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German for Beginners

Introduction

Welcome to the German course for Beginners. In five lessons we'll try to teach you the basics of the German language.

German is spoken by about 100 million people in Europe, mainly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Besides, it is an official regional language in parts of Belgium, Denmark and Italy.

German is a West Germanic language. It is related to Luxembourgish, Dutch, Frisian and English (in this order), and more or less to Scandinavian languages as well.

German pronunciation is pretty straightforward, though not as easy as in Spanish. The grammar is not as difficult as in Russian, but it takes some practice to get fluency...

Part One - The Basics

Lesson 1: To Be

We want to help you learn German, and we hope this little course can help.
We also have a big grammar reference and a list of vocabulary available for you to study. This course is intended for absolute beginners, who need a little assistance with starting to learn some basics.
So this is not a complete course. Once you know the most important basics, we'll let you go, and you can explore our grammar references by yourself.

You can listen to a native speaker pronouncing the examples by simply clicking on the loud speaker icon.

To Be

We'll start by teaching you how to introduce yourself in German. Take a look the following German sentence and its English translation. All German texts will be written in blue, and the English translations in green.

Ich bin Ulrike.
I am Ulrike.

That's your very first German sentence, where you introduce yourself as Ulrike. That's a fictional person; of course you should replace it with your own name.
Although the sentence consists of only three words, we are going to carefully examine each word. The first word ich is the equivalent of the English word I, also referred to as the personal pronoun of the first person singular. The second word bin is a verb. It's the first person singular of the irregular German verb sein, which is the equivalent of to be.

Now we've seen how to introduce yourself using ich bin, but we can also introduce other people. Take a look at the following examples:

 Ich bin Ulrike.  I am Ulrike.
 Du bist Ulrike.  You are Ulrike.
 Er ist Emil.  He is Emil.
 Sie ist Ulrike.  She is Ulrike.
 Es ist Ulrike.  It is Ulrike.
 Wir sind Ulrike und Emil.  We are Ulrike and Emil.
 Ihr seid Ulrike und Emil.  You are Ulrike and Emil.
 Sie sind Ulrike und Emil.  They are Ulrike and Emil.

That's a lot of new words! But it's all very easy. Now you've seen all personal pronouns in German, you know how to refer to people. Besides, you've also learned your first German verb, the irregular verb sein, in English to be. There is another small word that appeared in this lesson: und, which means and.
Es is neuter, just like it in English. You can use it in contexts like Someone has come in. Who is it? It's Ulrike.

Vocabulary

In each lesson, we'll ask you to learn a number of new words. This time, we'll give you a couple of very easy words. Learn them in both directions, English-German and German-English.


Vocabulary

 Vater  father
 Mutter  mother
 Großvater  grandfather
 Großmutter  grandmother

Exercises

Each lesson will come with some exercises, so you can practice the grammar and vocabulary of the lesson.

Exercise A: Translate to English
1) Sie ist Yvonne.
2) Es ist Vater.
3) Sie sind Dieter und Jan.
4) Sie ist Mutter.
5) Du bist Großmutter.
6) Du bist Großvater.
7) Wir sind Iris und Viktor.

Exercise B: Translate to German
1) We are Sarah and Günther.
2) You are father.
3) I am mother.
4) She is grandmother.
5) They are Ulrike and Emil.
6) You are Iris and Viktor.
7) You are grandfather.

Exercise C: Correct the errors
1) Wir seid Jan und Sarah.
2) Sie ist Großmutter und Großvater.
3) Ihr seid Emil.
4) Ich bist Mutter.

Solutions

After you've done the exercises, you can check whether your answer is correct using the following sample solutions:

Solution of Exercise A:
1) She is Yvonne.
2) It is father.
3) They are Dieter and Jan.
4) She is mother.
5) You are grandmother.
6) You are grandfather.
7) We are Iris and Viktor.

Solution of Exercise B:
1) Wir sind Sarah und Günther.
2) Du bist Vater.
3) Ich bin Mutter.
4) Sie ist Großmutter.
5) Sie sind Ulrike und Emil.
6) Ihr seit Iris und Viktor.
7) Du bist Großvater.

Solution of Exercise C:
1) Wir sind Jan und Sarah.
2) Sie sind Großmutter und Großvater.
3) Du bist Emil.
4) Ich bin Mutter.


Lesson 2: Articles, Genders and Cases

Apparently you've successfully finished lesson one, so now we can continue with the second lesson. Now you'll learn how to describe certain objects.

