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Read on for our complete guide to learning and improving your German.
Our steps on how to learn the German language and insights on life in Germany will help you achieve your learning goals.
You will hear that German is a difficult language to learn - we at Deutsch Gym disagree and think this could not be further from the truth!
It's not as hard as you think! German has a reputation as being a scary, difficult language to learn. People talk about it as if it is an impossible task. It may come from the fact that it can sound a bit aggressive if your ears are not used to it. It is certainly not as melodic-sounding as Italian or as "flowy" as French.
But there are other European languages that are more difficult, in my opinion, but they don't have the reputation for being so.
So don't let these supposed terrible stories of learning German hold you back from starting your German adventure - read on below for the reasons why we think German is not as hard to learn as you think and why you should embrace this wonderful language.
French pronunciation is more difficult than German pronunciation. This is especially true if you a native English-speaker (although I know a lot of you aren't). Brother is Bruder.
German pronunciation is pretty phonetic or straightforward, whereas French requires a bit more knowledge about how sounds are represented by the written language. The mouth movements seem to require more effort, whereas with German, it sounds pretty much like it is written.
There are plenty of rules to learn in German, we'll admit that much. But it is all very learnable. Let's compare German for a second with other languages.
Hungarian has 14 different vowels. And Polish has 7 cases compared to 4 in German. Japanese has 3 alphabets. Chinese is a tonal language with 4 tones, so a word can be pronounced in 4 different ways. In Arabic you have to learn a new script and write right to left.
So you don't have it so bad by learning German!
See our Grammar section below for helpful resources on German grammar.
Plus, those long and intimidating words you see in German, such as Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung, are one of the easier aspects of the language, as you will soon learn. They are just several normal puts put together.
The above means a "sick certificate", that you would get from a doctor for work. It is literally:
Arbeit(s) + unfähigkeit(s) + Bescheinigung = Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung
work + inability + certificate = sick certificate!
See, that wasn't that hard!
Nouns in German are capitalised which makes them easy to spot in a sentence, and by process of elimination you can guess the verbs at a glance.
In German, whenever a foreign word comes into a language, you use the neutral article “das”. That sorts out the genders of those words anyway!
For example "das Baby" = the baby
This is easier than Japanese, which has 3 alphabets, one dedicated to integrating foreign words.
Millions of people jump through the hoops and push past the pain and learn German! Germany is a very popular country for immigrants, travelers, students and workers - and many of these people come here and learn German and use it in their daily life, work or study.
People from China, Vietnam, Ecuador, Congo, Bulgaria - you name it, they are here and they have learned German. Andy many of their native alphabets are not the Latin alphabet - so they have a doubly hard time of learning German!
So don't be dissuaded by this stereotype of German being so difficult - it is not, and if you put your mind to it, you too can learn it.
Germany has Europe's largest economy, and it is the 4th biggest economy in the world. Which means there are lots of jobs in Germany!
Germany is a world leader in many industries such as automotive manufacturing, machinery, chemicals, and engineering. There is also the incredible Mittelstand, which is the small and medium-sized business sector. These are smaller but highly-specialized companies that are often #1 in their industry worldwide.
There is a shortage of 2 million skilled workers. Unemployment in Germany is usually pretty low as well. For a lot of these jobs you do need to learn German, but that is okay, as if you are reading this you are interested in learning German! So there are lots of work opportunities here.
There are also many German companies operating around the world, so if you learn German you may be able to get a job in a German company in your home country!
Germany is creating a new visa called an Opportunity Card, which will make it easier for skilled workers from outside the EU to move to Germany.
The benefit of it is that you can apply for it when you do not have a job offer, unlike the Jobseeker visa. The idea is that you can move to Germany and then start looking for a job while you are there.
The salary threshold of a job offer is to be reduced to €39,682 to make it more accessible. A big change is that for IT specialists, a degree is no longer required. You instead need to prove that you have 3 years of comparable professional experience.
Germany's social safety net is comprehensive and designed to provide a high standard of living, economic security, and a good quality of life for its citizens.
This includes paternity and maternity leave that you can also transfer to the grandparents, housing, welfare payments, comprehensive healthcare and much more.
Germany is not the only German-speaking country - don't forget about Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and little Liechtenstein! These countries are also German speaking. German is the biggest native language in Europe, with about 100 million active speakers.
Go for a dip in the Baltic Sea, drink a coffee in Zürich, climb a mountain in the Austrian Alps and visit a castle in Liechtenstein, all whilst speaking German.
These countries are varied and prosperous, providing you with lots of opportunities to work, travel or study, so you have no excuse to not use your German here right in the heart of Europe.
Germany is a world leader in science, and German is the second most commonly used scientific language in the world. Germany ranked in the top 5 in the world for the amount of published scientific papers.
The quality of German universities is very high with students and staff reporting high standards of teaching and research being conducted.
It also leads in innovation - the highest number of patents in Europe are registered in Germany. And don't forget about inventions such as the car, aspirin, motorbikes, the jet engine, x-rays, and many more.
Maybe if you move to Germany you too will invent something incredible?
Studying in Germany is mostly free, and the education system is top-notch, so take advantage! There are many opportunities to study in Germany on the EU Erasmus programs, but even if you are coming from outside Europe you should consider studying in Germany as there will be other exchange programs available. German universities are also friendly and open toward international students.
For most subjects you can find courses in English, so you can use this time to learn German on the side. This takes the pressure off learning German right away - but you should do it sooner than later as it will make your life here much richer and more enjoyable.
It is a great way to get familiar with the country and the culture, and you can learn how the job market operates and what visas, if any, you will need to stay in Germany after your studies. You can build up a great network of people whilst studying, and use that network to meet more people in the future.
