
y
Sophie will ein Stück Apfelkuchen essen. (Sophie wants to eat a piece of apple cake.) German
Apfelkuchen is hervorragend (excellent).
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Chapter 10
Sorting Out Separable- and
Inseparable-Prefix Verbs
In This Chapter
© Juggling separable-prefix verbs
© Keeping it together with inseparable-prefix verbs
© Rounding up dual-prefix verbs
A
ll you couch potatoes: Use it or lose it! Get up off the couch, put your shoes on,
breathe some air in, and get ready to work out! Why the exercise hype in a chapter on separable- and inseparable-prefix verbs? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate as a
pep talk in a health magazine? Actually, the verbs I deal with in this chapter are the
types you see in italics here. In English, they’re called two-part or phrasal verbs, and
their German counterparts are called separable- or inseparable-prefix verbs. Separable
prefixes can separate from the verb itself, depending on the verb tense you use, and
the inseparable prefixes never separate from the verb. These verb types are equally
common in German and English.
This chapter deals with three categories of verbs: separable-prefix verbs, inseparableprefix verbs, and dual-prefix verbs, which I dub the double-crossers because the prefixes can be separable or inseparable.
Looking at the Prefix
The German prefix (which corresponds to the second part of a two-part verb in
English) may stand for a preposition like up or an adverb like away. In both English
and German, the prefix alters the meaning of the original verb, sometimes only
slightly, sometimes radically.
To remember whether these verbs are separable- or inseparable-prefix verbs, practice pronouncing them aloud. The separable-prefix verbs stress the prefix in spoken
German, but the inseparable-prefix verbs don’t stress the prefix. For instance,
umsteigen (to change [trains, planes, and so on] ) is separable, so when you say it,
stress the prefix um- like this: UM-steig-en. Unterbrechen (to interrupt) is inseparable,
so you don’t stress the prefix, but you do stress the first syllable of the verb brechen
like this: un-ter-BRECH-en.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Two-part verbs in English are generally exactly that, in two parts: get + up = get up.
They’re a dime a dozen: turn away, put on, take off — you get the picture. The German
equivalent is different because it has the prefix attached directly to the infinitive (the
base verb form). For example, aufstehen (to get up) has the prefix auf-. (Literally, auf- +
stehen is up + stand.) Such German verbs are extremely common.
You can remember verbs with prefixes using two approaches. First, find out the meanings of the prefixes, and second, know what the prefix and verb mean together. By
using the prefix/verb lists in this chapter, you have the opportunity to try both
methods at the same time. (Refer to Chapter 15 for more on prepositions.) Although
this may sound complicated, a great deal of these verbs (sans prefix) are gardenvariety types you encounter often in German. By the time you finish the exercises,
you should have a good foundation of these verbs and know how to form and use
them.
Simplifying Separable-Prefix Verbs
With separable-prefix verbs, the verb and the prefix can — drum roll please — split
up (surprise, surprise). Of the three groups of verbs that I discuss in this chapter, this
group is the largest because it has the largest number of prefixes as well as the largest
number of verbs that connect with these prefixes. Knowing the meaning of the verb
without the prefix can help, but make sure you know the separable-prefix verb and its
English meaning. Take a look at the following example. Aufstehen (to get up) is a
separable-prefix verb. Its prefix, auf-, means up in this context. The verb stehen
means to stand or stay. Notice that the prefix auf-, appears at the end of the sentence:
Ich stehe meistens um sechs Uhr auf (I usually get up at six a.m.).
You get your money’s worth with the prefixes in this section. They’re a great help
when you’re expanding your vocabulary. Why? Not only do they combine with verbs,
but some also combine with nouns and adjectives. Most verb prefixes have more than
one specific meaning, and as you become familiar with them, you start seeing a pattern in the way a prefix alters the meaning of the verbs it combines with. When you
come across a new German verb with the same prefix, you can make an educated
guess about its meaning. These itty bitty sound bites are very influential, so start
your own collection right away.
Table 10-1 shows separable prefixes, their English meanings, and some verbs that use
the prefix. Although this prefix list is fairly complete, the number of separable-prefix
verbs is huge. This sample list contains high-frequency verbs.
Table 10-1
Separable Prefixes and Verb Combinations
Prefix
English Definition
Example Verb
English Equivalent
ab-
from
abbrechen
abnehmen
abschaffen
to break away, stop
to pick up, reduce, take off
to do away with
an-
at, to, on
anfangen
anhaben
anrufen
to begin, start
to have on, wear
to phone
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Chapter 10: Sorting Out Separable- and Inseparable-Prefix Verbs
Prefix
English Definition
Example Verb
English Equivalent
auf-
on, out, up
aufbauen
aufgeben
aufstehen
to put up, build up
to give up, check (bags)
to get up, stand up
aus-
from, out
ausbilden
ausfallen
aussehen
to train, educate
to cancel, fall out (hair)
to look (like), appear
bei-
with, along
beilegen
beitreten
to insert (in a document)
to join, enter into (a pact)
da-
there
dableiben
to stay behind
dabei-
there
dabeibleiben
to stay with, stick with (it)
daran-
on
daranmachen
to get down to (it)
ein-
in, into, down
einkaufen
einladen
einschlafen
to go shopping, to buy
to invite
to go to sleep
entgegen-
against, toward
entgegenkommen
to approach, accommodate
fehl-
wrong
fehlschlagen
to go wrong
fest-
fixed
festhalten
to hold on, keep hold of
fort-
onward, away
fortbilden
fortführen
fortpflanzen
to continue education
to carry on, continue
to reproduce, propagate
gegenüber-
across from
gegenüberstehen
to be opposite, face
gleich-
equal
gleichstellen
to treat as equal
her-
from, here
herstellen
to manufacture, establish
heraus-
from, out of
herausfinden
herausreden
herausfordern
to find out
to talk one’s way out of
to challenge
hin-
to, towards, there
hinfahren
to drive there, go there
hinzu-
in addition
hinzufügen
to add (details), enclose
kennen-
know
kennenlernen
to get to know, meet
los-
start, away
losbrechen
losfahren
loslassen
to break off
to drive off
to let go of
mit-
along, with (similar
to English prefix co-)
mitarbeiten
mitmachen
mitteilen
to collaborate
to go along with, join in
to inform (someone)
nach-
after, copy (similar
to English prefix re-)
nachahmen
nachfragen
nachgeben
to imitate
to ask, inquire
to give way, give in
(continued)
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Table 10-1 (continued)
Prefix
English Definition
Example Verb
English Equivalent
statt-
no equivalent
stattfinden
to take place (event)
vor-
before (similar to
English prefixes preand pro-)
vorbereiten
vorführen
vorlesen
vormachen
to prepare
to present, perform
to read aloud
to show someone how to do
something, fool someone
weg-
away, off
wegbleiben
to stay away
zu-
shut, to, upon
zulassen
zusichern
zusteigen
to authorize, license
to assure someone
to get on, board
zurück-
back
zurückkommen
zurücktreten
zurückzahlen
to return, come back
to step back, resign
to pay back
zusammen-
together
zusammenarbeiten
zusammenfassen
zusammenwachsen
to work together
to summarize
to grow together
zwischen-
between
zwischenlanden
to stop over (flight)
This section shows you how to use separable-prefix verbs in the present, the past,
and the present perfect. I break it down by these three tenses; for each verb tense,
you find out whether to do separation work or not, details on how to form the verb
tense, and where to place the two verb parts in the sentence.
Using verbs in the present tense
When you write an e-mail to your friend in Berlin or speak to your German boss,
you’ll probably end up using separable-prefix verbs in the present tense. When doing
so, word order is a really big deal. Why? If you mix up word order, the reader or listener may not get your intended message. Also, keep in mind that the prefix alters
the basic verb’s meaning, so if you leave it out, you’re likely to cause confusion. (For
more on word order in present tense, see Chapter 5.)
With separable-prefix verbs in the present tense, keep the following two points in mind:
U The prefix — such as fest- in festhalten (to hold on) — goes to the end of the
sentence. In spoken German, you stress the prefix.
U The verb itself, which is the part you conjugate, is generally in second position
in the sentence, as in Ich halte mich fest (I’m holding on tight). Halte, the conjugated part of the verb, is in second position.
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153
Here are some guidelines for word order, depending on the type of sentence:
U Statements, both positive and negative: The verb is generally in second position, such as in Wir haben viel vor (We’re planning to do a lot [of activities]). The
verb is vorhaben (to plan). The verb haben is in second position, and the prefix
vor- is at the end of the sentence. The same sentence expressed negatively
would look like this: Wir haben nicht viel vor (We’re not planning to do much).
U Yes/no questions and commands: The verb and subject are inverted, meaning
that the verb is first, followed by the subject, such as with Kommst du am
Sonntag vom Urlaub zurück? (Are you coming back from vacation on Sunday?).
The verb is zurückkommen (to come back). Kommst, the conjugated part of the
verb zurückkommen, is in first position in a yes/no question, and the prefix
zurück is at the end of the question.
U Sentences or questions with a modal verb (such as dürfen or möchten) in
addition to the separable-prefix verb: Conjugate the modal verb, put it (usually)
in second position, and place the separable-prefix verb in the infinitive form at
the end of the phrase, such as with Alle Gäste dürfen mitmachen (All the guests
may join in). The verb is mitmachen (to join in). The modal verb dürfen (may, to
be allowed to) is in second position, and mitmachen, the infinitive form of the
separable-prefix verb, goes to the end of the sentence. (See Chapter 9 for info on
modal verbs.)
For sentences that have more than one clause, the guidelines follow those for twopart sentences, (see Chapter 14).
Use the verb list in Table 10-1 and the preceding guidelines to rewrite the statements,
questions, or commands in the present tense, making sure you use the correct word
order. The separable-prefix verb is in parentheses in the infinitive form. Be careful:
The verb may be in one part only.
Q. du schnell? (einschlafen)
A. Schläfst du schnell ein? (Do you go to sleep quickly?)
1. wir viele Gäste zum Fest (einladen). ________________________________________________
2. diese Firma viele Produkte im Ausland (herstellen). __________________________________
3. die besten Pläne oft (fehlschlagen). _________________________________________________
4. können Sie mir die Details? (mitteilen) ______________________________________________
Using verbs in the simple past
The simple past (also referred to as the narrative past) is used mainly by speakers in
the north and east of Germany and in the written language of the media, especially for
narrating a sequence of events in the past. (For information on how to form the
simple past, see Chapter 17.) When you use separable-prefix verbs in the simple past,
word order is just as important as with the present (and present perfect as well). The
guidelines for using the simple past are the same as those for present. Refer to the
information in the preceding section, “Using verbs in the present tense.”
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
The following examples are the same as those in the present tense section except
they’re in the simple past. Note that the command form doesn’t exist in simple past.
Wir hatten viel vor. (We were planning/planned to do a lot [of activities].)
Kamst du am Sonntag vom Urlaub zurück? (Did you come back from vacation on
Sunday?)
Alle Gäste durften mitmachen. (All the guests were allowed join in.)
The verbs in this exercise are all in simple past. Write the parts of the sentence in the
correct word order. For help with word order, refer to the examples and the guidelines for present. You can find the separable-prefix verbs in Table 10-1.
Q. ein / Helena / Kleid / an / hatte / schwarzes
A. Helena hatte ein schwarzes Kleid an. (Helena was wearing/wore a black dress.)
5. fuhr / Nach einer Pause / fort / der Redner __________________________________________
6. ab / Arbeit / Markus und Jonathan / Brachen / ihre? __________________________________
7. sahen / Im Herbst / aus / sehr / die Bäume / schön ___________________________________
8. vor / die Geschichte / Regina / las __________________________________________________
9. der Bus / los / Fuhr / Johanna / ohne ? ______________________________________________
Using verbs in present perfect tense
To make a sentence in present perfect using a separable-prefix verb, you need to
know how to form this tense and where to place the two verb parts. Word order is the
name of the game. (For more on how to form the present perfect tense and the past
participle, go to Chapter 16.)
With separable-prefix verbs in the present perfect tense in general, keep the following
points in mind:
U The past participle is at the end of the sentence. For example, the past participle
of hinfahren (to drive there, go there) is hingefahren (driven there). Here’s how
you get it:
• Split the prefix (hin-) from the main part of the verb (fahren).
• Form the past participle with ge- by squeezing the ge- into the middle of
the past participle: hin- + ge- + fahren.
U The auxiliary verb, either haben or sein, is conjugated in present tense, and it’s
generally in second position in the sentence. Exceptions are yes/no questions,
which have inverted order: The auxiliary verb is placed first, and the subject is
second.
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Chapter 10: Sorting Out Separable- and Inseparable-Prefix Verbs
U In spoken German, you stress the prefix in the verb. For example:
Meine Schwester hat mich angerufen. (My sister called me.) The verb is
anrufen (to call, phone). The auxiliary verb hat is in second position. The
past participle is formed with an- + ge- + rufen: Ge- is squeezed in the
middle of an- and -rufen.
Der Präsident ist zurückgetreten. (The president resigned.) The verb is
zurücktreten (to step down, resign). The auxiliary verb ist is in second position. The past participle is formed with zurück- + ge- + treten: Ge- is
squeezed in the middle of zurück- and -treten.
Ist noch jemand zugestiegen? (Has anyone gotten on [the train?]) Ticket
collectors say this to ask new passengers to show their tickets. The verb is
zusteigen (to get on, board). The auxiliary verb ist is in first position
because the sentence is a question. The past participle is formed with zu- +
ge- + stiegen: Ge- is squeezed in the middle of zu- and -stiegen.
Referring to the verb list in Table 10-1, complete the sentences using the past participle of the verb in parentheses. To get the correct form of the past participle, keep in
mind that some of these verbs are weak, and others are strong (see Chapter 16 for
more on strong versus weak verbs). Verbs that use the auxiliary verb sein have that
indicated in parentheses.
Q. Ich _________________ an diesem Projekt _________________. (mitmachen)
A. Ich habe an diesem Projekt mitgemacht. (I worked on this project.)
10. Wir _________________ viel Käse _________________. (einkaufen)
11. Das Flugzeug _________________ in Bangkok _________________. (zwischenlanden)
(auxiliary verb sein)
12. Das Rockkonzert _________________ im Olympiastadion _________________. (stattfinden)
13. _________________ ihr das Gepäck schon _________________? (aufgeben)
14. Um wie viel Uhr_________________ der Film _________________? (anfangen)
Investigating Inseparable-Prefix Verbs
Although the number of inseparable-prefix verbs isn’t as large as that of separable-prefix
verbs, you still need to be aware of these verbs so you can include them in your writing
and speech. The good news is that many of these inseparable-prefix verbs are common
German verbs. In addition, some equivalent verbs in English have the same prefix. For
these reasons, recognizing many of these inseparable-prefix verbs is fairly simple.
The following points define inseparable-prefix verbs:
U You don’t stress the prefix in spoken German.
U The prefix alters the original meaning of the verb.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
U The prefix sticks with the verb stem in all tenses. For instance, consider the verb
vollenden (to finish, complete). The prefix is voll- (full), and the verb is enden
(to finish). In the third-person singular, the present tense is vollendet (finish), the
simple past is vollendete (finished), and the present perfect is hat . . . vollendet
(has finished).
U Word order in these tenses follow the same rules as verbs that have no prefix.
(See Chapters 5, 16, and 17 for details on word order in present, present perfect,
and simple past tenses.)
U The past participle doesn’t have the prefix ge-.
U The ending of the past participle may be
• Weak (formed with -t): For instance, the past participle of entdecken
(to discover) is entdeckt (discovered).
• Strong (formed with -en): For instance, the past participle of empfehlen
(to recommend) is empfohlen (recommended).
Wer entdeckte Nordamerika? (Who discovered North America?) Entdecken
(to discover) is an inseparable-prefix verb. Its prefix, ent- , means away from, and it
corresponds to the English prefix de- or dis-. The verb decken means to cover.
Ich verspreche dir einen Rosengarten. (I promise you a rose garden.) The verb is
versprechen (to promise).
Verfahren sich viele Touristen in der Stadt? (Do many tourists get lost in the city?)
The verb verfahren means to get lost. In yes/no questions, the verb is at the beginning of the question.
Table 10-2 lists inseparable prefixes, their English meanings, and some verbs that use
the prefix. A number of the prefixes have direct comparable usages in English, and
many of the verbs are frequently used. Erkennen Sie einige Verben? (Do you recognize some verbs?)
Table 10-2
Inseparable Prefixes and Verb Combinations
Prefix
English Definition
Example Verb
English Equivalent
be-
similar to English
prefix be-
sich befinden (reflexive)
befreunden
bekommen
bemerken
to be located
to befriend
to get
to notice
emp-
no equivalent
empfehlen
empfinden
to recommend
to feel
ent-
similar to English
prefixes de- and dis-
entbehren
entdecken
entkommen
entstehen
to do without
to discover
to escape
to originate
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Chapter 10: Sorting Out Separable- and Inseparable-Prefix Verbs
Prefix
English Definition
Example Verb
English Equivalent
er-
sometimes no
equivalent, sometimes
similar to the English
prefix re- or the
meaning of fatal
erhängen
erkennen
erklären
erschiessen
ertrinken
erzählen
to hang (execute)
to recognize
to explain, declare
to shoot dead
to drown
to tell
ge-
no equivalent
gebrauchen
gefallen
gehören
gestalten
to use, make use of
to like
to belong to
to form, shape
miss-
similar to English
prefix mis-
missbrauchen
misstrauen
missverstehen
to misuse, abuse
to mistrust
to misunderstand
ver-
similar to English
prefix for-
verbieten
vergeben
vergessen
to forbid
to forgive
to forget
ver-
(go) awry
sich verfahren (reflexive)
verkommen
to get lost
to go to ruin
ver-
away, lose
verlassen
verlieren
to leave, abandon
to lose
ver-
no equivalent
vergrößern
verfhaften
versprechen
to enlarge
to arrest
to promise
voll-
complete
vollenden
vollführen
to complete, come to
an end
to execute, perform
zerbrechen
zerstören
to shatter
to destroy
zer-
completely (ruin)
You were about to read the synopsis of a German movie, but your puppy ripped it to
shreds. Piece it back together by putting the sentences in the correct order. (Use the
corresponding letters instead of rewriting the entire sentence.) After that, write a
brief English summary of the story. Hint: It’s a lowbrow love story with a tragic
ending. Viel Spaß! (Have fun!) Look at the list of inseparable-prefix verbs in Table 10-2
to help you.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
A.
Der Film beginnt mit Leo der Lugner (Leo the Liar) als er aus einem Gefängnis (prison)
entkommt.
B.
Nach zwei Monaten zusammen, verkommt das Verhältnis (relationship) der beiden.
C.
Am Anfang (In the beginning) misstraut er diese Frau in schwarz, . . .
D.
Das Gefängnis befindet sich in der Nähe von der Lüneburger Heide im Norddeutschland.
E.
Plötzlich (Suddenly) bemerkt er eine schöne Frau in einem schwarzen Kleid.
F.
Bald kommt die Polizei und verhaftet Leo Lügner.
G.
Eines Nachts (One night) zerbricht Leo eine Flasche (bottle) Bier über Silkes Kopf.
H.
Dann erschiesst er die schöne Silke.
I.
Leo Lügner entdeckt ein altes Fahrrad, in der Heide und fährt damit los.
J.
. . . ich werde (will) dich nie (never) verlassen.î
K.
Die beiden (The two of them) sprechen über das Leben im Gefangnis, und vergessen ihre
schreckliche Situation.
L.
Schreckliche Silke sagt, “Ich verspreche dir. . .
M.
. . . aber sie sagt, “Mein Name ist Schreckliche Silke (Horrible Silke), und ich bin aus dem
Gefangnis entkommen.”
N.
Bald (Soon) verfährt er sich in der Heide.
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Chapter 10: Sorting Out Separable- and Inseparable-Prefix Verbs
Q. ________________________________________________________________________________
A. A. Der Film beginnt mit Leo der Lügner (Leo the Liar) als er aus einem Gefängnis (prison)
entkommt.
15. _____
20. _____
24. _____
16. _____
21. _____ Hint: Die beiden . . .
25. _____
17. _____
22. _____
26. _____
18. _____ Hint: Plötzlich . . .
23. _____
27. _____
19. _____
Summary of the movie in English:
Dealing with Dual-Prefix Verbs: To Separate
or Not to Separate?
The dual-prefix verbs, the ones I call the double-crossers, are characterized by having a
prefix that can combine to make both separable-prefix verbs and inseparable-prefix
verbs. This means that with some main verbs, the prefix is separable, and with other
main verbs, the same prefix is inseparable. For example, you can use the prefix unter(down) to form the verb unterzeichnen (to sign [a document]), which is an inseparableprefix verb. You can also combine unter- with bringen (to bring) to form unterbringen
(to accommodate), a separable-prefix verb. The list of these prefixes is short. Without
the prefix, many of the verbs are high-frequency types that you may already be familiar
with.
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Follow these guidelines to help you remember dual-prefix verbs:
U Some dual prefixes are mainly separable, and others are mainly inseparable.
• Um- is a prefix that is mainly separable. Umziehen (to move), with the
prefix um- (around), is an example of a separable-prefix verb: Wann ziehst
du um? (When are you moving?).
• Über- is a prefix that is mainly inseparable. Übernachten (to sleep), with
the prefix über- (over, across), is an inseparable-prefix verb: Im Sommer
übernachten wir oft im Zelt (We often sleep in a tent in the summer).
U Some dual-prefix verbs are both separable and inseparable. The verb in its literal
meaning has a separable prefix, such as with Die Fähre setzt uns ans andere
Ufer über (The ferry is taking us across to the other bank [side]). Übersetzen (to
ferry across) is a separable-prefix verb. The prefix über- (over, across) is at the
end of the sentence. The literal meaning involves physical movement from one
place to another: to cross over, travel across, go across.
The verb in its figurative meaning has an inseparable prefix, such as with Sie
übersetzt sehr schnell (She translates very quickly). Übersetzen (to translate),
with the prefix über- (over, across), is an inseparable-prefix verb. The figurative
meaning involves changing over: to translate from one language to another.
Dual-prefix verbs follow the guidelines for formation, usage, and word order according to whether the prefix is separable or inseparable. (Use the guidelines in the earlier
two sections for separable and inseparable prefix verbs.)
Table 10-3 is a list of dual prefixes and their English definitions, a sampling of dualprefix verbs indicating whether they’re separable- or inseparable-prefix verbs, and
the English verb equivalents. Five verb pairs have both separable (sep.) and inseparable (insep.) prefixes. Notice that the last two prefixes, wider- and wieder-, have two
separate meanings and spellings.
Table 10-3
Prefix
Dual Prefixes and Verb Combinations
English Definition
durchthrough
(usually sep.)
hinter-
behind
Example Verb
English Equivalent
durchbringen (sep.)
durchfahren (sep.)
durchkommen (sep.)
to get through
to drive through
to come through
hinterlassen (sep.)
to let someone go
behind
to leave, bequeath
hinterlassen (insep.)
über(usually
insep.)
over, across
überfahren (sep.)
überfahren (insep.)
überfallen (insep.)
übernachten (insep.)
übersetzen (insep.)
übersetzen (sep.)
to ferry across,
cross [over]
to run over
to attack, hold up
(a bank and so on)
to sleep (in a hotel
and such)
to translate
to ferry across
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Chapter 10: Sorting Out Separable- and Inseparable-Prefix Verbs
Prefix
English Definition
Example Verb
English Equivalent
umaround
(usually sep.)
umbauen (sep.)
umbauen (insep.)
umsteigen (sep.)
umziehen (sep.)
to renovate
to enclose, build around
to change (trains)
to move (to a new
home), change (clothes)
unter-
down, under
unterbrechen (insep.)
untergehen (sep.)
unterkommen (sep.)
unternehmen (insep.)
to interrupt, disconnect
to sink, go down
to find accommodation
to do, undertake
wider(usually
insep.)
against (similar to
English prefix re-)
widerrufen (insep.)
to recall (product),
withdraw
to contradict
to resist, withstand
wieder-
again
widersprechen (insep.)
widerstehen (insep.)
wiedergeben (sep.)
wiederholen (insep.)
wiederholen (sep.)
wiedersehen (sep.)
to give back, play back,
restore
to repeat
to get back
to see again, meet again
This exercise is multiple choice. First, read the sentence, decide which verb in parentheses is correct, and write it in the space(s) provided. Second, translate the sentence. Refer to Table 10-3 for these verbs.
Q. Ich _________________ im nächsten Bahnhof _________________. (steige . . . um /
ziehe . . . um)
A. Ich steige im nächsten Bahnhof um. (I’m changing [trains] in the station.)
28. _________________ Sie bitte ihre Telefonnummer. (widersprechen / wiederholen)
_________________________________________________________________________
29. Hilfe! Das Schiff _________________ ! (setzt . . . über / geht . . . unter)
_________________________________________________________________________
30. Die Firma _________________ alle defekten Produkte. (unternimmt / widerruft)
_________________________________________________________________________
31. Mein Freund _________________ sein altes Haus _________________. (hat . . . umgebaut /
hat . . . umbaut)
_________________________________________________________________________
32. Das Auto _________________ einen Waschbär. (durchfuhr / überfuhr)
_________________________________________________________________________
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Part II: Getting Started Now: Writing in the Present
Answer Key
a
Wir laden viele Gäste zum Fest ein. (We’re inviting many guests to the party.)
b
Diese Firma stellt viele Produkte im Ausland her. (This company produces many products in foreign countries.)
c
Die besten Pläne schlagen oft fehl. (The best plans often go wrong.)
d
Können Sie mir die Details mitteilen? (Can you inform me of the details?) This is a question, and
it has a modal verb. Put the conjugated modal verb in first position and the verb in its infinitive
form at the end.
e
Nach einer Pause fuhr der Redner fort. (After a break, the speaker continued.)
f
Brachen Markus und Jonathan ihre Arbeit ab? (Did Markus and Jonathan stop their work?)
g
Im Herbst sahen die Bäume sehr schön aus. (The trees looked pretty in the fall.)
h
Regina las die Geschichte vor. (Regina read the story aloud.)
i
Fuhr der Bus ohne Johanna los? (Did the bus leave without Johanna?)
j
Wir haben viel Käse eingekauft. (einkaufen) (We bought a lot of cheese.)
k
Das Flugzeug ist in Bangkok zwischengelandet. (zwischenlanden) (The plane stopped over in
Bangkok.)
l
Das Rockkonzert hat im Olympiastadion stattgefunden. (stattfinden) (The rock concert took
place in the Olympic Stadium.)
m
Habt ihr das Gepäck schon aufgegeben? (aufgeben) (Have you checked your bags yet?)
n
Um wie viel Uhr hat der Film angefangen? (At what time did the movie start?)
o
D. Das Gefängnis befindet sich in der Nähe von der Lüneburger Heide im Norddeutschland.
p
I. Leo Lügner entdeckt ein altes Fahrrad, in der Heide und fährt damit los.
q
N. Bald (Soon) verfährt er sich in der Heide.
r
E. Plötzlich (Suddenly) bemerkt er eine schöne Frau in einem schwarzen Kleid.
s
C. Am Anfang (In the beginning) misstraut er diese Frau in schwarz, . . .
t
M. . . . aber sie sagt, “Mein Name ist Schreckliche Silke (Horrible Silke), und ich bin aus dem
Gefängnis entkommen.”
u
K. Die beiden (The two of them) sprechen über das Leben im Gefängnis, und vergessen ihre
schreckliche Situation.
v
L. Schreckliche Silke sagt, “Ich verspreche dir . . .
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Chapter 10: Sorting Out Separable and Inseparable Prefix Verbs
w
J. . . . ich werde (will) dich nie (never) verlassen.”
x
B. Nach zwei Monaten zusammen, verkommt das Verhältnis (relationship) der beiden.
y
G. Eines Nachts (One night) zerbricht Leo eine Flasche (bottle) Bier über Silkes Kopf.
A
H. Dann erschiesst er die schöne Silke.
B
F. Bald kommt die Polizei und verhaftet Leo Lügner.
163
Leo Lügner escapes from a prison near the Lüneburger Heide, where he discovers a bicycle that he
uses to escape. He soon gets lost in the heath but all of a sudden, he notices a beautiful woman in
a black dress; he’s suspicious of her at first. However, when Leo discovers that this woman named
Schreckliche Silke is also an escaped convict, they begin talking about life in prison and forget the
terrible situation they’re in. Schreckliche Silke promises Leo Lügner that she’ll never leave him, but
after two months together, their relationship falls apart. One night, Leo breaks a beer bottle over
Silke’s head and shoots her dead; soon, the police come and arrest Leo Lügner.
C
Wiederholen Sie bitte ihre Telefonnummer. (widersprechen / wiederholen) (Please repeat
your phone number.)
D
Hilfe! Das Schiff geht unter! (setzt . . . über / geht . . . unter) (Help! The ship is sinking!)
German present continuous doesn’t exist, but when you translate, it makes a lot more sense to
say the ship’s sinking, not that the ship sinks!
E
Die Firma widerruft alle defekten Produkte. (unternimmt / widerruft) (The company is recalling all of the defective products.) German present continuous doesn’t exist, so when you
translate, you can use it in English for this type of sentence; if you write the company recalls
all . . . , you’re stressing that the company issues recalls as a general fact, not that it’s happening at the moment.
F
Mein Freund hat sein altes Haus umgebaut. (hat . . . umgebaut / hat . . . umbaut) (My friend
renovated his old house.)
G
Das Auto überfuhr einen Waschbär. (durchfuhr / überfuhr) (The car ran over a raccoon.)
Great picture language here: Raccoons do wash their hands often, and they look a little bit like
a bear, don’t they?
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Part III
Fine Tuning Your Writing
with Flair
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I
In this part . . .
n Chapter 11, you discover how to use reflexive verbs
to talk about the things you do to yourself. You also
add a little style to your German by using expressions to
discuss your interests, likes and dislikes, and more.
Want to add even more panache to your writing and
speech? Imagine you’re about to plant a beautiful garden
with small but fragrant pansies; sunflowers standing tall,
proudly facing the sun; and maybe a couple of cherry
tomato plants. The descriptive words for this garden are
the kinds of adjectives you find tucked into Chapter 12.
I also ask you to look at how adjectives use case endings
to fit into a sentence. Chapter 13 is where you work out
how to make comparisons like fast, faster, fastest or good,
better, best. In Chapter 14, you discover the key role of
connecting-words (conjunctions) such as but, and, because,
and that. Wrapping up this part is Chapter 15’s primer on
prepositions, those little guys you need to describe all
the things you can watch 6-year-old Brendan doing on the
playground: climb up the ladder, go down the slide on his
belly, jam his face into the sand, and wipe the sand out of
his mouth.
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Chapter 11
Sounding More Like a Native with
Verb Combinations
In This Chapter
© Reflecting on reflexive verb combos
© Verbalizing with verb/preposition combos
W
hat, exactly, marks the difference between the dabbler in German who is struggling to order a cup of coffee and the customer in a three-star restaurant who
has the wait staff surrounding the table, offering yet another sample from the chef’s
newest concoction? The customer’s sway over the servers may have to do with his
or her command of native German expressions. You can notice how well a person
has mastered German — or any language — by observing the timely use of idiomatic
language, which is the ability to insert fixed expressions into spoken and written language with ease. This chapter takes a closer look at idiomatic expressions that
involve verbs. By using these expressions in your writing and speech, you can take
your German to the next level and come across sounding like a native speaker.
Set in Their Ways: Grasping Idiomatic
Verb Expressions
Idiomatic language involves stringing words together into a fixed expression that’s
more than the sum of its parts. One group of fixed expressions is the vast family of
idiomatic verb expressions: combinations of verbs and other words to form a slightly
different meaning. For example, left to its own devices, the preposition um generally
means around: Wir haben einen Zaun um das ganze Haus (We have a fence around
the whole house). But in the expression Er bittet um Hilfe (He’s asking for help), the
preposition um takes on a special meaning in combination with bitten.
Idiomatic German flows easily from the mouths of native speakers, who know when
and how much to season their language with verb expressions. You can add some
flair to your German speech and writing by using one of the following major types of
idiomatic verb expressions:
U Reflexive verbs: Verbs are reflexive when you use them with reflexive pronouns,
which include words such as myself, themselves, and himself in English. Look at
the following example: Ich erinnere mich an unserem ersten Tanz (I remember
our first dance. Literally: I recall to myself at our first dance). German expresses a
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Part III: Fine Tuning Your Writing with Flair
great deal of actions using reflexive pronouns linked to the verb, an area in
which English makes minimal use.
U Verbs associated with certain prepositions: In this chapter, you find out about
idiomatic expressions that pair the verb with a particular preposition in either
the dative or accusative case. For instance, the preposition vor usually means in
front of; but in the example Ich habe Angst vor Schlangen (I’m afraid of snakes),
the fixed expression combines the verb haben (to have) with Angst (fear) and
the dative preposition vor.
U Verbs with separable or inseparable prefixes: A separable verb is a verb with a
prefix that detaches from the verb when it’s conjugated. The confusion comes
about because more often that not, these prefixes are nothing more than prepositions in disguise. (For more on verbs with separable and inseparable prefixes,
see Chapter 10.)
To add more factors to this equation, you find combos of combos; some
verb/preposition combos are actually separable or inseparable verb combos at
the same time. In the following verb/preposition expression, the verb ankommen
(to arrive) is a case in point because it has a separable verb prefix an-. When you
add the preposition auf (on) to the expression, the meaning changes. Look at
the example: Es kommt darauf an (It depends). The prefix an- is separated from
-kommen, the word darauf (Literally: on it) accompanies the verb, and the sum
of its parts is no longer arrive but depend on. The preposition auf (on) in the
word darauf is a combination of da- + (r) + auf. (See Chapter 7 for more on
expressions using da-.)
In the following sections, I show you various ways of using verb combinations to talk
about yourself, others, and things. These three groups of idiomatic expressions combine a verb with another word (or words), such as a reflexive pronoun or a preposition, to form expressions.
In the Looking Glass: Reflecting
on Reflexive Verbs
Look at yourself in the mirror and smile. What do you see (besides a stunningly beautiful or handsome person)? You are, grammatically speaking, reflecting on yourself.
Reflexive verbs have a subject that carries out an action directed at itself. Typically,
the verb combines with a reflexive pronoun to describe an action. The reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject of the sentence, which is carrying out the action indicated by the verb.
German and English both have reflexive verbs, but German uses them much more liberally. To make a long story short, your German can benefit from flexing (yourself) at
the reflexive verb gym. This section helps you understand reflexive verbs and how
you can use them correctly in your writing and speech.
Self-ish concerns: Meeting the reflexive pronouns
A reflexive verb has two elements: the verb and the reflexive pronoun. In English, a
reflexive pronoun has the ending -self (myself, yourself) for singular forms and
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Chapter 11: Sounding More Like a Native with Verb Combinations
-selves for plural forms (ourselves, yourselves). Both English and German have two
cases of reflexive pronouns: the accusative and the dative case. The two cases are
identical in English; in German, there are only two variations between the two cases,
namely in the first- and second-person singular forms.
Table 11-1 shows the reflexive pronouns together with their translations. As a guide,
I list the corresponding nominative pronouns in the left-hand column. Notice how
frequently sich steps up to bat. Here’s the key to the abbreviations: s. = singular,
pl. = plural, inf. = informal, and form. = formal.
Table 11-1
Reflexive Pronouns: Accusative and Dative Case
Nominative (nom.)
Pronouns for Reference
Accusative (acc.)
Dative (dat.)
ich (I )
mich (myself )
mir (myself )
du (you) (s., inf.)
dich (yourself )
dir (yourself )
er/sie/es (he/she/it)
sich (himself/herself/itself )
sich (himself/herself/itself )
wir (we)
uns (ourselves )
uns (ourselves)
ihr (you) (pl., inf.)
euch (yourselves )
euch (yourselves)
sie (they)
sich (themselves )
sich (themselves)
Sie (you) (s. or pl., form.)
sich (yourself or yourselves )
sich (yourself or yourselves)
On the case! Choosing the right form of reflexive pronoun
Reflexive pronouns are either in the accusative case or the dative case. The case you
use depends on how the pronoun functions in the sentence. It may be the direct object
(accusative case) or the indirect object (dative case). Case shows the relationship of
words to each other in a sentence — for instance, who’s doing what (where the reflexive pronoun is in the accusative case) or who’s doing what to what/whom (where the
reflexive pronoun is in the dative case). Look at the example Ich putze mir die Zähne
(I brush my teeth). It explains who’s doing what to what, so German expresses this activity with a reflexive pronoun in dative case, mir. Die Zähne is the direct object, the
receiver of the action, and it’s in the accusative case. (See Chapter 2 for more on
cases.) Check out the examples:
Ich fühle mich viel besser. (I feel/I’m feeling much better.) Mich (myself) is the accusative form of the reflexive pronoun; it’s the direct object that refers back to the subject performing the action of the verb fühlen. (The information answers the question
who’s doing what? Therefore, the reflexive pronoun is in the accusative case.)
Ich ziehe mir eine Jeans an. (I put on/I’m putting on a pair of jeans.) Mir is the
dative form of the reflexive pronoun; eine Jeans is the direct object (accusative
case) in the sentence. (The information answers the question who’s doing what
to what/whom? Therefore, the reflexive pronoun is in the dative case.)
The verbs using the dative reflexive pronoun are those in sentences that have a separate direct object; the verbs using an accusative reflexive pronoun have no separate
direct object in the sentence.
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The reflexive pronoun can also be a part of a verb + preposition expression, and certain prepositions can require either the accusative or the dative case, as with Wir
freuen uns auf den Feiertag nächste Woche (We’re happy about the holiday next
week). The preposition auf (about) requires the accusative case, as do time expressions. (I talk more about verb/preposition idioms in the upcoming section “Combining
Verbs with Prepositions: Making Cool Combos”).
Placing your pronoun
Word order plays an important role in sentence construction with reflexive pronouns.
Check out the following important points to remember with word order and reflexive
pronouns:
U In a statement, the reflexive pronoun immediately follows the conjugated verb;
sich comes right after haben in this example: Die Touristen haben sich die
schöne Umgebung angesehen (The tourists looked at the beautiful surroundings).
U In a question, if the subject is a pronoun (ihr [you]), then you place the reflexive
pronoun (euch [you]) directly after it. For example, Habt ihr euch beide schon
wieder erkältet? (Have you both caught a cold again?).
U In the present tense, you push the prefix of a separable-prefix verb to the end of
the sentence. In the following example, the verb anziehen (to get dressed) is a
separable-prefix verb; the reflexive pronoun mich comes after the conjugated
verb ziehe and before the prefix an- (refer to Chapter 10): Ich ziehe mich an
(I get/I’m getting dressed).
Identifying which verbs need to be reflexive
Many German verbs require a reflexive pronoun such as mich (myself), dich (yourself), or uns (ourselves) in situations when you don’t use a reflexive pronoun in
English, such as with Beeilen Sie sich! (Hurry up!).