Gender

In German, every noun belongs to one of three categories: feminine, masculine or neuter. The noun Mutter (mother) is feminine, Vater (father) is masculine, Kind (child) is neuter.
Now comes the difficult part. Every noun has a gender, and this can seem quite arbitrary. A German bottle is feminine, a table is masculine and a girl is neuter. There is no logic behind it. You must learn the gender with every new noun.

Articles

So how do you distinguish between feminine, masculine and neuter nouns? Just like in Romance languages (such as French or Spanish): with articles. In the previous lesson, you learned how to say "He is father", but that sounds a little Tarzan-like. Wouldn't it sound better if you could say "He is a father" or "He is the father"?
Take a look at these German sentences:

 Ulrike ist die Mutter.  Ulrike is the mother.
 Emil ist der Vater.  Emil is the father.
 Yvonne ist das Kind.  Yvonne is the child.

Have you guessed it? Every gender has its unique definite article. You use die for feminine nouns, der for masculine nouns and das for neuter nouns.
When you learn more nouns, always learn them with the appropriate article. For example, don't learn "Mutter" means "mother", but "die Mutter" means "the mother". Those genders are very important, so try not to confuse them!

Now you still can't say "He is a father". Of course German also has indefinite articles:

 Sie ist eine Mutter.  She is a mother.
 Er ist ein Vater.  He is a father.
 Er/Sie ist ein Kind.  He/She is a child.

As you can see, the indefinite article is simply eine for feminine nouns and ein for masculine or neuter nouns.

But why don't we say Es ist ein Kind? Usually the personal pronouns (like er, sie, es) do reflect the grammatical gender, but there is one exception: When you talk about persons, the pronoun should reflect the natural sex, not the grammatical gender.
For example, you should translate the second sentence in This is Yvonne. She is a child as Sie ist ein Kind, not Es ist ein Kind.
But if you want to say Someone has come in. It is a child, you don't know or don't care about the actual sex. Thus you translate the second sentence as Es ist ein Kind.

Cases

Unfortunately die, der and das are not the only articles in German. If you know Latin, Greek or a Slavonic language (such as Russian, Polish or Croatian), you are probably familiar with cases. There are four cases in German: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative.
Those cases (almost) don't influence the nouns, but they can be tricky for adjectives (which will be explained in lesson 5) and especially articles. Let us explain the four cases in detail now.

Nominative

The nominative is used for the subject of a sentence. Roughly speaking, the subject is the one that does something. Look at the following English sentences, where we underlined the subject:

Emil loves Ulrike.
She gives Yvonne the book.
Ulrike is the mother.

The third sentence is a special case, because sein (to be) is a special verb. It identifies the subject with something, so its object is actually a further specification of the subject. That's why both Ulrike and the mother are in nominative case.

You already know the nominative articles: die/der/das, eine/ein/ein.

Genitive

The genitive is used to express that something belongs to someone or something. In German, we put the the possessor in genitive case. The possessor is underlined in the following English expressions:

Jan's car
the color of the house
the mother's car

There is no distinction between of the house and the mother's in German, because you just use the genitive articles.
The nouns themselves are modified, too. In genitive case, you often add S or ES at the end of the noun. More about that later.

Now have a look at these examples to learn the genitive articles, and to see the additional S:

 Jans Auto  Jan's car
 das Auto der Mutter (f)  the mother's car
 der Tisch des Großvaters (m)  the grandfather's table
 die Flasche des Kinds (n)  the bottle of the child
 die Farbe einer Flasche (f)  the color of a bottle
 die Farbe eines Tischs (m)  the color of a table
 die Farbe eines Hauses (n)  the color of a house

To make it easier for you, we added the gender of the genitive noun in brackets. The genitive articles are der/einer (feminine) and des/eines (masculine or neuter).

Names of persons don't use articles. You form their genitive like in English, except that you don't write an apostrophe before the S.

Can you guess when you should add S or ES to a noun in genitive? Feminine nouns don't need that, it's only for masculine and neuter nouns, because they have genitive articles ending in S.
As a rule of thumb, just add an S. If this becomes hard to pronounce, use ES. Actually it doesn't really matter whether you use S or ES, because most masculine and neuter nouns allow both forms.
But please note that a few masculine and neuter nouns use the genitive ending EN or N instead!

Dative

The most frequent use of the dative case is after a preposition. A preposition is a small word like to, after or under. So if there is a noun (possibly with adjectives and/or an article) behind a preposition, you should use the dative case there.