There are about 440,000 international students studying in Germany and they can't all be wrong - so join them and study here!
Germany is ranked 5th in the world in terms of the amount of new books published every year - they like to read in Germany. Anecdotally, I notice a lot of people reading on the U-bahn or on the buses here. It is not totally scientific, but it does back up the claim that Germans read a lot. Also the quality of the pages - as in the weight of the paper - of German books seems to be higher and heavier than their English counterparts. So if you like high-quality books, this is the language for you.
You can read the original fairy tales, which are now Disney movies, in the original German written by the Grimm brothers. There are many modern stories written by German authors, or of course you can read translations of books written in other languages. See our blog post for 5 books that are perfect for German learners.
Germany is the birthplace of renowned intellectuals such as Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Goethe, Hesse, and many others. Numerous influential ideas that had a significant impact on the world were written in the German language.Germany is the home of Protestantism, caused by the printing press, another German invention. Germany has produced many famous artists and musicians, such as Caspar David Friedrich, and Beetheoven, who was born in Bonn.
What you may not have known is that Germany is a world leader in classical music - having 3 of the top 10 ranked orchestras (the Berlin, Dresden, & Bavarian Orchestras) in the world.
Germany has many famous opera houses and philharmonic houses, with perhaps the most famous being the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. It is a colossal building built right on the water's edge on the River Elbe. It would want to be - it cost a gargantuan €866 million.
Germans have a reputation for being disciplined and hard-working, pretty good values to have as a society.
But it is not all work and no play - they are keen to have a work-life balance as well, and they take it seriously. Many large companies will block employees’ access to emails after 6pm and on weekends, and German labour law stops workers from doing any kind of work on holidays.
The train network in Germany is probably the best in the world (although Deutsche Bahn does increasingly have problems with trains running late), and it runs off renewable electricity. You can get to most smaller towns in Germany by train in total comfort.
The cycle lanes in German cities and towns are good and always getting better as well. Cycling is something they take seriously, so if you do move to Germany, get a bike and take advantage of the infrastructure.
Germans know how to party! There is of course Oktoberfest, the world famous, 204 year-old tradition where 6 million thirsty revellers flock to drink 1-litre Maße of beer.
Fun fact - as a young man Einstein worked had a job Oktoberfest setting up the beer tents.
Carnival is also a huge festival celebrated in February and March, with the hotspots being Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz. There are street parades and people wear elaborate costumes. There are ancient origins of Carnival, but it is typically associated with a Christian time of feasting before the period of Lent, where you abstain from certain foods and drinks.
There are thousands of festivals held in all pockets of Germany every year, so you will never be short of something to celebrate.
Germany does not get enough recognition for its natural beauty! Sylt, Sankt-Peter-Ording and the other Islands on the North Coast have long beautiful beaches for relaxing, swimming or windsurfing in, with the Baltic Sea side of Germany providing a lot of coastline as well.
Further south there are unique rock formations in the mountainous area of Sachsen Schweiz (literally "Saxon Switzerland"), and the stunning Black Forest.
Don't forget of course Lake Constance (Bodensee), the 3rd largest in Europe, the beautiful Chiemsee region South Eastern Bavaria, as well as all the spectacular hiking available on the border with Austria.
The cities are pretty great as well, with Berlin being one of the most popular cities in Europe to move to, thanks to its relatively more affordable cost of living, booming tech scene, active nightlife, and its many parks, interesting streets and restaurants and bars that give the residents a high quality of life.
As opposed to the UK or France, Germany does not have any one mega-city that sucks up all industry for that country. A lot of the cities in Germany are around the same size, with different cities having strengths in different industries.
For example, Bonn has a lot of NGOs, the chemical industry is in North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), the state in which Düsseldorf and Cologne are located, Frankfurt is the finance centre of Germany being home to 200 domestic and international banks as well as the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and Stuttgart and Munich hold the headquarters for a lot of the motor industry, with Porsche, Mercedes and BMW being located there.
Berlin is the newly-crowned startup hub of Germany (and much of Europe), and also the country's leading media and political centre. Hamburg is home to a lot of Germany's shipping industry, having the largest port in Germany and the 3rd largest in Europe.
Germany is split up into 16 different states, with the states having some autonomy over laws and policies, especially around policing, healthcare and education. The culture, customs and dialects can vary from state to state and region to region (as sometimes a particular dialect covers more than one state). This makes for a diverse and interesting country - there is always something to learn about Germany!
You cannot go to the quietest corner of the planet without bumping into a German person. Indeed, 50 million Germans travel every year. Whether it is for a sun holiday, for adventure, for culture or for sport, there is a good chance that now matter what holiday you go on, you will bump into a German person or two.
So the next time you are at the beach bar, listen out for those distinctive German sounds. If you hear them, take advantage of this opportunity and strike up a conversation in German! They may be pleasantly surprised. You can practice your German and make a few friends along the way.
There are plenty of podcasts produced by German creators. Almost too many - it’s hard to pick which one to start with! The paradox of choice we are faced with these days.
If you are going on a drive, a commute, or tidying the house, you can use this time to polish up your German and pick up a few phrases. Stick on the headphones and give it a go.
You want to be listening to some natural conversation as well as podcasts focused on learners with a slightly easier listening level. So when we wrote about the Best Podcasts for German learners, we made sure to have a mix of podcasts created especially for German learners and also podcasts that native speakers listen to as well.
There is an increasing amount of high quality German TV and movies being produced. Shows like Dark, Bad Banks, and Skyline, are fantastic, as well as movies like Downfall and The Wave.