In German, you frequently find the reflexive in references to parts of the body. These
verbs often describe what you do to yourself when you’re in the bathroom. For example, shaving (sich rasieren [to shave oneself]) is a reflexive verb. In English, you can say
that the man shaved himself or that he shaved, period. The first version is expressed
reflexively using himself. The second statement, he shaved, is just as understandable,
and it isn’t reflexive in structure. But German has only one, reflexive way of expressing
this action: Er rasiert sich (He shaves himself).
To further add to the mix, some German verbs can go either way: with or without the
reflexive pronoun. With such verbs, the reflexive format is different from the verb
without the reflexive pronoun. The next three examples show you waschen (to wash)
expressed with a reflexive pronoun in the accusative case, then in the dative case,
and finally without a reflexive pronoun:
Ich wasche mich am Abend. (I wash myself in the evening.) Mich, the reflexive
pronoun in accusative case, refers back to the subject of the sentence, ich. And
ich (I) is carrying out the action on mich (myself).
Waschbären waschen sich oft die Hände. (Raccoons often wash their hands.)
Notice that German speakers express their hands with die Hände (the hands), so if
you want to say I wash my hands in German, it looks like this: Ich wasche mir die
Hände. Mir is the dative case reflexive pronoun myself, and die Hände is the
accusative case (direct object) the hands.
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Chapter 11: Sounding More Like a Native with Verb Combinations
Christian wäscht sein Auto jeden Samstag. (Christian washes his car every
Saturday.) In both the English and the German sentences, the verb wäscht
(washes) is followed by a direct object that refers to another living being or thing.
Table 11-2 lists some of the more common reflexive verbs, many of which have to do
with daily routine, especially personal hygiene. In German, you express the verbs on
this list with a reflexive pronoun. The helpful grammar details give you clues about
case and whether you have a separable-prefix verb.
Table 11-2
Reflexive Verbs: The Daily Routine
German Expression
English Equivalent
Helpful Grammar Details
sich abschminken (acc.)
to take off one’s makeup
Separable-prefix verb;
accusative reflexive pronoun
sich abtrocknen (acc.)
sich (die Hände) abtrocknen
(dat.)
to dry oneself off
to dry (one’s hands)
Separable-prefix verb;
accusative or dative
reflexive pronoun
sich anziehen (acc.)
sich (das Hemd) anziehen (dat.)
to get dressed
to put on (one’s shirt)
Separable-prefix verb;
accusative or dative reflexive pronoun
sich ausziehen (acc.)
sich (die Stiefel) ausziehen
(dat.)
to get undressed
to take off (one’s boots)
Separable-prefix verb;
accusative or dative
reflexive pronoun
sich beeilen (acc.)
to hurry (up)
Accusative reflexive
pronoun
sich duschen (acc.)
to take a shower
Accusative reflexive
pronoun
sich freuen auf den Tag (acc.)
to look forward to the day
Accusative reflexive
pronoun
sich freuen auf das
Frühstück (acc.)
to look forward to
(having) breakfast
Accusative reflexive
pronoun
sich kämmen (acc.)
sich (die Haare) kämmen (dat.)
to comb oneself
to comb (one’s hair)
Accusative or dative
reflexive pronoun
sich die Zähne putzen (dat.)
to brush/clean one’s teeth
Dative reflexive pronoun
sich rasieren (acc.)
to shave oneself
sich (das Gesicht) rasieren (dat.) to shave (one’s face)
Accusative or dative
reflexive pronoun
sich schminken (acc.)
to put on one’s makeup
Accusative reflexive
pronoun
sich waschen (acc.)
sich das Gesicht waschen (dat.)
sich die Haare waschen (dat.)
sich die Hände waschen (dat.)
to wash oneself
to wash (one’s face)
to wash (one’s hair)
to wash (one’s hands)
Accusative or dative
reflexive pronoun
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Write about your daily routine using the German expressions provided in Table 11-2.
Remember that with separable-prefix verbs, you place the prefix at the end of the sentence. Make sure you pay attention to whether the reflexive pronoun is expressed in
the accusative case (for example, mich [myself]) or dative case (mir [myself]).
Q. sich das Gesicht rasieren __________________________________________________________
A. Ich rasiere mir das Gesicht. (I shave my face.)
1. sich das Gesicht waschen _________________________________________________________
2. sich die Zähne putzen _____________________________________________________________
3. sich duschen _____________________________________________________________________
4. sich die Haare waschen ____________________________________________________________
5. sich abtrocknen __________________________________________________________________
Combining Verbs with Prepositions
Prepositions are short, cute words that can have a great influence on other parts of a
sentence. Some German cuties and their English counterparts look similar at times: in
(in), an (on), or für (for).
Having said that, however, I need to add that they can be sly little creatures that
change their tune when they hook up with different verbs, changing the verb’s meaning. No matter how you cut the cake, certain prepositions that work together with certain verbs make for powerful, effective means of expression in German and English.
You may refer to them as idioms, idiomatic expressions, or the bare bones term:
verb/preposition combos. I prefer the latter. When you want to sound like your mother
tongue is German, you need to acquire as many of these combos as you can fit in your
repertoire. (To find out about dative and accusative terminology, go to Chapter 2.)
Verb/preposition combinations are more than the sum of their parts. Why? These
prepositions are slick: When combined with a verb to form a fixed expression, they
can alter the meaning of the verb they appear with. That’s why mastering the
verb/preposition combos as a unit is important. You can’t predict which preposition
partners with which verb, and you can’t know ahead what the whole shebang means,
even if you know the meaning of the verb alone, without a preposition.
Table 11-3 lists some of the most frequently used German prepositions that change their
meaning in combination with a verb. Notice that the English equivalents aren’t always
the same as in the expression. The third column gives an example of a verb/preposition
combo, and the fourth column shows an example sentence with its English translation.
For the prepositions that can be both accusative and dative, I give only one example sentence. As you look through the example sentences and their English equivalents, notice
that the preposition generally changes its original meaning. Look at the key to understand the abbreviations used in the table: acc. = accusative, dat. = dative.
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Chapter 11: Sounding More Like a Native with Verb Combinations
Table 11-3
Prepositions Used in Idiomatic Verb Expressions
Preposition
Usual English
Equivalent
Example Verbal Expression/
English Translation
Example
Sentence
an (acc./dat.)
on, at, to
denken an (acc.) (to think
of/about )
Er denkt oft an seinen
Eltern. (acc.)
(He often thinks of his
parents.)
warten auf (acc.)
(to wait for )
Sie warten auf den
Zug. (acc.)
(They’re waiting for the
train.)
auf (acc./dat.) on top of, to
aus (dat.)
out of, from
bestehen aus (dat.)
(to consist of )
Die Uhr besteht aus vielen
kleinen Teilen. (The clock
consists of many small
parts.)
für (acc.)
for
halten für (acc.) (to take
someone for/consider )
Ich halte ihn für einen
engen Freund.
(I consider him a close
friend.)
in (acc./dat.)
in, inside of
sich verlieben in (acc.)
(to fall in love with)
Sie hat sich in ihn
verliebt. (acc.)
(She fell in love with him.)
mit (dat.)
with
fahren mit (dat.) (to go with)
Ich fahre gern mit der
U-Bahn.
(I like to take the subway.)
über (acc.)
over, above
reden über (acc.)
(to talk about)
Wir reden über dich.
(We’re talking about you.)
um (acc.)
around
bitten um (acc.) (to ask for )
Er bittet um Hilfe.
(He’s asking for help.)
von (dat.)
from, of
sprechen von (dat.)
(to speak about/of )
Wir sprechen von dem/vom
Präsidenten. (von + dem =
vom) (We’re talking about
the president.)
vor (dat.)
in front of
Angst haben vor (dat.)
(to be afraid of )
Hast du Angst vor Spinnen?
(Are you afraid of spiders?)
German prepositions all use case to indicate the relationship they have to other parts
of the sentence, namely the object of the preposition. Some of the prepositions use
the accusative case; others use the dative case. Another group, the switch hitters,
can work in the accusative or dative case. (This is true of some other prepositions as
well, including those that don’t partner with verbs to form idiomatic expressions.)
The following sections delve deeper into these three situations to help you understand the differences. (Check out Chapter 15 for more information on prepositions.)
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ID-ing common combos in the accusative case
In this section, I show you an important group of verb/preposition combos you can use
to add real German sparkle to your written and spoken language. Verbs that combine
with prepositions using the accusative case make up this useful group. These common
verb/preposition combos are fixed expressions for which you need to remember which
preposition partners with which verb, which case the preposition takes (accusative for
this list), and what the expression means.
Table 11-4 lists the commonly used verb/preposition combos with prepositions in the
accusative case. Used alone, these prepositions may be switch hitters, the kind that
can work in both the accusative and dative case, but in combination with these verbs,
they go to up to bat as accusatives. The expressions are listed alphabetically by verb.
Table 11-4
Idiomatic Verb Expressions with Accusative Prepositions
Verbal Expression
Example Sentence
English Equivalent
ankommen auf (to depend on) Es kommt auf das
Wetter an.
Note: Ankommen has a
separable prefix an-
It depends on the weather.
bitten um (to ask for)
Wir bitten um Ihre
Unterstützung.
We’re asking for your support.
denken an (to think of/about)
Denkst du oft an deine
Kindheit?
Do you often think about your
childhood?
glauben an (to believe in)
Sie glauben nicht
an Gott.
They don’t believe in God.
halten für (to take
someone for/consider)
Hältst du ihn für
einen Dieb?
Do you take him for a thief?
reden über (to talk about )
Sie redet über diverse
Themen.
She talks about different topics.
schreiben an (to write to)
Ich schreibe an
die Zeitung.
I’m writing to the newspaper.
schreiben über
(to write about )
Schreibst du
über mich?
Are you writing about me?
sorgen für (to take care of )
Wir sorgen für
unsere Oma.
We’re taking care of our
grandma.
sich verlieben in
(to fall in love with)
Ich habe mich in
ihn verliebt.
I fell in love with him.
verzichten auf
(to do without )
Ich kann auf meinen
Urlaub verzichten.
I can do without my vacation.
warten auf (to wait for)
Wartest du auf uns?
Are you waiting for us?
Read the following text, and fill in the two spaces (one for the verb, one for the preposition) with the missing parts of the verb/preposition combos you find in Table 11-4. The
missing expression is written in parentheses in English. To make your task easier, read
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Chapter 11: Sounding More Like a Native with Verb Combinations
through first, checking out the context of each blank space. The paragraph is a love
letter written by a completely unknown writer of romantic fiction. Viel Vergnügung!
(Have a good time!)
Mein Liebling,
Q. Ich
diesen Brief
(to write to) dich, weil ich dich liebe.
A. Ich schreibe diesen Brief an dich, weil ich dich liebe. (I’m writing you this letter
because I love you.)
Ich weiß, du (6)
oft
(to think about) mich, und ich
(7)
oft
(to think about) dich. Jeden Tag
(8)
ich
(to wait for) deinen Telefonanruf. Ich kann nicht
(9)
deine täglichen Anrufe
(to do without). In der Arbeit
(10)
ich immer
(to talk about) dich. Meine Kollegen
(11)
mich
(to take me for/consider) eine Idiotin, aber
mich
das ist nicht wichtig. Wichtig ist nur eins: ich (12)
(to ask for)
dich verliebt (to fall in love with). Ich (13)
einen Anruf von dir heute Abend.
Deine Sarah
Eyeing common combos in the dative case
Verbs that combine with prepositions using the dative case are a commonly used
group of verb/preposition combos. When you’re able to plunk these expressions into
your written and spoken German, you’re well on the way to sounding like you’re originally from a German-speaking country. These frequently used combos are fixed expressions for which you need to remember which preposition combines with which verb,
which case the preposition takes (dative for this list), and what the expression means.
Table 11-5 lists some commonly used expressions with prepositions in the dative
case. Used alone, these prepositions may be accusative or dative, but in these expressions, they require the dative. I list the expressions alphabetically by verb.
Table 11-5
Idiomatic Verb Expressions with Dative Prepositions
Verbal Expression
Example Sentence
English Equivalent
abhängen von (to depend on)
Note: Abhängen has a
separable prefix ab-
Es hängt von dem
Wetter ab.
It depends on the weather.
Angst haben vor
(to be afraid of )
Hast du Angst
vor Grizzlybären?
Are you afraid of grizzly
bears?
arbeiten an (to work on)
Ich arbeite sehr fleißig
an dem Projekt.
I’m working very diligently on
the project.
(continued)
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Table 11-5 (continued)
Verbal Expression
Example Sentence
English Equivalent
bestehen aus (to consist of )
Die Schweiz besteht aus
vier Sprachregionen.
Switzerland consists of four
language regions.
erzählen von (to talk about )
Er erzählt oft von
seinen Reisen.
He often talks about his trips.
fahren mit (to go/ride with)
Ich fahre mit dir.
I’ll go (or ride) with you.
gehören zu (to belong to)
Sie gehören zu unserer
Mannschaft.
They belong to our team.
halten von (to think of,
have an opinion about )
Sie hält nicht viel von
der neuen Regierung.
She doesn’t think much of
the new government.
rechnen mit (to count on)
Sie rechnen mit einer
langen Nacht.
They’re counting on a long
night.
sprechen von (to talk about )
Ich spreche nicht von dir.
I’m not talking about you.
studieren an (to study at )
Viele Studenten studieren
an technischen
Universitäten.
Many students study at
technical universities.
(Usually: engineering schools)
verstehen von
(to understand about )
Verstehst du etwas von
Motorrädern?
Do you know something
about motorcycles?
Q. _________________ Sie etwas _________________ (to know something about) Reisen?
A. Verstehen Sie etwas von Reisen? (Do you know something about traveling?)
Was (14)
Sie
(to think of) einer
Traumreise? Na, ja. Ich (15)
jetzt
(to talk about) meiner speziellen Reise.
Sie (16)
(to consist of) einem
Besuch auf drei Inseln: Banga, Tanga, und
Zanga. Zuerst (17)
wir
(to go by [means of])
einem Ruderboot (rowboat) von Banga nach Tanga. Dort
(18)
Sie Haifische (sharks)
(to study at) der
Tanga Universität. Dann (19)
ich zusammen mit
Ihnen
(to work on) einem Segelboot (sailboat) - wir
bauen das Boot! (20)
afraid of) dem Segeln? Dann (21)
Sie Angst
Sie
(to be
(to belong to) der Gruppe, die ein Haus auf Zanga baut. . . .
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Chapter 11: Sounding More Like a Native with Verb Combinations
177
Answer Key
a
Ich wasche mir das Gesicht. (I wash my face.) The reflexive pronoun mir is in the dative case,
and the direct object das Gesicht is in accusative case.
b
Ich putze mir die Zähne. (I brush my teeth.) The reflexive pronoun mir is in the dative case, and
the direct object die Zähne is in accusative case.
c
Ich dusche mich. (I take a shower.) The reflexive pronoun mich is in the accusative case. It refers
back to the action of the subject ich.
d
Ich wasche mir die Haare. (I wash my hair.) The reflexive pronoun mir is in the dative case,
and the direct object die Haare is in accusative case.
e
Ich trockne mich ab. (I dry myself.) The reflexive pronoun mich is in the accusative case. It
refers back to the action of the subject ich. The separable prefix verb requires the prefix ab
at the end of the sentence.
Mein Liebling,
Ich weiß, du (6) denkst oft an mich, und ich (7) denke oft an dich. Jeden Tag
(8) warte ich auf deinen Telefonanruf. Ich kann nicht (9) auf deine täglichen
Anrufe verzichten. In der Arbeit (10) rede ich immer über dich. Meine Kollegen
(11) halten mich für eine Idiotin, aber das ist nicht wichtig. Wichtig ist nur eins: ich
(12) habe mich in dich verliebt. Ich (13) bitte um einen Anruf von dir heute Abend.
Deine Sarah
My darling,
I know you often think about me, and I often think about you. Every day I wait for your
telephone call. I canít do without your daily calls. At work I always talk about you. My
colleagues take me for an idiot, but that’s not important. Only one thing is important:
I’ve fallen in love with you. I’m asking for a call from you this evening.
Your Sarah
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Was (14) halten Sie von einer Traumreise? Na, ja.
Ich (15) erzähle jetzt von meiner speziel-len
Reise. Sie (16) besteht aus einem Besuch auf
drei Inseln: Banga, Tanga, and Zanga. Zuerst
(17) fahren wir mit einem Ruderboot von Banga
nach Tanga. Dort (18) studieren Sie Haifische an der Tanga
Universität. Dann (19) arbeite ich zusammen mit Ihnen an
einem Segelboot — wir bauen das Boot! (20) Haben Sie Angst
vor dem Segeln? Dann (21) gehören Sie zu der (or zur:
zu + der = zur) Gruppe, die ein Haus auf Zanga baut. . . .
What do you think of a dream trip? Good. I’ll talk about my special trip. It
consists of a visit to three islands: Banga, Tanga, and Zanga. First we travel by
rowboat from Banga to Tanga. There we study sharks at Tanga University. Then
I’ll work together with you on a sailboat — we’ll build the boat! Are you afraid
of sailing? Then you’ll be a part of the group that builds a house on Zanga. . . .
What do you think of a dream trip? Good. I’ll talk about my special trip. It consists of a visit to three
islands: Banga, Tanga, and Zanga. First we travel by rowboat from Banga to Tanga. There we study
sharks at Tanga University. Then I’ll work together with you on a sailboat — we’ll build the boat!
Are you afraid of sailing? Then you’ll be a part of the group that builds a house on Zanga. . . .
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Chapter 12
Adding Adjectives for Description
In This Chapter
© Categorizing adjectives for easy reference
© Forming adjectives with endings
© Using possessive adjectives
A
djectives add spice, distinctive flavor, and creativity to a sentence. They dress up
nouns for a vigorous winter workout in Arlberg. What’s in it for you? Why not be
content with the basics? Cross out vigorous from vigorous winter workout, and you still
get the picture. But the listener doesn’t perk up and become involved. Adjectives add
depth and character to the power of a noun. Besides, they’re interessant (interesting),
lustig (funny), unglaublich (incredible), ruhig (quiet), and praktisch (practical).
I have good news and not-so-good news. First the good news: There are a large number
of cognates among German adjectives. In the first paragraph, you probably recognize
interessant, and you may get the meaning of praktisch if you know that the ending -isch
often stands in for English adjective endings like -ic and -ical. The not-so-good news is
that you have to address grammar — gender, number, and case — when handling adjectives. Depending on where you place the adjective in the sentence, you may or may not
need to put the adjective in synch with the noun it modifies. How? By adding the appropriate endings to indicate agreement with the noun.
Keine Sorge. (Not to worry.) This chapter explains how to categorize types of adjectives in German for easy reference, form case endings of adjectives, and use possessive adjectives. You discover how to wade through these adjective pitfalls so you can
comfortably and safely use them in your writing and speech.
Organizing Adjectives: Opposites,
Cognates, and Collocations
Adjectives are so numerous that it’s essential to find a system for categorizing them
as a means of easy reference. When you encounter a new adjective, try to find a hook
to hang it on. You may be able to group them three different ways:
U Opposites: Some adjective types lend themselves to pairing up with an adjective
of the opposite meaning.
U Cognates: Cognates, which are similar words in English and German, are instantly
recognizable; after you check that the meaning is the same in both languages, you
only need to know how to form their endings in sentences.
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U Collocations: Collocations are semi-fixed, frequently used word combinations, so
look for adjective + noun phrases.
Get into the habit of recognizing collocations that adjectives occur in. It takes a
bit more work than figuring out what an adjective alone means, but in the end, it
saves time. Add them to your range of expression, and you’re on the path to successful, idiomatic German.
This section helps you place adjectives in these three different groupings. By doing
so, you can more easily remember these descriptors, and then you can use them
when you want to discuss appearance, personal traits, weather, and more.
Letting opposites attract
You can master many groups of descriptive adjectives as opposite pairs. Two
common groups I deal with in this section are the adjectives that describe people’s
appearance and personal traits and adjectives that describe the weather.
Describing appearance and personal traits
When you want to say what people are like, you use descriptive adjectives to
describe them; for example, sie ist groß (she’s tall) or er ist freundlich (he’s friendly).
In Table 12-1, you see such adjectives grouped as opposites; looking at them this way
saves you time when you’re remembering them.
Table 12-1
Adjectives of Personal Appearance and Traits
German
English
German Opposite
English Opposite
attraktiv
attractive
unattraktiv
unattractive
freundlich
friendly
unfreundlich
unfriendly
glücklich
happy
traurig/unglücklich
sad, unhappy
heiter
cheerful
ernst
serious
interessant
interesting
uninteressant/langweilig
uninteresting/boring
jung
young
alt
old
klein
short
groß
tall
neu
new
alt
old
ruhig
quiet
laut
loud
schlank
thin/slim
mollig
plump/chubby
stark
strong
schwach
weak
sportlich
athletic
unsportlich
unathletic
sympathisch
likable, friendly
unsympathisch
unpleasant, disagreeable
tolerant
tolerant
intolerant
intolerant
zuverlässig
reliable
unzuverlässig
unreliable
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Chapter 12: Adding Adjectives for Description
Refer to Table 12-1 and match the adjective with its opposite. The adjectives describe
appearance and personal traits of Paula and Philip, twins who couldn’t be more opposite from one another.
Q. Philip ist zuverlässig, aber Paula ist _________________.
A. Philip ist zuverlässig, aber Paula ist unzuverlässig. (Philip is reliable, but Paula is
unreliable.) Notice that German also uses the prefix un- to mean not.
1. Paula ist klein, aber Philip ist _________________.
2. Paula ist attraktiv, aber Philip ist _________________.
3. Philip ist sympathisch, aber Paula ist _________________.
4. Philip ist stark, aber Paula ist _________________.
5. Paula ist sportlich, aber Philip ist _________________.
6. Philip ist laut, aber Paula ist _________________.
Describing the weather
No matter where you are, talking about das Wetter (the weather) is the perfect icebreaker. It also provides you with ammunition to make your friends jealous when
you’re writing them Ansichtskarten (postcards) while you’re im Urlaub (on vacation).
Look at the weather vocabulary in Table 12-2. Great news: Most of the adjectives have
near opposites, so it’s economical to remember them in pairs.
Table 12-2
Adjectives of Weather
German
English
German Opposite
English Opposite
gut, schön
good, nice
schlecht
bad
sonnig
sunny
wolkig, bewölkt
cloudy
wunderschön
delightful, lovely
furchtbar
awful
warm
warm
kühl
cool
heiß
hot
kalt
cold
trocken
dry
nass
wet
More weather-related adjectives include frostig (chilly), schön warm (nice and warm),
neb(e)lig (foggy), regnerisch (rainy), schwül (humid), and stürmisch (gusty, blustery).
You’re on vacation. Finish the postcard, describing the weather and someone you met
there. Fill in the blanks using some adjectives describing weather and people. Note:
The first word in a letter isn’t capitalized unless it’s a noun.
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Q. Hier ist es sehr _________________.
A. Hier ist es sehr heiß. (It’s very hot here.)
Postcard
DEUTSCHE POST WORLD NET
50
18/2/08
Liebe Christine,
wie geht es dir? Ist das Wetter zu Hause
(7)
? Heute ist es
(8)
, aber gestern war es
(9)
und (10)
.
Ich bin sehr (11)
!
Im Hotel gibt es einen Mann, der sehr
(12)
ist. Er ist auch
(13)
. Wenn das Wetter
morgen (14)
ist, machen wir
eine Bergtour.
Christine Schroeder
Holtstr. 95
10472 Berlin Deutschland
Alles Gute, Siggi
A family resemblance: Describing with cognates
Although German does have some incredibly foreign sounding words, the number of
cognates is surprisingly large. You can put them in several categories for easy access.
Some example categories are based on the adjective’s ending. See Table 12-3.
Table 12-3
Common Endings on German Adjectives
German Ending
Usual English Ending
Examples
-al
same
diagonal, digital, emotional, formal, ideal, integral, interkontinental, international, irrational,
kollegial, liberal, national, normal, optimal,
original, sentimental, sozial, total, universal
-ant or -ent
same
elegant, exzellent, intelligent, interessant,
intolerant, kompetent, tolerant, uninteressant
-ell
-al
generell, individuell, informell, konventionell,
kriminell, offiziell, partiell, rationell, sensationell, visuell
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Chapter 12: Adding Adjectives for Description
German Ending
Usual English Ending
Examples
-isch
-ic or -ical
allergisch, alphabetisch, analytisch, charakteristisch, chemisch, dynamisch, egoistisch,
elastisch, elektrisch, elektronisch, ethisch,
exotisch, exzentrisch, fanatisch, fantastisch,
klassisch, harmonisch, hygienisch, identisch,
idiomatisch, idyllisch, ironisch, logisch,
lyrisch, melodisch, militärisch, musikalisch,
mythisch, patriotisch, philosophisch, politisch,
praktisch, romantisch, sarkastisch, sporadisch,
symmetrisch, systematisch, tropisch
-iv
-ive
aktiv, alternativ, exklusiv, explosiv, intensiv,
interaktiv, kreativ, massiv, passiv
-lich or -ig
-y, -ly, or -ally
freundlich, frostig, hungrig, persönlich,
sportlich, sonnig, unfreundlich, unpersönlich,
unsportlich, windig
Some cognates — such as bitter, blind, blond, fair, golden, human, illegal, legal,
liberal, mild, modern, neutral, parallel, solid, uniform, warm, and wild — have the
same meaning and the same spelling. Others have a few spelling changes from English
to German, such as
U c → k: direct, exakt, intakt, komplex, konstant, korrekt, nuklear
U c → k; ve → v: aktiv, effektiv, exklusiv, kreativ
U le → el: flexibel, kompatibel, miserabel, variabel
U d → t: hart, laut (loud)
U y → ig: frostig, hungrig, sonnig, windig
Get in the habit of remembering cognates in groups. Repeat them out loud, alphabetically and rhythmically. They’ll stick with you and serve you well when you need them.
Traveling companions: Describing
with collocations
Acquiring word chunks is far more economical than studying isolated words.
Collocations are chunks of words that are very predictable, some so predictable that
they nearly always stick together. By some definitions, collocations include idioms
and other fixed expressions. Collocations are made up of all kinds of word combinations: adjective + noun, noun + noun, adverb + adjective, and so on. In this section,
I deal with adjective combos.
Some collocations translate well: Starke Nerven is the same as strong nerves. Other
expressions aren’t as close: Das ist ein starkes Stück in literal English means that’s a
strong piece. Yet in German, it’s like saying that’s a bit too much, as in that’s over the
top. Take a look at some example collocations:
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Unsere Produkte werden nur in umweltfreundlichen Verpackungen verkauft.
(Our products are sold only in environmentally friendly packaging.) The collocation
is the combination of umweltfreundlich(en) + Verpackung(en) (environmentally
friendly + packaging). Notice the fixed combination environmentally friendly is an
adverb + adjective in English; in German, it’s a noun + adjective: die Umwelt (the
environment) + freundlich (friendly).
Ich ärgere mich grün und blau. (I’m hopping mad. Literally, it’s something like,
I’m annoyed green and blue.) You can also describe this expression as an idiom.
Whatever the terminology, if you were to ask a German speaker to finish the sentence ich ärgere mich . . . und . . ., he wouldn’t hesitate to add the right colors.
Use only German collocations you’re sure about using correctly. Although you know a
collocation in English, it may very well translate into German as nonsense. For example, take the German adjective stark. Put the English collocation stark raving mad into
German word-for-word, and you get gibberish. Why? The whole three-word chunk is
the German collocation total verrückt (totally crazy). When you know that stark
means strong in German, not harsh as in English, you’re halfway on the road to using it
correctly.
Read and listen actively to German. Make it your goal to recognize chunks of language, not only single words. Knowing a stack of collocations with adjectives offers
you great opportunities for expressing yourself clearly and succinctly.
Brighten up your language with colorful collocations. Look at the expressions using
colors. Match the English equivalents and write them next to the German expression.
Q. Sie treffen ins Schwarze.
A. They hit the bull’s eye.
They hit the bull’s eye.
They’re drunk.
They’re working illegally,
not paying taxes.
They’re not at work/school,
pretending to be sick.
They’re blushing.
They’re riding (the train)
without a ticket.
They’re hopping mad.
They’re outdoors.
They’re getting tan.
15. Sie sind blau. __________________________________
16. Sie fahren schwarz. __________________________________
17. Sie sind im Grünen. __________________________________
18. Sie werden rot. __________________________________
19. Sie arbeiten schwarz. __________________________________
20. Sie werden braun. __________________________________
21. Sie ärgern sich grün und blau. __________________________________
22. Sie machen blau. __________________________________
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Chapter 12: Adding Adjectives for Description
Helping Adjectives Meet a Satisfying End
Expanding your adjective arsenal is the first step; knowing how to form and use adjectives correctly in a sentence is the goal for any intermediate language learner. This
section entails deciding whether the adjectives need endings and, if so, how to form
these endings.
English uses adjectives as is, straight up, no changes needed to plunk them into a combination with a noun. German is quite different. Before a German adjective can sidle up to
a noun, it quite often needs an ending that reflects the gender and case of the noun it
modifies. As in English, a German adjective usually comes right before the noun it
describes: meine schwarze Handschuhe (my black gloves).
However, not all adjectives in all sentences need special attention as far as necessary
ending changes are concerned. An adjective has no ending when it follows the verbs
sein (to be), werden (to become), or bleiben (to remain) and modifies the subject.
See the two examples:
Das Wetter bleibt warm. (The weather remains warm.)
Die Berge in Bayern sind wunderschön. (The mountains in Bavaria are gorgeous.)
Work at recognizing the case and gender of nouns in the sentence and knowing how
to add the correct endings. In this section, you need to know the difference between
endings when an adjective stands alone in front of the noun — for example, frisches
Obst (fresh fruit) — and when an adjective has a word such as der, ein, or dieser at
the beginning of the phrase — for example, das frische Obst (the fresh fruit).
Forming endings on adjectives not
preceded by der- or ein- words
When you describe something in general such as food prices, you simply say something
like fresh pineapples are expensive. You don’t need to add the, those, or our. It’s the same
in German, except you have the added factor of case endings for adjectives. In other
words, when you say frische Ananas sind teuer (fresh pineapples are expensive), you
need to know that the ending for frisch is -e. Note: In phrases that do have an article or
modifier like the, those, or our (as in those fresh pineapples), the adjective endings are
different. Check out the following section, “Preceded adjectives: Forming the endings,”
for details.
This section deals with endings for an adjective that modifies and precedes a noun,
but the adjective isn’t preceded by an article (such as der/die/das or ein/eine) or
other modifiers (der- words, such as dieser and solcher, and ein- words, such as
mein and kein).
Here are the characteristics that define adjectives without der- or ein- words preceding them:
U Because no article or other modifier precedes the noun, the adjective must indicate gender and case of the noun; it has a double duty of adjective and article.
U These adjectives have mostly the same endings as der- words, with the exception of the masculine and neuter genitive, where the ending is -en.
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To form these adjective endings, you need to know the gender, case, and number of
the noun that the adjective modifies. For example, take the adjective gut (good). In
order to say guter Käse ist teuer (good cheese is expensive), you need to know that
Käse is masculine singular (der Käse) and that in this sentence, it’s in the nominative
case (subject). You add that nominative masculine ending -er onto gut, so you have
gut + -er = guter Käse.
The four adjectives in Table 12-4 deal with food: gut (good), schmackhaft (tasty), lecker
(delicious, mouth-watering, scrumptious), and köstlich (delicious, luscious, exquisite).
The endings that agree in case, number, and gender with the noun they modify are in
bold. For easy reference, I also list the adjective ending separately in bold with each
example. Add these endings to adjectives that are not preceded by der- or ein- words.
Table 12-4
Adjective Endings Not Preceded by Der- or Ein- Words
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative
(subject)
-er
guter Käse
(good cheese)
-e
schmackhafte
Wurst
(tasty sausage)
-es
leckeres Brot
(delicious bread)
-e
köstliche
Kuchen
(delicious cakes)
-en
Accusative
(direct object) guten Käse
-e
schmackhafte
Wurst
-es
leckeres Brot
-e
köstliche
Kuchen
Dative
(indirect
object)
-em
gutem Käse
-er
schmackhafter
Wurst
-em
leckerem Brot
-en
köstlichen
Kuchen
Genitive
(possessive)
-en
guten Käses
-er
schmackhafter
Wurst
-en
leckeren Brotes
-er
köstlicher
Kuchen
Check out some examples:
Leckeres Brot findet man überall in deutschen Bäckereien. (You can find delicious bread everywhere in German bakeries.) The adjective lecker + -es (delicious)
describes the noun (das) Brot (bread); leckeres Brot is in the accusative case
because it’s the direct object. The neuter singular accusative ending for
unpreceded adjectives is -es.
Es gibt köstliche Kuchen in österreichischen Cafés. (There are luscious cakes in
Austrian cafés.) The adjective köstlich + -e describes the noun (der) Kuchen, in
plural form. Köstliche Kuchen is in the accusative case because it’s the direct
object. The plural accusative ending for unpreceded adjectives is -e.
Add the correct ending to the adjectives in parentheses. Write the adjective in the
space provided. Use Table 12-4 for reference.
Q. Im Winter trinken wir gern _________________ Tee. (heiß)
A. Im Winter trinken wir gern heißen Tee. (We like to drink hot tea in the winter.) Tee is
masculine. Heißen Tee is in accusative case; it’s the direct object of the sentence.
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Chapter 12: Adding Adjectives for Description
23. Im Sommer schmeckt mir _________________ Bier vom Faß. (erfrischend)
24. Ich trinke auch gern _________________ Getränke. (alkoholfrei)
25. Mögen Sie _________________ Wein? (deutsch)
26. Ja, _________________ Weißweine gefallen mir. (trocken)
Preceded adjectives: Forming the endings
When you want to be specific about something, you use articles and modifiers like
the, those, or a to say something like the modern painting, those violent movies, or a
fantastic restaurant. In English, you simply add the adjective of your choice, and
you’re all set. Not so in German. Both the article/modifier and the adjective need to
reflect the gender, number, and case of the noun they modify.
This section deals with endings for an adjective that modifies and precedes a noun
that’s preceded by an article (such as der/die/das or ein/eine) or other modifiers
(der- words such as dieser and solcher, and ein- words such as mein and kein). (See
Chapters 1 and 2 for information on articles and der- and ein- words.) Preceded adjectives appear in phrases with an article or other modifier, an adjective, and a noun.
Take the example ein lockeres Hemd ist bequem (a loose shirt is comfortable). Hemd
is singular, neuter, and in the nominative case because it’s the subject of the sentence,
so the article ein and the adjective lockeres reflect the neuter gender, number, and
case of Hemd. Check out Table 12-5.
Table 12-5
Preceded Adjective Endings
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative
(subject)
der lustige Manne
ein lustiger Mann
die glückliche Frau
eine glückliche Frau
das brave Kind
ein braves Kind
die braven
Kinder
keine braven
Kinder
Accusative
(direct
object)
den lustigen Mann
einen lustigen
Mann
die glückliche Frau
eine glückliche
Frau
das brave Kind
ein braves Kind
die braven
Kinder
keine braven
Kinder
Dative
(indirect
object)
dem lustigen Mann
einem lustigen
Mann
der glücklichen
Frau
einer glücklichen
Frau
dem braven
Kind
einem braven
Kind
den braven
Kindern
keinen braven
Kindern
der glücklichen
Frau
einer glücklichen
Frau
des braven
Kindes
eines braven
Kindes
der braven
Kinder
keiner braven
Kinder
Genitive
des lustigen
(possessive) Mannes
eines lustigen
Mannes
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You’re on vacation on the island of Rügen, in der Ostsee (Rügen, in the Baltic Sea).
Write a letter describing some activities you’re doing there. Fill in the blanks using the
adjectives in parentheses. Look at Table 12-4 for the adjective endings needed. Note:
The first word in a letter isn’t capitalized unless it’s a noun.
Q. Die Insel Rügen hat eine _________________ (herrlich) Küste.
A. Die Insel Rügen hat eine herrliche Küste. (The island of Rügen has a wonderful coastline.)
Eine herrliche Küste is singular accusative; it’s the object of the sentence. Eine is the hint
that Küste is feminine; you indicate the agreement with -e tacked onto herrlich.
Hallo Margit und Thomas,
was macht ihr mit den (27)
(klein) Kindern zu Hause? Hier auf
der Insel Rugen gibt es leider keine (28)
(exotisch) Blumen,
aber gestern haben wir die (29)
(spektakular) (30)
(weib) Felsen gesehen. Kennst du die Bilder von dem (31)
(bekannt) Maler Caspar David Friedrich? Diese (32)
(herrlich)
Landschaft hat er oft gemalt. Wir geniessen die (33)
(gesund)
Luft, und morgen machen wir einem (34)
( lang) Spaziergang
bei Binz. Heute Abend essen wir mit einem (35)
(interessant)
Ehepaar aus Ostdeutchland. Sie sagen, diese (36)
(wunderschön) Insel ist ihr Urlaubziel seit vielen Jahren. Am Donnerstag
fahren wir zu einer (37)
( klein) Insel mit einem (38)
( komisch) Namen - Hiddensee. Dort gibt es einen (39)
(lang)
Strand und einen (40)
(schön) Leuchturm.
Machts gut, Liesl und Hansi
Using Possessive Adjectives:
My Place or Your Place?
Possessive adjectives are the words describing ownership, possession, or relationship,
such as my, your, his, her, and so on. They’re also referred to as possessive pronouns.
(That’s because technically speaking, a possessive adjective is a pronoun that’s used
as an adjective to show who “owns” the noun following it.) Identifying possessive
adjectives is easy because they’re grouped together with the ein- words (they have
the same endings, even if they don’t rhyme with ein). The ein- words include ein,
kein, and all the possessive adjectives.
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The singular possessive adjectives are mein (my), dein (your), sein (his), ihr (her),
and sein (its). The plural possessive adjectives are unser (our), euer (your), ihr
(their), and Ihr (your — formal, singular and plural).
Table 12-6 shows possessive adjective endings in all cases and genders. This is the
same pattern for ein- and kein- in Table 12-5. The following table shows mein and
unser together. All other possessive adjectives use these same endings. The endings
are shown separately in bold.
Table 12-6
Possessive Adjective Endings and First-Person Examples
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative
(subject)
mein, unser
-e
meine, unsere
mein, unser
-e
meine, unsere
Accusative
(direct object)
-en
meinen, unseren
-e
meine, unsere
mein, unser
-e
meine, unsere
Dative (indirect
object)
-em
meinem, unserem
unserem
-er
meiner, unserer
-em
meinem,
unserem
-en
meinen,
unseren
Genitive
(possessive)
-es
meines, unseres
-er
meiner, unserer
-es
meines,
unseres
-er
meiner, unserer
Using Table 12-6, complete the sentences in the exercise. Put the adjectives in parentheses into the sentences, being mindful of the endings.