Actually it's a little more complicated. The special cases are illustrated by the following examples:

1.    Ulrike gives the book to Emil.
Ulrike gives Emil the book.
Sarah asks her brother a question.
2.    The book is on the table.
I put the book on/onto the table. (no dative)
3.   Günther helps his friend.

And this is how those special cases work:

1.    If a verb has two objects, namely a thing and a person to which the thing is directed (for example to give something to someone), then the person is in dative case.
2.     If a preposition can be used to mark the location of something or its direction, then the dative is only used to indicate a location.
This distinction is necessary, because there is no difference between in and into or between on and onto.
3.    The object of helfen(to help) is always a dative.

Now you are ready to learn the dative articles. The nouns don't change in this case:

 Ulrike gibt einer/der Mutter das Buch.  Ulrike gives the book to a/the mother.
 Das Buch ist auf einem/dem Tisch.  The book is on a/the table.
 Jan hilft einem/dem Kind.  Jan helps a/the child.

This is quite similar to the genitive articles we've seen before, except that you don't change the nouns: The feminine dative articles are der and einer, just like in genitive. The masculine and neuter articles are dem and einem, so you have an M instead of an S here.

Accusative

The use of the accusative is quite similar to the dative, and the two can be confused easily.
In most cases, the accusative is used for objects without prepositions, which are known as direct objects. In the English sentence Emil sees Ulrike, Emil is the subject (in nominative case) and Ulrike is the direct object (in accusative).

As with the dative, there are a few special cases:

1.   Ulrike gives the book to Emil.
Ulrike gives Emil the book.
Sarah asks her brother a question.
2.    I put the book on/onto the table.
The book is on the table. (no accusative)
3.    This is for you.
We go through the country.

Let us explain those exceptions:

1.   If a verb has two objects, a thing and a person to which the thing is directed (for example to give something to someone), then the actual thing is in accusative case.
2.   If a preposition can be used to mark the location of something or its direction, the accusative is only used to indicate a direction.
This distinction is necessary, because there is no difference between in and into or between on and onto.
3.   The accusative case is also used after a few preposition, which usually indicate some kind of direction.

Now you are ready to learn the accusative articles. The nouns don't change in this case:

 Das Buch ist für die Mutter.  The book is for the mother.
 Er legt das Buch auf den Tisch.  He puts the book on the table.
 Sarah liebt das Auto.  Sarah loves the car.
 Ulrike gibt Emil eine Flasche.  Ulrike gives Emil a bottle.
 Sie spricht über einen Tisch.  She talks about a table.
 Jan sieht ein Kind.  Jan sees a child.

In this respect, the accusative case is quite different from the genitive and the dative. The feminine and neuter articles are exactly like in nominative, but the masculine accusative articles are den and einen. Be careful not to confuse the articles!

Summary

 Definite articles:
   (f)  (m)  (n)
 nom.  die  der  das
 gen.  der  des  des
 dat.  der  dem  dem
 acc.  die  den  das
 
 Indefinite articles:
   (f)  (m)  (n)
 nom.  eine  ein  ein
 gen.  einer  eines  eines
 dat.  einer  einem  einem
 acc.  eine  einen  ein

Vocabulary

That was a long lesson. Now it's time to learn all new words. Of course every noun is given with the definite article in nominative now:


Vocabulary

 das Auto  car
 das Buch  book
 die Farbe  color
 die Flasche  bottle
 die Großmutter  grandmother
 der Großvater  grandfather
 das Haus  house
 der Hund  dog
 die Katze  cat
 das Kind  child
 die Mutter  mother
 das Tier  animal
 der Tisch  table
 der Vater  father
 sie gibt  she gives
 sie hilft  she helps
 sie legt  she puts
 sie liebt  she loves
 sie sieht  she sees
 sie spricht  she talks
 auf  on
 für  for
 über  [talk] about

Exercises

Exercise A: Translate to English and explain which cases and genders are used:
1) Der Vater gibt der Katze das Buch.
2) Es ist die Farbe der Katze.
3) Der Hund ist auf einem Tisch.
4) Das Kind sieht die Mutter.
5) Emil spricht über ein Tier.

Exercise B: Translate to German:
1) The grandfather helps a cat.
2) The mother helps the child.
3) Emil's father talks about a book.
4) The dog is for the child.
5) It is the color of the house.
6) The grandmother's child helps an animal.
7) She sees the house of a dog.
8) Ulrike gives the father's child the bottle.