If you have a decent B1 level and above watch these in the original German audio with German subtitles to aid you. That way you can read along, and you can re-inforce how certain words are spelled and and learn the meaning of them whilst you enjoy the show.
If your level is early-stage B1 or lower, you will probably have to use subtitles in your native language to get the full meaning of what they are saying.
Here are some German TV shows that we like. Kick back with some Leibniz and a cup of tea, relax and enjoy some top-notch German programming whilst picking up a few words and phrases:
Dark - A mind-bending sci-fi thriller that explores the consequences of time travel. Available on Netflix.
Babylon Berlin - A lavishly produced historical drama set in 1920s Berlin. Available on Sky Ticket and Netflix.
Deutschland 83 - A spy thriller set during the Cold War, with a young East German agent sent to West Germany. Available on Amazon Prime Video.
Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter (Generation War) - A World War II drama that follows the lives of five friends. Available on Amazon Prime Video.
Der Tatortreiniger (Crime Scene Cleaner) - A dark comedy about a man who cleans up crime scenes. Available on ARD Mediathek and Netflix.
Charité - A medical drama set in Berlin's famous Charité hospital during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Available on Netflix.
Bad Banks - A thrilling drama set in the world of high finance. Available on Hulu and Sundance Now.
Dogs of Berlin - A gritty crime drama that follows two Berlin detectives investigating a soccer team owner. Available on Netflix.
How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) - A dark comedy about a teenager who becomes a successful drug dealer on the dark web. Available on Netflix.
Darknet - A horror anthology series that explores the dark side of the internet. Available on Amazon Prime Video.
For more captivating shows that you can brag to your friends about watching and being cultured, see our article on German Netflix Series to Watch.
Listening to German music is a great way to get your ear used to the sounds of the language and to pick up some expressions. If the song is catchy, that is even better. Listening to German songs you like will make you curious about the meaning of the songs.
Google the lyrics and see if it means what you thought it meant. You will associate lines from the long with the meanings easily, and then you can use that vocabulary in everyday life.There is more to German music than Beethoven, Bach, 99 Luftballons, and Ramstein.
As you can imagine, there is a large array of German music to jump to - German rap ( it is becoming more and more popular and is maturing as a genre), orchestra music, house, pop,indie rock and all the rest. Listening to music is an enjoyable way to learn German, and while it is not “passive” (there is no passive way to learn a language, sorry to break it to you), as listening requires some effort, it is as passive as you get. See our article here on Music to Help You Learn German.
Idioms are a great way to improve fluency.
An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase. Examples are to be "over the moon" (very happy), or to "see the light" (to realise something).
They can be difficult to remember, but by learning them you will increase your vocabulary and your understanding of German culture.
German idioms often relate to animals, so here are a few to practise both sets of vocabulary.
Here are some German idioms that are related to animals.
1. Wie die Kuh vorm neuen Tor stehen. (To stand like a cow in front of a new gate.)
Meaning: To be clueless or not know what to do in a new or unfamiliar situation.
2. Eine Schnecke sein. (To be a snail.)
Meaning: To be very slow or sluggish in doing something.
3. Jemandem auf den Keks gehen. (To go on someone's cookie.)
Meaning: To annoy or bother someone.
4. Da liegt der Hase im Pfeffer. (There lies the hare in the pepper.)
Meaning: That's the crux of the matter or the main point of the issue.
5. Sich wie ein Fisch im Wasser fühlen. (To feel like a fish in the water.)
Meaning: To feel completely at ease and comfortable in a situation.
6. Die Katze im Sack kaufen. (To buy the cat in the bag.)
Meaning: To make a purchase without inspecting the goods first, or to make a decision without knowing all the details.
7. Wie ein Elefant im Porzellanladen. (Like an elephant in a china shop.)
Meaning: To be clumsy or lacking finesse in a delicate situation.
8. Schwein haben. (To have a pig.)
Meaning: To be lucky or fortunate.
9. Die Fliegen mit Honig fangen. (To catch flies with honey.)
Meaning: To achieve something through kindness or a gentle approach.
10. Ein alter Hase sein. (To be an old hare.)
Meaning: To be experienced or skilled in a particular activity.
11. Da steppt der Bär. (The bear dances there.)
Meaning: To describe a lively and wild party or event.
12. Einen Bären aufbinden. (To tie a bear onto someone.)
Meaning: To deceive or trick someone.
Here are some German idioms related to fine weather:
1. "Das Wetter ist wie gemalt." (The weather is like a painting.)
Meaning: This idiom is used to describe exceptionally beautiful weather, as if it were carefully crafted or painted.
2. "Die Sonne lacht." (The sun is laughing.)
Meaning: This idiom indicates sunny weather and suggests that the sun is shining brightly and happily.
3. "Strahlend blauer Himmel." (Radiantly blue sky.)
Meaning: This phrase describes a clear, vividly blue sky, often seen on a beautiful sunny day.
4. "Sonne satt." (Sun in abundance.)
Meaning: This idiom expresses that there is an abundance of sunshine, emphasizing the presence of a generous amount of sunlight.
5. "Der Himmel hängt voller Geigen." (The sky is full of violins.)
Meaning: This phrase is used to convey the feeling of joy and happiness associated with sunny weather. It suggests that everything is perfect and harmonious.
6. "Strahlende Sonne, wolkenloser Himmel." (Radiant sun, cloudless sky.)
Meaning: This idiom describes a picture-perfect weather scenario with a shining sun and no clouds in sight.
7. "Gutes Wetter haben." (To have good weather.)
Meaning: This expression simply means to experience pleasant weather conditions.