Q. Ich kann _________________ Schlüssel (plural) nicht finden. (mein)
A. Ich kann meine Schlüssel nicht finden. (I can’t find my keys.) Meine is plural accusative.
41. _________________ Schlüssel liegen auf dem Tisch. (dein)
42. Und ist _________________ Gepäck schon fertig? (unser)
43. Nein. Uli hat _________________ Koffer noch nicht gepackt. (sein)
44. Na ja, _________________ Urlaub fängt schon mit vielen Problemen an. (unser)
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Answer Key
a
Paula ist klein, aber Philip ist groß. (Paula is short, but Philip is tall.)
b
Paula ist attraktiv, aber Philip ist unattraktiv. (Paula is attractive, but Philip is unattractive.)
c
Philip ist sympathisch, aber Paula ist unsympathisch. (Philip is likable, but Paula is
disagreeable.)
d
Philip ist stark, aber Paula ist schwach. (Philip is strong, but Paula is weak.)
e
Paula ist unsportlich, aber Philip ist sportlich. (Paula is unalthletic, but Philip is athletic.)
f
Philip ist laut, aber Paula ist ruhig. (Philip is loud, but Paula is quiet.)
Postcard
DEUTSCHE POST WORLD NET
50
18/2/08
Liebe Christine,
wie geht es dir? Ist das Wetter zu Hause
(7) kalt ? Heute ist es (8) wunderschön, aber
gestern war es (9) kühl und (10) windig. Ich bin
sehr (11) glücklich! Im Hotel gibt es einen
Mann, der sehr (12) sympathisch ist. Er ist
auch (13) sportlich. Wenn das Wetter morgen
(14) schön warm ist, machen wir eine
Bergtour.
Christine Schroeder
Holtstr. 95
10472 Berlin Deutschland
Alles Gute, Siggi
Dear Christine,
How are you? Is the weather cold at home? Today itís lovely, but yesterday it was cool
and windy. I’m really happy! There’s a man in the hotel who is very friendly. He’s also
athletic. If the weather’s nice and warm tomorrow, we’re going climbing.
All the best, Siggi
o
They’re drunk.
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Chapter 12: Adding Adjectives for Description
p
They’re riding [the train] without a ticket.
q
They’re outdoors.
r
They’re blushing.
s
They’re working illegally, not paying taxes.
t
They’re getting tan.
u
They’re hopping mad.
v
They’re not at work/school, pretending to be sick.
w
Im Sommer schmeckt mir erfrischendes Bier vom Faß. (I enjoy refreshing draft beer in the
summer.) Bier is neuter, and it’s the subject, so it’s in the nominative case. The adjective takes
the neuter nominative ending -es.
x
Ich trinke auch gern alkoholfreie Getränke. (I also like to drink non-alcoholic beverages.)
Getränke is plural, and it’s a direct object, so it’s in the accusative case. The adjective takes
the plural accusative ending -e.
y
Mögen Sie deutschen Wein? (Do you like German wine?) Wein is masculine, and it’s a direct
object, so it’s in the accusative case. The adjective takes the masculine accusative ending -en.
A
Ja, trockene Weißweine gefallen mir. (Yes, I like dry white wines.) Weißweine is plural, and it’s
the subject, so it’s in the nominative case. The adjective takes the plural nominative ending -e.
Hallo Margit und Thomas,
was macht ihr mit den (27) kleinen Kindern zu Hause? Hier auf der Insel
Rugen gibt es leider keine (28) exotischen Blumen, aber gestern haben
wir die (29) spektakularen (30) weiben Felsen gesehen. Kennst du die Bilder
von dem (31) bekannten Maler Caspar David Friedrich? Diese (32) herrliche
Landschaft hat er oft gemalt. Wir geniessen die (33) gesunde Luft, und
morgen machen wir einem (34) langen Spaziergang bei Binz. Heute Abend
essen wir mit einem (35) interessanten Ehepaar aus Ostdeutchland. Sie
sagen, diese (36) wunderschöne Insel ist ihr Urlaubziel seit vielen Jahren.
Am Donnerstag fahren wir zu einer (37) kleinen Insel mit einem (38) komischen
Namen - Hiddensee. Dort gibt es einen (39) langen Strand und einen
(40) schönen Leuchturm.
Machts gut, Liesl und Hansi
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Hi Margit and Thomas,
What are you doing with the little children at home? Here on the island of
Rügen, there aren’t any exotic flowers, but yesterday we saw the spectacular
white cliffs. Do you know the paintings by the famous painter Caspar David
Friedrich? He often painted this wonderful landscape. We’re enjoying the
healthy air, and tomorrow we’re going on a long walk near Binz. This evening
we’re having dinner with an interesting couple from eastern Germany. They
say this beautiful island is where they’ve been spending their vacations for
many years. On Thursday we’re going to a small island with a funny name —
Hiddensee. There’s a long beach there and a nice lighthouse.
See you soon, Liesl and Hansi
P
Deine Schlüssel liegen auf dem Tisch. (Your keys are on the table.) Deine Schlüssel is plural
nominative.
Q
Und ist unser Gepäck schon fertig? (And is our luggage ready?) Unser Gepäck is singular, neuter
nominative.
R
Nein. Uli hat seinen Koffer noch nicht gepackt. (No. Uli hasn’t packed his suitcase yet.) Seinen
Koffer is singular, masculine accusative.
S
Na ja, unser Urlaub fängt schon mit vielen Problemen an. (Oh well. Our vacation is already starting with a lot of problems.) Unser Urlaub is singular, masculine nominative.
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Chapter 13
Comparing with Adjectives
and Adverbs
In This Chapter
© Understanding regular adjective and adverb comparative forms
© Grasping irregular adjective and adverb comparative forms
© Comparing equals/unequals
Y
ou may be wondering why I mix adjectives and adverbs in the same chapter,
especially after Chapter 12 deals with adjectives. I have some very good reasons.
Both have the power to make comparisons. What’s even better is that German adjectives and adverbs are one and the same word in most cases. Take, for instance, the
adjective good and its adverbial counterpart well. The German equivalents are exactly
the same for both adjective and adverb: gut. Best of all, using comparative and
superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs offers great opportunities for making
your language more precise, more useful, and more interesting.
In this chapter, you make comparisons using adjectives and adverbs — for example,
freundlich, freundlicher, am freundlichsten (friendly, friendlier, friendliest). Many
adjectives and adverbs follow a regular pattern for making words of comparison. Some
forms are irregular; they need more attention to master. Grammar comes into play with
comparative adjectives that precede a noun. (See Chapter 12 for preceded adjectives.)
Some types of adjectives and adverbs have a unique grammatical structure; I explain
these word groups in this chapter. These groups include adjectives that omit the noun,
participles (verb forms like loving or loved) that function as adjectives or adverbs, and
adverbs that modify adjectives. The last section in this chapter deals with comparing
equals/unequals — for example, (nicht) so teuer wie ([not] as expensive as).
Comparing Regular Adjectives and Adverbs:
Fast, Faster, Fastest
Adjectives modify or describe nouns; adverbs modify or describe verbs, other
adverbs, or adjectives. (The verb sein [to be] is an exception: Adverbs can’t modify
the verb sein.) When you’re using comparative and superlative forms, German makes
adjectives and adverbs in similar ways. Comparative means that you compare two
objects, people, activities, ideas, and so on (for example, longer is the comparative
form of long); superlative means that you compare three or more objects, people,
activities, ideas, and so on (longest is the superlative form).
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Forming the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs from the
basic form isn’t difficult when you see the similarities to English. The endings that
vary from the most-frequent pattern mostly have to do with facilitating pronunciation. The following guidelines show how to add -er and -(e)st endings as well as the
endings for adjectives that come before nouns (see Chapter 12 for details on adjective
agreement).
Comparing two things
For both adjectives and adverbs, when you want to compare two things, people, and
so on, take the base form (the adjective or adverb as you see it in the dictionary) and
form the comparative by adding -er to the base form — for instance, witzig → witziger
(witty → wittier). To express than in a comparison, the German equivalent is als.
Mein Onkel Richard ist nett, aber meine Tante Christel ist netter als Onkel
Richard. (My uncle Richard is nice, but my aunt Christel is nicer than uncle Richard.)
The adjective nett is the base form; netter als (nicer than) is the comparative form.
Onkel Richard fährt schnell, aber Tante Christel fährt schneller als Onkel
Richard. (Uncle Richard drives fast, but aunt Christel drives faster than uncle
Richard.) The adverb schnell is the base form; schneller als (faster than) is the
comparative form. Note: Schnell is both an adjective and an adverb, just as fast is
in English.
Adjectives ending in -el and -er leave the last -e off the base form and then add -er
to make the comparative: dunkel → dunkler (dark → darker), teuer → teurer
(expensive → more expensive).
When you want to use a comparative adjective that precedes the noun, you follow the
same guidelines as with other adjectives that precede the noun. Look at the following
examples to show you three different scenarios for preceded adjective endings:
Du hast ein neueres Auto als ich. (You have a newer car than I do.) The direct
object, ein neueres Auto, is in accusative case, and it’s singular. The indefinite article ein (a) has no ending in accusative singular case: It’s neuter to reflect the neuter
noun (das) Auto. The base form of the adjective neu (new) has the comparative
ending -er + the neuter, singular ending -es to form neueres (neu + -er + -es).
Ich habe den kleineren Wagen. (I have the smaller car.) The direct object, den
kleineren Wagen, is in accusative case, and it’s singular. The definite article den
(the) has the accusative masculine ending: It’s masculine to reflect the masculine
noun (der) Wagen. The base form of the adjective klein (small) has the comparative ending -er + the masculine, singular, accusative ending -en to form kleineren
(klein + -er + -en).
Köstlicheres Brot ist kaum zu finden. (It’s hard to find more delicious bread.) The
subject of the sentence, köstlicheres Brot, is in nominative case, and it’s singular.
The base form of the adjective köstlich (delicious) has the comparative ending -er
+ the neuter, singular ending -es to reflect the neuter noun (das) Brot. The comparative köstlicheres is formed like this: köstlich + -er + -es = köstlicheres.
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German doesn’t use mehr (more) together with the -er ending. In English, the comparative adjective form can look like this: more intelligent or more interesting. German
uses only the -er ending: intelligenter or interessanter.
Absolutely the most! Discussing superlatives
The superlative form for adverbs as well as for adjectives that follow a noun in a sentence is the following: am + adjective/adverb + -sten:
Dieser Supermarkt ist am billigsten. (This supermarket is the cheapest/most inexpensive.) Billig is the base form of the adjective, and am billigsten is the superlative.
Tante Gisela kocht am besten. (Aunt Gisela cooks the best.) Gut is the base form
of the adverb; am besten is the superlative form.
A superlative adjective often precedes the noun it modifies, which means it needs
to reflect the noun’s gender, number, and case. You get the superlative form of such
adjectives by adding -st to the base form and then adding the adjective ending (see
Chapter 12): höflich → höflichst- + adjective ending (polite → most polite).
Manuela ist die höflichste Kollegin im Büro. (Manuela is the most polite colleague
in the office.) Höflich is the base form of the adjective; die höflichst- + -e (Kollegin)
is feminine, singular, nominative case.
Onkel Kalle hat das schönste Haus. (Uncle Kalle has the nicest house.) Schön is
the base form of the adjective; das schönst- + -e (Haus) is the superlative form
that reflects the neuter, singular accusative noun das Haus. Note: Here’s the alternative form, which uses an adjective that follows the noun: Sein Haus ist am
schönsten (His house is the nicest).
You make the superlative form for adjectives ending in -t or -z (and a few others) by
adding -e + -st = -est for ease of pronunciation: elegantest- (most elegant). For example, Du findest die elegantesten Schuhe bei Salamander (You find the most elegant
shoes at Salamander [a well-known shoe store] ). Elegant is the base form of the adjective; die elegant- + est- + -en is the superlative form that reflects the accusative plural
noun Schuhe.
Considering common comparisons
Table 13-1 contains a list of some adjectives and adverbs that are frequently used for
making comparisons of people and things. The fourth column shows any differences
in spelling, as in nett → netter → am nettesten, where you add the -e in front of -st.
The superlative form for all words is shown at first as am + (e)sten. You use this form
when the adjective follows the noun and for adverbs. The form shown in parentheses
is the form that you use when a superlative adjective precedes the noun. You add
the adjective endings to this form. Remember: All adjectives that precede the noun
take adjective endings that reflect the noun’s gender, number, and case.
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Table 13-1
Regular Comparison Forms
English
Base
Comparative
Superlative
Spelling Changes
modest
bescheiden
bescheidener
am bescheidensten
(bescheidenst-)
cheap,
inexpensive
billig
billiger
am billigsten
(billigst-)
dark
dunkel
dunkler
am dunkelsten
(dunkelst-)
drop the last -e in
the comparative
elegant
elegant
eleganter
am elegantesten
(elegantest-)
add -e + st in the
superlative
fit, in shape
fit
fitter
am fittesten (fittest-)
double the t; add
-e + st in the
superlative
hard working, fleißig
industrious
fleißiger
am fleißigsten
(fleißigst-)
flexible
flexibel
flexibler
am flexibelsten
(flexibelst-)
friendly
freundlich
freundlicher
am freundlichsten
(freundlichst-)
generous
großzügig
großzügiger
am großzügigsten
(großzügigst-)
ugly
hässlich
hässlicher
am hässlichsten
(hässlichst-)
polite
höflich
höflicher
am höflichsten
(höflichst-)
pretty
hübsch
hübscher
am hübschesten
(hübschest-)
add -e + st in the
superlative
intelligent
intelligent
intelligenter
am intelligentesten
(intellegentest-)
add -e + st in the
superlative
musical
musikalisch
musikalischer
am musikalischsten
(musikalischst-)
brave
mutig
mutiger
am mutigsten
(mutigst-)
nice
nett
netter
am nettesten
(nettest-)
neat
ordentlich
ordentlicher
am ordentlichsten
(ordentlichst-)
chic, stylish
schick
schicker
am schicksten
(schickst-)
pretty,
beautiful
schön
schöner
am schönsten
(schönst-)
drop the last -e in
the comparative
add -e + st in the
superlative
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Chapter 13: Comparing with Adjectives and Adverbs
English
Base
Comparative
Superlative
athletic
sportlich
sportlicher
am sportlichsten
(sportlichst-)
expensive
teuer
teurer
am teuersten
(teuerst-)
sensible
vernünftig
vernünftiger
am vernünftigsten
(vernünftigst-)
witty
witzig
witziger
am witzigsten
(witzigst-)
Spelling Changes
drop the last -e in
the comparative
When making a sentence, remember to add the appropriate endings to adjectives
of comparison when needed. Adjectives following a noun don’t need to reflect the
gender, number, and case of the noun, but adjectives that precede the noun do need
agreement. (See Chapter 12 for more on adjectives.)
Complete the sentences using the comparative or superlative form of the word in
parentheses. The context of the sentence gives clues as to whether you need the
comparative or superlative form. Then translate the sentences into English.
Q. Im Frühling gibt es die _________________ Blumen. (pretty)
__________________________________________________________________________________
A. Im Frühling gibt es die schönsten/hübschesten Blumen. (The prettiest flowers are in
spring.) The adjective (die) schönsten/hübschesten is in the accusative plural form to
reflect number and case of (die) Blumen.
1. Claudia fährt am _________________. (sensible)
__________________________________________________________________________________
2. Mein Bruder ist _________________ als ich. (witty)
__________________________________________________________________________________
3. Wir waren vorher _________________ als jetzt. (brave)
__________________________________________________________________________________
4. Siegbert machte den _________________ Eindruck. (nice)
__________________________________________________________________________________
5. Ich bin _________________ als du. (fit)
__________________________________________________________________________________
6. Am _________________ bin ich mit meiner Familie. (happy)
__________________________________________________________________________________
7. Wiebke hat jetzt _________________ Haar als früher. (dark)
__________________________________________________________________________________
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Adding the umlaut in regular comparisons
German wouldn’t be the same without its three interesting-looking letters that have
umlauts (not to mention that cool ess-tset, the letter ß). When forming the comparative and superlative forms of some adjectives and adverbs, be careful to add the
umlaut when you need it.
The general guideline for adding umlauts in comparisons is simple to remember:
U Many adjectives and adverbs with one syllable and with an -a, -o, or -u in the base
form add an umlaut in the comparative and superlative forms: alt → älter →
ältest- (old → older → oldest).
U Some common one-syllable words with an -a, -o or -u in the base form don’t have
an umlaut: blond (blond[e]), bunt (colorful), falsch (wrong), froh (glad), klar
(clear), toll (amazing, great), wahr (true), and laut (loud, noisy). Note: Laut has
-au in the base form, unlike the others in this list. I include it here because it
doesn’t add an umlaut in the comparative and superlative forms.
Herr Diefenbacher ist alt, aber Frau Kolbe ist noch älter. (Herr Diefenbacher is
old, but Frau Kolbe is even older.) The adjective alt (base form) changes to älter,
with an umlaut in the comparative form.
Die ärmsten Länder brauchen sehr viel Unterstützung. (The poorest countries
need a lot of aid.) The adjective ärmsten is the superlative form; die ärmsten
Länder is the subject (nominative case), and it’s plural. Ärmsten precedes the
noun, so it needs the adjective ending to reflect Länder. You form it like this: arm(base form) changes to ärm- (add the umlaut) + -est (superlative ending) + en
(nominative plural ending).
Complete the following with the forms of the adjectives and adverbs that are missing.
Remember to include the umlaut and -e with -st if needed. Some exercises have all
three words missing; these are cognates.
English
Base
Comparative
Superlative
Q. old
alt
_________________
_________________
A. old
alt
älter
am ältesten
8. poor
_________________
_________________
am ärmsten
9. stupid
_________________
dümmer
_________________
10. crude, coarse
_________________
gröber
_________________
11. large, big, tall
groß
_________________
_________________
12. hard, tough
hart
_________________
_________________
13. young
_________________
_________________
_________________
14. cold
_________________
_________________
_________________
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Chapter 13: Comparing with Adjectives and Adverbs
Using Irregular Comparison Forms
German has some wayward characters among adjectives and adverbs, but luckily, a
few of these irregular types have parallels to English odd ducks. The classic example is
gut → besser → am besten, which is easily recognizable in English as good → better →
best. These words are high frequency, and there are only a small number of them, so
getting them into your active vocabulary should be a snap. All you need to do is memorize this list of commonly used irregular comparison forms. Look at Table 13-2 for the
list of irregular adjectives and adverbs.
Table 13-2
Irregular Comparison Forms
English Equivalent
Base
Comparative
Superlative
soon, sooner, soonest
bald
eher
am ehesten
like/enjoy (doing something),
prefer, like most of all
gern
lieber
am liebsten
good, better, best
gut
besser
am besten
high, higher, highest
hoch
höher
am höchsten
near, nearer, nearest
nah
näher
am nächsten
much, more, most
viel
mehr
am meisten
The use of gern (the base form of the word meaning to like, enjoy [doing something])
is easiest to remember in the context of some common expressions:
U Ich spiele gern Klavier/Ich tanze gern/Ich esse gern Fisch. (I like to play the
piano/I like to dance/I like to eat fish.) You use this construction to express that
you like an activity, sport, game, food, and so on. Also: Ich spiele lieber
Tennis/ich trinke am liebsten Wasser. (I prefer playing tennis/I like drinking
water most of all.) The base form of these sentences are Ich spiele gern Tennis
and Ich trinke gern Wasser (I like to play tennis and I like to drink water).
U Ich möchte gern wissen, ob . . . (I wonder if . . . )
U Was möchtest du lieber . . . ? (Which would you rather . . . ?)
U Am liebsten möchte ich . . . (Most of all, I’d like to . . .) Use this expression to talk
about an activity/food/place that you like or would like to do/eat/go to/and so on.
These exercises are grouped in three sentences with the base form, comparative
form, and the superlative form. Complete the three unfinished sentences in each exercise using the irregular comparison forms in Table 13-2. The question heading each
group of three questions indicates the English equivalent of the German word to use.
Which mountain is higher?
Q. Die Zugspitze ist _________________.
Der Großglockner ist _________________.
Der Mont Blanc ist _________________.
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A. Die Zugspitze ist hoch. (The Zugspitze is high.) Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain.
Der Großglockner ist höher. (Großglockner is higher.) Großglockner is Austria’s highest
mountain.
Der Mont Blanc ist am höchsten. (Mont Blanc is the highest.) Mont Blanc is the highest
mountain in the Alps, located at the border between France and Italy.
Which dinner is more expensive?
15. Ein Abendessen im Restaurant Bei Mario kostet _________________.
16. Ein Abendessen im Restaurant Chez Philippe kostet _________________.
17. Ein Abendessen im Restaurant Zur Goldenen Gans kostet _________________.
Who’s coming home sooner?
18. Monika kommt _________________ nach Hause.
19. Jennifer kommt _________________ nach Hause.
20. Sarah kommt _________________ nach Hause.
Which sport do you like better?
21. Ich fahre _________________ Fahrrad.
22. Ich fahre _________________ Wasserski.
23. Ich fahre _________________ Ski.
Comparing Equals and Nonequals
When you were a kid, you probably boasted about yourself, saying that you were better
than the rest. After you grow up, you have to consider a lot more factors. You may want
to sound more diplomatic and leave the boasting to the playground mentality. Using the
expressions in this section, you can sound smooth enough to impress almost anyone.
Use the following structures for expressing equality and inequality of items, places,
people, what have you. They do wonders for increasing your range of expression.
Table 13-3 shows the list of commonly used expressions that describe equality or
inequality between things, people, or ideas. The example sentences show how these
expressions fit into sentences. Notice the word order of the information in each example sentence; with the exception of je . . . desto (the . . . -er, the . . . -er), you use the
same word order in German and English to make comparisons using these expressions. The adjective or adverb that you’re using as a comparison is in the middle of
the two parts of the expression. For example, if you use the adverb schnell (fast) to
say just as fast as . . . , you say genauso schnell wie . . . in German.
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Chapter 13: Comparing with Adjectives and Adverbs
Table 13-3
Comparison Forms of Equals/Nonequals
Comparison of
Equals/Nonequals
English
Equivalent
Example
Sentence
English
Equivalent
genauso . . . wie
just as . . . as . . .
Mein Auto fährt
genauso schnell
wie sein Motorrad.
My car goes just as
fast as his motorcycle.
halb so . . . wie . . .
half as . . . as . . .
Das Ergebnis war nur
halb so schlimm wie
wir erwarteten.
The result was only half
as bad as we expected.
nicht so . . . wie . . .
not as . . . as . . .
Ich bin nicht so stark
wie ich dachte.
I’m not as strong as I
thought.
so . . . wie . . .
as . . . as . . .
Unsere Produkte sind
so zuverlässig wie
importierte Produkte.
Our products are as
reliable as imported
products.
je . . . , desto . . .
(comparative
words follow
je . . . , desto . . .)
the . . . -er,
the . . . -er
(adjectives or
adverbs in
comparative form)
Je mehr Sie lesen,
The more you read, the
desto besser informiert better informed you’ll be.
werden Sie.
(Note: The word order
is different in English)
In the following exercise, put the words into the correct word order. The example
shows how to complete the sentence. Then translate the sentence into English.
Q. verdient / so viel / Pilot / wie / ein / Ein Polizist / nicht
A. Ein Polizist verdient nicht so viel wie ein Pilot. (A policeman doesn’t earn as much as
a pilot.)
24. so viel wie/BMW/Mercedes/kostet/ein/Ein neuer/neuer
__________________________________________________________________________________
25. halb so viel/wie/Fußballspieler/Ein/ein/läuft/Baseballspieler
__________________________________________________________________________________
26. er/er/Poker/spielt/desto reicher/wird/Je mehr
__________________________________________________________________________________
27. viel/ nicht so/Die neuen/benutzen/Benzin/wie die/alten Modelle/Autos
__________________________________________________________________________________
28. Farbfilme/Schwarz-Weiß-Filme/sind/wie/genauso spannend
__________________________________________________________________________________
29. desto mehr/Je qualifizierter/ist/verdient/man/man
__________________________________________________________________________________
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30. wie/in/in/Deutschland/ist/Das Wetter/Neuengland/so schön/das Wetter
__________________________________________________________________________________
Identifying Unique Adjective
and Adverb Groups
The structure and usage of some adjectives and adverbs is unique. These types
include adjectives that are used as nouns, participles used as adjectives or adverbs,
and adverbs that modify adjectives. Most are fairly easy to remember because they
have parallel meanings and structures in English.
You need to know these groups because they’re high frequency words and expressions
that you come across in everyday language, and they help you express yourself more
clearly. They’re easy to remember if you understand how to use these structures in
sentences. This section includes the following three unique groups:
U Naturally, adjectives used as nouns are the type that stand in for the noun; they
omit the noun — for example, das Richtige (the right thing/decision/choice).
U The second group includes participles that function as adjectives or adverbs,
such as am motiviertesten (the most motivated). The present participle of
motivieren (to motivate) is motivierend (motivating), and the past participle
of is motiviert (motivated).
U The third group I deal with in this section is made up of adverbs that modify
adjectives. The combination serves to make the adjective more descriptive; for
example, in the expression wirklich interessant, you use the word wirklich
(really, absolutely) to modify interessant (interesting).
Adjectives that act as nouns
Sometimes adjectives replace a noun to represent an abstract idea, a person, an
object, and so on. The noun that the adjective replaces may be singular or plural, and
it may be the subject or the object of a sentence; in short, it functions the same as a
noun. The same structure exists in English and German for adjectives that take over
as nouns; for example, the poor, the brave, the lonely one, the new ones. The only difference is that in German, nouns are capitalized and the spelling reflects gender,
number, and case. In addition, there’s no equivalent for one/ones in English; the
German adjective stands alone to represent the noun.
To understand how such adjectives work, imagine you’re discussing with your friend
which cat you want to take home from the animal shelter. You talk about die Große,
die Braune, and die Ruhige (the little one, the brown one, the quiet one). You’re
replacing the word Katze (cat) by describing a characteristic of each cat and using
that adjective to represent that cat. You use the feminine article die because Katze is
a feminine noun. If you’re talking about taking home a dog, der Hund, you refer to
each one as der Große, der Braune, and der Ruhige. When you make your decision,
you may say something like Ich nehme den Braunen (I’ll take the brown one [dog]).
The adjective has the accusative masculine singular case ending -en to reflect the
noun it’s replacing.
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Chapter 13: Comparing with Adjectives and Adverbs
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that adjectives like das Gute (the good thing) are in
the superlative. Adjectives that describe something abstract are neuter nouns; das
signifies the neuter noun in this case, not the superlative form. (See the earlier section “Comparing Regular Adjectives and Adverbs: Fast, Faster, Fastest” for more on
superlatives.) Compare the following sentences:
Ich wünsche euch das Beste. (I wish you the best.) This has a superlative meaning,
but das Beste is a noun. By contrast, die beste Idee (the best idea) is a combination of the superlative adjective die beste and the noun Idee.
Kennst du die Kleine da drüben? (Do you know the small [woman] over there?)
The article die combines with Kleine to stand in for the noun woman (die Frau).
Note: Die Kleine doesn’t necessarily have to refer to a small woman. However, if it’s
used to refer to a woman, it’s colloquial, a bit like saying that babe.
Participles that function as adjectives or adverbs
In German, as in English, present and past participles can function as adjectives or
adverbs. If the adjectives precede a noun, they agree in gender, number, and case
with the noun they modify. A present participle is the infinitive (for instance, fly,
tumble, or seethe) with the ending -ing. When you use it in English as an adjective,
you combine it with the noun you want to modify; for example, the flying squirrels,
the tumbling acrobats, or the seething volcano.
To create the present participle in German, start with a verb, such as laufen (to run).
Verbs form the present participle by dropping the infinitive ending -en and adding
-end to the infinitive form (lauf- + -end = laufend). The present participle of laufen
is laufend (the closest thing to the English word running). Look at an example:
Er erzählte Witze am laufenden Band. (He told an endless stream of jokes.
Literally: He told jokes on a running band/belt.)
A past participle of a regular verb is the infinitive of a verb with -ed or -d added. For an
irregular verb, it’s the form such as eaten, hidden, or seen that you use to form the
present perfect tense and other compound verb tenses. (An example of the present
perfect tense is Scruffy has already eaten, where you combine the past participle eaten
with the auxiliary verb have.) You can use the past participle as a descriptive word;
for example, the drenched cat, sunken treasure, or forbidden fruit.
Verbs form past participles differently, depending on the verb type (see Chapter 16);
for instance, the past participle of pflegen is gepflegt (groomed, taken care of). The
phrases gepflegtes Essen (first-rate food) and gepflegte Weine (quality wines) are typical descriptions that restaurants use to impress their clientele. Literally speaking,
these expressions mean groomed food/wines in the sense that the restaurant has a
carefully selected menu or wine list.
Some German verbs, namely the verbs ending in -ieren, have the same meanings in
English, making them easily recognizable. The past participle form of these verbs is
formed with -iert at the end; the ending is the same, regardless of whether you’re
using the past participle as an adjective or adverb.
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Many of these common adjectives have comparative and superlative forms: Some
common adjectives with this structure are dekoriert (decorated), diszipliniert (disciplined), fasziniert (fascinated), frustriert (dissastisfied, frustrated), interessiert (interested), motiviert (motivated), organisiert (organized), and talentiert (talented). They
can all form comparative and superlative adjectives (and possibly adverbs):
Der Gefreite Schwarz war der disziplinierteste Soldat in seiner Kompanie.
(Private Schwarz was the most disciplined soldier in his company.) Diszipliniertestis a superlative adjective.
In der Schule war ich motivierter als meine Schwester. (I was more motivated
than my sister when I was in school.) Motivierter is a comparative adjective.
Wir schauten die Olympische Spiele fasziniert zu. (We watched the Olympic
Games with fascination.) Fasziniert is an adverb describing how (we) watched.
Some frequently used adjectives derived from past participles don’t have comparative forms. Among the more common are ausprobiert (tested), diskutiert (discussed),
fotografiert (photographed), and probiert (tried/tested). See the earlier section titled
“Comparing Regular Adjectives and Adverbs: Fast, Faster, Fastest” for more on
comparatives.
Adverbs that modify adjectives
Adverbs modify verbs, but they can also modify adjectives. In order to express that
something or someone is quite good, especially interesting, or really motivated, you use
adverbs to modify the adjective. Those adverbs frequently used in German are besonders (especially), etwas (somewhat), relativ (relatively), sehr (very), viel (much, a lot),
wirklich (absolutely, really), and ziemlich (quite). Good news here is that they don’t
have any changes in the endings.
To use an adverb to modify an adjective, just place the adverb in front of the adjective it’s modifying, and voilà! To show you how this works, imagine you’re talking
about the hotels you stayed at on your last trip to Europe. One hotel was especially
luxurious. To express this in German, you place the adverb wirklich (really) in front
of luxuriös (luxurious), and if the adjective precedes the noun that it modifies, add
the appropriate adjective ending; for example, Wir haben zwei Nächte in einem
wirklich luxuriösen Hotel übernachtet (We spent two nights in a really luxurious
hotel). Check out these examples:
Der Sommer war etwas wärmer als in vergangenen Jahren. (The summer was
somewhat warmer than in previous years.) The adverb etwas modifies the adjective wärmer, which is in the comparative form. The adjective wärmer needs no
ending because it doesn’t precede the noun that it modifies, der Sommer.
Letztes Jahr hatten wir einen ziemlich langen Winter. (Last year we had quite a
long winter.) The adverb ziemlich modifies the adjective lang: einen ziemlich
langen. Winter is the direct object of the sentence, so the other modifiers — einen
and langen — have masculine, singular, accusative endings to reflect (der) Winter.
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Chapter 13: Comparing with Adjectives and Adverbs
205
Answer Key
a
Claudia fährt am vernünftigsten. (Claudia drives the most sensibly.)
b
Mein Bruder ist witziger als ich. (My brother is wittier than I.)
c
Wir waren vorher mutiger als jetzt. (We were braver then than now.)
d
Siegbert machte den nettesten Eindruck. (Siegbert made the nicest impression.)
e
Ich bin fitter als du. (I’m in better shape than you.)
f
Am glücklichsten bin ich mit meiner Familie. (I’m happiest [when I’m] with my family.)
g
Wiebke hat jetzt dunkleres Haar als früher. (Wiebke now has darker hair than before.)
h
poor
arm
ärmer
am ärmsten
i
stupid
dumm
dümmer
am dümmsten
j
crude, coarse
grob
gröber
am gröbsten
k
large, big, tall
groß
größer
am größten
l
hard, tough
hart
härter
am härtesten
m
young
jung
jünger
am jüngsten
n
cold
kalt
kälter
am kältesten
o
Ein Abendessen im Restaurant Bei Mario kostet viel. (A dinner in Mario’s restaurant is expensive.)
p
Ein Abendessen im Restaurant Chez Philippe kostet mehr. (A dinner in Philippe’s restaurant is
more expensive.)
q
Ein Abendessen im Restaurant Zur Goldenen Gans kostet am meisten. (A dinner in the Goldenen
Gans restaurant is the most expensive.)
r
Monika kommt bald nach Hause. (Monika is coming home soon.)
s
Jennifer kommt eher nach Hause. (Jennifer is coming home sooner.)
t
Sarah kommt am ehesten nach Hause. (Sarah is coming home the soonest.)
u
Ich fahre gern Fahrrad. (I like bicycling.)
v
Ich fahre lieber Wasserski. (I like waterskiing better.)
w
Ich fahre am liebsten Ski. (I like skiing the most.)
x
Ein neuer BMW kostet so viel wie ein neuer Mercedes. (A new BMW costs as much as a new
Mercedes.) Or vice versa.
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y
Ein Baseballspieler läuft halb so viel wie ein Fußballspieler. (A baseball player runs half as
much as a soccer player.) Baseball is definitely the slower game!
A
Je mehr er Poker spielt, desto reicher wird er. (The more he plays poker, the richer he
becomes.) This one has tricky word order. Did you remember the comma, too? You need it
to separate the two phrases, just as you do in English. (Check out Table 13-3.)
B
Die neuen Autos benutzen nicht so viel Benzin wie die alten Modelle. (The new cars don’t use
as much gas as the old models.) Or vice versa.
C
Schwarz-Weiß-Filme sind genauso spannend wie Farbfilme. (Black and white movies are just
as exciting as movies in Technicolor.) Or vice versa.
D
Je qualifizierter man ist, desto mehr verdient man. (The more qualified one is, the more one
earns.) This statement doesn’t make sense the other way. This one has tricky word order. Did
you remember the comma, too? You need it to separate the two phrases.
E
Das Wetter in Deutschland ist so schön wie das Wetter in Neuengland. (The weather in Germany
is as nice as the weather in New England.) Or vice versa.
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Chapter 14
Connecting with Conjunctions
In This Chapter
© Clarifying terminology of conjunctions and clauses
© Making sentences with coordinating conjunctions
© Forming sentences with subordinating conjunctions
C
onjunctions are the glue that connects parts of a sentence, such as clauses,
phrases, or words. In order to reach beyond basic sentence structure in German,
you need these small yet important words to form more sophisticated sentences.
German uses two types of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions, such as oder (or),
and subordinating conjunctions, such as weil (because). Your choice between them is
based on the structure of the clauses, phrases, or words that you’re joining together.
In the first section of this chapter, I clarify the difference between these two types of
conjunctions, and in the rest of this chapter, I explain how to use the most common
German conjunctions to express your ideas clearly and intelligently.
Conjunctions and Clauses: Terminating
Terminology Tangles
To get a good grasp on conjunctions and how to use them, you first need to understand and keep track of the basic grammatical vocab. You’re probably already familiar
with many of the following terms, but here’s a quick recap of the differences among
phrases, clauses, and sentences:
U Phrase: A group of connected words that have neither subject nor verb, such as
nach Zürich (to Zürich)
U Clause: A group of related words that have a subject and a verb, such as Ich
fliege (I’m flying)
• Main clause (independent clause): A clause that can stand on its own; it
has a sentence structure, as in der Nachrichtensprecher war enttäuscht
(the newscaster was disappointed). This is just about the same as a sentence, except it doesn’t have a proper beginning (capitalized D in der) or a
punctuation mark at the end (a period in this example).
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• Subordinate clause (dependent clause): This clause has a sentence structure with a subject and a verb, but it can’t stand on its own; it needs some
help from its friends, the independent clause and the conjunction. If you
see such a clause alone without a main clause — for example, weil er seine
Stimme verloren hat (because he lost his voice) — you’re left waiting to
find out more information.
U Sentence: A group of words that has it all: subject, verb, and an ending like a
period, exclamation point, or question mark — the whole shebang, as in Ich
fliege nächste Woche nach Zürich (I’m flying to Zürich next week).
Conjunctions are the connectors, the cement, the orangutan glue that you use to
combine sentence parts. Here are the two types of conjunctions:
U Coordinating: A coordinating conjunction joins main clauses, phrases, or words.
Der Nachrichtensprecher hat seine Stimme verloren, und er musste zu
Hause bleiben. (The newscaster lost his voice, and he had to stay home.)
The coordinating conjunction und (and) combines the two main clauses;
a comma placed before und separates the two clauses.
Martin ging nach Hause und machte sich ein Käsebrot zum Abendessen.
(Martin went home and made [himself] a cheese sandwich for supper.) Und
(and) is a coordinating conjunction; it combines two actions (verbs) that
Martin did.
U Subordinating: This conjunction introduces a subordinate clause and relates it
to another clause in the sentence.
Der Nachrichtensprecher war enttäuscht, weil er seine Stimme verloren
hat. (The newscaster was disappointed because he lost his voice.) Weil
(because) is the subordinating conjunction. The subordinate clause weil er
seine Stimme verloren hat (because he lost his voice) has complete meaning when it’s connected to der Nachrichtensprecher war enttäuscht (the
newscaster was disappointed).
Martin ging nach Hause, obwohl er sehr einsam war. (Martin went home,
although he was very lonely.) The subordinating conjunction obwohl
(although) introduces the subordinate clause that follows it and connects
the two parts of the sentence, Martin ging nach Hause and er sehr
einsam war.
In English, conjunctions such as and, because, but, or, and when are simple to use in a
sentence; the word order comes naturally for fluent speakers. German conjunctions,
however, require a conscious effort to keep in mind which type of conjunction you’re
dealing with and how to get the word order straight. You also need to remember the
comma. Keep reading for how to correctly use these two types of conjunctions.
Connecting with Coordinating Conjunctions
The coordinating conjunctions, the ones that join main clauses, phrases, or words, are
the easier of the two types to master. The number of German coordinating conjunctions is small, and they correspond well to their English counterparts in meaning and
usage — except for a few easy-to-understand differences.
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Chapter 14: Connecting with Conjunctions
Table 14-1 shows the common coordinating conjunctions, together with their English
equivalents and comments relating to the conjunction in a clause.
Table 14-1
Common Coordinating Conjunctions
German
English
Equivalent
Comma Separates
Joined Sentence
Parts?
Comment
aber
but
yes
Used the same way in English
denn
for, because
yes
Denn is also used as a
flavoring particle, often to
interest the listener; weil,
a subordinating conjunction,
also means because, but it
has a different word order.
oder
or
no (unless the writer
chooses a comma
for clarity)
Used the same way in English
sondern
but
yes
Used to express on the contrary, rather, or instead; it’s
preceded by a clause that
makes a negative statement
und
and
no (unless the writer
chooses a comma
for clarity)
Used the same way in English
Note: In German, you don’t use a comma in front of und in a series (or list of words),
although this practice is common in English. Example: Wir haben Kartoffelbrei,
Spinat und Kabeljau gegessen. (We ate mashed potatoes, spinach, and cod.)