Austria has a unique set of idioms that are commonly used in everyday conversation. These are my ten favourite Austria-specific idioms.
1. "Das ist nicht mein Bier" (That's not my beer.)
Meaning: "That's not my problem".
2. "Es ist mir Wurst" (It's sausage to me.)
Meaning: This means "I don't care".
3. "In die Suppe spucken" (To spit in the soup.)
Meaning: This means to ruin a good situation or opportunity.
4. "Auf der Leitung stehen" (To stand on the line.)
Meaning: This means to have a mental block or to be confused.
5. "Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende" (Better an end with horror than a horror without end.)
Meaning: This means it's better to face a difficult situation head-on and get it over with than to prolong it.
6. "Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof" (Life is not a pony farm.)
Meaning: This means life is not easy.
7. "Es zieht wie Hechtsuppe" (It's blowing like pike soup.)
Meaning: This means it's very windy.
8. "Ein Brett vor dem Kopf haben" (To have a board in front of your head.)
Meaning: This means to be stubborn or close-minded.
9. "Die Kirche im Dorf lassen" (To leave the church in the village.)
Meaning: This means to not overreact or exaggerate a situation.
10. "Jemandem Honig um den Mund schmieren" (To smear honey around someone's mouth.)
Meaning: This means to flatter or butter someone up.
This is the nitty gritty of German! Below we will go through some cases for you and some other grammar features of German. Check out our blog for posts on conjugation of common verbs, prepositions and relative pronouns and much more!
Formation of Regular Verbs
Regular verbs are categorized into three main groups based on their infinitive endings: -en, -eln, and -ern.
To form the present tense for regular verbs, you typically follow these patterns:
1. -en Verbs
These are the most common verbs. To form the present tense, you remove the -en from the infinitive and add the appropriate ending based on the subject pronoun:
• ich (I) -e
• du (you, informal singular) -st
• er/sie/es (he/she/it) -t
• wir (we) -en
• ihr (you all, informal plural) -t
• sie/Sie (they/you, formal singular or plural) -en
For example, "spielen" (to play) conjugated in the present tense:
• ich spiele (I play)
• du spielst (you play)
• er/sie/es spielt (he/she/it plays)
• wir spielen (we play)
• ihr spielt (you all play)
• sie/Sie spielen (they/you play)
2. -eln and -ern Verbs
Verbs with infinitive endings -eln and -ern follow similar patterns but with slight changes. You remove the -eln or -ern and add the appropriate endings:
• ich -le/-e
• du -st
• er/sie/es -t
• wir -len/-en
• ihr -lt
• sie/Sie -len/-en
The -ern verb "klettern" means "to climb."
We conjugate it as:
• ich klettere (I climb)
• du kletterst (you climb)
• er/sie/es klettert (he/she/it climbs)
• wir klettern (we climb)
• ihr klettert (you all climb)
• sie/Sie klettern (they/you climb)
German, like many languages, has a number of irregular verbs that do not follow the standard conjugation patterns. These verbs must be memorized individually. Common irregular verbs include "sein" (to be), "haben" (to have), and "werden" (to become).
The German present tense is used to describe actions or situations happening in the present, habitual actions, general truths, and future events in a less formal context. For more formal future events, Germans often use the "Futur I" tense.
In German, the imperfect tense is called the "Präteritum" and it is used to describe past actions or events that have been completed. It is equivalent to the simple past tense in English.
The imperfect tense is often used to narrate stories, to describe events that took place in the past, or to express past habits or routines. It can also be used to talk about past states or situations.
We can see it in action here in this quick example:
• The phone I had when I was 7 years old.
• Das Handy, das ich hatte, als ich 7 Jahre alte war.
Here, we form the imperfect tense with the verb "haben" (to have), by taking the stem "hat-" and adding the corresponding ending based on the subject pronoun.
• Ich hatte (I had)
• Du hattest (You had)
• Er/sie/es hatte (He/she/it had)
• Wir hatten (We had)
• Ihr hattet (You all had)
• Sie hatten (They had)
So, for example, you could say "Ich hatte gestern Abend viel Spaß" (I had a lot of fun yesterday evening) to describe a completed action in the past.
Other examples of sentences using regular verbs are:
• Ich spielte als Kind oft im Park. (I used to play in the park as a child.)
• Er arbeitete hart und hatte wenig Freizeit. (He worked hard and had little free time.)
• Sie lernte Deutsch in der Schule. (She learned German in school.)
• Wir tranken Kaffee und aßen Kuchen. (We drank coffee and ate cake.)
• Ihr machtet immer eine Pause um 12 Uhr mittags. (You all always took a break at noon.)
• Sie fragten mich nach dem Weg zum Bahnhof. (They asked me for directions to the train station.)
It is worth noting that this imperfect tense is not used as frequently in spoken German as it is in written German. Instead, the perfect tense (haben/sein + past participle) is more commonly used to describe completed actions in the past in spoken language.
In German, the future tense is typically formed using the present tense of an auxiliary verb "werden" (to become) followed by the infinitive form of the main verb. Here's how you can construct sentences in the future tense:
1. Simple Future Tense
- Subject + present tense of "werden" + infinitive verb
- Ich werde reisen. (I will travel.)
- Du wirst lernen. (You will learn.)
- Er/Sie/Es wird arbeiten. (He/She/It will work.)
- Wir werden essen. (We will eat.)
- Ihr werdet spielen. (You (plural) will play.)
- Sie werden kommen. (They will come.)
2. Future Tense with Modal Verbs:
You can also use modal verbs like "können" (can), "mögen" (may/like), "sollen" (should), or "wollen" (want) in combination with "werden" to express future actions with a sense of possibility, intention, or necessity.
- Ich werde morgen lernen können. (I will be able to study tomorrow.)
- Du wirst heute Abend ins Kino wollen. (You will want to go to the cinema this evening.)
- Er wird das Buch lesen sollen. (He will have to read the book.)
Keep in mind that in everyday spoken German, the present tense with a time expression (e.g., "Morgen gehe ich ins Kino" - Tomorrow I am going to the cinema) is often used instead of the future tense for simplicity and convenience.
However, for formal or written communication, especially when emphasizing future actions, the future tense is more common.
The German Konjunktiv I (also known as the Subjunctive I) is used to express indirect speech, wishes, unreal or hypothetical situations, and formal or polite expressions. It is commonly found in written language, literature, and formal contexts.
It is often used in news reports where the speaker is talking about someone else "He said that he had nothing to do with the gang".
To form the Konjunktiv I, you typically use the verb stem (which is the same as the infinitive form of the verb) and add specific endings. The conjugation of regular verbs in the Konjunktiv I is as follows:
sie/Sie - en
Let's look at some examples of using the Konjunktiv I:
1. Indirect speech:
Direct speech: "Er sagt: 'Ich gehe ins Kino.'" (He says, "I'm going to the cinema.")
Indirect speech: Er sagt, er gehe ins Kino. (He says he is going to the cinema.)
Ich wünsche, dass du kommest. (I wish that you would come.)
Es sei, wie es sei. (Let it be as it may.)
3. Formal or polite expressions:
Würden Sie bitte Platz nehmen? (Would you please take a seat?)
4. Unreal or hypothetical situations:
Wenn ich reich wäre, würde ich um die Welt reisen. (If I were rich, I would travel the world.)
Es wäre schön, wenn wir mehr Zeit hätten. (It would be nice if we had more time.)
It's important to remember that the Konjunktiv I is less commonly used in spoken German, particularly in informal settings. In those situations, the Konjunktiv II or alternative constructions such as modal verbs are often used instead.
Additionally, irregular verbs may have different forms in the Konjunktiv I, so it's important to consult verb conjugation tables or resources to learn the specific forms for irregular verbs.
In German, there are two main types of verbs: weak verbs and strong verbs.
Weak verbs are those that form their past tense and past participle by adding an -te or -et suffix to the stem of the verb. Here are some examples:
• spielen (to play): ich spiele (I play), ich spielte (I played), ich habe gespielt (I have played)
• arbeiten (to work): ich arbeite (I work), ich arbeitete (I worked), ich habe gearbeitet (I have worked)
• lernen (to learn): ich lerne (I learn), ich lernte (I learned), ich habe gelernt (I have learned)
On the other hand, strong verbs form their past tense and past participle by changing the stem vowel of the verb. There are different classes of strong verbs, but some of the most common ones are:
• fahren (to drive): ich fahre (I drive), ich fuhr (I drove), ich bin gefahren (I have driven)
• essen (to eat): ich esse (I eat), ich aß (I ate), ich habe gegessen (I have eaten)
• trinken (to drink): ich trinke (I drink), ich trank (I drank), ich habe getrunken (I have drunk)
As you can see, the main difference between weak and strong verbs is the way they form their past tense and past participle. While weak verbs always add a suffix, strong verbs change the stem vowel. It's important to learn the conjugation of both types of verbs in order to speak German accurately and be correctly understood.
See our list of basic phrases in German. We have you covered.
In Germany there is a hierarchy in the way you address people. There are formal and informal pronouns “Sie” being the formal one, and “du” the informal. And it is important to use the right one! If you don’t, you might offend someone, and commit a big social faux pas, turning the situation very awkward.
What are they?“Sie” and “du” are the formal and informal pronouns for “You”. Examples: Let’s say you want to say:
“Do you want to go for a walk today?”
Informal: Willst du heute spazieren gehen?
Formal: Wollen Sie heute spazieren gehen?
As you can see, they both mean the exact same thing. However, the conjugation of the verb changes, depending on which version of the pronoun you use.So when to use Sie and Du?
The rule is that you use Sie for any adult you do not know. You must also use it for adults you do know (apart from direct family), but who have not told you to switch to “du”. This is especially true for people that are older than you.
You use du with direct family, friends and children. There are also cases when you can address adults you don’t know with du. Especially younger adults.When you are in a bar for instance, and there is a young person working there - you can probably use du in this instance. But if it is a nice cocktail bar, for example, and the bartender is older, you are better off using SieA good guideline is to match the person you are speaking with - if they start a conversation with “du”, you use “du”. If they start with “Sie” follow along.
There is a big moment in German society when an adult more senior than you tells you that you can start addressing them with “du”. This may be your partner’s parents for example, whom you have been addressing with the Sietzen (“Sie”) for years. They may do it over dinner or drinks. It is actually a cause for celebration! Allow the relief to wash over you as you no longer need to remember what pronoun and conjugation to use mid-conversation!
Is there anything more frustrating than trying to interrupt someone and not have the (polite) words for it? In German, like in any language, interrupting someone politely requires using appropriate phrases and manners.
1. "Entschuldigung, darf ich kurz etwas sagen?" (Excuse me, may I say something quickly?)
2. "Darf ich kurz unterbrechen?" (May I interrupt for a moment?)
3. "Entschuldigen Sie die Unterbrechung, aber..." (Apologies for the interruption, but...)
4. "Entschuldigung, wenn ich kurz einwerfen darf..." (Excuse me, if I may interject briefly...)
5. "Einen Moment, bitte." (One moment, please.)
6. "Ich möchte gerne etwas hinzufügen." (I would like to add something.)