Working on word order: Coordinating
conjunctions
When you form German sentences with coordinating conjunctions, the separate sentence parts maintain their word order. Keep in mind that in standard German word
order, the active, conjugated verb is placed in second position. The standard word
order is the same for English and German: Take the subject + the verb + the other
information, like an object or a prepositional phrase, and add the conjunction to combine the other sentence part. Now you have two parts combined into one sentence:
Luca geht ins Kaufhaus, aber sein Hund bleibt zu Hause. (Luca goes to the
department store, but his dog stays home.) Aber (but) is the coordinating
conjunction.
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Although the preceding word order is exactly the same in English and German, I can’t
let you go away without pointing out other German sentences using a coordinating
conjunction that have a different word order from the standard subject + verb + other
information structure. (Go to Chapter 1 for more on word order.)
Time expressions (descriptions of time such as this morning, in the eighteenth century,
at five o’clock, and so on) can take the place of the subject. The verb is still in second
position, but the subject goes behind the verb. This point is important because it
distinguishes coordinating conjuctions from their cousins, the subordinating conjunctions. I explain the differences between these two conjunction types in the “Using
subordinating conjunctions” section of this chapter. The example shows you how this
word order change looks:
Wir fahren heute mit dem Zug nach Hamburg, denn morgen in der Früh
möchten wir zum Fischmarkt gehen. (We’re taking the train to Hamburg today
because tomorrow morning we’d like to go to the fish market.) The time expression
morgen in der Früh immediately follows the coordinating conjunction denn.
When forming a German sentence, remember time, manner, place. It’s the mantra for
positioning information describing when, how, and where. The standard word order is
1. Time (tells when)
2. Manner (tells how)
3. Place (tells where)
For example, in the sentence, wir fahren heute mit dem Zug nach Hamburg, heute =
time, mit dem Zug = manner, and nach Hamburg = place. In the second clause, denn
morgen in der Früh möchten wir zum Fischmarkt gehen, morgen in der Früh = time
and zum Fischmarkt = place.
The following sentence elements are in the wrong word order. Rewrite the sentences
in the correct word order. Remember to use the comma if appropriate. The first word
is in the correct position.
Q. Ich / das Wasser / möchte / zu kalt / aber / schwimmen / ist
A. Ich möchte schwimmen, aber das Wasser ist zu kalt. (I’d like to go swimming, but the
water is too cold.)
1. Kai / zwei / drei / und / Stefanie / Brüder / hat / hat Schwestern (four alternatives)
__________________________________________________________________________________
2. Sven / aber / sehr intelligent / er / nicht amüsant / ist / ist (two alternatives)
__________________________________________________________________________________
3. Heike / sie / sind / wohnen / Haus / aber / in einem / sehr kleinen / und Georg / glücklich
darin
__________________________________________________________________________________
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Chapter 14: Connecting with Conjunctions
4. Heute / denn / ich / nicht / ich / eine / Erkältung / arbeite / habe
__________________________________________________________________________________
Using coordinating conjunctions
Incorporating coordinating conjunctions into your writing and speech shouldn’t be
too difficult. The coordinating conjunctions are straightforward in usage and meaning. You just combine two sentence parts by using the coordinating conjunction that
fits what you intend to say about the relationship between them.
The common coordinating conjunctions are as follows:
U aber (but)
U sondern (but)
U denn (for, because)
U und (and)
U oder (or)
When writing in German, oder and und don’t need a comma preceding them,
although using a comma sometimes improves clarity. Aber, sondern, and denn do
need a preceding comma to connect clauses, phrases, and words. Denn, however,
connects clauses only; it has the same function as because in English. Otherwise,
word order follows the guidelines as described in the preceding section for coordinating conjunctions.
Ich gehe zur Bank, denn ich brauche Geld. (I’m going to the bank because I need
some money.)
Heute esse ich ein saftiges Steak im Restaurant, oder ich mache Spaghetti zu
Hause. (Today I’ll have a juicy steak in a restaurant, or I’ll make spaghetti at home.)
Sondern and aber both mean but; however, their uses differ. You use sondern to
express but, but rather in cases where the preceding clause has a negative expression
(is negated) and where the two ideas cancel each other; for example, Ich wohne nicht
in der Stadmitte, sondern am Stadtrand (I live not downtown but [rather] on the outskirts of the city). The main clause in the beginning (Ich wohne nicht in der Stadmitte)
contains a negative, nicht, and the two ideas are mutually exclusive. Sondern links the
prepositional phrase am Stadtrand to the rest of the sentence. You use aber in the
same manner as in English — to connect two ideas that aren’t mutually exclusive.
Connect the two sentence parts together using the coordinating conjunction that
makes the most sense.
Q. Karsten bleibt im Bett, _________________ er ist krank.
A. Karsten bleibt im Bett, denn er ist krank. (Karsten is staying in bed because he’s ill.) The
conjunction denn is by far the best choice; denn er ist krank (because he’s ill) explains
the reason Karsten is staying in bed.
5. Ich möchte gern ins Theater gehen, _________________ ich habe kein Geld.
6. Ich fliege nicht am Samstag, _________________ am Sonntag.
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7. Gudrun spielt sehr gut Squash, _________________ ihr Mann spielt auch sehr gut.
8. Essen wir heute Abend bei dir _________________ bei mir?
9. Der Film hatte nicht nur gute Schauspieler, _________________ auch hervorragende Musik.
Connecting with Subordinating Conjunctions
The trick with subordinating conjunctions is remembering three things: the correct
word order, where to put the comma, and of course, the meaning of the subordinating
conjunction. A subordinate clause (dependent clause) has a simple structure with a
subject and a verb, but it can’t stand on its own without help from a main clause and
a subordinating conjunction. A subordinating conjunction introduces a subordinate
clause and relates that clause to the main clause in the sentence.
Table 14-2 presents a list of commonly used German subordinating conjunctions with
their English equivalents and comments on their usage.
Table 14-2
Common Subordinating Conjunctions
German
English Equivalent
Comment
als
as, when
Describes an event in the past. Example: Als ich elf
Jahre alt war . . . (When I was eleven . . .)
bevor
before
Used the same way in English
da
since (inasmuch as)
Not to be confused with the preposition seit (since + a
point in time) or da (there)
damit
so that
Used to express in order that . . .; not to be confused
with damit, a compound of da + mit to express with
that/it/them
dass
that
Rarely begins a sentence; in English, you can leave
out the conjunction that, but you can’t in German.
Example: Ich wusste, dass er . . . (I knew [that] he . . .)
falls
in case
Used to describe in the situation/event that . . .
ob
if, whether
Not interchangeable with wenn; ob can be used to
begin an indirect yes/no question
obwohl
although
Used the same way in English
weil
because
Same meaning as denn (coordinating conjunction) but
with a different word order in the subordinate clause
wenn
if, when, whenever
Not interchangeable with ob; wenn starts a clause
that stipulates the condition of something possibly
happening or not, such as if A, then B
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Chapter 14: Connecting with Conjunctions
Using subordinating conjunctions
Subordinating conjunctions have some similarities to their cousins, the coordinating
conjunctions: Both types of conjunctions link ideas together, both introduce one of
the ideas, and both generally use commas to separate the two ideas. The distinguishing characteristics of subordinating conjunctions are as follows:
U A subordinating conjunction begins a subordinate clause: Ich hoffe, dass du
kommst (I hope that you come). Dass is the subordinating conjunction, and the
subordinate clause is dass du kommst.
U A comma always separates the main clause from the subordinate clause: Ich
hoffe (main clause) + , (comma) + dass . . . (subordinate clause).
U Subordinating conjunctions affect word order of verbs: They push the conjugated (main) verb to the end of the subordinate clause.
Two subordinating conjunctions, als and wenn, have similar meanings; both can
mean when. However, als describes an event (a single event) in the past, and wenn
functions the way it does in English; you can use it for an action that’s repeated in any
verb tense.
Als ich in der Stadt lebte, hatte ich kein Auto. (When I lived in the city, I didn’t
have a car.) You don’t live in the city anymore; that event is over.
Wenn ich nicht mehr arbeite, möchte ich noch fit bleiben. (When I’m no longer
working, I’d like to stay in shape.) This sentence is in present tense; it describes an
imagined scenario in the future.
Ob and wenn are similar because they can both mean if. However, ob can begin an indirect yes/no question, and wenn starts a clause that stipulates the condition of something possibly happening or not. Falls and wenn are also similar. Falls can be used in
such situations when you want to express in case or in the case that.
Ich weiß nicht, ob das richtig ist. (I don’t know if that’s right.) You’re posing a
question to yourself that would have a yes/no answer.
Wenn/Falls es morgen regnet, bleiben wir zu Hause. (If/In case it rains tomorrow,
we’ll stay home.)
Look at the following examples of how you use da, bevor, and damit in German sentences. In the next section, you find example sentences with dass, obwohl, and weil.
Da ich wenig Geld habe, hoffe ich einen reichen Partner zu finden. (Since I
have little money, I hope to find a rich partner.) You can also use weil in place of da
in this sentence when you want to express because.
Bevor ich den richtigen Mann finde, werde ich meine Freiheit genießen.
(Before I find the right man, I’ll enjoy my freedom.)
Ich brauche viel Geld, damit ich Luxusartikeln kaufen kann. (I need a lot of
money so I can buy luxury goods.)
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Using the correct word order
Clarity is the name of the game, and to properly use subordinating conjunctions, you
need to make sure you put everything in its proper order:
U The conjugated verb is thrown (ruthlessly!) to the end of the end of the subordinate clause: Ich hoffe, dass sie das Basketballspiel gewinnen (I hope [that] they
win the basketball game). The verb gewinnen (win) is at the end of the subordinate
clause, which begins with the word dass. Dass very rarely begins a sentence.
U When a subordinate clause begins a sentence, the word directly following the
clause is the conjugated verb of the main clause. Why? Because the whole subordinate clause counts as one sentence element (one unit), so the verb in the main
clause is in its usual second position: Wenn ich zu spät aufstehe, verpasse ich
den Zug (When I get up too late, I miss the train). The verb verpasse (miss, as in to
miss an opportunity) directly follows the subordinate clause.
Look at the annotated examples of three sentences using subordinating conjunctions:
Ich hoffe, dass sie das Basketballspiel gewinnen. (I hope [that] they win the basketball game.) The main clause comes first, followed by the subordinate clause.
1. Ich hoffe (I hope) = main clause
2. dass (that) = subordinating conjunction introducing the subordinate clause
3. sie (they) = subject
4. das Basketballspiel (the basketball game) = direct object, in accusative case
5. gewinnen (win) = verb at the end of the subordinate clause
Obwohl ich oft zu spät aufstehe, erreiche ich den Zug. (Although I often get up
too late, I catch the train.) The subordinate clause comes first, followed by the
main clause.
1. Obwohl (although) = subordinating conjunction introducing the sentence
2. ich oft zu spät (I often too late) = subject and other information
3. aufstehe (get up) = verb at the end of the subordinate clause
4. erreiche (catch) = verb at the beginning of the independent clause (counts as
second position in the sentence)
5. ich den Zug (I the train) = subject and direct object in accusative case
Weil ich viel zu spät aufgestanden bin, habe ich den Zug verpasst. (Because I
[have gotten] got up much too late, I [have] missed the train.) The subordinate
clause comes first, with the main clause in second position; both clauses use the
present perfect verb tense (see Chapter 16 for more on the present perfect). In
the subordinate clause, the two verb parts are at the end of the clause, with the
past participle (aufgestanden) preceding the conjugated verb (bin). In the main
clause (habe ich den Zug verpasst), the word order of the verbs follows that of
present perfect in a sentence with only one clause: The conjugated verb is in
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Chapter 14: Connecting with Conjunctions
215
second position (habe), and the past participle is at the end of the clause/sentence. Remember that the whole subordinate clause functions as a subject, or as
one unit of information, with a comma separating the two clauses. The conjugated
verb is, grammatically speaking, in second position.
1. Weil (because) = subordinating conjunction introducing the sentence
2. ich zu spät (I too late) = subject and other information
3. aufgestanden (got up) = past participle of aufstehen (to get up)
4. bin (have; Literally: am) = conjugated verb thrown to the end of the subordinate
clause so it follows the past participle aufgestanden (got up)
5. habe (have) = conjugated verb at the beginning of the main clause
6. ich den Zug (I the train) = subject and direct object, accusative case
7. verpasst (missed) = past participle of verpassen (to miss)
In the following exercises, the independent clause begins the sentence. This part of
the sentence has the correct word order. Decide whether the word order of the subordinate clause is correct. If not, rewrite the sentence in the correct word order.
Q. Ich weiss, dass Sie sprechen gut Deutsch.
A. Ich weiss, dass Sie gut Deutsch sprechen. (I know that you speak good German.) The word
order is incorrect; the verb must go to the end of the subordinate clause.
10. Ich möchte, dass du morgen mit mir kommst.
__________________________________________________________________________________
11. Es ist gut, dass am Freitag er hat Zeit.
__________________________________________________________________________________
12. Wir möchten, dass sie den Vertrag unterschreiben.
__________________________________________________________________________________
13. Es ist nicht gut, dass Norbert ist allein.
__________________________________________________________________________________
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Answer Key
a
Kai hat zwei/drei Brüder und Stefanie hat zwei/drei Schwestern. (Kai has two/three brothers/
sisters, and Stefanie has two/three sisters/brothers.) It doesn’t matter who has how many brothers or sisters, so the order of the numbers is up to you, as is who has brothers and who has sisters.
b
Sven ist nicht amüsant/sehr intelligent, aber er ist nicht amüsant/sehr intelligent. (Sven is
not amusing/very intelligent but he is not amusing/very intelligent.) Either placement of the
descriptions nicht amüsant or sehr intelligent is possible.
c
Heike und Georg wohnen in einem sehr kleinen Haus, aber sie sind glücklich darin. (Heike
and Georg live in a very small house, but they’re happy in it.) The phrase following aber has a
reference to Heike and Georg (sie), as well as to the house (darin), so this phrase logically follows the phrase Heike und Georg wohnen in einem sehr kleinen Haus. In einem + sehr
kleinen + Haus is a prepositional phrase; in takes the dative case, and the case endings of
einem and kleinen reflect this.
d
Heute arbeite ich nicht, denn ich habe eine Erkältung. (I’m not working today because I have a
cold.) The expression of time, heute, is in first position.
e
Ich möchte gern ins Theater gehen, aber ich habe kein Geld. (I’d really like to go to the theater,
but I don’t have any money.)
f
Ich fliege nicht am Samstag, sondern am Sonntag. (I’m flying not on Saturday but rather on
Sunday.) The hint is the negative nicht in the independent clause and that the relationship
between the two days is logically not Saturday but rather Sunday because they’re mutually
exclusive.
g
Gudrun spielt sehr gut Squash, und ihr Mann spielt auch sehr gut. (Gudrun plays squash very
well, and her husband also plays very well.) The hint is in the second phrase, auch sehr gut —
the information in the two sentence parts is equal.
h
Esssen wir heute Abend bei dir oder bei mir? (Are we having dinner at your place or my place
tonight?) If you’re ravenous and want two dinners, use und.
i
Der Film hatte nicht nur gute Schauspieler, sondern auch hervorragende Musik. (The movie
had not only good actors but also excellent music.)
j
Ich möchte, dass du morgen mit mir kommst. (I’d like you to come with me tomorrow.) The word
order is correct.
k
Es ist gut, dass er am Freitag Zeit hat. (It’s good that he has time on Friday.) The subject er
comes after the conjunction dass, and the verb hat must go to the end of the clause.
l
Wir möchten, dass sie den Vertrag unterschreiben. (We want them to sign the contract.) The sentence is correct as it stands.
m
Es ist nicht gut, dass Norbert allein ist. (It’s not good that Norbert’s alone.) Put the verb at the
end of the sentence.
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Chapter 15
Your Preposition Primer
In This Chapter
© Looking at prepositions: General overview
© Accusative, dative, and genitive case: Three Musketeers
© Accusative/dative case prepositions: Two-timers
© Identifying preposition combinations
W
hat’s in a preposition? Zwischen (between) by any other name would sound as
strange. A preposition is a small word that shows the relationship between its
object (a noun) and another word or words in the sentence. It’s part of a prepositional
phrase, which starts with a preposition and has an article, noun, and other words.
You find out how crucially important these little guys are in expressing such things as
U Place/where something is located, as with in (in): es gibt eine Fliege in meiner
Suppe (there’s a fly in my soup).
U Movement/the direction where something is going, as with unter (under): eine
Maus läuft unter meinen Stuhl (a mouse is running under my chair).
U Information showing relationships, as with trotz (in spite of): trotz dieser Überraschungen, schmeckt mir das Essen (in spite of these surprises, the food tastes
good ).
In this chapter, I break down German prepositions into four groups: accusative, dative,
genitive, and accusative/dative prepositions. The latter group are what I call the twotimers because they can be either accusative or dative. I give an easy and logical explanation for these wise guys in the section pertaining to them. One more section of this
chapter deals with preposition combinations, the fixed expressions like zu Hause (at
home) and nach Hause (to home [going home]).
Prepping for Prepositions: Basic Guidelines
Prepositions, such as around, before, and with, combine with other words to form
prepositional phrases that provide information on where (around the corner), when
(before noon), who (with you), and much more. Prepositions perform incredible tasks
when they combine with other words, notably nouns and verbs, to create a diverse
range of expressions. But all those possibilities come at a price. Prepositions are
finicky little critters, much more so in German than in English. They abide by grammar rules. So how in the world do you get to feel even remotely comfortable with
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understanding, let alone using, German prepositions with the right case? For a start,
look at these guidelines.
Getting the importance of case
In German, case is one key to perfecting the fine art of prepositioning. Both English
and German have many prepositions, and both languages use prepositions in similar
ways. However, English doesn’t have much truck with cases and case endings. In fact,
if you bring up the subject of case in English grammar, some people may tell you to go
home, lie down for a while, and forget all about it. But case is hugely important to getting a grip on using German prepositions correctly in a prepositional phrase.
As with other German words like nouns, adjectives, and verbs, prepositions need
to be understood together with the other trappings of language. A lowly two-letter
preposition like in (in, into, to) has so much power that it forces the rest of the prepositional phrase — the noun and other words following the preposition — to take the
same case endings. The preposition doesn’t change; it “tells” the others to conform —
in other words, to follow the case of that preposition. The result is that the case endings in the prepositional phrase help you to a) recognize the links between the preposition and the words in the phrase, and b) understand the prepositional phrase in
context of the whole sentence.
The three cases that prepositions identify with are accusative, dative, and genitive.
Some prepositions are two-timers: They may use accusative or dative case, depending on meaning. The following examples show all four groups of prepositions.
(Chapter 2 deals with the basics of case.)
U Accusative preposition durch: Mein Hund Bello läuft gern durch den Wald. (My
dog Bello likes to run through the woods.) The prepositional phrase is durch den
Wald (through the woods). Der Wald in accusative case is den Wald.
U Dative preposition mit: Ich laufe gern mit ihm (Bello). (I like to run with him.)
The phrase is mit ihm (with him). Ihm is the dative case form of the personal
pronoun er.
U Genitive preposition während: Während des Winters bleiben Bello und ich
oft zu Hause. (During the winter, Bello and I often stay at home.) The phrase is
während des Winters (during the winter). Because während is a genitive preposition, der Winter in nominative case changes to des Winters in genitive case.
U Accusative/dative preposition auf: Meistens liege ich allein auf der Couch, aber
manchmal springt Bello auf die Couch. (I usually lie on the couch alone, but
sometimes he jumps onto the couch.) Auf der Couch (on the couch) is dative case;
auf die Couch (onto the couch) is accusative case. The first denotes place, and
the second describes movement.
Check out the section “Accusative, Dative, and Genitive Cases: How the Rest of the
Phrase Shapes Up” for a complete discussion of case and why case is important when
using prepositions.
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Understanding what it all means
Meaning is another key to success with German prepositions. Know that the rules of
mathematics don’t apply here — the prepositions and their English counterparts
aren’t always equal. The preposition in looks like the English preposition in. Indeed,
you can use it the same way in both languages: Wie viele Fernseher haben Sie in
Ihrem Haus? (How many TVs do you have in your house?). However, it can also mean
into or to. Another preposition, bei, sounds like by but has a variety of meanings,
including at, near, and with: Bei mir gibt es keine Flimmerkisten (There aren’t any
idiot boxes at my place).
Prepositions crop up in places you’d never suspect, and they take on new meaning in
combinations with other words that can be surprising. It may be easy to assume
there’s a parallel in meaning between some German prepositions that resemble
English prepositions, either in spelling, pronunciation, or both. You need to be very
careful because one preposition may have several different meanings. Often, these
meanings don’t parallel the way the preposition is used in English.
Know one or two common phrases or words that combine with each preposition to
get a feeling for the various meanings a preposition may have. The trick to taming
these beasties is remembering them in commonly used phrases, fixed idioms, or standard prepositional phrases — not all alone and naked.
When you come across an unfamiliar expression that includes a preposition, look at
(or listen to) the context of the phrase. You can often make an accurate guess of the
meaning by checking whether the literal meaning or the figurative meaning makes
more sense. Your experience in your own language can help you make the leap of
faith to understanding figurative meaning.
Accusative, Dative, and Genitive Cases:
How the Rest of the Phrase Shapes Up
When you use prepositions in your German writing and speech, you want to use them
correctly, right? If so (and I hope you said yes), this section is key. It explains the role
that cases play in using prepositions. So what exactly is case? Case is like a marker,
a tag, or an ID for a word; it shows the word’s role in relationship to other words in
the sentence. There are three groups of prepositions, organized by the case that they
need to form phrases. These three cases are accusative, dative, and genitive. Having
said that, by far the most frequently used group of prepositions is yet another group,
namely those that use both accusative and dative cases (fondly called the two-way
prepositions). For that reason, I deal with them in a separate section later in this
chapter.
As you go through this section, keep in mind that prepositions pop up everywhere in
German (and English for that matter). It’s definitely worth your while to be patient
and master the cases one by one. In addition, keep in mind that the context of the
phrase influences the meaning of the preposition: nach can mean three different
things in English: after, past, or to. Yet nach dem Weg fragen (to ask for directions)
doesn’t even translate using one of those three prepositions.
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No finger pointing: Accusative prepositions
Accusative prepositions express movement, opposition to something, and acts of
excluding or receiving. The small band of accusative prepositions includes bis,
durch, für, gegen, ohne, and um. These are strictly linked to the accusative case.
Look in Table 15-1 for a list of these prepositions, their English equivalents, and a
sample phrase.
Table 15-1
Accusative Prepositions
Preposition
English Equivalent(s)
Sample Phrases
English Equivalent
bis
till, until (also:
conjunction until)
bis nächsten Sonntag
until next Sunday
durch
through, by
durch die Stadt
(jemanden) durch einen
Freund kennenlernen
through the city
meet (someone)
through a friend
für
for
für Sie
für meine Freunde
for you
for my friends
gegen
against, for
gegen die Regeln
etwas gegen Kopfschmerzen
nehmen
against the rules
take something for a
headache
ohne
without
ohne mich
ohne Herrn Adler
without me
without Herr Adler
um
around, for, at
um das Haus
Ich bewerbe mich um
die Stelle.
around the house
I’m applying for
the job.
To form phrases with accusative prepositions, start with the preposition and add the
information that the preposition is linking to the rest of the sentence — the preposition’s object (noun) and any modifiers. If necessary, change the endings of any articles, pronouns, adjectives, and nouns following the preposition to the accusative
case. The following outlines what needs to change:
U Some definite articles change. The definite articles are easy because the only
change is der → den. Die (feminine and plural) and das don’t change. (See
Chapter 2 for definite articles.)
U The accusative prepositions build some contractions:
• durch + das = durchs
• für + das = fürs
• um + das = ums
In spoken, colloquial German, these contractions are very common.
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U Most of the pronouns change. The personal pronouns in accusative (direct
object) case are mich (me), dich (you), ihn/sie/es (him/her/it), uns (us), euch
(you), sie (them), and Sie (you).
U Adjectives may or may not undergo an ending change. (See Chapter 12 for
adjectives.)
U A few nouns undergo an ending change. (See Chapter 2 for more on nouns.)
Sammy das Stinktier sitzt ganz allein, ohne seine Freunde. (Sammy the skunk is
sitting all alone without his friends.) The preposition ohne is followed by seine
Freunde; both words have accusative plural endings.
Dann läuft er durch den Garten der Familie Finkenhuber. (Then he runs through
the Finkenhuber’s garden.) The preposition durch (through in this context) indicates movement. Den Garten is the masculine singular form of der Garten in the
accusative case.
Sammy läuft um den Hund Bello und . . . psst! (Sammy runs around Bello the dog
and . . . psst!) The preposition um (around) indicates movement. Den Hund is the
masculine singular form of der Hund in the accusative case.
In this exercise, use Table 15-1 to help you write the phrases in German. Some vocabulary is indicated in parentheses. Remember to change the articles, pronouns, adjectives, and nouns following the prepositions — if necessary.
Q. for you (singular, familiar) _____________________________________________
A. für dich
1. around the garage (die Garage) _____________________________________________
2. through the woods (der Wald) _____________________________________________
3. for him _____________________________________________
4. until tomorrow _____________________________________________
5. against the law (das Gesetz) _____________________________________________
6. for my boss (der Chef) _____________________________________________
7. without me _____________________________________________
Dative prepositions
Dative prepositions include some heavy hitters. Most dative prepositions express
relationships of time (when), motion (where to), and location (where). Some have
surprising variations in meaning. Nine are on the hit list: aus, außer, bei, gegenüber,
mit, nach, seit, von, and zu. These particular prepositions have an exclusivity clause
with the dative case. Table 15-2 shows the nine dative prepositions, their English
equivalents, and some sample phrases for each.
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Table 15-2
Dative Prepositions
Preposition
English Equivalent(s)
Sample Phrases
English Equivalent
aus
from, out of
aus den USA
aus der Arbeit
from the U.S.A.
from/out of work
außer
besides, except for
außer uns
außer den Kindern
besides/except for us
except for the children
bei
at (a home of, a place
of business), near, with
bei Katharina
bei der Straße
Es ist anders bei mir.
at Katherina’s (place)
near the street
It’s different with me.
mit
with, by (means of
transportation)
mit dem Hund
mit dem Zug
with the dog
by train
nach
after, past, to
nach einer Stunde
Es ist fünf nach vier.
nach Moskau (no article
for cities and countries
in German)
after an hour
It’s five past four.
to Moscow
seit
for, since
seit zwanzig Jahren
seit dem Krieg
for 20 years
since the war
von
by, from, of
von einem deutschen
Maler
ein Geschenk von dir
am Ende vom Film
by a German artist
(created by someone)
a present from you
at the end of the movie
zu
to (with people and
certain places)
zur Universität
Was gibt’s zum
Abendessen?
to the university
What’s for dinner?
To form phrases with dative prepositions, start with the preposition and add the
information that the preposition connects to the rest of the sentence (the object of
the preposition and any articles or adverbs that modify it). Change the endings of any
articles, pronouns, adjectives, and nouns following the prepositions — if necessary —
to the dative case. The following list outlines what needs to change:
U The definite articles change like this (see Chapter 2 for definite articles):
• der → dem
• die → der (feminine)
• das → dem
• die → den (plural)
Note: Not all prepositional phrases need an article (dem, einen, and so on) with
the noun; these are generally fixed expressions such as clock times: es ist Viertel
nach acht (it’s quarter past eight) or other types: zu Hause (at home).
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U The contractions that dative prepositions build are
• bei + dem = beim
• von + dem = vom
• zu + dem = zum
• zu + der = zur
In spoken, colloquial German, these contractions are very common.
U All the pronouns change. The personal pronouns in dative case are mir (me), dir
(you), ihm/ihr/ihm (him/her/it), uns (us), euch (you), ihnen (them), and Ihnen
(you). (See Chapter 2 for pronouns.)
U Adjectives may or may not undergo an ending change. (See Chapter 12 for
adjectives.)
U A few nouns undergo an ending change. (See Chapter 2 for more on nouns.)
Essen wir heute Abend bei dir? (Shall we have dinner at your place tonight?) Bei
is a true chameleon as far as variations in meanings goes. Here, take bei, add the
dative pronoun dir, and presto! — bei dir = at your place.
Nein, ich möchte lieber zum Restaurant um die Ecke gehen. (No, I’d rather go to
the restaurant around the corner .) The contraction of zu + dem = zum.
Luigis? Es ist seit einem Monat geschlossen. (Luigi’s? It’s been closed for a month.)
Wichtig ist nur, ich esse mit dir. (It’s only important that I eat with you.)
This exercise is multiple choice. Decide which of the three prepositions fits into the
phrase or sentence, write it in the space, and then translate the sentence into English.
Use Table 15-2 to help you.
Q. Was machen wir _________________ diesem perfekten Tag?
a) seit
b) nach
c) zu
A. b) nach. Was machen wir nach diesem perfekten Tag? (What shall we do after this perfect day?)
8. Ich möchte allein _________________ Strand gehen.
a) mit
b) bis
c) zu
__________________________________________________________________________________
9. Ich möchte _________________ dir sein.
a) zu
b) bei
c) aus
__________________________________________________________________________________
10. _________________ drei Jahren sagst du das.
a) mit
b) außer
c) seit
__________________________________________________________________________________
11. Und _________________ mir hast du noch eine Freundin.
a) außer
b) bei
c) zu
__________________________________________________________________________________
12. Nein, _________________ Lisa habe ich keine Beziehung.
a) zu
b) nach
c) mit
__________________________________________________________________________________
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Genitive prepositions
The list of genitive prepositions is small, but these types are used almost as frequently as the others in this chapter. The genitive prepositions describe duration of
time, reasons for something, or opposition to something. Most of these expressions
are equivalent to English expressions that include of: instead of, because of, and inside
or outside of. These prepositions include anstatt/statt, außerhalb, innerhalb, trotz,
während, and wegen. A few other genitive prepositions exist, but they’re used less
frequently.
Especially in spoken German, but also in written German, it’s common to use the
dative personal pronouns with genitive prepositions; for example, wegen mir
(because of me) or statt dir (instead of you). Look at Table 15-3. This list of genitivetype prepositions is short but powerful in expression and variations of usage. The
table shows the six most common genitive prepositions, their English equivalents,
and sample phrases.
Table 15-3
Genitive Prepositions
Preposition
English
Equivalent(s)
Sample
Phrases
English
Equivalent
(an)statt (no
difference between
anstatt and statt)
instead of
(an)statt meines Autos
instead of my car
außerhalb
outside of
außerhalb des Hauses
outside of the house
innerhalb
inside of
innerhalb der Firma
within the company
trotz
in spite of,
despite
trotz des Wetters
trotz des Lärms
despite the weather
in spite of the noise
während
during
während des Tages
during the day
wegen
because of,
on account of
wegen der Kosten
wegen mir
on account of the costs
because of me
To form genitive prepositional phrases, begin with the preposition and then add the
information that the preposition links to the rest of the sentence. You need to change the
endings of any articles, pronouns, adjectives, and nouns following the prepositions — if
necessary — so that they’re also in the genitive case. (See Chapter 2 for cases.)
Wegen der Hitze gehen wir nicht spazieren. (We’re not going for a walk because
of the heat.) Die Hitze in nominative case becomes der Hitze in genitive case.
Während des Winters bleiben wir meistens zu Hause. (We usually stay at home
during the winter.) Der Winter in nominative case becomes des Winters in genitive case.
Note: In spoken German, some genitive prepositions — anstatt/statt, trotz, wegen,
and während — are typically used with the dative case. This is especially true in the
south and southwest German-speaking regions: Bayern, Österreich, und die Schweiz
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Chapter 15: Your Preposition Primer
(Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland). Während uses dative case less frequently in colloquial German than the other three. The meaning of these prepositions doesn’t change
when you use dative case.
In this exercise, fill in the spaces using the prepositions in Table 15-3. Two tourists
staying at a Salzburger Pension (bed and breakfast) are talking während des
Frühstücks (during breakfast).
Q. _________________ des Lärms ist diese Pension wunderbar, oder?
A. Trotz des Lärms ist diese Pension wunderbar, oder? (Despite the noise, this pension is
wonderful, isn’t it?)
13. Ja, _________________ der Nacht habe ich sehr gut geschlafen.
14. Ich bin _________________ fünf Minuten eingeschlafen.
15. Mmm. Heute trinke ich Kaffee _________________ Tee.
16. Ich auch, aber _________________ des Koffeins soll ich nur eine Tasse trinken.
17. Fahren wir heute _________________ der Stadt? Ich möchte die Berge sehen.
Tackling Two-Way Prepositions:
Accusative/Dative
The nine prepositions in this section are the types that can use either accusative or
dative case, depending on meaning. The preposition in the accusative case describes
movement, whereas the dative case describes position. Another way to tell them
apart is by knowing that the preposition uses the accusative case to show a change of
location, and it answers the question wohin? (where to?). The same preposition uses
the dative case to refer to a location; the dative preposition answers the question wo?
(where?).
English sometimes has two different prepositions that do the work of one German
two-way preposition. Take in and into: In expresses where something is, and into
refers to the movement from one place into the other. The German preposition in can
use either accusative or dative case, depending on whether it expresses position
(location) or movement (from one location to another).
To determine whether you need to use the preposition in accusative or dative case, visualize what you want to say. These prepositions indicate concrete spatial relationships,
not intangible concepts, which makes it simple to imagine the difference between a cat
lying on the table — eine Katze liegt auf dem Tisch (location = dative case) — and a
cat jumping onto the table — eine Katz springt auf den Tisch (movement = accusative
case).
Table 15-4 shows the two-way prepositions, their English equivalents, and a sample
phrase for each with the English translation. Remember — there’s no present continuous in German, so the present tense (the mouse runs), present continuous (the mouse
is running), or both may be logical translations.
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Table 15-4
Two-Way Prepositions
Preposition English
Equivalent(s)
Accusative
Example
Dative
Example
an
at, on, to
Die Katze geht ans (an + das)
Fenster. (The cat walks to the
window.)
Die Katze sitzt am Fenster.
(The cat is sitting at the
window.)
auf
on, onto, to
Die Katze springt auf den Tisch.
(The cat jumps onto the table.)
Die Katze steht auf dem
Tisch. (The cat is standing
on the table.)
hinter
behind, to
the back of
Die Katze geht hinter die
Couch. (The cat is going
behind the couch.)
Die Katze sitzt hinter der
Couch. (The cat is sitting
behind the couch.)
in
in, into, to
Die Katze läuft in die Küche.
(The cat is running into the
kitchen.)
Die Katze ist in der Küche.
(The cat is in the kitchen.)
neben
beside,
next to
Der Hund legt sich neben die
Katze hin. (The dog lays itself
down next to the cat.)
Die Katze liegt neben dem
Hund. (The cat is lying
next to the dog.)
über
above, over
Eine Maus läuft über den
Teppich. (A mouse is running
over the carpet.)
Eine Lampe hängt über
dem Tisch. (A lamp is
hanging over the table.)
unter
under,
underneath
Die Maus läuft unter den
Teppich. (The mouse runs
under the carpet.)
Der Teppich liegt unter
dem Tisch. (The carpet is
lying under the table.)
vor
in front of
Die Maus läuft vor die Katze.
(The mouse is running in front
of the cat.)
Der Hund sitzt vor dem
Fernseher. (The dog is
sitting in front of the TV.)
zwischen
between
Die Katze legt sich zwischen
die Pfoten des Hundes. (The
cat lies down between the
dog’s paws.)
Der Hund steht zwischen
der Maus und der Katze.
(The dog is standing
between the mouse and
the cat.)
To form phrases with accusative/dative prepositions, follow the guidelines I describe
in the previous two sections for accusative prepositions and dative prepositions.
Some two-way prepositions combine with articles to make contractions. These are
mostly used in spoken, colloquial German:
U an + das = ans
U an + dem = am
U auf + das = aufs
U in + das = ins
U in + dem = im
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Other contractions that aren’t as frequently used as contractions with das and dem
include hinters, hinterm, übers, überm, unters, unterm, vors, and vorm.
The following examples clarify how to form and use these prepositions correctly.
Die Kinder sind im Bett. (The children are in bed.) The preposition in (here it
means in) uses dative case here to express location. Where are the children? In bed.
Die Kinder gehen ins Bett. (The children are going to bed.) The preposition in
(here it means into) uses accusative case to express movement. Where are the
children going? To bed.
Ich wohne über einer Buchhandlung. (I live above a bookstore.) The preposition
über (over) describes where it is. Where describes location; it takes the dative case.
Der Zeppelin fliegt über die Stadt. (The zeppelin [blimp] is flying over the city.)
The preposition über (over) describes movement; it’s in the accusative case.
In this exercise, decide whether to insert the accusative or the dative prepositional
phrase and write it in the space provided.
Q. Ich schwimme gern _________________. (im Meer / ins Meer)
A. Ich schwimme gern im Meer. (I like to swim in the ocean.) You swim in the water when
you’re already in it, so you need the dative prepositional phrase here.
18. Marco sitzt _________________. (ans Fenster / am Fenster)
19. Alexandra arbeitet _________________. (auf der Bank / auf die Bank)
20. Gehen wir _________________? (ins Restaurant / im Restaurant)
21. Die Autos fahren schnell _________________. (über der Brücke / über die Brücke)
22. Stellen Sie bitte ihre Schuhe _________________. (unter den Sessel / unter dem Sessel)
Understanding Quirky Combinations
German has several quirky yet important prepositional phrases that you encounter
on a regular basis. You can easily grasp and incorporate these phrases into your written and spoken German, so you need to be aware of what they look like and how to
use them. These prepositional phrases are easiest to remember in verb/preposition
combinations. Verb/preposition combinations are high-frequency expressions that
combine verbs with prepositions. Try to remember these examples as complete sentences so that you can use them later. (Refer to Chapter 11 for details on verb/preposition combinations.) To understand what sets these prepositional phrases apart
from the others in this chapter, look at the descriptions of these prepositions followed by examples:
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U Zu Hause and nach Hause are two prepositional phrases that are often confused. Zu Hause means at home. It indicates location. Nach Hause means going
home. It implies movement, motion in the direction of home.
Wo ist Birgit? Sie ist zu Hause. (Where’s Birgit? She’s at home.)
Wohin geht Lars? Er geht nach Hause. (Where is Lars going? He’s going
home.)
U Bis (till, until) is an accusative preposition. What makes it different is the fact
that it’s used most often in combination with other prepositions, not as a standalone. Look at the following expressions:
von 8.30 Uhr bis 19.00 Uhr (from 8:30 a.m. till 7 p.m.): This expression represents a sign on a store posting opening hours; clock time expressions
don’t need an article.
bis zum bitteren Ende (until the bitter end): Zu takes dative case:
zu + dem = zum.
bis ins kleinste Detail (in[to] the smallest detail): Ins = in + das, the accusative case.
bis in den Abend hinein (on into the evening): The phrase is in accusative
case.