7. "Kann ich kurz etwas einbringen?" (Can I briefly contribute something?)
8. "Darf ich an dieser Stelle etwas einwerfen?" (May I interject at this point?)
Verbal fillers are those little words or phrases that we often sprinkle throughout our speech, giving us time to gather our thoughts, express emotions, or simply create a more engaging dialogue. As a beginner, it can be difficult to make these natural because you have to think about using them rather than defaulting to the fillers that exist in your native language. But get ready to discover how these linguistic gems enrich our conversations and make our interactions more vibrant and dynamic.
1. "Also" - meaning "well" or "so"
2. "Ja" - meaning "yes"
3. "Genau" - meaning "exactly" or "precisely"
4. "Eigentlich" - meaning "actually" or "basically"
5. "Na" - meaning "well" or "now"
6. "Sozusagen" - meaning "so to speak" or "in a way"
7. "Wirklich" - meaning "really" or "truly"
8. "Naja" - meaning "well" or "um"
9. "Also gut" - meaning "well, okay"
10. "Ach so" - meaning "ah, I see"
These fillers can help add fluidity and naturalness to your conversations in German.
Here are two ways of saying your sorry in German - I hope you will not need to use them too much!
Pronunciation: ent-shool-de-gun zee bi-tuh
Commonly used and accepted.
You can use this in a formal and informal setting
2. Es tut mir Leid
Pronunciation: ess toot meer lie-d
This is more informal, so do not use it in an informal setting. See our blog post for the many ways of saying sorry in German, which will guide you through the sometimes difficult etiquette of apologizing whilst also trying to remember if you should use formal or informal language.
Asking for the time is relatively simple in German - there are only a couple of ways of doing it.
Wie spät ist es?
How late is it?
Wie viel Uhr ist es?
What time is it?
See our blog post on how to ask for the time here.
There are a few options for saying yes, each with their own nuances. Learn a few of them and it will increase your confidence and you will begin to sound more natural.
Ja (Pronounced “Ya”) - Yes
Sicher (Pronounced “szi-sher”) - Sure
We cover 9 ways of saying yes in German in our article here.
Nein (Pronounced “nine”) - No
Ne (Pronounced “ney”) - No/nah
This is used in informal settings with friends and family
In this article we go through 8 ways of saying “no” in German.
In German, there are several ways to express "because" depending on the context and the level of formality. Here are some common expressions you can use:
This is a common conjunction used to indicate a causal relationship.
Example: Ich kann nicht ausgehen, denn ich muss morgen früh aufstehen. (I can't go out because I have to wake up early tomorrow.)
This is another commonly used conjunction for expressing causation. It is similar to "because" in English.
Example: Ich bleibe zu Hause, weil ich krank bin.
Meaning: I'm staying at home because I'm sick.
Da is used as a subordinating conjunction to indicate a cause or reason.
Example: Da es regnet, nehmen wir den Regenschirm mit.
Meaning: Because it's raining, we're taking the umbrella with us.
This is a more formal way to express "because" and is often used in written or formal contexts.
Example: Das Spiel wurde abgesagt aufgrund des schlechten Wetters.
Meaning: The game was canceled because of the bad weather.
Wegen is a preposition used to indicate the reason for something - think of it as being similar to the English ‘as’. It is followed by the genitive case or the dative case.
Example: Er konnte nicht kommen wegen eines wichtigen Termins.
Meaning: He couldn't come because of an important appointment.
Aus dem Grund
This phrase means "for the reason."
Example: Ich habe den Job angenommen, aus dem Grund, dass er gut bezahlt wird.
Meaning: I took the job because it pays well.
These are some of the common ways to express "because" in German. Remember to consider the appropriate context and level of formality when choosing the appropriate expression.
Check out our blog post on more ways to say because in German.
One of the joys of German is the flexibility of its nouns. Entire abstract concepts can be reduced down to a single word, giving the language a wonderful conciseness that English doesn’t have!
Some of our favourite ‘untranslatable words’ are very well known, but worth revisiting nonetheless.
Zeitgeist - Refers to the spirit of the times or the prevailing cultural, intellectual, or moral climate of a particular period.
Wanderlust - Describes a strong desire or impulse to wander, explore, or travel the world.
Fernweh - Similar to wanderlust, it expresses a longing for far-off places or a homesickness for a place one has never been to.
Schadenfreude - Refers to the pleasure derived from the misfortune or failure of others.
Weltschmerz - Describes a feeling of melancholy or world-weariness, often accompanied by a sense of dissatisfaction with the state of the world.
Fingerspitzengefühl - Describes a keen or intuitive sensitivity or tactfulness in handling delicate or complex situations.
Gemütlichkeit - Refers to a feeling of coziness, warmth, and a sense of well-being, often associated with comfort and relaxation.
Doppelgänger - Describes a look-alike or double of a person, often with a connotation of an eerie or uncanny resemblance.
Kummerspeck - Literally translates to "grief bacon" and refers to the weight gained from emotional overeating or comfort eating.
Torschlusspanik - Describes the fear or anxiety of running out of time, particularly in relation to unaccomplished goals or missed opportunities.
Waldeinsamkeit - Describes the feeling of being alone in the woods and the tranquility and peacefulness that comes with it.
Innerer Schweinehund - Literally translates to "inner pig dog" and refers to the inner voice or laziness that tempts us to procrastinate or avoid doing something.
Backpfeifengesicht - A term used to describe someone who has a face that deserves to be slapped.
Treppenwitz - Refers to the moment when a witty comeback or remark comes to mind after the opportunity to use it has passed.
Feierabend - Describes the time after work when you can relax and enjoy your free time.
Fremdschämen - The feeling of embarrassment or discomfort experienced when witnessing someone else's awkward or cringe-worthy behaviour.
Erklärungsnot - Describes the predicament or difficulty of having to provide an explanation for something.
Ohrwurm - Literally translates to "earworm" and refers to a catchy tune or song that gets stuck in your head.
Fernweh - Similar to wanderlust, it expresses a longing for far-off places or a homesickness for a place one has never been to.
Habseligkeiten - Refers to one's personal belongings or possessions, often with a sense of sentimental value attached to them.
This can be the tricky side to learning German. If you have never learned a language before, you have likely never given much thought to cases.
A simple way of explaining cases is that they change depending on the role of the nouns in the sentence.
There are four main cases in German: Nominvative, Accusative, Dative, and Genetive. Let's go into more detail below.
The nominative covers the subject of the sentence identifying the noun or pronoun performing the action of the verb.
Simply put, it answers the question "Who or What is performing the action?"
English: “The cat sleeps”
German “Die Katze schläft".
To illustrate, consider the English sentence, "The cat sleeps." In this case, "The cat" is in the nominative case because it is the subject of the sentence, performing the action of sleeping.
Or in the example we have (in the accusative section of this post), we now focus on the “I”, or “ich”:
English: "I eat the apple."
German: "Ich esse den Apfel."
The “I” or “ich” is in the nominative, as that is the subject performing the action.
As you can see, a sentence in German will often contain nominative and accusative cases, as well as dative, in different parts of the sentence.
The accusative case is another of the four grammatical cases in German. It is used to indicate the direct object of a sentence, which is the noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb directly. In other words, the accusative case answers the question "whom" or "what" in relation to the verb.
English: "I eat the apple."
German: "Ich esse den Apfel."
In this sentence, "Ich" (I) is the subject of the sentence, "esse" (eat) is the verb, and "den Apfel" (the apple) is the direct object in the accusative case. "Den" is the accusative form of the definite article "der" (the) for masculine nouns, and "Apfel" is a masculine noun in this case.
So, "den Apfel" is in the accusative case because it answers the question "What is being eaten?" and it indicates the direct object of the action.
1. Definite Articles
- Masculine: der changes to den (e.g., der Mann → den Mann)
- Feminine: die remains die (e.g., die Frau → die Frau)
- Neuter: das remains das (e.g., das Buch → das Buch)
- Plural: die remains die (e.g., die Bücher → die Bücher)
2. Indefinite Articles
- Masculine: ein changes to einen (e.g., ein Mann → einen Mann)
- Feminine: eine remains eine (e.g., eine Frau → eine Frau)
- Neuter: ein remains ein (e.g., ein Buch → ein Buch)
- Negative Plural: keine remains keine (e.g., keine Bücher → keine Bücher)
- Personal pronouns (nominative to accusative):
- ich → mich
- du → dich
- er → ihn
- sie → sie
- es → es
- wir → uns
- ihr → euch
- sie (plural) → sie
- Demonstrative pronouns (nominative to accusative):
- dieser → diesen
- diese → diese
- dieses → dieses
- diese (plural) → diese
- Interrogative pronouns (nominative to accusative):
- wer → wen
- was → was
In German grammar, the dative case is used to indicate the indirect object of a sentence, or to indicate the person or thing to whom something is being done.
In other words the indirect object of a sentence is the noun or pronoun that receives the direct object.
The dative case is also used after certain prepositions, such as "mit" (with), "nach" (after), "von" (from), "zu" (to), and "bei" (at).
The dative case is marked in German by changing pronoun ending. For example, the masculine singular form of "der Mann" (the man) changes to "dem Mann" in the dative case, while the feminine singular form of "die Frau" (the woman) changes to "der Frau" in the dative case. In addition to nouns and pronouns, adjectives and articles must also be declined to match the dative case.
For example, the definite article "der" changes to "dem" in the dative case, while the indefinite article "ein" changes to "einem" in the dative case.
Here's an example of a sentence using the dative case with eating apples:
English: "I give the apple to him."
German: "Ich gebe ihm den Apfel."
"In this sentence, "Ich" (I) is the subject, "gebe" (give) is the verb, "den Apfel" (the apple) is the direct object in the accusative case, and "ihm" (to him) is the indirect object in the dative case. "Ihm" is the dative form of the pronoun "er" (he).
So, "ihm" is in the dative case because it indicates the person receiving the apple, and "den Apfel" is in the accusative case because it's the direct object being given.
Ultimately, the dative case in German is an important aspect of the language's grammar, as it helps to clarify the relationships between different parts of a sentence and ensure that the meaning is clear.
1. Definite Articles:
Masculine: der changes to dem (e.g., der Mann → dem Mann)
Feminine: die remains die (e.g., die Frau → die Frau)
Neuter: das changes to dem (e.g., das Buch → dem Buch)
Plural: die changes to den (e.g., die Bücher → den Büchern)
2. Indefinite Articles:
Masculine: ein changes to einem (e.g., ein Mann → einem Mann)
Feminine: eine changes to einer (e.g., eine Frau → einer Frau)
Neuter: ein changes to einem (e.g., ein Buch → einem Buch)
Negative Plural: keine remains keine (e.g., keine Bücher → keinen Büchern)
Personal pronouns (nominative to dative):
ich → mir
du → dir
er → ihm
sie → ihr
es → ihm
wir → uns
ihr → euch
sie (plural) → ihnen
Demonstrative pronouns (nominative to dative):
dieser → diesem
diese → dieser
dieses → diesem
diese (plural) → diesen
Interrogative pronouns (nominative to dative):
wer → wem
was → wem
These changes reflect how nouns, articles, and pronouns adapt in the dative case to indicate the indirect object or the recipient of an action.