U Entlang (along, down) is the preposition that works the case crowd. It actually
has three case combinations: accusative, dative, and genitive. In addition,
entlang often follows the information it modifies. (And it also functions as
an adverb!) Look at the three examples of entlang using the three cases:
Gehen Sie den Weg entlang. (Walk along the path.) Den Weg is accusative
case. You use the accusative case here because you’re describing the
motion of walking along.
Die Grenze verläuft entlang dem Fluß. (The border follows the river.) Dem
Fluß is dative case. You use dative here because you’re describing the
place, the location where the border is.
Entlang des Ufers gibt es viele Schwäne. (There are a lot of swans along
the shore.) Des Ufers is genitive case. Usage of entlang in genitive case is
typical in southern Germany and Austria.
U Gegenüber (across from, opposite) is another oddity among prepositions. A true
multitasker, gegenüber is not only a dative preposition but also an adjective,
adverb, and even a noun — das Gegenüber is the opponent, or the person opposite you. It also combines with verbs as a separable-prefix verb (gegenüberstehen: er steht mir gegenüber [he’s standing opposite me]). As a preposition, it can
be in front of or after its object; it makes no difference in meaning
Wir wohnen gegenüber dem Park. (We live across from a park.) The object,
dem Park, follows gegenüber.
Der Präsident stand mir gegenüber. (The president was standing opposite
me.) The object, mir, precedes gegenüber. Technically speaking, prepositions that combine with verbs belong in a separate group called prefix
verbs. (See Chapter 10 for separable- and inseparable-prefix verbs.)
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Chapter 15: Your Preposition Primer
229
Answer Key
a
um die Garage. No change necessary here. Only der changes to den in accusative.
b
durch den Wald. Der changes to den; der Wald is singular.
c
für ihn
d
bis morgen
e
gegan das Gesetz
f
für meinen Chef
g
ohne mich
h
c) zu. Ich möchte allein zum Strand gehen. (I’d like to go to the beach alone.) The contraction
zum is a combination of zu + dem.
i
b) bei. Ich möchte bei dir sein. (I’d like to be with you/at your place.) Bei dir sein indicates
where; it’s the location. With zu dir, you’d need gehen (go to your place).
j
c) seit. Seit drei Jahren sagst du das. (You’ve been saying that for three years.) In German,
the present tense is used with seit.
k
a) außer. Und außer mir hast du noch eine Freundin. (And besides me, you have another girlfriend.) Notice the word order. The verb hast is in second position after außer mir; the subject
du (you) follows the verb.
l
c) mit. Nein, mit Lisa habe ich keine Beziehung. (No, I don’t have a relationship with Lisa.)
m
Ja, während der Nacht habe ich sehr gut geschlafen. (Yes, I slept very well during the night.) The
genitive case of die (Nacht) is der.
n
Ich bin innerhalb fünf Minuten eingeschlafen. (I fell asleep within five minutes.) No article is
necessary with this clock time expression.
o
Mmm. Heute trinke ich Kaffee statt Tee. (Mmm. Today I’ll have coffee instead of tea.) No article
needed here with Tee.
p
Ich auch, aber wegen des Koffeins soll ich nur eine Tasse trinken. (Me too, but because of the
caffeine, I should drink only one cup.) Salzburg is world famous for its “Kaffee Kultur,” as is
Vienna.
q
Fahren wir heute außerhalb der Stadt? Ich möchte die Berge sehen. (Shall we drive outside of
the city today? I’d like to see the mountains.)
r
Marco sitzt am Fenster. (Marco is sitting at the window.) Wo? Where’s Marco? At the window.
Dative case here.
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Part III: Fine Tuning Your Writing with Flair
s
Alexandra arbeitet nicht mehr auf der Bank. (Alexandra doesn’t work at the bank anymore.) The
fixed expression for place-of-work is in dative case.
t
Gehen wir ins Restaurant? (Shall we go to a restaurant?) Wohin? Movement indicates accusative case.
u
Die Autos fahren schnell über die Brücke. (The cars are driving fast over/across the bridge.)
Wohin? The cars are moving, so you need accusative case.
v
Stellen Sie bitte ihre Schuhe unter den Sessel. (Put your shoes under the armchair.) Wohin?
Moving your shoes means you need the accusative.
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Part IV
Looking Back and Ahead:
Writing in the Past
and the Future
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E
In this part . . .
ver wanted to travel in a time machine? Then this part
is for you. In Chapter 16, you take a ride to the past
and stop off at the conversational past (officially called the
present perfect). As the name implies, the conversational
past is what you use to talk about your last trip, business
or pleasure; it’s how you describe the first time you ate
an artichoke and other exciting events in your life up
to now. Climb back into the time machine and proceed
to Chapter 17, which covers the simple past, the stuff
of fairy tales and serious newspaper reporters; it’s
largely reserved for written narratives about the past.
In Chapter 18, you leap into the future, delving into the
realm of expressing what will or won’t happen. You don’t
need a crystal ball for this; the helping verb werden (will)
works just fine.
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Chapter 16
Conversing about the Past: Perfecting
the Present Perfect
In This Chapter
© Forming the present perfect
© Contrasting English and German usage
© Expressing yourself informally
P
resent perfect in German is commonly described as the conversational past
because — naturally — you use it in conversation. You also typically see present
perfect in informal writing such as personal letters and e-mails. German uses the present perfect to talk about all actions or states in the past, finished or unfinished.
English, on the other hand, tends to use the present perfect for actions that began in
the past but have a link to the present.
The present perfect in German has two elements:
U An auxiliary verb, also known as a helping verb (English present perfect uses
have)
U A past participle (English examples are gone, been, and known)
The two auxiliary verbs are haben (to have) and sein (to be). First you conjugate the
auxiliary in the present tense, and then you add the past participle of the verb (gelebt
[lived]; gewesen [been]; geschwommen [swum]).
This chapter shows you how to form and use the present perfect in German and
explains how the present perfect differs between German and English. You also get
ample opportunities to practice the present perfect in German.
Forming the Present Perfect with Haben
The majority of verbs form the present perfect with the auxiliary verb haben (to
have) plus the past participle of the verb you want to use. There are two main categories of verbs, classified by the way the past participle is formed. They’re called
weak and strong verbs. (Don’t worry — you don’t have to go to the gym to find the
strong verbs!) Check out the next three sections for more information on weak and
strong verbs.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
To conjugate a verb in the present perfect with haben, you choose the simple present-tense form of haben: ich habe, du hast, er/sie/es hat, wir haben, ihr habt, sie
haben, or Sie haben. You then add the past participle of the verb. Check out the following example of wohnen (to live, reside) in the present perfect.
wohnen (to live)
ich habe gewohnt
wir haben gewohnt
du hast gewohnt
ihr habt gewohnt
er/sie/es hat gewohnt
sie haben gewohnt
Sie haben gewohnt
Ich habe ein Jahr in Paris gewohnt. (I have lived/lived in Paris for a year.)
German word order follows specific rules. When you form a sentence with two verbs,
the conjugated verb, (haben [to have], sein [to be], werden [will], möchten [would
like], and so on) takes second position in the sentence, and you push the past participle to the end of the sentence. (See Chapter 1 for more info on word order.)
Forming the present perfect
with regular weak verbs
Regular weak verbs are the largest group of verbs. To form the past participle, take
the unchanged present-tense stem and add the ge- prefix and the ending -t or -et. You
need the -et ending in the following cases:
U For verbs whose stem ends in -d or -t — for example, heiraten (to marry)
becomes geheiratet (married)
U For some verbs whose stem ends in -m or -n — regnen (to rain) becomes
geregnet (rained)
U For verbs recently taken over from English — such as flirten (to flirt) changes to
geflirtet (flirted)
However, the verbs ending in -ieren — such as, interpretieren (to interpret), which
changes to interpretiert (interpreted) — don’t add the prefix ge-. (You find the lowdown on these verbs that have no ge- prefix later in this chapter in “Outing the
Oddball Verbs.”)
So with the verb arbeiten (to work), you conjugate haben in the appropriate person
and then add the past participle. To create the past participle, you chop off the ending
-en, take the stem arbeit, and add ge- and -et like this: ge- + arbeit + -et = gearbeitet.
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Chapter 16: Conversing about the Past: Perfecting the Present Perfect
arbeiten (to work )
ich habe gearbeitet
wir haben gearbeitet
du hast gearbeitet
ihr habt gearbeitet
er/sie/es hat gearbeitet
sie haben gearbeitet
Sie haben gearbeitet
Sie hat im Herbst bei der Filmgesellschaft gearbeitet.
(She worked at the film company in the fall.)
Table 16-1 shows some regular weak verbs with the German and English infinitives,
followed by the German and English past participles.
Table 16-1
Past Participles of Regular Weak Verbs
Infinitive
Past Participle
Infinitive
Past Participle
arbeiten (to work)
gearbeitet (worked)
lieben (to love)
geliebt (loved)
drucken (to print)
gedruckt (printed)
lernen (to learn)
gelernt (learned)
führen (to lead)
geführt (led)
machen (to make)
gemacht (made)
hören (to hear)
gehört (heard)
passen (to fit)
gepasst (fit)
hoffen (to hope)
gehofft (hoped)
regnen (to rain)
geregnet (rained)
kaufen (to buy)
gekauft (bought)
sagen (to say)
gesagt (said)
kosten (to cost)
gekostet (cost)
schenken (to give
[a present])
geschenkt (given)
kriegen (to get)
gekriegt (gotten/got)
spielen (to play)
gespielt (played)
lächeln (to smile)
gelächelt (smiled)
surfen (to surf)
gesurft (surfed)
leben (to live)
gelebt (lived)
tanzen (to dance)
getanzt (danced)
Got the hang of creating the past participle? Fill in the blank with the corresponding
correct answer. The first word is the infinitive. Next is the past participle.
Infinitive/Meaning
Past Participle/Meaning
Q. fragen (to ask)
_________________ (_________________)
A. fragen (to ask)
gefragt (asked)
1. brauchen (to need)
_________________ (_________________)
2. chatten (to chat)
_________________ (_________________)
3. _________________ (_________________)
gefeiert (celebrated)
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
4. glauben (to believe)
_________________ (_________________)
5. jobben (to do odd jobs)
_________________ (_________________)
6. _________________ (_________________)
gekocht (cooked )
7. schmecken (to taste)
_________________ (_________________)
8. _________________ (_________________)
geschneit (snowed )
9. suchen (to look for, search)
_________________ (_________________)
10. _________________ (_________________)
getötet (killed )
11. wohnen (to live)
_________________ (_________________)
12. _________________ (_________________)
gezahlt (paid )
Forming the present perfect
with irregular weak verbs
A very small number of weak verbs is irregular. What makes them irregular? They do
have the prefix ge- and the ending -t, but they don’t follow the same pattern as the
regular weak verbs. The present-tense stem changes when you put it in the past participle. The good news is there aren’t many of these rebels. The bad news: The only
way to really identify them is to memorize these past participles because they don’t
follow any recognizable pattern.
To form these irregular weak verbs in the present perfect, conjugate haben in the
present tense and then add the past participle. Check out the following example with
the verb denken (to think).
denken (to think )
ich habe gedacht
wir haben gedacht
du hast gedacht
ihr habt gedacht
er/sie/es hat gedacht
sie haben gedacht
Sie haben gedacht
Luka hat oft an seine Frau gedacht. (Luka often thought about his wife.)
Table 16-2 shows irregular weak verbs with the German and English infinitives, followed by the German and English past participles.
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Chapter 16: Conversing about the Past: Perfecting the Present Perfect
Table 16-2
237
Past Participles of Irregular Weak Verbs
Infinitive
Past Participle
brennen (to burn)
gebrannt (burned)
bringen (to bring)
gebracht (brought)
denken (to think)
gedacht (thought)
kennen (to know a person)
gekannt (known a person)
nennen (to name, call)
genannt (named,called)
wissen (to know information)
gewusst (known information)
You can remember the past participles of the irregular weak verbs you use frequently
by writing your own example sentences; then refer to them as needed.
Change the following sentences into the present perfect tense. Conjugate haben
accordingly and add the appropriate past participle.
Q. Franz kennt ein sehr gutes Restaurant in Berlin.
A. Franz hat ein sehr gutes Restaurant in Berlin gekannt. (Franz knew a very good restaurant
in Berlin.)
13. Das Haus brennt sehr schnell.
__________________________________________________________________________________
14. Wir bringen unsere Wanderschuhe.
__________________________________________________________________________________
15. Ich weiß deine Emailadresse nicht.
__________________________________________________________________________________
16. Der Verkäufer kennt die Produkte sehr gut.
__________________________________________________________________________________
17. Die Kunden denken nur an den Preis.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Forming the present perfect with strong verbs
Identifying a strong verb is fairly easy. Its past participle ends in -en. (The one exception
is the verb tun [to do]; its past participle is getan [done].) In most strong verbs, the past
participle begins with ge-. Many of these past participles can seem pesky at first. Why?
They often have vowels and consonants that differ from those in the infinitive. I have
good news, though: A lot of these verbs whose past participles go through such spelling
contortions are high-frequency verbs. To form the present perfect with strong verbs,
you conjugate haben in the appropriate person and then add the past participle.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
trinken (to drink )
ich habe getrunken
wir haben getrunken
du hast getrunken
ihr habt getrunken
er/sie/es hat getrunken
sie haben getrunken
Sie haben getrunken
Wir haben gestern viel Mineralwasser getrunken. (We drank a lot of water yesterday.)
Table 16-3 shows some other strong verbs. I list the German verb with the English
infinitive followed by the German past participle and its English translation.
Table 16-3
Past Participles of Strong Verbs
Infinitive
Past Participle
Infinitive
Past Participle
backen (to bake)
gebacken (baked)
schreiben (to write)
geschrieben (written)
beginnen (to begin)
begonnen (begun)
singen (to sing)
gesungen (sung)
essen (to eat)
gegessen (eaten)
sitzen (to sit)
gesessen (sat)
finden (to find)
gefunden (found)
sprechen (to speak,
talk)
gesprochen (spoken,
talked)
geben (to give)
gegeben (given)
stehen (to stand)
gestanden (stood)
halten (to hold)
gehalten (held)
tragen (to wear)
getragen (worn)
heißen (to be called)
geheißen (been called)
treffen (to meet)
getroffen (met)
helfen (to help)
geholfen (helped)
trinken (to drink)
getrunken (drunk)
lassen (to leave, let)
gelassen (left, let)
tun (to do)
getan (done)
lesen (to read)
gelesen (read)
verlassen (to leave)
verlassen (leave)
liegen (to lie,
be located)
gelegen (lain,
been located)
verlieren (to lose)
verloren (lost)
nehmen (to take)
genommen (taken)
verstehen (to
understand)
verstanden
(understood)
rufen (to call)
gerufen (called)
waschen (to wash)
gewaschen
(washed)
schlafen (to sleep)
geschlafen (slept)
ziehen (to pull)
gezogen (pulled)
You can easily remember the meanings of many strong verbs because they’re reasonably similar to the English verbs. Another plus: You can even find similar patterns to
the English past participle forms. Take a look at these examples: beginnen, begonnen
(begin, begun); singen, gesungen (sing, sung); and trinken, getrunken (drink, drunk).
Go ahead and complete these sentences. Put the following verbs into the present perfect tense. You can find these verbs in Table 16-3.
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Chapter 16: Conversing about the Past: Perfecting the Present Perfect
239
Q. Wir _________________ viele Freunde auf dem Fest _________________. (treffen)
A. Wir haben viele Freunde auf dem Fest getroffen. (We met a lot of friends at the party.)
18. Der Fahrgast _________________ die Fahrkarte aus dem Automat _________________.
(nehmen)
19. _________________ du das Buch schon _________________? (lesen)
20. Letztes Jahr _________________ ich meine Kollegen in München _________________. (treffen)
21. _________________ du schon alle Emails _________________? (schreiben)
22. Um wie viel Uhr _________________ der Zug den Bahnhof _________________? (verlassen)
Forming the Present Perfect with Sein
Some verbs form the present perfect with the auxiliary verb sein (to be) plus the past
participle of the verb you want to use. All these verbs that use sein have two similarities:
U They don’t have a direct object, which means they’re intransitive. For example,
the verb laufen (to run) is intransitive: Wir sind schnell gelaufen (We ran fast).
An example of a transitive verb (with a direct object) is trinken (to drink), and it
looks like this: Ich habe eine Tasse Tee getrunken (I drank a cup of tea).
U They show a change in some condition — as with werden (to become) — or
some motion to or from a place: kommen (to come).
Generally, you form the past participle with ge- + the stem from the infinitive + the
ending -en: For example, kommen (to come) becomes gekommen (come). However,
you also have the types of past participles that have gone through some spelling
changes from the original infinitive form: Gehen (to go, walk) changes to gegangen
(gone, walked).
But of course, there are some rogues. The verbs bleiben (to stay) and sein (to be)
don’t meet the second criterion, but they still need sein to form the present perfect.
And then you have yet another rogue: rennen (to run, race), which changes to gerannt (run, raced). It has a -t ending in the past participle.
To form the present perfect with sein, you first conjugate the present tense of the
verb sein and then add the right past participle.
fahren (to drive)
ich bin gefahren
wir sind gefahren
du bist gefahren
ihr seid gefahren
er/sie/es ist gefahren
sie sind gefahren
Sie sind gefahren
Bist du die ganze Nacht gefahren? (Did you drive all night?)
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
Even in conversation, it’s a lot more common to use the simple past of sein than the
present perfect; for example, Wie war der Flug von Zürich nach San Francisco?
(How was the flight from Zürich to San Francisco?). (For more information on how to
form and use the simple past, check out Chapter 17.)
Look at Table 16-4, which shows a list of verbs that use sein in the present perfect.
Some past participles have no stem change; others go through contortions to form
the past participle, so you need to memorize them.
Table 16-4
Verbs Conjugated with Sein in the Present Perfect
Infinitive
Sein + Past Participle
Infinitive
Sein + Past Participle
bleiben (to stay,
remain)
ist geblieben (stayed,
remained)
reiten (to ride
[horseback])
ist geritten (ridden)
fahren (to drive)
ist gefahren (driven)
schwimmen
(to swim)
ist geschwommen
(swum)
fallen (to fall)
ist gefallen (fallen)
sein (to be)
ist gewesen (been)
fliegen (to fly)
ist geflogen (flown)
steigen (to climb)
ist gestiegen (climbed)
fließen (to flow, run)
ist geflossen (flowed,
run)
sterben (to die)
ist gestorben (died)
gehen (to go, walk)
ist gegangen (gone,
walked)
wachsen (to grow)
ist gewachsen (grown)
kommen (to come)
ist gekommen (come)
werden (to become)
ist geworden (become)
laufen (to run, walk)
ist gelaufen (run,
walked)
Now it’s your turn. Put the verbs into the present perfect tense in the following dialogues. Refer to the example for the conjugation of sein with the past participle of the
verb fahren. You find the past participles you need in Table 16-4.
Q. Maria: Uwe, _________________ du nach Hawaii _________________? (fliegen)
A. Maria: Uwe, bist du nach Hawaii geflogen? (Uwe, did you fly to Hawaii?)
23. Christian: _________________ du heute Morgen _________________? (reiten)
24. Barbara: Nein, ich _________________ im Park _________________. (laufen)
25. Udo: _________________ er vom Dach _________________? (fallen)
26. Franz: Ja, und zwei Tage später _________________ er _________________. (sterben)
27. Helena: _________________ ihr im Winter in die Schweiz _________________? (fahren)
28. Ulla: Nein wir _________________ zu Hause _________________. (bleiben)
29. Hannes: Wann _________________ du zum Fest _________________? (gehen)
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Chapter 16: Conversing about the Past: Perfecting the Present Perfect
30. Janina: Ich weiß nicht. Ich glaube, ich _________________ sehr spät nach Hause
_________________. (kommen)
31. Michaela: _________________ deine Kinder gestern im Park _________________? (sein)
32. Jan: Nein, sie _________________ im See_________________. (schwimmen)
Eyeing the Present Perfect:
German versus English
In the present perfect, German and English have some similarities and some differences.
In both languages, you use the present perfect to talk about past activities, and both are
used in conversation. Also, the construction looks similar, at least when you use the auxiliary verb haben; for example, Ich habe einen Kojoten gesehen (I have seen a coyote).
The differences in the present perfect come about when you want to add a time element, such as gestern (yesterday): Gestern habe ich einen Kojoten gesehen (Yesterday I
saw a coyote). You use the present perfect in German, but in English, you use saw (the
simple past). On the other hand, when you want to describe a past action that’s still
going on, you say something like Seit einigen Jahren sehe ich Kojoten (I’ve been seeing
coyotes for a few years). Here, German uses the simple present, yet English uses the
present perfect continuous. In this section, I provide you with variations of these differences in verb tense usage.
One for all: Representing three English tenses
Both English and German use the present perfect in conversation. The distinction
here is that in German, you actually use it a lot more frequently in conversation and
informal written language. Look at this example, which uses present perfect in
German but simple past in English because last night is finished:
Was hast du gestern Abend im Fernsehen gesehen? (What did you see on TV
last night?)
German has only the one verb tense, the present perfect, to represent three tenses in
English. Depending on what you want to say in German, the following forms are possible. Here are three acceptable translations of Sie haben in Wien gelebt:
U Present perfect: They have lived in Vienna (expresses that they may still live there)
U Simple past: They lived in Vienna (says they no longer live there)
U Past continuous: They were living in Vienna (talks about a relationship between
two completed past actions — usually one is longer than the other; the other
past action may be described in a previous or subsequent sentence or in the
same sentence)
Look at the sentence They were living in Vienna. Because you don’t even have past
continuous in German (or any other continuous forms for that matter), you use the
present perfect as the pinch hitter like this: Während des kalten Krieges haben sie
in Wien gelebt (During the Cold War, they were living in Vienna).
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
As soon as you understand how to form the present perfect, you’ll find yourself using
it very frequently to describe a great deal of situations in the past. In fact, unless you
intend to pursue a career in German journalism, you won’t have much use for the
simple past or other past-tense verb forms.
Opting for the German present
Now look at two more German sentences and their literal and real English translations.
You may be surprised (and relieved) that in German, you get by with the simple present
in some situations where you have to use the present perfect in English. And one more
economizing step: You express both since and for with seit in German. For example,
Seit wie lange warten Sie auf die U-Bahn? (How long have you been waiting for
the subway? Literally: Since how long wait you for the subway?)
Wir stehen hier seit zehn Minuten. (We’ve been standing here for ten minutes.
Literally: We stand here for ten minutes.)
Outing the Oddball Verbs
You need to do a bit of juggling with some German verbs that have prefixes when you
form the present perfect. I describe three types of oddball verbs:
U Separable-prefix verbs: These verbs are recognizable by a prefix, such as -auf-,
that separates from the main verb in some verb tenses. It’s added to a main verb,
one that can usually stand alone, like geben (to give) to form aufgeben (to give
up, to check [luggage]). These verbs may have either strong or weak endings in
present perfect, but they have the ge- prefix: aufgegeben.
U Inseparable-prefix verbs: These verbs are identified by a prefix, such as be-, that
doesn’t separate from a main verb, like kommen (to come): bekommen (to get).
These verbs may have either strong or weak endings in present perfect, but they
lack the ge- prefix: bekommen.
U Verbs ending in -ieren: These verbs are easy to spot because they generally
have the same meaning in English if you take off the -ieren and substitute an
English ending such as -ify: spezifizieren (to specify). You form the past participle
without ge- but with -t: spezifiziert.
In this section, you identify these verbs and find out how to form the present perfect,
and then you practice writing sentences in the present perfect. (For more background
on verbs with prefixes, separable or inseparable, go to Chapter 10.)
Separable-prefix verbs
With separable-prefix verbs, you leave the prefix at the front of the verb, squish ge- in
the middle, and follow up with the rest of the participle. Most of the commonly used
verbs in this group resemble strong verbs (past participle ending in -en); others
resemble weak verbs (past participle ending in -t or -et). And just to put more into the
mix, a few verbs use the auxiliary verb sein. (See Chapter 10 for more on separableprefix verbs.)
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Chapter 16: Conversing about the Past: Perfecting the Present Perfect
You put together the present perfect of these verbs by conjugating haben or sein in
the present tense and adding the past participle. So if the infinitive is anrufen (to call
[on the phone]), you get the past participle angerufen (called), which has the three
elements an + ge + rufen. Take a look at the conjugation of fernsehen (to watch TV).
fernsehen (to watch TV )
ich habe ferngesehen
wir haben ferngesehen
du hast ferngesehen
ihr habt ferngesehen
er/sie/es hat ferngesehen
sie haben ferngesehen
Sie haben ferngesehen
Habt ihr am Wochenende ferngesehen? (Did you watch TV on the weekend? )
You pronounce the separable-prefix verbs with the stress on the first syllable, which
is the prefix.
Table 16-5 shows you what the past participle looks like. I’ve included ist before the
past participles that need the infinitive sein.
Table 16-5
Verbs with Separable Prefixes
Infinitive
Past Participle
Infinitive
Past Participle
anfangen (to begin,
start)
angefangen (begun,
started)
mitbringen (to bring
along)
mitgebracht (brought
along)
ankommen (to
arrive)
ist angekommen
(arrived)
mitmachen (to
join in)
mitgemacht (joined in)
anrufen (to call)
angerufen (called)
stattfinden (to take
place)
stattgefunden (taken
place)
aufgegeben (given
aufgeben (to give
up, check [luggage] ) up, checked
[luggage] )
vorhaben (to plan)
vorgehabt (planned)
aussehen (to
look [like])
ausgesehen (looked
[like])
zurückgehen (to
decline, go back)
ist zurückgegangen
(declined, gone back)
einkaufen (to go
shopping)
eingekauft (gone
shopping)
zusammenfassen
(to summarize)
zusammengefasst
(summarized)
einladen (to invite)
eingeladen (invited)
zusammenkommen
(to meet)
ist zusammengekommen
(met)
fernsehen (to
watch TV)
ferngesehen
(watched TV)
Now try your hand at forming the present perfect tense with these verbs. Take the
helping verb haben (or in some cases, sein), conjugate it in the present tense, and
then assemble the past participle to create the present perfect tense.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
Q. Die Nachbarn _________________ uns zum Essen _________________. (einladen)
A. Die Nachbarn haben uns zum Essen eingeladen. (The neighbors invited us to dinner.)
33. Nach dem Regen _________________ die Pflanzen viel besser _________________. (aussehen)
34. _________________ Sie ihr Gepäck schon _________________? (aufgeben)
35. Das Konzert _________________ mit einer Stunde Verspätung _________________. (anfangen)
36. Wo _________________ die Handelsmesse _________________? (stattfinden)
37. Unser Zug _________________ um 20.45 Uhr in Stuttgart _________________. (ankommen)
Inseparable-prefix verbs
With inseparable-prefix verbs, the past participle can have a strong verb ending (-en)
or a weak verb ending (-t or -et), but the rest is relatively easy. To help you distinguish
how these verbs differ from separable-prefix verbs, just look at these three characteristics for the past participle of inseparable-prefix verbs:
U The prefix always sticks to the rest of the verb, including the past participle.
U You don’t add the prefix ge- to the past participle.
U You don’t stress the prefix. Look at the infinitive erken'nen (to recognize) and its
past participle erkannt' (recognized).
You put together the present perfect of these verbs by conjugating haben in the present tense and adding the past participle. Check out the conjugation of bekommen (to
get, receive).
bekommen (to get, receive)
ich habe bekommen
wir haben bekommen
du hast bekommen
ihr habt bekommen
er/sie/es hat bekommen
sie haben bekommen
Sie haben bekommen
Warum hast du die Zeitung heute nicht bekommen? (Why didn’t you get the newspaper today? )
Table 16-6 is a list of some more inseparable-prefix verbs with their past participles.
Notice how similar the two forms of the verbs are — a few are exactly the same.
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Chapter 16: Conversing about the Past: Perfecting the Present Perfect
Table 16-6
Verbs with Inseparable Prefixes
Infinitive
Past Participle
Infinitive
Past Participle
beantworten (to
answer)
beantwortet
(answered)
gebrauchen (to use,
make use of)
gebraucht (used, made
use of)
bekommen (to get, bekommen (gotten, gefallen (to like)
receive)
received)
gefallen (liked)
besuchen (to visit)
besucht (visited)
gehören (to belong to)
gehört (belonged to)
bezahlen (to pay)
bezahlt (paid)
gewinnen (to win)
gewonnen (won)
erkennen (to
recognize)
erkannt
(recognized)
missverstehen (to
misunderstand)
missverstanden
(misunderstood)
erklären (to
explain)
erklärt (explained)
vergessen (to forget)
vergessen (forgotten)
erzählen (to tell)
erzählt (told)
verlieren (to lose)
verloren (lost)
Now it’s your turn. Put the verbs into the present perfect tense in the following sentences. Refer to the example for the conjugation of haben with the past participle of
the verb bekommen. You find the past participles you need in Table 16-6.
Q. Sie _________________ uns viele lustige Witze _________________. (erzählen)
A. Sie haben uns viele lustige Witze erzählt. (They told us a lot of funny jokes.)
38. Moritz _________________ meinen Namen _________________. (vergessen)
39. _________________ du die Fahrkarten schon _________________? (bekommen)
40. Ich _________________ sie an der Kasse _________________. (bezahlen)
41. Wir _________________ unsere Regenschirme oft _________________. (gebrauchen)
42. Entschuldigung, ich _________________ Sie _________________. (missverstehen)
Verbs ending in -ieren
I save an easy-to-remember group of verbs for last. The -ieren verbs are oddball verbs
for several reasons. First, they end in -ieren, unlike mainstream verbs, which end in
-en. In addition, they form the past participle without ge- but with -t at the end.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
You can usually recognize the meanings of these verbs, and the English equivalent of
the infinitive often ends in -ify (verifizieren = to verify) or -ate (vibrieren = to vibrate).
When forming the present perfect with -ieren verbs, all you need to know is the
following:
U You form the past participle without ge-.
U You always form the past participle with -t.
Look at how easily you can use these verbs:
U fotografieren (to photograph): Der Journalist hat die Demonstration fotografiert.
(The journalist photographed the demonstration.)
U dekorieren (to decorate): Vor dem Neujahrsfest haben wir das Wohnzimmer
dekoriert. (Before the New Year’s Eve party, we decorated the living room.)
U probieren (to try, sample): Hast du die Torte schon probiert? Sie ist lecker!
(Have you tried the torte [cake] yet? It’s delicious!)
This time, you need to fill in only the past participle. The cognates you see in this
exercise end in -ieren in German. Sometimes these words end in -ate or -ify in English,
but they’re nearly always easy to guess. Das ist aber einfach! (That’s really easy!)
Q. dekorieren (to decorate) → _________________
A. dekoriert (decorated)
43. denunzieren (to denounce) → _________________
44. finanzieren (to finance) → _________________
45. fixieren (to fixate) → _________________
46. fotografieren (to photograph) → _________________
47. frustrieren (to frustrate) → _________________
48. klassifizieren (to classify) → _________________
49. organisieren (to organize) → _________________
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Chapter 16: Conversing about the Past: Perfecting the Present Perfect
Answer Key
a
gebraucht (needed)
b
gechattet (chatted)
c
feiern (to celebrate)
d
geglaubt (believed)
e
gejobbt (done odd jobs)
f
kochen (to cook)
g
geschmeckt (tasted)
h
schneien (to snow)
i
gesucht (looked for, searched)
j
töten (to kill)
k
gewohnt (lived)
l
zahlen (to pay)
m
Das Haus hat sehr schnell gebrannt. (The house burned very fast.)
n
Wir haben unsere Wanderschuhe gebracht. (We have brought/brought our hiking boots.)
o
Ich habe deine Emailadresse nicht gewusst. (I didn’t know your e-mail address.)
p
Der Verkäufer hat die Produkte sehr gut gekannt. (The salesperson knew the products very well.)
q
Die Kunden haben nur an den Preis gedacht. (The customers thought only about the price.)
r
Der Fahrgast hat die Fahrkarte aus dem Automaten genommen. (The passenger took the ticket
out of the machine.)
s
Hast du das Buch schon gelesen? (Have you read the book yet?)
t
Letztes Jahr habe ich meine Kollegen in München getroffen. (Last year I met my colleagues
in Munich.)
u
Hast du schon alle Emails geschrieben? (Have you already written all the e-mails?)
v
Um wie viel Uhr hat der Zug den Bahnhof verlassen? (When did the train leave the station?)
w
Christian: Bist du heute Morgen geritten? (Did you go riding this morning?)
x
Barbara: Nein, ich bin im Park gelaufen. (No, I ran in the park.)
y
Udo: Ist er vom Dach gefallen? (Did he fall off the roof?)
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
A
Franz: Ja, und zwei Tage später ist er gestorben. (Yes, and two days later he died.)
B
Helena: Seid ihr im Winter in die Schweiz gefahren? (Did you go to Switzerland in the winter?)
C
Ulla: Nein wir sind zu Hause geblieben. (No, we stayed home.)
D
Hannes: Wann bist du zum Fest gegangen? (When did you go to the party?)
E
Janina: Ich weiß nicht. Ich glaube, ich bin sehr spät nach Hause gekommen. (I don’t know. I
think I came home very late.)
F
Michaela: Sind deine Kinder gestern im Park gewesen? (Were your children in the park yesterday?)
G
Jan: Nein, sie sind im See geschwommen. (No, they went swimming in the lake.)
H
Nach dem Regen haben die Pflanzen viel besser ausgesehen. (After the rain, the plants looked
much better.)
I
Haben Sie ihr Gepäck schon aufgegeben? (Have you already checked your luggage?)
J
Das Konzert hat mit einer Stunde Verspätung angefangen. (The concert began after a onehour delay.)
K
Wo hat die Handelsmesse stattgefunden? (Where did the trade fair take place?)
L
Unser Zug ist um 20.45 Uhr in Stuttgart angekommen. (Our train arrived in Stuttgart at 8:45 p.m.)
M
Moritz hat meinen Namen vergessen. (Moritz forgot my name.)
N
Hast du die Fahrkarten schon bekommen? (Have you already gotten the tickets?)
O
Ich habe sie an der Kasse bezahlt. (I paid for them at the cashier.)
P
Wir haben unsere Regenschirme oft gebraucht. (We often used our umbrellas.)
Q
Entschuldigung, ich habe Sie missverstanden. (Excuse me, I misunderstood you.)
R
denunziert (denounced)
S
finanziert (financed)
T
fixiert (fixated)
U
fotografiert (photographed)
V
frustriert (frustrated)
W
klassifiziert (classified)
X
organisiert (organized)
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Chapter 17
Narrating the (Simple) Past:
Fact and Fiction
In This Chapter
© Forming the simple past
© Using simple past with panache
M
aster storytellers and journalists both have an incredible knack for drawing
their audience into a narrative. Storytellers lend a façade of reality to the
wildest tales as they twist and turn, fold and unfold in front of rapt listeners (or readers), and well-written news reports of violence, natural disasters, and human prowess
can also rivet the readers’ attention. What these two types of narrators have in
common is they have a command of the simple past tense, also referred to as the
imperfect or the narrative past.
To describe any events or stories, you need verbs — and lots of them. In German,
the verb tense of choice when narrating fact or fiction is the simple past tense — for
example, er ging (he went), wir mussten (we had to), or ich sprach (I spoke). This
chapter compares the simple past tense to the other past tenses and helps improve
your German writing by focusing on forming and using the simple past tense.
To remember the difference in usage between the simple past and the present perfect
in German, think of the simple past as the narrative past; you run across it more frequently in written German. Think of the present perfect as the conversational past,
the one that you hear in offices, cafés, and on the streets. (Check out Chapter 16 for
more on the present perfect.)
Conjugating the Simple Past
To write or talk formally about something that happened, you need to know how to
correctly conjugate verbs in the simple past tense. However, before I discuss conjugations, I brief you on how the simple past relates to English.
Although you may know that the simple past in German is translated as the simple
past in English, you may not be aware of other ways to render it. In some respects, the
simple past is a gold mine for expressing various verb tenses in English. Table 17-1
shows the English equivalents for the same German phrase, along with the context for
these differences in English translation.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
Table 17-1
English Equivalents for the German Simple Past
German Phrase in English
the Simple Past
Equivalent
English Verb Tense
Context/Intended
Idea
Fritz spielte sehr
gut Gitarre.
Fritz played the
guitar very well.
Simple past
Commenting about
Fritz; he played very
well last night
Fritz spielte sehr
gut Gitarre.
Fritz was playing
the guitar very
well.
Past continuous (this
verb tense doesn’t
exist in German)
Fritz was playing very
well, when all of a
sudden lightning
struck the amplifiers
Fritz spielte sehr
gut Gitarre.
Fritz used to play
the guitar very
well.
Used to + verb to describe
habitual actions that no
longer apply (the used to +
verb isn’t described
verbally in German; instead,
you use damals [then])
Telling about Fritz’s
former talents; he’s
78 years old now, and
he’s lost his edge
Fritz spielte sehr
gut Gitarre.
Fritz did play
the guitar very
well.
Simple past, emphatic form
(the emphatic form is
described with doch
[indeed/really] in German)
Fritz did indeed play
well; he was working
up a storm on
Saturday night
The simple past verb form isn’t too difficult to master. You just need to know that
there are several types of endings according to which category the verb falls into:
U Regular verbs, also called weak verbs
U Irregular verbs, also known as strong verbs
U Other irregular verbs like sein, haben, and the modal verbs, also called auxiliary
or helping verbs
Note: A fourth category of verbs, the separable-prefix verbs, includes verbs that have a
prefix like ab- or a preposition like mit- in front of the verb; these verbs may be regular
or irregular. The prefix is separated when you conjugate the verb, and it’s generally
placed at the end of the phrase. Two examples are abfahren (to leave) and mitkommen
(to come along). Chapter 10 deals with separable- and inseparable-prefix verbs.
The applications of the simple past are quite different when you compare German and
English. The single most important aspect of the simple past in English is that it
describes an action that’s completed in the past, often with a reference to the past:
last month, in 2006, or when I was 13. English uses the simple past in a great number
of situations: to describe past events of both formal and informal (casual) nature, as
well as for spoken and written language. German, on the other hand, tends to use the
simple past in written language, especially newspapers, books, written texts, narrated
stories, and even fairy tales. In German, the simple past is also a means of describing
past events not connected to the present.
This section shows you how to conjugate different German verbs, including regular
(weak) and irregular (strong), haben and sein, and modals. After you read this section, you can write about the past with eloquence and style.
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Chapter 17: Narrating the (Simple) Past: Fact and Fiction
Forming regular(weak) verbs in simple past
Regular verbs are the ones that don’t have a stem change between the present tense
and the simple past tense. For example, the present tense stem of wohnen is wohn-,
and the simple past stem is also wohn-. The endings are what makes the difference
between the two tenses.
Here’s how to form the simple past of regular verbs:
1. Take the -en off the infinitive.
2. Add -te, which I refer to as the -te tense marker.
3. Add the additional endings (with the exception of the ich and er/sie/es forms,
which have no ending other than -te). The endings are as follows: nothing, -st,
nothing, -n, -t, -n, and -n.
Compare the present and the simple past of the verb wohnen (to live). The present
form is in parentheses after the simple past.
wohnen (to live ) — Simple Past (Present)
ich wohnte (wohne)
wir wohnten (wohnen)
du wohntest (wohnst)
ihr wohntet (wohnt)
er/sie/es wohnte (wohnt)
sie wir wohnten (wohnen)
Sie wohnten (wohnen)
Ich wohnte in Dortmund. (I lived in Dortmund.)
A second group of regular verbs are those with a stem ending in -d or -t. A small
number of verbs with the stem ending in -fn or -gn also fall into this category. With
these verbs, for the purpose of making them easier to pronounce, you put an additional e in front of the -te tense marker. Taking arbeiten (to work) as an example, you
form the simple past like this: ich arbeit + e + te = ich arbeitete. Compare the present
and the simple past.
arbeiten (to work ) — Simple Past (Present)
ich arbeitete (arbeite)
wir arbeiteten (arbeiten)
du arbeitetest (arbeitest)
ihr arbeitetet (arbeitet)
er/sie/es arbeitete (arbeitet)
sie arbeiteten (arbeiten)
Sie arbeiteten (arbeiten)
Du arbeitetest sehr schnell. (You worked very fast.)
Try out your grasp of forming regular verbs in the simple past tense. In this exercise,
you see one of the persons (ich, du, er/sie/es, wir, ihr, sie, or Sie) and the German
infinitive form. Fill in the simple past form you need to fit the person indicated.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
Q. er _________________ arbeiten (to work)
A. er arbeitete
1. wir _________________ (bezahlen)
10. ich _________________ (machen)
2. ich _________________ (brauchen)
11. Sie _________________ (reden)
3. es _________________ (dauern)
12. es _________________ (regnen)
4. Sie _________________ (fotografieren)
13. wir _________________ (reisen)
5. du _________________ (hören)
14. ihr _________________ (sagen)
6. sie (she) _________________ (kaufen)
15. du _________________ (tanzen)
7. es _________________ (kosten)
16. sie (she) _________________ (spielen)
8. sie (they) _________________ (lachen)
17. Sie _________________ (wandern)
9. ihr _________________ (lernen)
18. ich _________________ (warten)
Forming irregular (strong) verbs in simple past
The group of verbs in this section is called irregular because unlike regular verbs,
these verbs have a variety of vowel changes in the simple past form. The changes
may simply be one vowel change, such as i to a; with the irregular verb beginnen (to
begin), the simple past stem is begann (began). You need to memorize the simple
past stem for each irregular verb in order to add the simple past endings to it.
Fortunately, you encounter many of these verbs often, so you may already know the
meaning and be familiar with the present tense form of a number of them.
To conjugate irregular verbs in the simple past, note the following:
U These verbs have no endings in ich and er/sie/es forms.
U The other endings, those for du, wir, ihr, sie, and Sie, are the same as the present tense endings. The endings are nothing, -st, nothing, -en, -t, -en, and -en.
beginnen (to begin)
ich begann
wir begannen
du begannst
ihr begannt
er/sie/es begann
sie begannen
Sie begannen
Er begann zu laufen. (He began to run.)
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Chapter 17: Narrating the (Simple) Past: Fact and Fiction
Luckily for you, German has only a relatively small number of irregular (strong) verbs
for you to worry about when conjugating the simple past tense.
These verbs are relatively easy because with many of them, you can draw on your
knowledge of English irregular verbs to help you recognize the German cognates
(words that are the same or very close in spelling and meaning in two languages).
Table 17-2 lists verbs that are irregular in both English and German; they’re cognates
or at least verbs that begin with the same letter in English and German and mean
nearly the same thing. A couple of verbs — kommen (to come) and trinken (to
drink) — are different in spelling but quite similar in pronunciation. I give the
er/sie/es form of the simple past because it doesn’t have any endings.
Many irregular verbs are very common verbs, so you can familiarize yourself with
them by reading actively, which involves thinking beyond the gist of the text. How? By
slowing down your reading or by rereading a passage, you may notice how the verb
stem is spelled differently from the present tense form. Try writing down the verbs as
you come across them and figuring out the corresponding present tense, and then
you can familiarize yourself with the various spelling changes in the simple past.
Table 17-2
Simple Past of Irregular Verbs Resembling English Verbs
Infinitive
Simple Past
(er/sie/es Form)
Infinitive
Simple Past
(er/sie/es Form)
beginnen (to begin)
begann (began)
lassen (to let, allow)
ließ (let, allowed)
essen (to eat)
aß (ate)
liegen (to lie [down])
lag (lay)
fallen (to fall)
fiel (fell)
reiten (to ride
[a horse or bike])
ritt (rode)
finden (to find)
fand (found)
schwimmen (to swim)
schwamm (swam)
fliegen (to fly)
flog (flew)
sehen (to see)
sah (saw)
geben (to give)
gab (gave)
singen (to sing)
sang (sang)
gehen (to go)
ging (went)
sitzen (to sit)
saß (sat)
halten (to hold, stop)
hielt (held, stopped)
sprechen (to speak)
sprach (spoke)
kommen (to come)
kam (came)
trinken (to drink)
trank (drank)
Before starting this exercise, go over Table 17-2 until you feel confident that you know
the verb forms shown and the English meaning. Ready? Now fill in the missing words
in this exercise. Many verbs have more than one space to be filled in, including the
English meaning. No fair peeking.
Infinitive/Meaning
Simple Past (er/sie/es Form)
Q. beginnen (to begin)
_________________
A. beginnen (to begin)
begann
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
19. essen (_________________)
_________________
20. _________________ (to fall)
_________________
21. _________________ (to find)
fand
22. fliegen (to fly)
_________________
23. geben (_________________)
_________________
24. _________________ (to go)
ging
25. halten (_________________)
_________________
26. kommen (to come)
_________________
27. _________________ (to let, allow)
_________________
28. liegen (_________________)
_________________
29. _________________ (to ride)
ritt
30. schwimmen (to swim)
_________________
Table 17-3 lists some irregular verbs that are irregular in both English and German,
but they aren’t cognates. What these verbs also have in common is that they’re highfrequency verbs (verbs you encounter often in German). Try memorizing both the
infinitive and simple past forms together.
Table 17-3
Simple Past of Common Irregular Verbs (Non-Cognates)
Infinitive
Simple Past
(er/sie/es Form)
Infinitive
Simple Past
(er/sie/es Form)
fahren (to drive)
fuhr (drove)
tragen (to wear, carry)
trug (wore,
carried)
fangen (to catch)
fing (caught)
treffen (to meet)
traf (met)
gewinnen (to win)
gewann (won)
tun (to do)
tat (did)
laufen (to run)
lief (ran)
vergessen (to forget)
vergaß (forgot)
lesen (to read)
las (read)
verlieren (to lose)
verlor (lost)
nehmen (to take)
nahm (took)
verstehen
(to understand)
verstand
(understood)
schneiden (to cut)
schnitt (cut)
wachsen (to grow)
wuchs (grew)
schreiben (to write)
schrieb (wrote)
werden (to become)
wurde (became)
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Chapter 17: Narrating the (Simple) Past: Fact and Fiction
At the same time you’re saying each verb as a chant, demonstrate the action of the verb.
For example, with treffen (to meet), outstretch your hand and pump it up and down as
though you’re shaking hands with the fireman who just got your kitten out of a tree.
In this exercise, you see the verbs from Table 17-3 with the simple past forms completely missing and around half of the English meanings left out. Try your memory,
filling in the blanks without looking at the table.
Infinitive/Meaning
Simple Past (er/sie/es Form)
Q. fahren (to drive)
_________________
A. fahren (to drive)
fuhr
31. fangen (to catch)
_________________
32. gewinnen (_________________)
_________________
33. laufen (to run)
_________________
34. lesen (_________________)
_________________
35. nehmen (_________________)
_________________
36. schneiden (to cut)
_________________
37. schreiben (_________________)
_________________
38. tragen (to wear, carry)
_________________
39. treffen (to meet)
_________________
40. tun (_________________)
_________________
41. vergessen (_________________)
_________________
42. verlieren (to lose)
_________________
43. verstehen (_________________)
_________________
44. wachsen (to grow)
_________________
45. werden (_________________)
_________________
46. werfen (to throw)
_________________
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
Forming haben and sein in simple past
When conjugating the two verbs haben (to have) and sein (to be), you need to pay
extra attention for two reasons:
U Haben and sein can function as auxiliary or helping verbs. Most verbs use the
auxiliary verb haben to form the present perfect, but some irregular verbs use
sein. (See Chapter 16 for more on the present perfect.)
U Although German speakers usually use the present perfect tense in conversations about the past (see Chapter 16), they use the simple past of haben and
sein more frequently in conversation. (They also use the simple past of the
modal verbs in conversation; check out the next section.)
You form the simple past of haben and sein with their respective stems hatte
and war. Similar to the irregular (strong) verbs, the ich and er/sie/es forms
have no verb endings. Look at the two conjugations, with the verb endings
in bold.
haben (to have )
ich hatte
wir hatten
du hattest
ihr hattet
er/sie/es hatte
sie hatten
Sie hatten
Ich hatte viel Zeit. (I had a lot of time.)
sein (to be)
ich war
wir waren
du warst
ihr wart
er/sie/es war
sie waren
Sie waren
Sie waren zu Hause. (They were at home.)
Last month, Helmut and Hannelore drove to Spain for der Urlaub (the vacation).
Hannelore wrote a diary while they were traveling. Read her diary, written in
present tense; then fill in in the missing verbs in the German simple past. Some
sentences have strong and weak verbs, but the majority contain sein and haben.
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Chapter 17: Narrating the (Simple) Past: Fact and Fiction
257
den 11. August
Wir sind in Madrid — endlich! Das Wetter ist absolut wunderbar, und wir haben ein
Zimmer in einem sehr schönen Hotel. Wir gehen zum Prado Museum. Am 12. August
fahren wir nach Córdoba.
den 13. August
Ich habe viel Glück am 13.! Wir sind in einer billigen, aber netten Pension in Córdoba
in der Nähe von der Mezquita (die Moschee im Zentrum). Sie ist sehr, sehr groß!
In der Moschee ist es kühler als in der Sonne.
den 14. August
Wir fahren nach Sevilla, aber zuerst bin ich drei Stunden allein. Ich gehe einkaufen.
Die Geschäfte sind sehr interessant. Ich suche nach Lederartikeln, aber der Preis für
eine Lederjacke ist zu hoch für mich. Der Euro macht alles sehr teuer.
den 15. August
Das Wetter ist schrecklich. Es gibt viel Regen, es ist kühl, und Helmut hat Kopfweh.
Wir sind den ganzen Tag in Cafés, essen spanische Spezialitäten, und trinken Rioja.
den 17. August
Der Regen ist zu viel! Helmut hat keine Lust, in Sevilla zu bleiben. Also wir fahren
nach Málaga.
den 18. August
Es ist herrlich! In Málaga ist es sonnig und heiß! Ich gehe schwimmen, und Helmut
hat eine deutsche Zeitung. Das Leben ist perfekt!
den 11. August
Q. Wir _________________ (sein) in Madrid — endlich!
A. Wir waren in Madrid — endlich! (We were in Madrid — at last!)
47. Das Wetter _________________ (sein) absolut wunderbar . . .
48. . . . und wir _________________ (haben) ein Zimmer in einem sehr schönen Hotel.
49. Am 12. August _________________ (fahren) wir nach Córdoba.
den 13. August
50. Wir _________________ (sein) in einer billigen, aber netten Pension in Córdoba in der Nähe
von der Mezquita (eine Moschee).
51. Sie _________________ (sein) sehr, sehr groß!
den 14. August
52. Wir _________________ (fahren) nach Sevilla.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
den 15. August
53 Das Wetter _________________ (sein) schrecklich.
54. Wir _________________ (sein) den ganzen Tag in Cafés.
den 17. August
55. Der Regen _________________ (sein) zu viel! Helmut _________________ (haben) keine
Lust, in Sevilla zu bleiben.
56. Also,wir _________________ (fahren) nach Málaga.
den 18. August
57. Es _________________ (sein) herrlich! In Málaga _________________ (sein) es sonnig und heiß!
58. Das Leben _________________ (sein) perfekt!
Forming modals in simple past
The modal verbs are the small band of modifying or helping type verbs. (See Chapter 9
for in-depth treatment of the modal verbs.) These verbs modify another verb, although
sometimes they can stand alone. The list includes dürfen (to be allowed to), können
(can, to be able to), mögen (to like), müssen (to have to, must), sollen (to be supposed
to, should), and wollen (to want to). Note: Although möchten is included in this elite
group in the present tense, it falls by the wayside because of its meaning (would like
to) and joins forces with mögen in the simple past tense. Both have the meaning liked
to in the simple past.
German speakers prefer to use the modal verbs in the simple past form when conversing or telling stories. The modal verbs are reasonably easy to remember in the
simple past form because they follow the same criteria:
U The past stem changes have no umlaut.
U You add the -te stem marker onto the simple past stem. The additional endings
are as follows: nothing, -st, nothing, -n, -t, -n, and -n.
Look at Table 17-4, which shows modal verbs in the simple past tense.
Table 17-4
Modal Verbs in Simple Past Tense
Infinitive
Past Stem
Tense Marker
Simple Past (ich,
er/sie/es Form)
English Equivalent
of Simple Past
dürfen
durf-
-te
durfte
was allowed to
können
konn-
-te
konnte
was able to, could
(past-tense meaning)
mögen
moch
-te
mochte
liked
müssen
muss-
-te
musste
had to
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Chapter 17: Narrating the (Simple) Past: Fact and Fiction
Infinitive
Past Stem
Tense Marker
Simple Past (ich,
er/sie/es Form)
English Equivalent
of Simple Past
sollen
soll-
-te
sollte
was supposed to
wollen
woll-
-te
wollte
wanted to
The following verb table shows the verb können conjugated, with the endings in
bold, including the -te tense marker.
können (to be able to, can)
ich konnte
wir konnten
du konntest
ihr konntet
er/sie/es konnte
sie konnten
Sie konnten
Nach dem Skiurlaub konnte ich besser skifahren.
(I was able to ski better after the skiing vacation.)
In the following exercise, some people are talking about a party they went to last
week. A lot of things went differently than planned; in fact, it was a comedy of errors.
Refer to Table 17-4 and the preceding verb table. Write the correct form of the verb in
parentheses.
Q. Wir _________________ nur einen halben Kuchen mitbringen. (können)
A. Wir konnten nur einen halben Kuchen mitbringen. (können) (We were able to bring only
half a cake.)
59. Helena _________________ früh nach Hause gehen. (müssen)
60. _________________ du nicht mit deinem Cousin kommen? (wollen)
61. Marlene und Dieter _________________ einen Salat machen. (sollen)
62. Ich _________________ den Schweinebraten überhaupt nicht. (mögen)
63. Michael _________________ seinen Hund nicht mitbringen. (dürfen)
Contrasting Tenses
In addition to the simple past (Ich sah einen rosaroten Elefant — I saw a pink elephant), two other verb tenses belong to the past tense club:
U The present perfect: Ich habe einen rosaroten Elefant gesehen. (I have seen a
pink elephant.)
U The past perfect: Ich hatte einen rosaroten Elefant gesehen. (I had seen a pink
elephant.)
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This trio is the mainstay for describing events in the past, in both English and German.
However, you can often get away with using the present perfect or even the simple past
in describing events that may actually call for the past perfect. In addition, the past perfect isn’t used very frequently in either German or English, so it takes a back seat — and
that’s a good way to remember when it’s used: namely to describe events that happened
way back before another past event. (Chapter 16 deals in depth with present perfect.)
The past perfect may not be very common, but before relegating the past perfect elephant to oblivion, I want to contrast three past tense verb forms: the simple past,
present perfect, and past perfect. Look at Table 17-4. You see how to form these past
tenses, their applications (uses), and an example situation.
Table 17-4
German Usage of Past Tenses
Past Tense
How to Form
Simple past
(narrative past)
Use the simple Used in formal,
past form of the written language;
verb
preferred in spoken
language in northern
Germany; used with
haben, sein, and
modal verbs
Der Orkan dauerte insgesamt
zwei Wochen. (The hurricane
lasted two weeks altogether.)
Combine the
present tense
of either haben
or sein and a
past participle
of the verb
Used in casual,
informal, spoken
language when
talking about the
past; preferred in
southern Germanspeaking regions
Gestern haben wir einen guten
Film gesehen. (Yesterday we saw
a good movie.)
Combine the
simple past of
either haben
or sein and a
past participle
of the verb
Used to describe a
past event that
happened before
another past event,
often with the two
verbs in the same
sentence
Present perfect
(conversational
past)
Past perfect
Use
Example Sentence/Explanation
Dauerte is the simple past,
third-person singular of dauern
(to last).
Haben is the present tense,
first-person plural of haben;
gesehen is the past participle
of sehen (to see).
Nachdem sie das Telefon
aufgelegt hatte, klingelte es
nochmals. (After she had hung up
the phone, it rang again.)
Hatte is the simple past tense,
third-person singular of haben,
and aufgelegt is the past participle
of auflegen (to hang up).
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Chapter 17: Narrating the (Simple) Past: Fact and Fiction
Answer Key
wir bezahlten
a
bezahlen (to pay)
b
brauchen (to need)
c
dauern (to last, take [time])
d
fotografieren (to take pictures)
e
hören (to hear, listen to)
f
kaufen (to buy)
sie (she) kaufte
g
kosten (to cost)
es kostete
h
lachen (to laugh)
sie (they) lachten
i
lernen (to learn)
ihr lerntet
j
machen (to do, make)
ich machte
k
reden (to talk, speak)
Sie redeten
l
regnen (to rain)
m
reisen (to travel)
n
sagen (to say)
o
tanzen (to dance)
p
spielen (to play [a game, cards])
q
wandern (to hike, wander)
r
warten (to wait)
s
essen (to eat)
aß
t
fallen (to fall)
fiel
u
finden (to find)
v
fliegen (to fly)
w
geben (to give)
x
gehen (to go)
y
halten (to hold, stop)
A
kommen (to come)
ich brauchte
es dauerte
Sie fotografierten
du hörtest
es regnete
wir reisten
ihr sagtet
du tanztest
sie (she) spielte
Sie wanderten
ich wartete
fand
flog
gab
ging
hielt
kam
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
B
lassen (to let, allow)
ließ
C
liegen (to lie [down])
D
reiten (to ride [a horse or bike])
E
schwimmen (to swim)
F
fangen (to catch)
G
gewinnen (to win)
H
laufen (to run)
I
lesen (to read)
J
nehmen (to take)
nahm
K
schneiden (to cut)
schnitt
L
schreiben (to write)
M
tragen (to wear, carry)
N
treffen (to meet)
O
tun (to do)
P
vergessen (to forget)
Q
verlieren (to lose)
R
verstehen (to understand)
S
wachsen (to grow)
T
werden (to become)
U
werfen (to throw)
V
Das Wetter war absolut wunderbar . . . (The weather was absolutely wonderful . . .)
W
. . . und wir hatten ein Zimmer in einem sehr schönen Hotel. (. . . and we had a room in a very
pretty hotel.)
X
Am 12. August fuhren wir nach Córdoba. (On the 12th of August we drove to Córdoba.)
Y
Wir waren in einer billigen, aber netten Pension in Córdoba in der Nähe von der Mezquita, eine
Moschee. (We were in an inexpensive but nice pension in Córdoba, near the Mezquita, a mosque.)
A pension is similar to a bed and breakfast.
z
Sie war sehr, sehr groß! (It was very, very big!)
lag
ritt
schwamm
fing
gewann
lief
las
schrieb
trug
traf
tat
vergaß
verlor
verstand
wuchs
wurde
warf
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Chapter 17: Narrating the (Simple) Past: Fact and Fiction
Z
Wir fuhren nach Sevilla, (We drove to Sevilla.)
1
Das Wetter war schrecklich. (The weather was awful [terrible].)
2
Wir waren den ganzen Tag in Cafés . . . (We were in cafés the whole day . . .)
3
Der Regen war zu viel! Helmut hatte keine Lust, in Sevilla zu bleiben. (The rain was too much!
Helmut didn’t feel like staying in Sevilla.)
4
Also wir fuhren nach Málaga. (So we drove to Málaga.)
5
Es war herrlich! In Málaga war es sonnig und heiß! (It was marvelous! It was sunny and hot in
Málaga.)
6
Das Leben war perfekt! (Life was perfect!)
7
Helena musste früh nach Hause gehen. (Helena had to go home early.)
8
Wolltest du nicht mit deinem Cousin kommen? (Didn’t you want to come with your cousin?)
9
Marlene und Dieter sollten einen Salat machen. (Marlene and Dieter were supposed to make a
salad.)
0
Ich mochte den Schweinebraten überhaupt nicht. (I didn’t like the roast pork at all.)
!
Michael durfte seinen Hund nicht mitbringen. (Michael wasn’t allowed to bring his dog along.)
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
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Chapter 18
Looking to the Future (and Avoiding It)
In This Chapter
© Avoiding the future
© Facing the future
W
hether you’re the type to face the future head on, no holds barred, or you like
to avoid the inevitable at all costs, this chapter has something for you. With all
the complications of case endings and the three noun genders in German, at last the
future pops up, simple and straightforward.
When you read the chapter title, unless you’ve been dusting off (and reading) English
grammar books lately, you’re likely to say that the future is one verb tense, the one
associated with will + a verb (I’ll get the phone). Actually, English has several ways to
express the future, although in German you’re on easy street. Why? In a great deal of
situations, you can avoid using the future tense altogether even while describing a
future event. In fact, German uses the future verb tenses far less frequently than
English does.
Before you travel into the future, though, the first stop is the German present tense. In
the beginning of this chapter, you find out how versatile the German present tense is
for situations in which English uses various future tenses. Later in the chapter, you
jump on the future bus and take a short and smooth ride through the future, looking
at how to form it and when to use the future tense. I also include the most frequently
used time expressions associated with the future, as well as a short list of adverbs that
typically combine with the future tense to express your attitude about a future event.
The Future Is Now: Using the
Present Tense Instead
In general, you don’t need to use the future in German when the context makes it
clear that the action is describing something in future time. Imagine you’re standing
on the subway platform, and the train is coming into the station at Marienplatz in
Munich. You have six bags and a broken arm, and someone behind you says Ich
helfe Ihnen (Literally: I help you). In English, your helper would say I’ll help you. This
German volunteer is not grammar-deficient; he or she is an angel speaking perfectly
idiomatic German.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
English has a total of four ways to express the future, as opposed to only two future
tenses in German. In addition, the future tense usage in German is far less frequent
than it is in English. Look at the following breakdown of how German and English
express the future:
U First is the present tense used for schedules, like travel plans. This is the same in
German: Die Maschine startet um 7.40 Uhr (The plane leaves at 7:40 a.m.).
U Next is the going to future, going to + infinitive verb, as in We’re going to visit my
cousins this weekend, which doesn’t exist in German. You usually use the German
present.
U English also uses the present continuous — to be + verb with -ing ending, as in I’m
taking the dog for a walk — which is nonexistent in German; you can generally
use the present in German for these situations.
U That leaves the will future verb form, which is equivalent to the German werden
(will) + infinitive verb used to express the future. The usage is less frequent in
German because the present tense can punt for the will future in a great deal of
cases. (Check out the last section in this chapter for more on using werden to
express the future.)
This section more closely examines how German uses the present to express future
actions.
Seeing when German present
works perfectly
In English, you encounter all types of situations that require the future tense. But in
German, you can state those same situations by simply using the present tense, especially when it’s clear that you intend to express future time. (Chapter 5 deals solely
with the present tense if you need a refresher.)
The following examples give you an overview of the range of situations where German
uses the present to express the future. However, in English, you generally use the
future when you include an expression that refers to the future, such as next week.
Vielleicht ruft er morgen an. (Maybe he’ll call tomorrow.) Morgen (tomorrow) is
an adverb of time that expresses the future.
Dieses Wochenende besuchen wir meine Kusinen. (We’re going to visit my
cousins this weekend.) Dieses Wochenende (this weekend) refers to the coming
weekend; also, German has no equivalent to the English verb form going to + verb.
Ich bleibe heute etwas länger im Büro. (I’m staying a bit longer in the office
today.) The reference to heute (today) in connection with länger (longer) indicates
later on today; also, German has no -ing verb equivalent.
Ich glaube/Ich denke, ich bleibe zu Hause. (I think I’ll stay home.) German uses
present tense here, but English expresses a spontaneous decision (I think I’ll . . .)
with the future.
Ich vergesse nicht/Ich werde nicht vergessen. (I won’t forget.) In English, you use
the future for a promise. (If you say I don’t forget, it’s a factual statement, not a
promise.) In German, you have both options to make a promise.
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Chapter 18: Looking to the Future (and Avoiding It)
Saying when: Using future time expressions
with the present tense
When you talk about future events in English, you often include an expression of
future time together with one of the future verb forms. Germans also use a wide range
of future time expressions such as heute Abend (this evening) or morgen früh (tomorrow morning). Here’s good news for you: They frequently appear in combination with
the present tense.
Take a look at some common time expressions:
U am Anfang der Woche (at the
beginning of the week)
U am Dienstag (on Tuesday)
U diese Woche (this week)
U diesen Monat (this month)
U dieses Wochenende (this weekend)
U heute (today)
U heute Abend (this evening)
U in vier Monaten (in four months)
U in vier Stunden (in four hours)
U morgen (tomorrow)
U morgen früh (tomorrow morning)
U morgen Nachmittag (tomorrow afternoon)
U nächsten Dienstag (next Tuesday)
U nächste Woche (next week)
U übermorgen (the day after tomorrow)
U heute Morgen (this morning)
U im Frühling (in the spring)
You can express future events in German by simply using a future time expression
together with a verb in the present tense — for example, Ich fliege nächste Woche
nach Frankfurt (I’m flying to Frankfurt next week).
German word order is typically time, manner, and place. Look at the breakdown of the
word order for a typical sentence:
1. Subject + active verb: Ich fahre (I’m traveling)
2. Time (when): morgen Nachmittag (tomorrow afternoon)
3. Manner (how): mit dem Zug (by train)
4. Place (where): nach Hamburg (to Hamburg)
Putting it all together, the sentence looks like this: Ich fahre morgen Nachmittag mit
dem Zug nach Hamburg (I’m taking the train to Hamburg tomorrow afternoon).
When you’re forming a sentence that has an expression of time such as am Mittwoch
(on Wednesday) or morgen (tomorrow), as well as an expression of manner and/or
place, you may want to be very clear about when something is happening. In this
case, simply place the time expression at the very beginning of the sentence, followed
by the verb and subject. Putting the time expression at the very front of a sentence
may also be easier if you have trouble remembering the correct word order for the
trio of time, manner, and place. That way, you’ve taken care of the time, and you have
to remember only that manner is before place.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
The following example sentences show when various activities take place. All four
sentences are in present in German, but they express the future four different ways in
English. You may have more than one future-tense alternative for translating the sentences into English, but all are in present tense in German:
Ich fliege am Dienstag nach Graz. (I’m flying to Graz on Tuesday.)
Ich denke, ich arbeite dieses Wochenende zu Hause. (I think I’ll work at home
this weekend.)
Übermorgen habe ich einen Termin mit einem neuen Kunden. (The day after
tomorrow I have an appointment with a new customer.) Der Kunde means the customer. Ubermorgen is at the beginning, so the verb comes in second position, followed by the subject.
Heute Abend telefoniere ich mit dem chinesischen Lieferanten. (This evening
I’m going to call the Chinese supplier.) Der Lieferant means the supplier. The time
element heute Abend is first, so the verb follows in second position, followed by
the subject.
You work at an international company. Your German boss, Herr Fleischmann, calls
you on Monday morning and wants to know your plans for the next three weeks.
Using the calendar and some future time expressions, describe what you’re doing on
the days you’ve made notes of your activities. Try expressions other than dates (such
as am 20. Oktober) whenever possible. Note that some questions cover more than
one day.
Here’s some useful vocabulary: der Termin (the appointment), der Abgabetermin (the
deadline), das Meeting (the meeting), and die Telekonferenz (the conference call).
Note: German calendars begin the week with Montag (Monday).
Montag
Dienstag
Q. im Büro
arbeiten
2. in Köln
ankommen
(früh!)
1. nach Köln
fliegen (Abend) 3. 2 Termine
mit Kunden
(Nachmittag)
Mittwoch
Donnerstag
Freitag
Samstag
Sonntag
5. nach Düsseldorf 7. Telekonferenz
mit Herrn
zur Messe (trade
Fleischmann
fair) fahren
& Kollegen
6. nach Hause
fliegen
8. Fleischmann
9. bei der
den vollen Bericht Familie
e-mailen
(Nachmittag)
9. bei der
Familie
10. Urlaub
10. Urlaub
Allerheiligen
(All Saints Day)
4. Abend: mit
dem Kollegen
essen (HotelRestaurant)
10. Urlaub
(vacation)
11. mit dem
osterreichischen
Lieferanten
telefonieren
10. Urlaub
10. Urlaub
12. Nov. 6:
wichtiger
Abgabetermin!
Halloween
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Chapter 18: Looking to the Future (and Avoiding It)
Q. Montag (Monday): im Büro arbeiten
A. Ich arbeite heute Morgen im Büro. (I’m working in the office this morning.) You can use
this standard word order or start with the time element if you find it easier: Heute
Morgen arbeite ich im Büro. In the Answer Key, I use the standard word order.
1. ______________________________________________________________________________
2. ______________________________________________________________________________
3. ______________________________________________________________________________
4. ______________________________________________________________________________
5. ______________________________________________________________________________
6. ______________________________________________________________________________
7. ______________________________________________________________________________
8. ______________________________________________________________________________
9. ______________________________________________________________________________
10. ______________________________________________________________________________
11. ______________________________________________________________________________
12. ______________________________________________________________________________
Facing the Future with Werden
Sometimes you need to use the future tense in German. German speakers do indeed
use the future to describe future events, either with or without a reference to time like
nächstes Jahr (next year), although speakers of German prefer the present tense
when they’re using a time expression in the same sentence.
When you make no specific mention of when something will happen, you generally
use werden to express the future. This section shows you how to conjugate the
future tense and how to use it correctly in different circumstances.
Forming the future: Werden + infinitive verb
To form the future tense, you conjugate the auxiliary (helping) verb werden and add
the infinitive form of the verb that you want to express in the future tense: Ich werde
bald nach Hause gehen (I’m going home soon). In this context, werden means going
to or will. Notice that the infinitive form, gehen, is at the end of the sentence.
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
werde gehen (will go, going to go)
ich werde gehen
wir werden gehen
du wirst gehen
ihr werdet gehen
er/sie/es wird gehen
sie werden gehen
Sie werden gehen
Ich werde bald nach Hause gehen. (I’m going [to go] home soon.)
Werden is a sneaky verb. It has several meanings. In this section, it means will or
going to. However, when werden is the main verb, it means to become or get: Wir
werden immer älter (We’re always becoming/getting older).
When some people see will in German, they equate it with werden. Watch out — will
indicates the future only in English:
Ich will nach Hause gehen. (I want to go home.) Will comes from wollen: to want
to. It’s a modal verb, which means it modifies the main verb. (For more on modal
verbs, see Chapter 9.)
Ich werde nach Hause gehen. (I will go/am going home.)
Using the future: Assuming, hoping,
and emphasizing intentions
German speakers use the future tense with werden in several different situations to
express future action. Table 18-1 shows future tense usage, an example sentence in
German, and the English equivalent. Notice that the infinitive verb is at the end of the
sentence.
Table 18-1
Future Using Werden
Usage of Future Tense
German Example Sentence
English Equivalent
Emphasizing intention that an
event will take place in the future
Ich werde ein erholsames
Wochenende zu Hause
verbringen.
I’m going to have a
restful weekend at
home.
Supposing, assuming, or hoping
something will happen, expressed
verbally
Ich hoffe, sie wird nicht
vergessen.
I hope she won’t forget.
Supposing, assuming, or hoping
something will happen, expressed
with an adverb
Sie wird wohl nicht
vergessen.
She probably won’t
forget.
Giving strong advice or a stern
warning
Du wirst jetzt ruhig sein!
Be quiet!/You will be
quiet!
Indicating an event will happen
after another event stated in the
present tense
Joachim studiert sehr fleißig,
und er wird später ein
erfolgreicher Arzt sein.
Joachim is studying
very hard, and later he’ll
be a successful doctor.
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Chapter 18: Looking to the Future (and Avoiding It)
271
Just as German speakers use the werden future to emphasize that something will
happen in the future, they also use it to say that something will not happen. The two
alternatives are werden + nicht (will not/won’t) and werden + kein (will not/won’t),
depending on what you’re negating.
Here are clear differences in the usage of kein and nicht (for further details on kein
and nicht, go to Chapter 7):
U Kein negates a noun, as in keine Zeit (no time). It has case and gender endings.
Meine Freunde werden kein Geburtstagsfest für mich organisieren. (My
friends aren’t going to organize a birthday party for me.) Kein negates
Geburtstagsfest; it replaces ein. Kein is in the accusative case.
U Nicht generally negates a verb: nicht gehen (to not go). It can also negate an
adjective, like nicht lustig (not funny), or an adverb, like nicht pünktlich (not on
time). Nicht has no case or gender endings.
Ich werde nicht hier bleiben. (I won’t stay here.) Nicht negates the information hier bleiben.
In the following exercise, respond to each prompt by writing a sentence saying that
the events will or won’t happen. To help you know whether to use kein or nicht, I
underline the word or expression that you negate.
Q. reich sein, wenn ich 70 Jahre alt bin. Ich _____________________________________________
A. Ich werde nicht reich sein, wenn ich 70 Jahre alt bin. (I won’t be rich when I’m 70 years
old.) Reich is an adjective, so you need to use nicht. To express the same information
in a positive sentence, leave out nicht.
13. ein Haus bauen
Ich ______________________________________________________________________________
14. in die Politik gehen
Ich ______________________________________________________________________________
15. mit meiner Familie nach Tehachapi umziehen
Ich ______________________________________________________________________________
16. reisen, wenn ich Zeit und Geld dazu habe
Ich ______________________________________________________________________________
17. Adoptivkinder haben
Ich ______________________________________________________________________________
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
Using the future to express probability
When you aren’t absolutely sure something will or won’t happen in the future, you
use expressions to describe probability. You may be confident that your favorite team
will win a game, but you’re not 100 percent certain, so you include words that express
high probability together with the future tense. Here are some common expressions:
U wohl (probably, no doubt, to be sure): Wohl expresses very high probability.
U sicher (probably, definitely, certainly): Sicher expresses very high probability.
U schon (probably): This elusive word can also mean already or yet or emphasize
that you’re aware of an event or a fact.
Check out some examples:
Die Haffenreffers werden wohl eine neue Garage bauen. (The Haffenreffers are
probably going to build a new garage.)
Leander Haffenreffer wird sicher ein neues Auto kaufen. (Leander Haffenreffer
will probably buy a new car.)
Der Nachbar der Haffenreffers wird schon ein riesengroßes Schwimmbecken
bauen. (The Haffenreffers’ neighbor is probably going to build a gigantic swimming pool.)
Your task in this exercise is twofold. First, arrange the words to make a logical sentence
in the correct word order. Second, change the infinitive verb (for example, machen)
into the correct future form (ich werde machen, du wirst machen, and so on).
Q. spielen / Monopoly / bis Mitternacht / wir /wohl
A. Wir werden wohl Monopoly bis Mitternacht spielen. (We’re probably going to play
Monopoly until midnight.)
18. zu viel / Gerhard Grossmann / Am Freitag Abend / trinken / Bier
__________________________________________________________________________________
19. nicht böse / sein / Frau Grossmann / Ich hoffe,
__________________________________________________________________________________
20. still / ganz / sein! / jetzt / Sie
__________________________________________________________________________________
21. machen / Mit einer Zigarre im Mund / keine Freunde / du / sicher
__________________________________________________________________________________
22. schon / Ihr / Poker / noch zwei Stunden / spielen / mit mir
__________________________________________________________________________________
23. gewinnen / alles / Heute Abend / ich
__________________________________________________________________________________
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Chapter 18: Looking to the Future (and Avoiding It)
273
Answer Key
a
Ich fliege heute Abend nach Köln. (I’m going to fly/I’m flying to Cologne this evening.)
b
Ich komme morgen früh/am Dienstag früh in Köln an. (I’ll arrive in Cologne tomorrow
morning/on Tuesday morning.)
c
Ich habe morgen Nachmittag/am Dienstagnachmittag zwei Termine mit Kunden. (I have two
appointments with customers tomorrow afternoon/on Tuesday afternoon.)
d
Ich esse morgen Abend/am Dienstagabend mit dem Kollegen im Hotel-Restaurant. (I’m
having dinner with the colleague in the hotel restaurant tomorrow evening/on Tuesday evening.)
e
Ich fahre übermorgen/am Mittwoch nach Düsseldorf zur Messe. (I’m going to the trade fair in
Düsseldorf the day after tomorrow/on Wednesday.)
f
Ich fliege übermorgen/am Mittwoch nach Hause. (I’m flying home the day after tomorrow/on
Wednesday.)
g
Ich habe am Donnerstag eine Telekonferenz mit Herrn Fleischmann und seinen Kollegen. (I
have a conference call with Herr Fleischmann and his colleagues on Thursday.)
h
Ich e-maile Ihnen am Freitag Nachmittag den vollen Bericht. (I’ll e-mail you the whole report
on Friday afternoon.)
i
Ich bin dieses Wochenende/am Wochenende bei meiner Familie. (I’ll be with my family this
weekend/on the weekend.)
j
Ich habe nächste Woche Urlaub. (I’ll be/I’m going on vacation next week.)
k
Ich telefoniere am Anfang der ersten Woche im November mit dem österreichischen
Lieferanten. (At the beginning of the first week of November, I’ll call the Austrian supplier.) In
German, you telephone mit (with) someone.
l
Ich habe am 6. November einen wichtigen Abgabetermin. (I have an important deadline on
November 6.)
m
Ich werde kein Haus bauen / Ich werde ein Haus bauen. (I won’t/will build a house.)
n
Ich werde nicht in die Politik gehen. / Ich werde in die Politik gehen. (I won’t/will go into politics.)
o
Ich werde nicht mit meiner Familie nicht nach Tehachapi umziehen. / Ich werde mit meiner
Familie nach Tehachapi umziehen. (I won’t/will move to Tehachapi with my family.)
p
Ich werde nicht reisen, wenn ich genug Zeit und Geld habe. / Ich werde reisen, wenn ich genug
Zeit und Geld habe. (I won’t/will travel when I have enough money.)
q
Ich werde keine Adoptivkinder haben. / Ich werde Adoptivkinder/ein Adoptivkind haben. (I
won’t/will have [any] adopted children.)
r
Am Freitag Abend wird Gerhard Grossmann zu viel Bier trinken. (Gerhard Grossmann will
drink too much beer on Friday evening.)