The German genitive case is one of the four cases in the German language (the other three being the nominative, accusative, and dative cases). The genitive case is used to indicate possession or ownership, similar to the English 's or of.
In the German genitive case, the noun that indicates possession or ownership is inflected by adding an "-s" to the end of the noun, or by adding an apostrophe after the noun if it already ends in "-s" or "-z". For example, "der Hund des Mannes" (the man's dog) or "die Tasche meines Vaters" (my father's bag).
There are also some irregular forms in the genitive case, such as masculine and neuter nouns that end in "-s" or "-es" and feminine nouns that end in "-in", which have different forms. For example, "des Vaters" (of the father), "des Hauses" (of the house), and "der Freundin" (of the friend (female)).
The genitive case is used less frequently in modern German than in the past, and is often replaced by other constructions, such as the dative case with "von" (of) or the use of prepositions like "mit" (with) or "ohne" (without). However, the genitive case is still an important part of German grammar and is used in formal writing, poetry, and some idiomatic expressions.
English: "This is my friend’s car."
German: "Das ist das Auto meines Freundes".
In this sentence, "Das" (This) is the subject, "ist" (is) is the verb, "das Auto" (the car) is the subject complement, and "meines Freundes" (of my friend) is in the genitive case, indicating possession.
"Freund" (friend) is the noun, and "meines Freundes" is its genitive form."meines" is the genitive form of the possessive pronoun "mein" (my) for masculine nouns.
"Auto" (car) is the subject complement, which is why it remains in its regular form.
So, "meines Freundes" is in the genitive case because it shows the relationship between the friend and the car, indicating that the car belongs to my friend.
1. Definite Articles:
Masculine: der changes to des (e.g., der Mann → des Mannes)
Feminine: die changes to der (e.g., die Frau → der Frau)
Neuter: das changes to des (e.g., das Buch → des Buches)
Plural: die changes to der (e.g., die Bücher → der Bücher)
2. Indefinite Articles:
Masculine: ein changes to eines (e.g., ein Mann → eines Mannes)
Feminine: eine changes to einer (e.g., eine Frau → einer Frau)
Neuter: ein changes to eines (e.g., ein Buch → eines Buches)
Negative Plural: keine remains keiner (e.g., keine Bücher → keiner Bücher)
Personal pronouns (nominative to genitive):
ich → meiner
du → deiner
er → seinersie → ihrer
es → seiner
wir → unserer
ihr → eurer
sie (plural) → ihrer
Demonstrative pronouns (nominative to genitive):
dieser → dieses
diese → dieser
dieses → dieses
diese (plural) → dieser
Interrogative pronouns (nominative to genitive):
wer → wessen
was → wessen
Here is a list of some free German-learning blogs and websites that we and our students recommend.
Angelika’s blog is full of tips on grammar and phrases on how to learn German. She was born in Germany and then moved to England when she was an adult. She is a qualified German teacher sharing her knowledge!
She keeps her blog up to date with articles on grammar, phrases and all aspects of German culture, including posts on famous historical figures from Germany.
Website: Angelika's German
Check out: this post on German Idioms and Tongue Twisters with the Letter Q
Coffee Break German has a podcast for German learners. It is broken down into 3 seasons, with each containing different storylines that last for a few episodes each, as well as episodes focusing on aspects of grammar with dialogue examples of that grammar in use.
Website: Coffee Break German
Check out: this 1st out of 3 episodes on how to express wishes and dreams with the subjunctive
Slow German is hosted by Annik Rubens - the episodes last about 5 minutes and focus on discussing German culture, companies, news and history.
Episode covers interesting topics such as How do Northern and Southern Germans differ and Emigration from Germany. They are perfect for improving your listening comprehension and knowledge of Germany.
She speaks clearly and provides a PDF containing the transcription of the episode.
Website: Slow German
Check out: The difference between Northern and Southern Germans
Your Daily German is a blog run by Emmanuel. He loves analysing and explaining grammar, and his passion for sharing his knowledge of German really comes through in his blog!
He has a loyal following and there is always plenty of discussion in the comment section under each post. You can get 2 posts per week for free, and if you want more there is a small membership fee.
Website: Your Daily German
Check out: his post on the Difference Between Nutzen and Benutzen
Anja is a German teacher who teaches German with light-hearted videos with a very positive style. She keeps it interesting and brings you to a nude beach and even jumps out of a plane! She also uses skits to teach you German grammar concepts.
Website: Learn German with Anja
Check out: As this is the internet, you can learn German Cat vocabulary with her here
Easy German have tons of videos! They mostly involve interviewing people on the streets of Germany to get their opinions on life in Germany. Each video has both English and German subtitles, so you can read along in either language.
It’s a nice way to get insight into life in Germany - from the perspective of people living there.
Website: Easy German
Check out: Which Country Do Germans Want to Visit?
The well-dressed Herr Antrim has many videos on Learning German - he takes great efforts to explain concepts clearly, and uses infographics in his videos to aid his explanations. He has a small series on German for tourists as well as more in-depth grammar videos. He even did a reviewof Deutsch Gym.
Website: Learn German with Herr Antrim
Check out: His video on How can ChatGPT really teach you German?
The r/German reddit is an amazing source of useful posts from German learners - all 290,000 of them! It is a place to go discuss any topic possible on the German language. Make use of the hivemind and ask them a question or use the search function to find what you are looking for. There are posts there for questions about German you have thought of but could never articulate and questions you did not know you had but now need answers to!
Check out: This post on How do I answer “na?”
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