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Part IV: Looking Back and Ahead: Writing in the Past and the Future
s
Ich hoffe, Frau Grossmann wird nicht böse sein. (I hope Mrs. Grossmann won’t be angry.)
t
Sie werden jetzt ganz still sein! (Be absolutely quiet now!)
u
Mit einer Zigarre im Mund wirst du sicher keine Freunde machen. (You certainly won’t make
any friends with a cigar in your mouth.)
v
Ihr werdet schon noch zwei Stunden Poker mit mir spielen. (For sure you’ll play another two
hours of poker with me.)
w
Heute Abend werde ich alles gewinnen. (I’ll win everything tonight.)
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Part V
The Part of Tens
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T
In this part . . .
he Part of Tens is one of the most beloved parts of
every For Dummies book, and this time around, it
includes two information-packed chapters. In Chapter 19,
I list ten ways to optimize your German. Then comes
Chapter 20, in which I counsel you on how to avoid ten
major traps that lie along the path of your language
endeavors.
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Chapter 19
Ten Tips for Optimizing Your German
In This Chapter
© Taking your German to the next level
© Getting a firm grasp on grammar and vocabulary
S
tudying a new language can seem daunting at times. You ask what you’ve gotten
yourself into with all those cases, genders, moods, and tenses. No worries,
though. In this chapter, I show you ten essential means of optimizing your German.
Each tip contains practical guidelines on how to rapidly improve your command of
the language. These tips offer you an edge only when you follow through on them. Try
some, or try them all; I know you’ll reap the benefits.
Think Like a Native Speaker
What happens when you speak or write in your own language? The language flows
out of your mouth or onto the page. Now think about what’s going on in your mind
when you start formulating a sentence in German. It’s slower, for one, and it’s a piecemeal process. You’re concerned about whether the noun is der, die, or das; you’re
juggling cases in your mind, and you’re mapping out the word order.
In order to overcome all these time-consuming steps, do your level best to think like a
native speaker. Here’s how:
U Start thinking in chunks of language. In other words, use the structures that you
already know in German and apply them. Every language is filled with frequently
used expressions, such as Viel Spaß! (Have fun!) and das gefällt mir [nicht] (I
like/don’t like that). Some language comes in frequently used phrases, like zum
Beispiel (for example) and mehr oder weniger (more or less).
U Look for compound words, such as Umweltverschmutzung (environmental
pollution).
U Get comfortable with flavoring particles and verbal nods of agreement or
disagreement: Wirklich? (Really?), genau/eben (exactly), and doch (verbal
nod of disagreement).
U Become confident using prepositional phrases, such as bei mir zu Hause (at my
home) and subject-verb combinations, such as ich möchte gern wissen (I’d like
to know).
Such expressions are already set up for you; no need to reinvent the wheel by painstakingly translating standard expressions word for word. Just dip into that reservoir.
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Part V: The Part of Tens
Break Down Word Combinations
Although at first glance, a German text may seem to be filled with long, complicated
words, go for the jugular: Break down those torturously long words and figure out
what each part means. Even short words may have two or more parts.
Verbs are the premier culprits in this department. Take the verb vorhaben; it looks
like the preposition vor (in front of) combined with haben (to have). In English, it
means to plan something. When you think about the literal meaning — to have something in front — you can often grasp the figurative meaning as well.
Use What You Know
If German is a mostly purebred language, English is a crafty mutt. Incorporated into
English usage are elements of Latin, Greek, German, French, and even Danish. Why
not dip into English, and use it in German? German hasn’t been averse to using many
words that English has borrowed. Both English and German have acquisitions from
Native American languages (Moccasin), Spanish (Patio), Italian (Ciao), and so on.
Cognates — words that share the same ancestor — include the chunk of Germanictype words known to you in English but with some spelling differences. Be aware of
changes such as converting the v to f (as in Vater = father) or changing the d to th (as
in Bad = bath).
Check that a word that looks like English actually has the same meaning in German.
After all, der Mist isn’t a thick fog/fine rain; it actually means dung in German!
Get Going on Grammar
After you dive into the Grand World of German Grammar, take it slow and easy. Don’t
panic. There’s actually a whole lot of logic in German grammar. As you tread your way
through, remember that the following are important parts of German grammar:
U Word order: After you accept the rules of the game, you’re all set to cut and
paste the words you need to construct a grammatically decent sentence. Check
out Chapter 1 for general info on word order.
U Case and gender: You definitely need to know and accept these elements and
not fight them. Try to master the ins and outs of one grammar aspect step by
step. Consider a two-way preposition like in (ich gehe ins Hotel versus Ich bin
im Hotel), which can be I’m going in(to) the hotel (movement) or I’m in the hotel
(location); then write down some examples you can use that show the difference
between the two. Store them in a safe place, and consult them when the going
gets tough and you’re trying to decide whether to use im or ins. (For more on
prepositions, see Chapter 15.)
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Chapter 19: Ten Tips for Optimizing Your German
Read and Listen Actively
While you’re reading or even listening to German, actively think about the grammar
and word order. For instance, a word in context may show its gender. As for verbs,
notice the location of the verb parts in a sentence. For vocabulary acquisition, try lowbrow alternatives such as flashcards or highbrow gadgets like an electronic translator
with audio feature. Check out listening material for your car. Watch a German movie.
One of the best ways to improve your German is to take advantage of all the German
available to you on the Web. The number of German Web sites is astounding — just
look for pages using the .de option of your browser (in place of .com or other extensions). You can access German newspapers and other German educational sites.
Experiment with What Works Best
If there were ever an easy path to language fluency, the discoverer would make a million. Even so, no two people acquire a language in exactly the same way. You may not
be the kind of person who learns to ski by going straight down the steepest slope the
first day. You may need some gentle pointers about turning, braking, and knowing how
to fall somewhat safely. Make it your mission to figure out what works best for you.
Mentally leaf through the list of any skills you’ve acquired successfully, even if they’re
unrelated to language, from tying your shoes to taking apart a car engine. Ask yourself how you did it. You may be the show-me-how-type, the trial-and-error type, or a
blend of both. Now try experimenting. Get a dialogue, a text, or anything you want to
use later. Try these three methods of gaining fluency and see which works best:
U Seeing: Draw sketches of significant German words. Don’t stop at the obvious,
such as nouns like der Baum, illustrated by a picture of a tree. Draw adjectives
that describe emotions (for unglücklich, draw an unhappy face); indicate a verb
such as wandern (to hike) with a stick figure walking up a mountain (don’t forget
the Rucksack!).
U Speaking and hearing: Practice reading the material to yourself; then record
your own voice, listen, and record again until you’re reasonably satisfied with
your results. Or read in a low voice using a metronome or slow music for rhythm.
Also, try singing some German songs.
U Doing: Try reading out loud and walking slowly around your living room (but
don’t stumble over the dog). As you read through verbs, act out the motions. For
bezahlen (to pay), take an imaginary credit card out of your pocket.
Find what works and implement that technique for improving your German. Go
ahead. Be a risk taker! You’ve got plenty to gain from experimenting — drug free!
Germanify Your Home
To get a firm understanding of German, why not Germanify your home? Whatever you
do is bound to pay off down the line. Here are some ideas:
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Part V: The Part of Tens
U Make sticky labels for furniture, appliances, objects, or even food items.
Concentrate on one room at a time, touching the objects and saying the names
out loud.
U Describe daily chores and routines to yourself as you’re doing them. Write useful
German phrases on a piece of paper and stick it on your bathroom mirror.
Repeat the words while brushing your teeth (well, maybe while brushing your
hair). Write shopping lists in German, and as you read the ads, mumble the
prices to yourself in German, too.
U Write dialogue exchanges on index cards — the question on the front and the
answer on the back. Put a stack on your dresser and challenge yourself while
you get dressed.
Integrate German into Your Routine
Face it. When you’re serious about getting ahead with your German, you need time.
But who actually has oodles of leftover hours each day? Try figuring out how to
snatch some minutes from your regular routine and devote them to German. Spread
out those time bites over a whole day, and take your stuff with you on the road. If
you’re anything like the average somewhat disorganized Tom, Dick, or Harriet, you’re
doing yourself a favor by organizing your time for German. Here are some ideas:
U Instead of talking on your cell while stuck in traffic, keep a small notepad and
pen handy to jot down some thoughts, words, or phrases in German.
U Take along a word list, a dialogue (enlarge it first), or something you want to
master for your morning commute.
U Tuck some good old-fashioned homemade flashcards in your pocket. I know a
man in upper-level management who used his cards whenever he was waiting for
the elevator.
Embrace the Culture
Your grasp of German is relevant only to the extent to which you’re able to integrate
language and culture. After all, language is intimately connected with the people who
speak it. Broaden your horizons by finding out how German-speaking people think
and act. Becoming aware of their hopes and dreams and gaining insight into their way
of life is your path to a rich cultural heritage.
Set Goals and Reward Yourself
Set up a modest challenge for yourself by devoting one afternoon a month entirely to
pursuing your interest in German language and culture. Give yourself just rewards for
your efforts. The idea here is looking at the bigger picture. Go online and plan a bicycling trip along the Danube next fall. Go to dinner at a German style restaurant, or try
cooking some German specialties for your friends. Go all out: Change careers and
learn the beer-brewing trade at Weihenstephaner Brauerei. Enjoy even the smallest
accomplishments you make. Tschüß! Oh, and viel Spaß!
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Chapter 20
Ten Pitfalls to Avoid in German
In This Chapter
© Avoiding writing and speaking blunders
© Keeping your communication clear
E
veryone makes mistakes while learning a language — some big, some small, some
horribly embarrassing, and some riotously funny. As you read this book, you
don’t have to worry much about making mistakes. But for someone sitting in a language class among peers or traveling in a far-off country, the fear of making a mistake
can be strong enough to give a well-adjusted, normally curious person a deflated, getme-out-of-this-muck type of mindset.
Doing the exercises in this book isn’t a substitute for getting out there and talking and
writing to as many people as possible — in German. But this book can help you come
prepared. This chapter is aimed at helping you sidestep the biggest blunders you’re
likely to make in German. So never fear . . . help is on the way!
Attempting Word-for-Word Translations
Leave the translating to the translators. It’s not your job. (If it were, you’d know
instinctively to shy away from word-for-word translations!) The instant online
translating tools will never be as accurate as the best simultaneous interpreters
at the U.N. Why not? Single words, let alone larger chunks of language, have many
shades of meaning. When strung together in sentences, words can even mean something entirely different from the words as separate entities. So please don’t try to win
a Nobel prize by analyzing German grammar or inventing mathematical equations
consisting of German word A + German word B = English word AB.
Word-for-word translations may work, but then again, you may end up the laughingstock of your listeners or readership. Tell yourself not to succumb to the temptation of
thinking a word, expression, sentence structure, or grammar point — anything at all —
in English is equivalent to something in German, or vice-versa (unless you know for
sure that it’s a real cognate, a word with the same meaning in two languages). Butter is
what you want on your toast, but Gift is (hopefully) not what you give someone on his
or her birthday — Gift means poison in German!
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Part V: The Part of Tens
Downplaying Gender and Case
By messing up the case and gender endings, you can come up with any number of
very embarrassing results! Gender and case are the underpinnings of German grammar. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and prepositions are all influenced by gender and
case, as well as number. Be sure you know what the three mean:
U Number is whether a noun or a pronoun is singular or plural. Not even number is
always the same in German and English; for instance, die Schere (the scissors) is
singular in German.
U Gender is the triumvirate of der (masculine), die (feminine), and das (neuter),
plus the other forms of der, die, and das that change spelling in various cases.
U Case is not related to brief-, suit-, or carrying case; rather, it’s the essential
tool for putting words together in a sentence to make sense. All four cases —
nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive — are in the example sentence Der
Liebhaber gab dem Hund seiner Geliebten eine Leckerei (The lover gave his
sweetheart’s dog a treat):
• Nominative: Der Liebhaber (The lover)
• Dative: gab dem Hund (gave [to] the dog)
• Genitive: seiner Geliebten ([of] his sweetheart/his sweetheart’s)
• Accusative: eine Leckerei. (a treat.)
For more info on gender, number, and case, check out Chapter 2.
Wondering Which Word Order
In German, you may frequently get stumped on which word goes where. To avoid mistakes, make sure you know the basics of correct word order. Here’s a quick overview
of German’s three main patterns:
U Standard: The order is subject + verb + other information; the verb is in second
position.
Bonnie hat viel Geld. (Bonnie has a lot of money.)
Verb in second position is one essential mantra to remember. Look at the example. Substitute ihr ältester Onkel, Zack Kohle aus Gelsenkirchen (her oldest
uncle, Zack Kohle from Gelsenkirchen) for Bonnie, and the word order would be
the same: Ihr ältester Onkel, Zack Kohle aus Gelsenkirchen, hat viel Geld.
Why? Because all the information about the uncle counts as one element, namely
the subject of the sentence.
U Inverted: The verb comes first, as in yes/no questions.
Hat Bonnie viel Geld? (Does Bonnie have a lot of money?)
U Subordinate clause: The active verb (the conjugated part) comes at the end of a
subordinate clause, preceded by the past participle (if present).
Bonnie hat viel Geld, weil sie eine Bank überfallen hat. (Bonnie has a lot
of money because she robbed a bank.) The conjugated verb hat is at the end
of the sentence, preceded by überfallen (robbed), the past participle.
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Chapter 20: Ten Pitfalls to Avoid in German
The other essential mantra to chant is time, manner, place. Look at the sentence
Ich fahre morgen mit dem Fahrrad zum Biergarten (Tomorrow I’m bicycling to the
beergarden):
1. Time, meaning when something happens, precedes the other two parts: Morgen
(tomorrow).
2. Manner describes the how of something: mit dem Fahrrad (Literally: with the
bicycle).
3. Place refers to where: zum Biergarten (to the beergarden).
Check out Chapter 1 for more on word order in general.
Think, Thought, Thunk: (Mis)handling Verbs
A sentence is made up of various parts of speech such as nouns, verbs, adjectives,
and so on. The single most important part of speech of a sentence that communicates
your ideas is the verb. Use the right verb to convey your thoughts, and people are
likely to understand your message, even if other factors in your sentence, such as
word endings, word order, and who-knows-what-else aren’t quite up to snuff. So you
select a verb — what next? You need to conjugate the verb correctly and know which
verb tense to use; otherwise, people may stare at you as if you just landed from Mars.
You can rattle off ich habe, du hast, er/sie/es hat to your heart’s content in the
shower. But in a restaurant, you’re communicating with the server about food, so
you’re probably better off combining verbs appropriately to order a meal: Was
würden Sie empfehlen? (What would you recommend?).
Here’s another thing: Remembering which verbs use haben and which use sein to
build the past tense isn’t so terribly difficult. Messing up the modal verbs doesn’t
have to happen, either. Get as chummy as you can with the gang of six: dürfen,
können, mögen (and its sidekick möchten), müssen, sollen, and wollen. (Check out
Chapter 9 for more info.)
(Mis)Placing Prepositions and Prefixes
Take on the task of tackling both groups of these tricksters — prefixes and prepositions. Prefixes are an important yet sometimes overlooked part of German. They alter
the meaning of the word they’re attached to, and some prefixes in combination with
certain verb tenses are unattached, so they have a quirky word order.
The preppy prepositions make great friends if you put in a fair amount of effort to find
out which case you’re dealing with. The bottom line is never to underestimate the
power of a preposition. They’re more influential in deciding the outcome of a noun
or adjective’s ending than you’d imagine at first. Also, some prepositions — such as
entlang — are placed after the words they’re linked to: Gehen Sie die Straße entlang
(Go along this street).
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Part V: The Part of Tens
Prepositions modify the information following them using one of three cases: accusative, dative, or genitive. The words following the preposition, such as mit (in, with),
have case endings corresponding to the dative case. Check out the following sentence:
Ich fahre gern mit meinem alten Kabriolet. (I like to drive my old convertible [car].)
The case endings for the dative preposition mit are in bold.
Some words, such as ab, an, auf, für, and zu, are both prepositions and prefixes in
German; knowing which is which can be a challenge. Many are so short they seem to
get hidden at the tail end of other words, or worse, squashed mercilessly in the
middle of a verb that’s been relegated to the back of the sentence: nett, Sie kennen
zu lernen (nice to meet you). When zu is the prefix of the verb zumachen (to close),
it’s at the end of the sentence in present tense; for example, Machen Sie bitte die Tür
zu (Please close the door).
Skipping Capitalization and Umlauts
Yield to the speed of lifestyles these days, and you’re likely to wish e. e. cummings
had gotten his way and eradicated nearly all capitalization. Well, he didn’t, and your
otherwise passable German can become confusing if you’re sloppy about which
words to capitalize.
Improper capitalization may just be the easiest blunder to remedy as soon as you
realize how few ground rules there are. By now, you probably know to capitalize all
nouns, as well as Sie (the formal address for you) and its sidekicks, Ihnen and Ihr.
The sticklers are the adjectives that function as nouns, such as nationalities and
colors. You see nationalities and colors used as nouns and adjectives, but only the
nouns are capitalized:
Ein Amerikaner (noun) fuhr sein deutsches (adjective) Auto. (An American was
driving his German car.)
Er hatte die gelbe (adjective) Ampel nicht gesehen, und fuhr bei Rot (noun)
über die Ampel. (He didn’t see the yellow light and drove through a red light.)
Although the red in red light is an adjective in English, it’s a noun in German. How
can that be? It’s alone (bei Rot), without mentioning Ampel, so it’s functioning as
a noun.
Like capitalization, umlauts are small typography elements that can have big impact
on meaning. Making pronunciation distinctions is one obvious role they play. In addition, German offers five ways of making nouns plural in German, and some of them
use umlauts. Should you write Bruder (brother) when you really mean the plural
Brüder (brothers), the reader may get the math mixed up.
Slipping on Super Slick Sentences
You get your engines revved and you’re ready to Deutsch sprechen oder schreiben
(speak or write German), so you figure, why not make a nice, long sentence instead of
short, choppy baby sentences like See Spot run? Sure . . . if you know how to juggle a
million grammar rules faster than the speed of your tongue or keyboard. How about
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Chapter 20: Ten Pitfalls to Avoid in German
slowing down? The goal of any language is communication, and a lean, clear sentence
is more likely to get your point across. You’re probably on thin ice grammatically
speaking if your sentence runs longer than two lines — unless Goethe is your idol.
Ready for a challenge? You’re at the point where you feel confident with your basics
that include subject, verb, and object to form a reasonably coherent sentence? Great.
Here’s how to gradually work your way up to more-complex sentences:
U Think: Is the word order fine? If that’s taken care of, consider adding some extra
information, a second idea that you connect with und (and), oder (or), or aber
(but). Word order with these conjunctions is no issue; just use them as connectors (Chapter 14 explains conjunctions).
U Want to use the present perfect (conversational past) in a sentence and connect
it with a second sentence in the present perfect? Still no problem, as long as you
• Remember the word order for present perfect verbs.
• Stick to it for both sentence parts you want to link.
Chapter 16 can fill you in on the present perfect.
U For further challenges, such as using the conjunctions that change word order —
like weil (because), obwohl (although), and damit (so that) — build your sentence slowly, thinking about where to place the verbs.
Write down any successful sentence patterns, the ones that have the correct
word order using more-complicated wording, and store them. You can use them
again by cutting and pasting the necessary words you need into the basic framework of the two-part sentences you construct.
Being Informal on the Wrong Occasion
Being informal on the wrong occasion isn’t a matter of wearing jeans to a countryclub wedding. It’s a matter of using du on the wrong occasion. You should show
respect, distance, and decorum by addressing your listener or reader as Sie when
appropriate. That last tidbit — when appropriate — is the kicker. In a nutshell, use Sie
to speak or write to everyone except relatives, children, friends, dogs, cats, and the
talking horse.
Try to find out ahead of time whether the business partner, new neighbor, or other
German speaker you’re talking with or writing to has an academic or medical title of
doctor. If so, address that person with Guten Morgen, Herr Doktor Schimmelreiter
over the fence or Sehr geehrte Frau Doktor Hufnagel in a letter. Otherwise, Frau
Scherzl or Herr Semmeler is sufficient to keep someone on your good side.
Rejecting Review
Instead of hurrying with your writing, give it a quick read-through again. You can use
a plethora of means to check your written language. Go for it. Try a different method
for a week and decide which works best for you — maybe use all of them. Here are
some options that may be right for you:
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Part V: The Part of Tens
U Consult native speakers diplomatically (buy them lunch and ask for pointers on
the market study you’re preparing to implement).
U Go to a bookstore that has the kind of coffee you like and peruse the
German/English dictionaries . . . and your wallet. Then splurge (I don’t mean on
the coffee). Next, go online and compare dictionary resources there.
U Try using a German spell check.
U Use this book to consult the topics that are your weak points.
Do something, anything, but don’t click on send before you read, review, and revamp.
Giving Up
When working on mastering a new language or a new sport, you may reach a plateau
where you get totally discouraged and want to throw in the towel. That’s exactly the
time to rally, run to the fridge, and grab a smoothie, energy drink, water, or whatever
is truthfully going to enable you to get past that stumbling block — and beyond.
When you hit that Mauer aus Ziegelstein (brick wall), simply go around it. Feel good
about what you already know.
The minute you start comparing your progress in German to that of a 10-year-old
German-speaking kid, stop. Stop, look, and listen to yourself. You’re an adult, so be
proud that the way you acquire language is far different from kids’ bantering on the
playground. Adults tend to enjoy analyzing and comparing languages; kids accept
and use language, no holds barred. What you know as an adult, you probably won’t
forget — and if you do, you can implement effective language tools and your mental
resources to get back on track. Viel Glück! (Good luck!)
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Part VI
Appendixes
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T
In this part . . .
he four appendixes in this part offer you easy access
to verbs, cases, and word lists. Appendix A is your
reference on forming verbs in the tenses I describe in this
book. Use Appendix B as an overview of how case interacts with various parts of speech. In Appendix C, you find
an alphabetical English-German list of important words
used in this book; Appendix D is its counterpart, with a
German-English mini-dictionary.
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Appendix A
Verb Charts
I
n this appendix, I list the conjugations for various verbs in order of the subject
pronouns, from first- to third-person singular, then from first- to third-person
plural, and finally the formal second-person address: ich, du, er/sie/es, wir, ihr, sie,
and Sie. For the imperative (used for suggestions and commands), the persons are
du, ihr, Sie. You also find a list that contains the principal parts of high-frequency
strong and irregular weak verbs.
Conjugating Verbs in Present
and Simple Past Tenses
You conjugate verbs in the present and simple past by combining the appropriate stem
and ending for that verb. I list the endings in Table A-1. The patterns are as follows:
U Present tense; simple past tense of weak regular verbs: Start with the stem
(infinitive minus -en ending); add the appropriate ending from Table A-1.
U Simple past tense of weak irregular verbs and strong verbs: Begin with the
simple past stem; add the appropriate ending from Table A-1.
Table A-1
Present-Tense and Simple-Past-Tense Verb Endings
Subject
Pronoun
Present:
Most Verbs
Present:
Stem Ending
in d, t, fn, gn
Simple Past:
Weak Verbs
(Regular and
Irregular)
Simple Past:
Weak Verbs,
Stem Ending
in d, t, fn, gn
Simple Past:
Strong Verbs
ich
-e
-e
-te
-ete
-
du
-st
-est
-test
-etest
-st
er/sie/es
-t
-et
-te
-ete
-
wir
-en
-en
-ten
-eten
-en
ihr
-t
-et
-tet
-etet
-t
sie
-en
-en
-ten
-eten
-en
Sie
-en
-en
-ten
-eten
-en
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Part VI: Appendixes
Conjugating Verbs in the Present
Perfect, Future, and Subjunctive
The following sections show you how to conjugate verbs so you can use them in your
writing and speech.
Present perfect
To form the present perfect, you conjugate the present tense of the auxiliary haben
(to have) or sein (to be); then add the past participle; for example, ich habe gesehen
(I [have] seen) and Ich bin gegangen (I have gone/went).
For the past participle of most weak verbs, take the prefix ge-, add the infinitive stem
(formed by dropping the -en from the infinitive), and add the ending -t. Example: ge- +
wohn- + -t = gewohnt (lived). Verbs with the stem ending in d, t, fn, or gn add -e
before the final -t ending. Example: ge- + arbeit- + -et = gearbeitet (worked).
Some verbs don’t use the ge- prefix. Examples include verbs with the infinitive ending
in -ieren, such as informieren (to inform) → informiert (informed) and telefonieren
(to telephone) → telefoniert (telephoned). Some inseparable-prefix verbs that don’t
use the ge- prefix include bekommen (to get), gehören (to belong to), and vergessen
(to forget).
The past participle of most strong verbs begins with the prefix ge- and ends in -en.
Many past participles have stem vowel changes, and some have both vowel and consonant changes. For example, sehen (to see) → gesehen (seen) has no stem change;
finden (to find) → gefunden (found) has a vowel change; and sitzen (to sit) →
gesessen (sat) has both vowel and consonant changes. Table A-2, at the end of this
chapter, shows the past participles for strong verbs.
The past participles of irregular verbs such as auxiliaries may have different endings.
I show these endings separately in the corresponding charts in this appendix.
Future
For the future tense, conjugate the present tense of the auxiliary verb werden —
werde, wirst, wird, werden, werdet, werden, werden — and add the infinitive form
of the main verb. Example: Ich werde fahren (I will go/drive).
Subjunctive
In most cases of the present subjunctive, conjugate the subjunctive of the auxiliary
verb werden — würde, würdest, würde, würden, würdet, würden, würden — and
add the infinitive form of the main verb. Example: Ich würde leben (I would live).
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Appendix A: Verb Charts
Weak Verbs
Regular verbs (no stem change
in the simple past)
wohnen (to live, reside)
Present Tense Stem: wohnSimple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): wohnte
Past Participle: gewohnt; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive: würde wohnen
Present: wohne, wohnst, wohnt, wohnen, wohnt, wohnen, wohnen
Simple Past: wohnte, wohntest, wohnte, wohnten, wohntet, wohnten, wohnten
Imperative: wohne, wohnt, wohnen Sie
Some other verbs like this are brauchen (to need), feiern (to celebrate), glauben
(to believe), hören (to hear), kaufen (to buy), lachen (to laugh), lernen (to learn),
machen (to make, do), sagen (to say), and spielen (to play).
Regular verbs (with stem ending
in -d, -t, -fn or -gn)
arbeiten (to work)
Present Tense Stem: arbeitSimple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): arbeitete
Past Participle: gearbeitet; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive: würde arbeiten
Present: arbeite, arbeitest, arbeitet, arbeiten, arbeitet, arbeiten, arbeiten
Simple Past: arbeitete, arbeitetest, arbeitete, arbeiteten, arbeitetet, arbeiteten,
arbeiteten
Imperative: arbeite, arbeitet, arbeiten Sie
Some other verbs like this are kosten (to cost), öffnen (to open), reden (to talk),
regnen (to rain), and warten (to wait).
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Part VI: Appendixes
Irregular weak verbs (stem change
in the simple past)
denken (to think)
Present Tense Stem: denkSimple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): dachte
Past Participle: gedacht; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive: würde denken
Present: denke, denkst, denkt, denken, denkt, denken, denken
Simple Past: dachte, dachtest, dachte, dachten, dachtet, dachten, dachten
Imperative: denke, denkt, denken Sie
Other verbs like this are listed in Table A-2, at the end of this chapter.
Strong Verbs
Verbs with auxiliary haben
trinken (to drink)
Present Tense Stem: trinkSimple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): trank
Past Participle: getrunken; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive: würde trinken
Present: trinke, trinkst, trinkt, trinken, trinkt, trinken, trinken
Simple Past: trank, trankst, trank, tranken, trankt, tranken, tranken
Imperative: trinke, trinkt, trinken Sie
Other verbs like this are listed in Table A-2.
Verbs with auxiliary sein
kommen (to come)
Present Tense Stem: kommSimple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): kam
Past Participle: gekommen; Auxiliary Verb: sein
Present Subjunctive: würde kommen
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Appendix A: Verb Charts
Present: komme, kommst, kommt, kommen, kommt, kommen, kommen
Simple Past: kam, kamst, kam, kamen, kamt, kamen, kamen
Imperative: komme, kommt, kommen Sie
Other verbs like this are listed in Table A-2.
Verbs with present-tense vowel change
in second- and third-person singular
lesen (to read)
Present Tense Stem: les-; Present Tense Vowel Change: liest
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): las
Past Participle: gelesen; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive: würde lesen
Present: lese, liest, liest, lesen, lest, lesen, lesen
Simple Past: las, lasest, las, lasen, last, lasen, lasen
Imperative: lies, lest, lesen Sie
Other verbs like this are listed in Table A-2.
Separable-Prefix Verbs
mitbringen (to bring along)
Present Tense Stem: bring- mit
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): brachte mit
Past Participle: mitgebracht; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive: würde mitbringen
Present: mitbringe, mitbringst, mitbringt, mitbringen, mitbringt, mitbringen,
mitbringen
Simple Past: brachte mit, brachtest mit, brachte mit, brachten mit, brachtet mit,
brachten mit, brachten mit
Imperative: bringe mit, bringt mit, bringen Sie mit
Some other similar verbs are anhaben (to wear), anrufen (to telephone), fernsehen
(to watch TV), and vorhaben (to plan).
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Part VI: Appendixes
Inseparable-Prefix Verbs (without Ge- Prefix
in the Past Participle)
Verbs with a past participle ending in -t
bezahlen (to pay)
Present Tense Stem: bezahlSimple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): bezahlte
Past Participle: bezahlt; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive: würde bezahlen
Present: bezahle, bezahlst, bezahlt, bezahlen, bezahlt, bezahlen, bezahlen
Simple Past: bezahlte, bezahltest, bezahlte, bezahlten, bezahltet, bezahlten,
bezahlten
Imperative: bezahle, bezahlt, bezahlen Sie
Some other verbs like this are beantworten (to answer), besuchen (to visit), erklären
(to explain), gehören (to belong to), and versuchen (to try).
Verbs with a past participle ending in -en
gefallen (to like)
Present Tense Stem: gefallPresent-Tense Vowel Change (in 2nd/3rd-person singular): gefällSimple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): gefiel
Past Participle: gefallen; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive: würde gefallen
Present: gefalle, gefällst, gefällt, gefallen, gefallt, gefallen, gefallen
Simple Past: gefiel, gefielst, gefiel, gefielen, gefielt, gefielen, gefielen
Imperative: gefalle, gefallt, gefallen Sie
Other verbs like this are listed in Table A-2, at the end of the chapter.
Auxiliary Verbs Haben, Sein, and Werden
haben (to have)
Present (and auxiliary for verbs using haben in present perfect): habe, hast,
hat, haben, habt, haben, haben
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): hatte
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Appendix A: Verb Charts
Past Participle: gehabt; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive (same as simple past with umlaut): hätte, hättest, hätte,
hätten, hättet, hätten, hätten
Simple Past: hatte, hattest, hatte, hatten, hattet, hatten, hatten
Imperative: habe, habt, haben Sie
sein (to be)
Present (and auxiliary for verbs using sein in present perfect): bin, bist, ist,
sind, seid, sind, sind
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): war
Past Participle: gewesen; Auxiliary Verb: sein
Present Subjunctive: wäre, wärest, wäre, wären, wäret, wären, wären
Simple Past: war, warst, war, waren, wart, waren, waren
Imperative: sei, seid, seien Sie
werden (to become, shall, will)
Present: werde, wirst, wird, werden, werdet, werden
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): wurde
Past Participle: geworden; Auxiliary Verb: sein
Present Subjunctive (same as simple past with umlaut): würde, würdest, würde,
würden, würdet, würden, würden
Simple Past: wurde, wurdest, wurde, wurden, wurdet, wurden, wurden
Imperative: werde, werdet, werden Sie
Note: The present of werden is the auxiliary verb for forming the future tense, and the
present subjunctive is the auxiliary verb for many verbs in the present subjunctive.
Modal Auxiliary Verbs
dürfen (to be allowed, may)
Present: darf, darfst, darf, dürfen, dürft, dürfen, dürfen
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): durfte
Past Participle: gedurft; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive (same as simple past with umlaut): dürfte
Simple Past: durfte, durftest, durfte, durften, durftet, durften, durften
können (to be able to, can, to know how to do something)
Present: kann, kannst, kann, können, könnt, können, können
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): konnte
Past Participle: gekonnt; Auxiliary Verb: haben
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Part VI: Appendixes
Present Subjunctive (same as simple past with umlaut): könnte
Simple Past: konnte, konntest, konnte, konnten, konntet, konnten, konnten
mögen (to like [to], want to)
Present: mag, magst, mag, mögen, mögt, mögen, mögen
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): mochte
Past Participle: gemocht; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive (same as simple past with umlaut): möchte (would like to)
Simple Past: mochte, mochtest, mochte, mochten, mochtet, mochten, mochte
müssen (to have to, must)
Present: muss, musst, muss, müssen, müsst, müssen, müssen
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): musste
Past Participle: gemusst; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive (same as simple past with umlaut): müsste
Simple Past: musste, musstest, musste, mussten, musstet, mussten, mussten
sollen (to be supposed to, should)
Present: soll, sollst, soll, sollen, sollt, sollen, sollen
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): sollte
Past Participle: gesollt; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive (same as simple past): sollte
Simple Past: sollte, solltest, sollte, sollten, solltet, sollten, sollten
wollen (to want to)
Present: will, willst, will, wollen, wollt, wollen, wollen
Simple Past (1st/3rd-person singular): wollte
Past Participle: gewollt; Auxiliary Verb: haben
Present Subjunctive (same as simple past): wollte
Simple Past: wollte, wolltest, wollte, wollten, wolltet, wollten, wollten
Principal Parts of Weak Verbs
Table A-2 contains high-frequency strong verbs, irregular weak verbs, modal auxiliaries, common separable-prefix verbs whose base verb is not listed, haben (to have),
and sein (to be). The past participles that use the auxiliary sein are indicated; the
others use haben.
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Appendix A: Verb Charts
Table A-2
Principal Parts of Strong and Irregular Weak Verbs
Infinitive
Stem Change
(3rd-Person
Singular
Present)
Simple Past
Past Participle
English Meaning
anfangen
fängt an
fing an
angefangen
to start, begin
anrufen
rief an
angerufen
to telephone
beginnen
begann
begonnen
to begin
bekommen
bekam
bekommen
to get
bleiben
blieb
ist geblieben
to stay
brach
gebrochen
to break
bringen
brachte
gebracht
to bring
denken
dachte
gedacht
to think
brechen
bricht
dürfen
darf
durfte
gedurft
to be permitted to, may
einladen
lädt ein
lud ein
eingeladen
to invite
empfehlen
empfiehlt
empfahl
empfohlen
to recommend
entschied
entschieden
to decide
entscheiden
essen
isst
aß
gegessen
to eat
fahren
fährt
fuhr
ist gefahren
to go, drive, travel
fallen
fällt
fiel
ist gefallen
to fall
finden
fand
gefunden
to find
fliegen
flog
ist geflogen
to fly
geben
gibt
gab
gegeben
to give
gefallen
gefällt
gefiel
gefallen
to like
gehen
ging
ist gegangen
to go
gewinnen
gewann
gewonnen
to win
haben
hat
hatte
gehabt
to have
halten
hält
hielt
gehalten
to hold, stop
hieß
geheißen
to be called, named
half
geholfen
to help
kennen
kannte
gekannt
to know (person)
kommen
kam
ist gekommen
to come
heißen
helfen
hilft
können
kann
konnte
gekonnt
to be able to, can
lassen
lässt
ließ
gelassen
to let
(continued)
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Part VI: Appendixes
Table A-2 (continued)
Infinitive
Stem Change
(3rd-Person
Singular
Present)
Simple Past
Past Participle
English Meaning
laufen
läuft
lief
ist gelaufen
to run
lesen
liest
las
gelesen
to read
lag
gelegen
to lie (situated)
liegen
mögen
mag
mochte
gemocht
to like
müssen
muss
musste
gemusst
to have to, must
nehmen
nimmt
nahm
genommen
to take
schlafen
schläft
schlief
geschlafen
to sleep
schließen
schloss
geschlossen
to close
schreiben
schrieb
geschrieben
to write
schwimmen
schwamm
ist geschwommen to swim
sehen
sieht
sah
gesehen
to see
sein
ist
war
ist gewesen
to be
singen
sang
gesungen
to sing
sitzen
saß
gesessen
to sit
sollen
soll
sollte
gesollt
to be supposed to,
should
sprechen
spricht
sprach
gesprochen
to speak
stand
gestanden
to stand
stehen
sterben
stirbt
starb
ist gestorben
to die
tragen
trägt
trug
getragen
to wear, carry
treffen
trifft
traf
getroffen
to meet
trinken
trank
getrunken
to drink
tun
tat
getan
to do
vergaß
vergessen
to forget
verlieren
verlor
verloren
to lose
verstehen
verstand
verstanden
to understand
vergessen
vergisst
waschen
wäscht
wusch
gewaschen
to wash
werden
wird
wurde
ist geworden
to become, will
wissen
weiß
wusste
gewusst
to know (fact)
wollen
will
wollte
gewollt
to want (to)
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Appendix B
Case Charts
U
se these charts as a quick reference guide to articles, pronouns, and adjectives
with case, gender, or number endings. You also find prepositions listed by case.
Articles
In this section, you find the definite articles der, die, and das (the) and the indefinite
articles ein and eine (a, an). I also list the ein- words with the indefinite articles; they
have the same case endings.
Definite articles (the)
Table B-1 shows all the ways to say the in German.
Table B-1
Definite Articles
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative
der
die
das
die
Accusative
den
die
das
die
Dative
dem
der
dem
den
Genitive
des
der
des
der
Indefinite articles (a, an) and ein- words
Table B-2 shows the indefinite article ein (a, an) and the ein- words, which have the
same case endings as ein. These words include kein (no, not, not any) and the possessive adjectives: mein (my), dein (your), sein (his/its), ihr (her), unser (our), euer
(your), ihr (their), and Ihr (your). Each box in the table includes ein and the possessive
adjectives mein and unser. All other possessive adjectives use these same endings.
I indicate the case endings for all ein- words separately, as well as in each word, in bold.
Note: The word ein has no plural, so I put kein in the plural slot.
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Part VI: Appendixes
Table B-2
Ein, Kein, and Ein- Words
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative
ein, mein,
unser
-
eine, meine,
unsere
-e
ein, mein,
unser
-
keine, meine,
unsere
-e
Accusative
einen, meinen,
unseren
-en
eine, meine,
unsere
-e
ein, mein,
unser
-
keine, meine,
unsere
-e
Dative
einem, meinem,
unserem
-em
einer, meiner,
unserer
-er
einem, meinem,
unserem
-em
keinen, meinen,
unseren
-en
Genitive
eines, meines,
unseres
-es
einer, meiner,
unserer
-er
eines, meines,
unseres
-es
keiner, meiner,
unserer
-er
Pronouns
In this section, you find the pronoun group: personal pronouns (in nominative case: I,
you, he/she/it, we, you, they), relative pronouns (who, whom, whose, that), demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those), reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, himself,
herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves), and the interrogative pronoun who.
Personal pronouns
Table B-3 shows the personal pronouns in the three cases: nominative, accusative, and
dative. In this section, I list the conjugations in order of the pronouns, from first- to
third-person singular, then first- to third-person plural, and finally the formal secondperson address (Sie). The nominative case is ich, du, er/sie/es, wir, ihr, sie, Sie.
Table B-3
Personal Pronouns
Nominative Case
Accusative Case
Dative Case
ich (I)
mich (me)
mir (me)
du (you) (s., inf.)
dich (you)
dir (you)
er (he)
ihn (him)
ihm (him)
sie (she)
sie (her)
ihr (her)
es (it)
es (it)
ihm (it)
wir (we)
uns (us)
uns (us)
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Appendix B: Case Charts
Nominative Case
Accusative Case
Dative Case
ihr (you) (pl., inf.)
euch (you)
euch (you)
sie (they)
sie (them)
ihnen (them)
Sie (you) (s. or pl., form.)
Sie (you)
Ihnen (you)
Relative and demonstrative pronouns
The relative and demonstrative pronouns are the same in German (see Table B-4). In
English, the relative pronouns are who, whom, whose, and that, and the demonstrative
pronouns are this, that, these, and those.
Table B-4
Relative and Demonstrative Pronouns
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative
der
die
das
die
Accusative
den
die
das
die
Dative
dem
der
dem
denen
Genitive (relative
pronouns only)
dessen
deren
dessen
deren
Note: Another demonstrative pronoun, dieser, also has the same meanings in English:
this, that, these, those. You can see it in Table B-5 with the der- words.
Der- words
The der- words all have the same case endings. They include dieser (this, that, these,
those), jeder (each, every), mancher (some), solcher (such), and welcher (which).
Table B-5 shows the endings in bold.
Table B-5
Der- Words
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative
dieser
diese
dieses
diese
Accusative
diesen
diese
dieses
diese
Dative
diesem
dieser
diesem
diesen
Genitive
dieses
dieser
dieses
dieser
301
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302
Part VI: Appendixes
Reflexive pronouns
The reflexive pronouns include myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. Table B-6 also includes personal pronouns (nominative case)
for reference.
Table B-6
Reflexive Pronouns
Nominative of Personal Pronouns
Accusative (Reflexive)
Dative (Reflexive)
ich (I)
mich (myself)
mir (myself)
du (you) (s., inf.)
dich (yourself)
dir (yourself)
er (he)
sich (himself)
sich (himself)
sie (she)
sich (herself)
sich (herself)
es (it)
sich (itself)
sich (itself)
wir (we)
uns (ourselves)
uns (ourselves)
ihr (you) (pl., inf.)
euch (yourselves)
euch (yourselves)
sie (they)
sich (themselves)
sich (themselves)
Sie (you) (s. or pl., form.)
sich (yourself/
yourselves)
sich (yourself/
yourselves)
Interrogative pronoun who
Table B-7 shows the interrogative (question) pronoun who.
Table B-7
Interrogative Pronoun Who
Case
Pronoun
English Equivalent
Nominative
wer
who
Accusative
wen
whom
Dative
wem
(to) whom
Genitive
wessen
whose
Adjectives
In this section, you find the adjective tables showing case endings for adjectives not
preceded by an article and for preceded adjectives (after der- words and after einwords). You also find a comparison table for irregular adjectives and adverbs.
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Appendix B: Case Charts
Adjectives without der- or ein- words
(not preceded)
Table B-8 shows endings for adjectives that aren’t preceded by an article (der/die/das
or ein/eine) or other modifiers (der- words, such as dieser and solcher, and einwords, such as mein and kein). The endings are shown separately in bold.
Table B-8
Adjective Endings Not Preceded
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative
guter Käse
(good cheese)
-er
schmackhafte
Wurst
(tasty sausage)
-e
leckeres Brot
köstliche
(delicious bread) Kuchen
-es
(delicious cakes)
-e
Accusative
guten Käse
-en
schmackhafte
Wurst
-e
leckeres Brot
-es
köstliche
Kuchen
-e
Dative
gutem Käse
-em
schmackhafter
Wurst
-er
leckerem Brot
-em
köstlichen
Kuchen
-en
Genitive
guten Käses
-en
schmackhafter
Wurst
-er
leckeren Brotes
-en
köstlicher
Kuchen
-er
Preceded adjectives
Table B-9 shows endings for adjectives that are preceded by an article (der/die/das
or ein/eine) or other modifier (der- words or ein- words). The adjective endings are
shown in bold.
Table B-9
Preceded Adjective Endings
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Nominative
der lustige Mann
ein lustiger Mann
die glückliche
Frau
eine glückliche
Frau
das brave Kind
ein braves Kind
die lustigen
Männer
keine lustigen
Männer
Accusative
den lustigen Mann
einen lustigen
Mann
die glückliche
Frau
eine glückliche
Frau
das brave Kind
ein braves Kind
die lustigen
Männer
keine lustigen
Männer
(continued)
303
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304
Part VI: Appendixes
Table B-9 (continued)
Case
Masculine
Feminine
Neuter
Plural
Dative
dem lustigen
Mann
einem lustigen
Mann
der glücklichen
Frau
einer glücklichen
Frau
dem braven Kind
einem braven
Kind
den lustigen
Männern
keinen lustigen
Männern
Genitive
des lustigen
Mannes
eines lustigen
Mannes
der glücklichen
Frau
einer glücklichen
Frau
des braven
Kindes
eines braven
Kindes
der lustigen
Männer
keiner lustigen
Männer
Note: The plural endings for preceded adjectives are the same in masculine, feminine,
and neuter.
Irregular comparison (adjectives and adverbs)
Table B-10 shows how you form the base, comparative, and superlative forms of irregular adjectives and adverbs.
Table B-10
Irregular Comparison Forms
Base
Comparative
Superlative
bald (soon)
eher (sooner)
am ehesten (soonest)
gern (like/enjoy
[doing something])
lieber (prefer)
am liebsten (like most of all)
gut (good)
besser (better)
am besten (best)
hoch (high)
höher (higher)
am höchsten (highest)
nah (near)
näher (nearer)
am nächsten (nearest)
viel (much)
mehr (more)
am meisten (most)
Prepositions
German prepositions have a case: accusative, dative, or genitive. Some prepositions
have two cases (accusative and dative). This section gives you the basics.
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Appendix B: Case Charts
Accusative, dative, and genitive prepositions
Table B-11 shows accusative prepositions and their English equivalents.
Table B-11
Accusative, Dative, and Genitive Prepositions
Accusative
Dative
Genitive
Preposition
English
Equivalent(s)
Preposition
English
Equivalent(s)
Preposition English
Equivalent(s)
bis
till, until (also:
conjunction
until)
aus
from, out of
(an)statt
from, out of
durch
through, by
außer
besides,
except for
außerhalb
besides,
except for
für
for
bei
at (a home of,
a place of
business),
near, with
innerhalb
at (a home of,
a place of
business),
near, with
gegen
against, for
mit
with, by
(means of
transportation)
trotz
with, by
(means of
transportation)
ohne
without
nach
after, past, to
(no article for
cities and
countries)
während
after, past, to
(no article for
cities and
countries)
um
around, for, at
seit
for, since
entlang
along, down
von
by, from, of
zu
to (with people
and certain
places)
Note: Entlang (along, down) can be an accusative, dative, or genitive preposition.
Note: There’s no difference between anstatt and statt (instead of), a genitive
prepostion.
305
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306
Part VI: Appendixes
Two-way prepositions: Accusative/dative
Table B-12 shows accusative/dative prepositions and their English equivalents. These
prepositions can take the accusative case or the dative case, depending on how
they’re used in a sentence (see Chapter 15 for details).
Table B-12
Accusative/Dative Prepositions
Preposition
English Equivalent(s)
an
at, on, to
auf
on, onto, to
hinter
behind, to the back of
in
in, into, to
neben
beside, next to
über
above, over
unter
under, underneath
vor
in front of
zwischen
between
Note: The preposition entlang (along, down) can take the accusative, dative, and
sometimes genitive case. You can place it in front of or after its object.
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Appendix C
English-German Dictionary
H
ere’s some of the German vocabulary used throughout this book, arranged
alphabetically by the English translation, to help you when reading or listening
to German.
a, an: ein
to begin: anfangen, beginnen
(to be) able to, can: können
before: vor
after, to: nach
behind: hinter
again: wieder
between: zwischen
all: alle
to bring: bringen
to allow, let: lassen
but: aber, doch
(to be) allowed to: dürfen
but rather: sondern
also: auch
to buy: kaufen
although: obwohl
by: an, bei
always: immer
(to be) called, named: heißen
and: und
can: können
to answer: antworten
to carry: tragen
around, at: um
to come: kommen
to ask: fragen
to cost: kosten
at: an, auf, bei, um
to cut: schneiden
bad: schlecht
to dance: tanzen
(to) be: sein
to do: tun, machen
to be called, named: heißen
to drink: trinken
because: da, denn, weil
to drive: fahren
because of: wegen
dry: trocken
to become, will: werden
during: während
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308
Part VI: Appendixes
to eat: essen
his: sein
to enjoy: gefallen
to hold, stop: halten
except for: außer
to hope: hoffen
to fall: fallen
how: wie
few: wenig(e)
how many: wie viele
to find: finden
how much: wie viel
to fit: passen
I: ich
to fly: fliegen
if, whether: wenn
for: für, seit (time)
if: ob
to forget: vergessen
in: in
from where: woher
in case: falls
from: von, aus
in order to: um . . . zu . . .
to get: bekommen
in spite of: trotz
to give: geben
inexpensive: billig
to give (a present): schenken
instead of: statt
to go: gehen, fahren
it; its: es, ihm; sein
good: gut
to know (fact): wissen
happy: glücklich
to know (be familiar with): kennen
to have: haben
last: letzter
to have to, must: müssen
to last: dauern
he: er
late: spät
to hear: hören
to laugh: lachen
to help: helfen
to learn: lernen
her: sie, ihr
to let, allow: lassen
here: hier
to like (to): mögen
high: hoch
to like, enjoy: gefallen
to hike: wandern
little (quantity): wenig
him: ihn, ihm
to live: wohnen, leben
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Appendix C: English-German Dictionary
to lose: verlieren
perhaps: vielleicht
long: lang
to play: spielen
lovely, gorgeous: wunderschön
polite: höflich
to make, do: machen
to put: stellen, setzen
may: dürfen
to rain: regnen
me: mich, mir
to read: lesen
to meet: treffen
to recommend: empfehlen
must: müssen
to run: laufen
my: mein
to say: sagen
(to be) named, called: heißen
to see: sehen
near: nah, in der Nähe von
sensible: vernünftig
to need: brauchen
she, it, they: sie
next: nächster
to go shopping: einkaufen
next to: neben
should: sollen
nice: nett
since: seit
no: nein
to sing: singen
not: kein, nicht
to sit down: setzen
not only . . . but also: nicht nur . . .
sondern auch
to sleep: schlafen
slow(ly): langsam
now: jetzt
so; so that: also; damit
of course: gewiss, klar
some, something: etwas
often: oft
to speak: sprechen
old: alt
to stand: stehen, stellen
on: auf, an
to stay: bleiben
only: nur
still: noch
or: oder
to stop: halten
our: unser
to study: studieren
over: über
such: so
to pay: bezahlen, zahlen
309
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310
Part VI: Appendixes
sure: sicher
we: wir
to swim: schwimmen
to wear: tragen
to take: nehmen
wet: nass
to talk: reden, sprechen
what: was
to telephone: anrufen
what kind of: was für
than: als
when: wann, wenn, als
that: dass
where: wo
the: das (n.)/der (m.)/die (f.)
where to: wohin
their: ihr
whether: ob, falls
them: sie, ihnen
which: welch-
then: dann
who: wer
they: sie
why: warum
to: zu, nach
will: werden
to think: denken
to win: gewinnen
this, that, these, those: dies-
with: mit
through: durch
without: ohne
to throw: werfen
to work: arbeiten
to: zu, nach
would like to: möchten
too; too many; too much: zu; zu viele; zu viel
to write: schreiben
to travel: reisen
yes: ja
to understand: verstehen
you (impersonal), one: man
us: uns
you (inf., pl.): ihr, euch
to visit: besuchen
you (form.): Sie, Ihnen
to wait: warten
you (inf., sing.): du, dich, dir
to walk: spazierengehen
young: jung
to want (to): wollen
your (form.): Ihr
to wash: washen
your (inf., pl.): euer
to watch TV: fernsehen
your (inf., sing.): dein
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Appendix D
German-English Dictionary
H
ere’s some of the German vocabulary used throughout this book, arranged
alphabetically by the German translation, to help you when reading or listening
to German.
ab: starting at, away, off
brauchen: to need
aber: but
bringen: to bring
alle: all
da: because
als: than, when
damit: so that
an: at, by, to
dann: then
anfangen: to begin
das (n.): the
anrufen: to telephone
dass: that
antworten: to answer
dauern: to last
arbeiten: to work
dein (inf., sing.): your
auch: also
denken: to think
auf: on
denn: for, because
aus: from, out of
der (m.): the
außer: except for
dich (inf., sing., acc.): you
beginnen: to begin
die (f.): the
bei: at, by, to, with
dieser, diese, dieses: this, that, these, those
bekommen: to get
dir (inf., sing., dat.): you
besuchen: to visit
doch: but, nevertheless
bezahlen: to pay
du (inf., sing.): you
billig: cheap, inexpensive
durch: through, by
bis: by, until
dürfen: to be allowed to, may
bleiben: to stay
ein: a, an
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312
Part VI: Appendixes
einkaufen: to go shopping
hoch: high
empfehlen: to recommend
hoffen: to hope
er: he
höflich: polite
es: it
hören: to hear
essen: to eat
ich: I
etwas: some, something, a little
ihm: him, it
euch (inf., pl., acc./dat.): you
ihn: him
euer (inf., pl.): your
ihnen: them
fahren: to go, drive, travel
Ihnen (form.): you
fallen: to fall
ihr: you (inf., pl.), her, their
falls: if, whether, in case
Ihr (form.): your
fernsehen: to watch TV
immer: always
finden: to find
in: in
fliegen: to fly
ja: yes
fragen: to ask
jetzt: now
für: for
jung: young
geben: to give
kaufen: to buy
gefallen: to like, enjoy
kein: no, not any
gehen: to go
kennen: to know (be familiar with)
gewinnen: to win
klar: of course
gewiss: of course
kommen: to come
glücklich: happy
können: to be able to, can
gut: good
kosten: to cost
haben: to have
lachen: to laugh
halten: to hold, stop
lang: long
heißen: to be called, named
langsam: slow(ly)
helfen: to help
lassen: to let, allow
hier: here
laufen: to run
hinter: behind
leben: to live
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Appendix D: German-English Dictionary
lernen: to learn
oft: often
lesen: to read
ohne: without
letzter: last
passen: to fit
liegen: to lie (down)
reden: to talk
machen: to make, do
regnen: to rain
man (impersonal): you
reisen: to travel
mein: my
sagen: to say
mich: me
schenken: to give (a present)
mir: me
schlafen: to sleep
mit: with
schlecht: bad
möchten: would like to
schneiden: to cut
mögen: to like (to)
schreiben: to write
müssen: to have to, must
schwimmen: to swim
nach: after, to
sehen: to see
nächster: next
sein: to be
nah: near
sein: his, its
nass: wet
seit: since, for
neben: next to
setzen: to sit down, to put
nehmen: to take
sicher: sure, certainly
nein: no
sie: she, her, they, them
nett: nice
Sie (form.): you
nicht: not
singen: to sing
nicht nur . . . sondern auch: not only . . .
but also
so: such, thus, so, as
noch: still, yet
nur: only
ob: if, whether
obwohl: although
oder: or
so . . . wie: as . . . as
sollen: should
sondern: but rather
spazierengehen: to walk
spielen: to play
313
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314
Part VI: Appendixes
sprechen: to speak, talk
was: what
statt: instead of
was für: what kind of
stellen: to put, stand
waschen: to wash
studieren: to study
wegen: because of
tanzen: to dance
weil: because
tragen: to wear, carry
welcher, welche, welches: which
treffen: to meet
wenig: little, few
trinken: to drink
wenn: if, when
trocken: dry
wer: who
trotz: in spite of
werden: to become, will
tun: to do
werfen: to throw
über: over
wie: how
um: around, at
wie viel: how much
um . . . zu . . . : in order to
wie viele: how many
und: and
wieder: again
uns: us
wir: we
unser: our
wissen: to know (fact)
vergessen: to forget
wo: where
verlieren: to lose
woher: from where
vernünftig: sensible
wohin: where to
verstehen: to understand
wohnen: to live
vielleicht: perhaps
wollen: to want (to)
von: from
wunderschön: lovely, gorgeous
vor: before, in front of
zahlen: to pay
während: during
zu: to, at, too
wandern: to hike
zu viel: too much
wann: when
zu viele: too many
warten: to wait
zwischen: between
warum: why
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Index
•A•
ab, 284
abbreviations, dictionary, 14–16
aber, 211
ability verb, 136–139
absentee articles, 25–26
academic titles, 285
accusative case (acc.), 174–175
accusative prepositions
chart, 305
two-way prepositions,
225–227, 306
active reading, 253
adjectives
adverbs that modify, 204
case, 302–304
cognates, 179, 182–183
collocations, 179, 183–184
comparative, 194, 204
comparisons, 193–202
forming endings on, 57,
185–188
opposites, 180–182
ordinal numbers, 40–41
overview, 179–180
participles that function as,
203–204
possessive, 29, 188–189
that act as nouns, 202–203
adverbs
comparisons, 193–202
irregular comparisons, 304
participles that function as,
203–204
that modify adjectives, 204
als, 213
am, 41
an, 170, 283
anstatt, 305
answers. See also questions
diplomatic, 112–115
explaining using dacompounds, 110–112
negative, 104–110
overview, 101
positive, 102–104
appearance, personal, 180–181
arbeiten, 291
articles
absentee, 25–26
definite, 20, 22, 28, 43, 299
indefinite, 24–25, 299–300
assuming, hoping, 270–271
auf, 168, 283
auxiliary verbs, 78, 154–155,
250. See also haben; modal
verbs; sein; werden
•B•
bezahlen, 294
bilingual dictionaries
comparing, 14–15
English-German, 307–310
German-English, 311–314
word searches, 15–16
bills, currency, 39
bis, 228
bleiben, 185, 239
boldfaced text, 2
•C•
capitalization, 47–48, 72, 284
cardinal numbers, 37–40
cart-before-the-horse rule, 38
case
accusative, 174–175, 220–221
accusative/dative, 225–227
adjectives, 302–304
adverbs, 304
articles, 299–300
dative, 175–176, 221–223
downplaying, 282
genitive, 27, 31, 107, 224–225
identifying, 26–27
overview, 9
prepositions, 218, 219, 304,
305, 306
pronouns, 29–30, 300–302
questions with was für (ein),
93–94
reflexive verbs, 169–170
similarities and differences,
27–29
categories, word, 56, 58–60
checking information, 90–91
Christensen, Paulina (German
For Dummies), 2
clocks, 44–45
cognates
categories, 182–183
near, 60–61, 183, 253, 278
collocations, 180–184
colloquialisms, 14
command form, 153. See also
imperative mood
commas, 31, 39–40
comparative form, 193, 204
comparisons
common, 195–197
equals and nonequals,
200–202
irregular forms, 199–200, 304
overview, 193–194
superlatives, 195
between two things, 194–195
umlaut, 198
complex sentences, 284–285
compound nouns, 22, 52–53
conditional mood, 120, 125
conjunctions
coordinating, 207–212
defined, 12
overview, 8–9
subordinating, 207–215
context, 13–14
continuous tense, 8, 81
contractions, 220, 223, 226–227
conversational language, 44–45
conversational past tense, 8.
See also present
perfect tense
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316
Intermediate German For Dummies
countries
and definite articles, 25
German neighbors and trading
partners, 48–49
German-speaking, 46–47
speaking about, 47–48
culture, embracing, 280
currency, 39
•D•
da- compounds, 110–112
das, 20
dates, 42–44
dative case (dat.)
combining verbs with
prepositions, 175–176
defined, 26–27
kein, 107
personal pronouns, 30
reflexive pronouns, 169
relative pronouns, 31
dative prepositions
chart, 305
defined, 221
examples, 218
exercises, 176
forming, 222–223
idiomatic expressions and,
173–174
two-way prepositions, 225–227,
306
vor, 168
days, 42–43
decimal points, 39–40, 43
definite articles
case, 28, 299
and countries, 25
dates, 43
gender, 20
list of, 299
plural, 22
demonstrative pronouns, 32–33,
301
denken, 292
denn, 211
dependent clauses. See
subordinate clauses
der, 20
der- words
adjectives not preceded by,
187–188, 303–304
adjectives preceded by,
185–188, 302
endings, 301
diagrams, word, 59
dictionaries
English-German, 307–310
German-English, 311–314
overview, 14–16
die, 20, 22
diplomatic answers, 112–115
direct objects, 26, 93
disagreement, 277
double infinitives, 128
doubt, 113
dreißig, 38
du, 70–77, 95
dual-prefix verbs, 159–161
dürfen, 135–136, 142, 295
duty verb, 143–144
-ein words
adjectives not preceded by,
187–188, 303–304
adjectives preceded by,
185–188, 302
case, 299–300
gender and, 24–25
•E•
eine, 24–25, 106
einhundert, 39
-en ending, 8
endings
adjectives, 57
case, 27–28
cognates, 60
conjugation, 73–74
forming on adjectives, 185–188
for kein, 106–108
noun, and gender
identification, 21
ordinal numbers, 40–41
past participle, inseparableprefix verbs, 156
plural, 16, 22–23
questions with was für (ein),
93–94
suffixes, 10
verbs, 8, 57
English-German dictionary,
307–310
English tenses
continuous, 8, 81
future, 82, 266
past, 241–242
present, 81–82
entlang, 228, 283, 305, 306
equals, comparing, 200–202
er, 70, 75–77
es, 70, 75–77
es kann sein, 113
euch, 170
exclamation marks, 96
experimentation, 279
expressions
to denote forbidden things, 143
fixed, 113–114
idiomatic, 108–110, 140
of inequality, 200
•F•
fahren, 76
false cognates, 281
false friends, 51, 60, 62–63, 136
familiar person, 70, 75–77
families, word, 56–58
feelings, 125–126
female, 20
feminine, 20–22
first person, 70
fixed expressions, 113–114
fixed phrases, 108–110
formality, 71
Fox, Anne (German For
Dummies), 2
frequently used expressions, 277
für, 172, 283
future tense
charts, 290
defined, 8
English usage, 266
German usage, 266
negation, 271
WWW.IRANMEET.COM
Index
planned activities, 268
present continuous, 266
probability expressions, 272
using present tense instead,
265–269
werden, 269–272, 290
•G•
gefallen, 294
gegenüber, 228, 305
gehen, 129
gell, 90
genau, 102–103
gender
absentee articles, 25–26
compound nouns, 52
countries, 47
defined, 282
demonstrative pronouns, 32
in dictionaries, 15
downplaying, 282
identifying, 20–22
indefinite articles, 24–25
kein, 107
learning, 278
overview, 19
plurals, 22–23
questions with was für (ein),
93–94
relative pronouns, 31
generalizations, 25
genitive case (gen.), 27, 31, 107
genitive prepositions
chart, 305
dative case and, 224–225
defined, 224
examples, 218
forming, 224
list of, 224
German trading partners, 48–49
German-English dictionary,
311–314
German For Dummies
(Christensen, Fox,
and Lorenz), 2
German-speaking countries,
46–47
gern, 78, 140, 199
gerunds, 39
gewiss, 102–103
giving orders, 95, 96
giving up, 286
goals, 280
grammar
case, 9
conjugating verbs, 8–9
exercises, 11
gender, 9, 20, 24
important aspects of, 278
number, 9
overview, 7
word order, 10
gut, 186
•H•
haben
conjugating, 78–79, 294–295
past Subjunctive I, 130
present perfect tense,
233–239, 290
present Subjunctive II,
123–124
with reflexive pronouns, 170
simple past tense, 256–258
strong verbs with, 292
halb, 44
hätte, 123
headwords (~), 14, 56
helping verbs. See auxiliary
verbs
hope, expressing, 270–271
hypothetical situations, 124–125
•I•
ich, 70
idiomatic expressions
accusative prepositions, 174
dative prepositions, 174
defined, 167
with mögen, 140
negative replies and, 108–110
prepositions used, 173
verb expressions, 167–168
verb/preposition combos, 172
-ieren endings, 234, 245–246,
289
ihr, 70–71, 95
imperative mood, 95–97
imperfect past tense. See
simple past tense
in, 172
inanimate objects, 20
indefinite articles, 24–25,
299–300
independent clauses. See main
clauses
indicative mood, 120, 134
indirect objects, 26
infinitives, 8, 128, 269–270
informality, 71, 285
information, checking, 90–91
information-gathering
questions, 87–89
inseparable-prefix verbs
defined, 168
dual-prefix verbs, 160
overview, 155–159
with past participle ending
in -en, 294
with past participle ending
in -t, 294
present perfect tense, 244–245
transitive verbs and, 16
instant online translating tools,
281
intention verbs, 144–146,
270–271
interrogative pronouns, 87–89,
302
intransitive verbs (vi), 14, 16,
239
inverted word order, 10
irregular comparisons, 199–200,
304
irregular verbs
modal verbs, simple past
tense, 292
past participles, 290
present tense, 78–81
simple past tense, 251, 253,
254
strong, 203, 252–255
weak, 236–237, 289, 296–298
-isch endings, 179
•J•
ja, 102–104
jawohl, 102–103
317
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Intermediate German For Dummies
•K•
kein, 106–108, 271
klar, 102–103
kommen, 253, 292–293
können, 124–125, 136–139,
295–296
•L•
labeling, 59
language fluency methods, 279
languages, 47–48
lesen, 76, 293
letzte, 41
likable verb, 139–140
listening skills, 279
Lorenz, Juergen (German For
Dummies), 2
•M•
main clauses, 30–31
main verbs, 135, 141
male. See masculine
manner, 283
maps, 46
markers, gender, 20, 24
masculine, 20–22
maybe, 112–115
medical titles, 285
mehr, 195
memory aids, 8
mich, 170
mitbringen, 293
möchten, 141–142, 145
modal verbs
auxiliary verbs, 297–298
double infinitives and past
subjunctive, 128
dürfen, 135–136, 295
identifying, 134–135, 283
können, 136–139, 295–296
möchten, 141–142
mögen, 139–140, 296
müssen, 142–143, 296
overview, 133–134
present Subjunctive II,
123–124
separable-prefix verbs in
present tense, 153
simple past tense, 258–259
sollen, 143–144, 296
wollen, 144–146, 296
word order and, 135
mögen, 139–140, 296
money, 39
months, 42–43
moods, 8, 119–120. See also
conditional mood;
imperative mood;
indicative mood; modal
verbs; subjunctive mood
müssen, 142–143, 296
nonequals, comparing, 200–202
nouns. See also gender
adjectives that act as, 202–203
capitalization of, 47–48
compound, 22, 52–53
defined, 11
dictionary entries, 15–16
picture compound, 52, 54, 59
plural, 284
predicate, 24, 26–27
number, 9, 16, 32, 70, 282. See
also plurals
numbers, 37–41
•N•
ob, 213
objects, 20, 26, 93
oder, 90, 211
official time, 44
online dictionaries, 15
online translating tools, 281
open-ended questions, 91–93
opinions, 125–126
opposites, 179–182
ordinal numbers, 40–41
nach, 44
nach Hause, 228
nächste, 41
narrating, 249
narrative past. See simple past
tense
nationalities, 25, 46–49
native speakers, 277
natural gender distinction, 20
natürlich, 102–103
near cognates, 51, 60–61, 183,
253, 278
necessity verb, 142–143
negative answers
blunt, avoiding, 108–110
with kein, 106–108
modifying, 114
with nicht, 104–106
negative statements, 153
nehmen, 77
nein, 108
neuter (nt), 9, 20–22
nicht, 90, 104–106, 140, 143, 271
nicht war, 90
nominative case (nom.)
defined, 26–27
demonstrative pronouns,
32–33
kein, 107
personal pronouns, 30
in questions, 93
relative pronouns, 31
•O•
•P•
participles, as adjectives or
adverbs, 203–204. See also
past participles
parts of speech, 11–13
past participles
defined, 203
in dictionary entries, 16
ending in -en, 294
ending in -t, 294
of inseparable-prefix verbs, 156
of separable-prefix verbs,
154, 243
of strong verbs, 238
of weak verbs, 235
past perfect tense, 259–260
past Subjunctive I, 130
past Subjunctive II, 126–128
past tenses. See also simple
past tense
German usage, 260
past perfect, 259–260
WWW.IRANMEET.COM
Index
past Subjunctive I, 130
past Subjunctive II, 126–128
perhaps, 113
periods, 39–40, 43
permission verb, 135–136
personal appearance, 180–181
personal interests, 58
personal pronouns, 27, 29–30,
300–301
persons, 70
phrases
defined, 10, 207
fixed, 108–110
picture compound nouns, 52,
54, 59
pictures, word, 59, 62
place names, 46–49
placement, word. See word
order
places, 283
plateaus, 286
plurals
countries, 47
in dictionaries, 16
gender, 9, 22–23
indefinite articles, 24
nouns, 284
number, 39
polite requests, 125
position, word. See word order
positive statements, 153
possesion. See genitive case
(gen.)
possessive adjectives, 187, 188,
189
possessive pronouns, 29, 188
preceded adjectives, 187, 194,
302
predicate nouns, 24, 26–27
preference verb, 141–142
prefix verbs
dual-, 159–161
inseparable-prefix verbs,
155–159, 244–245, 294
overview, 149–150
separable-prefix verbs,
150–155, 170, 242–244, 293
prefixes, 10, 55, 283–284
prepositional phrases, 217
prepositions. See also
accusative prepositions;
accusative/dative
prepositions
an, 172
auf, 168, 170
combinations, 227–228
combining verbs with,
172–176
da- compounds, 110–112
dative, 218, 221–223, 305
defined, 12, 217
dictionary entries, 16
entlang, 306
für, 172
genitive, 218, 224, 305
importance of, 218
in, 172
meaning, 219
misplacing, 283–284
ordinal numbers and, 41
phrase characteristics, 217
prefixes, 284
in questions beginning with
wo-, 91–92
types of, 217
verb combinations, 55
vor, 168
present continuous tense, 266
present participles, 39, 203
present perfect tense
characteristics of, 228
charts, 290
compared to simple past and
past perfect, 259–260
defined, 8
German versus English,
241–242
haben, 233–239
identifying verbs ending
in -ieren, 242
inseparable-prefix verbs, 242,
244–245
sein, 239–240
separable-prefix verbs,
154–155, 242–244
time elements, 241
translations for German
present tense, 82
verbs ending in -ieren,
245–246
present Subjunctive I, 129
present Subjunctive II
creating with würde, 121–122
haben, 123–124
modal verbs, 123–124
sein, 123
using, 124–126
present subjunctive mood, 290
present tense
charts, 289
conjugations, 73–81
defined, 8
in questions, 86
separable-prefix verbs,
152–153
subject pronouns, 69–72
using, 81–82
using instead of future tense,
265–269
verb endings, 289
probability, expressing with
werden, 272
professions, 25
progressive tense, 8
pronouns. See also gender;
reflexive pronouns;
relative pronouns
cases, 27–30
defined, 11
demonstrative, 32–33, 301
der- words, 301
dictionary entries, 16
interrogative, 87–89, 302
personal, 29–30, 300–301
possessive, 29, 188
subject, 69–72
word order and, 170
pronunciation, 284
punctuation, 96
•Q•
questions. See also answers
interrogative pronouns, 87–89
inverted word order, 10
319
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Intermediate German For Dummies
questions (continued)
making choices, 93–94
modal verbs, 135
open-ended, 91–93
question-command hybrids,
96–97
tag, 90–91
wo- compounds, 91–93
yes/no, 85–87, 153
quotations, 128–130
•R•
reading actively, 253, 279
reflexive pronouns
accusative case, 169
accusative prepositions, 220
case, 302
dative case, 169
dich, 170
euch, 170
ihr, 170
list of, 300
mich, 170
mir, 169
sich, 169, 170
uns, 170
verb/preposition expressions,
170
word order, 170
reflexive verbs
body parts, 170
cases, 169–170
common, 171
defined, 167
overview, 168–169
pronouns and, 16
uses of können with, 138
word order, 170
refusals, 112–115, 114
regular verbs
present tense conjugation,
73–75
weak, 234–236, 251–252, 291
relative clauses, 30–31
relative pronouns
case, 301
clauses and, 30–32
identifying case, 169
list of, 301
similarities to English, 27
religion, 25
requests, 96–97, 125
retention aids, 8
richtig, 102–103
rogues, 239
•S•
schon, 272
seasons, 42–43
second person, 70, 75–77
sein
with adjectives, 185
conjugating, 295
imperative form, 95
overview, 79–81
past Subjunctive I, 130
present perfect tense,
239–240, 256, 290
present Subjunctive II, 123
simple past tense, 256–258
strong verbs with, 292–293
Subjunctive I, 129
selbstverständlich, 102–103
sentences
cases in, 26
complex, 284–285
conditional, 125
defined, 10, 208
German word order, 210
separable prefixes, 16
separable-prefix verbs
anziehen, 170
defined, 168
dual-prefix verbs, 160
examples, 293
overview, 150–152
present perfect tense,
154–155, 242–243
present tense, 152–153
simple past, 153–154
sich, 169
sicher, 102–103, 272
sie, 70, 71–72, 75–77
Sie (you), 70–72, 95
simple past tense
charts, 289
defined, 8
in dictionary entries, 16
English equivalents, 242, 250
German equivalents, 242
German use, 250
haben, 256–258
identifying, 249
irregular verbs, 252–255
modal verbs, 258–259
overview, 249–250
regular verbs, 251
regular weak verbs, 251–252
sein, 256–258
separable-prefix verbs,
153–154
verb endings, 289
simple present tense, 242
singular forms, 9, 22–23
sollen, 143–144, 296
sondern, 211
speech, indirect, 128–130
spelling-change verbs, 75–77
spelling, compound word, 52
sprechen, 76
stark, 184
Starke Nerven, 183
statements, 153
statt, 305
stems, verb, 73, 75
stem-vowel changes, 75–77
strong past participle endings,
156
strong verbs
with auxiliary haben, 292
with auxiliary sein, 292–293
characteristics of, 237
English patterns, 238
irregular, 252–255
past participles, 238, 290
present perfect tense, 237–239
with present-tense vowel
changes, 293
principal parts of, 296–298
simple past tense, 289
subjunctive form, 124
subject pronouns
formality, 70–71
overview, 69–70
sie/Sie, 71–72
subjects
noun genders by, 21–22
sentence, 26, 93
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Index
subjunctive mood
defined, 8, 119–120
Subjunctive I, 128–130
Subjunctive II, 121–129
subjunctive types verses
conditional, 120
subordinate clauses
defined, 208
relative pronouns and, 30–31
subordinating conjunctions
and, 212
word order and, 137, 282
subordinating conjunctions
characteristics of, 213
defined, 207–208
list of, 212
overview, 212
using, 213
word order, 214, 214–215
suffixes, 10, 57
suggestions, 96, 96–97, 112–115,
113–114
superlatives, 195, 204
•T•
tag questions, 90–91
telephone numbers, 39
tense marker, 251
tenses, 8–9. See also future
tense; past perfect tense;
present perfect tense;
present tense; simple past
tense
the, 28
third person, 70, 75–77
time, 283
time expressions
clock and, 44–45
coordinating conjunctions
and, 210
present perfect tense, 241
word order, 267
total verrückt, 184
traits, personal, 180–181
transitive verbs (vt), 14, 16, 239
translating, 281
trinken, 253, 292
tun, 74
two-part verbs, 150
two-way prepositions. See
accusative/dative
prepositions
•U•
über-, 160
Uhr, 45
um-, 160, 167
um ehrlich zu sein, 113
umlauts
capitalization and, 284
comparisons, 198
symbols, 197, 284
und, 211
uns, 170
user-friendly dictionaries, 15
•V•
verbs. See also inseparableprefix verbs; irregular
verbs; modal verbs; prefix
verbs; reflexive verbs;
regular verbs; separableprefix verbs; strong verbs;
weak verbs
auxiliary, 78, 154–155, 250
combinations, 55, 172, 173,
227, 228
combining with prepositions,
172–176
defined, 12
dictionary entries, 16
dual-prefix, 159–161
duty, 143–144
ending in -ieren, 245–246
endings, 8, 57
future tense, 290
haben, 294–295
idiomatic expressions and,
167–168, 172
-ieren, 202, 246
imperative form, 95
intransitive, 14, 16, 239
main, 135, 141
mishandling, 283
with prepositions, 168
present perfect tense, 290
present subjunctive mood, 290
present tense, 289
related words, 56
sein, 295
simple past tense, 289
spelling change, 75–77
subjunctive form, 121, 124
transitive, 14, 16, 239
two-part, 150
werden, 295
werden + infinitive, 269–270
vielleicht, 136
vocabulary exercises, 279
von, 110, 176
vor, 44, 168
•W•
wandern, 74
wäre, 123
Warning icons, 4
was für (ein), 93–94
weak past participle endings,
156
weak verbs
irregular, 236–237, 289, 292,
296–298
past participles, 290
regular, 234–236, 251–252, 289,
291
subjunctive form, 124
weather, 181–182
webs, word, 59
weekdays, 42–43
Welcher/welche/welches, 88
wem, 88
wen, 88
wenn, 213
wer, 88
werden
with adjectives, 185
assuming, hoping, and
intentions, 270–271
conjugating, 295
future tense, 269–272, 290
present subjunctive, 290
present subjunctive and, 121
probability, 272
wessen, 88
321
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Intermediate German For Dummies
will, false cognate, 270
will, German equivalent, 265
wishes, 124–125
wissen, 77
wo- compounds, 91–93
wohl, 272
wohnen, 291
wollen, 144–146, 296
word categories, 56, 58–60
word combinations
breaking down, 278
compound nouns, 52–53
overview, 51
picture compound nouns, 54
verb combinations, 55–56
word families, 56–58
word fans, 59
word order, 282–283
case, 27–28
conjunctions, 209–211,
214–215
dates, 43
double infinitives and past
subjunctive, 128
inverted, 10, 282
manner, 283
modal verbs, 135
in numbers over 21, 38
overview, 10
place, 283
in questions beginning with
wo-, 91
reflexive verbs, 170
relative clauses, 31
separable-prefix verbs,
152–154
standard, 209, 267, 282
subordinate clauses, 282
time, 283
use of nicht, 104–105
when using ja alternatives, 103
words, ordinal numbers as, 41
writing, 285–286
würde, 121–122
•Y•
yes: variations on ja, 102–104
yes/no questions, 85–87, 153
•Z•
ziehe, 170
zu Hause, 228, 283
zwei, 38
zwo, 38
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