Exercise C: Correct the errors:
1) Es ist die Farbe das Autos.
2) Der Vater des Jan sieht einen Buch.
3) Ulrike hilft ein Tier.
4) Er gibt den Vater der Flasche.
5) Emil sieht der Farbe des Flasches.

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1) The father (nominative, masculine) gives the cat (dative, feminine) the book (accusative, neuter).
2) It (nominative, neuter) is the color (nominative, feminine) of the cat (genitive, feminine).
3) The dog (nominative, masculine) is on Jan's (genitive, masculine) table (dative, masculine).
4) The child (nominative, neuter) sees the mother (accusative, feminine).
5) Emil (nominative, masculine) talks about an animal (accusative, neuter).

Solution of Exercise B:
1) Der Großvater hilft der Katze.
2) Die Mutter hilft dem Kind.
3) Emils Vater spricht über ein Buch.
4) Der Hund ist für das Kind.
5) Es ist die Farbe des Hauses.
6) Das Kind der Großmutter hilft dem Tier.
7) Sie sieht das Haus eines Hunds.
8) Ulrike gibt dem Kind des Vaters die Flasche.

Solution of Exercise C:
1) Es ist die Farbe des Autos.
2) Jans Vater sieht ein Buch.
3) Ulrike hilft einem Tier.
4) Er gibt dem Vater die Flasche.
5) Emil sieht die Farbe der Flasche.


Lesson 3: Politeness, Capitalization, Plural and More Pronouns

Politenesss

Before we teach you how to tell that something belongs to a certain person, we first have to teach you how to be polite in German. As in many other languages (but not in English), there is a special polite form of you. The informal pronouns (du and ihr) are only used among relatives, friends, university students and towards children.
The formal second person pronoun is Sie in German, no matter whether you are talking to one or several persons.

As you have already seen in lesson 1 (the conjugation of the verb sein), the pronoun is not the only thing that's different. You must also be careful to use the right conjugated form of the verbs. du (the informal address for one person) always stands with the second person singular, ihr (the informal address for several persons) with the second person plural, and Sie (the formal address) with the third person plural.

Capitalization

Another important thing in German is the rule that tells you whether you should write a word in lower or upper case. The rules are not difficult, but a little different from other languages:
1) The first word in a sentence is written in upper case.
2) Proper names are written in upper case.
3) All nouns are written in upper case.
4) The formal/polite pronouns are written in upper case.

Does this sound strange? Look at the German examples in the previous lessons. Yes, all nouns start with a capital letter. That makes it easier to spot nouns in a sentence. In fact nouns are very important in German, much more so than in French for instance (where verbs are often preferred).

Demonstrative Pronouns

You have learned the personal pronouns (in nominative case), but we haven't talked about the simple words this and that yet. That's because they are a little different in German. Have a look at these new sentences:

 Das ist Jans Mutter.  This/That is Jan's mother.
 Das ist Jans Vater.  This/That is Jan's father.
 Das ist Jans Kind.  This/That is Jan's child.
 Diese Katze ist auf dem Tisch.  This/That cat is on the table.
 Die Katze ist auf diesem Tisch.  The cat is on this/that table.
 Sarah sieht dieses Auto.  Sarah sees this/that car.

So there are two kinds of demonstrative pronouns, but they don't depend on proximity like this and that. If you use it instead of a noun, you just say das, no matter which gender or case you are talking about.

The other demonstrative pronoun is used with nouns: diese-. This one does agree in gender and case. Its declension is almost like the indefinite articles, but there are slight differences:

   (f)  (m)  (n)  plural
 nom.  diese  dieser  dieses  diese
 gen.  dieser  dieses  dieses  dieser
 dat.  dieser  diesem  diesem  diesen
 acc.  diese  diesen  dieses  diese

You haven't learned about plural yet, but we wanted those demonstrative pronouns anyway. There is no gender distinction in plural, but more about that later...

Possessive Pronouns

In lesson 2, you've already learned express possession using the genitive case. This works in cases like Jans Vater (Jan's father), where the possessor has a name or der Vater des Kinds (the father of the child), where the possessor is a noun with an article.
But what if the possessor is just a personal pronoun, for example if something belongs to you? Then you need possessive pronouns. The following examples show how they work in German:

 Das ist meine Mutter.  This/That is my mother.
 Ich sehe meinen Hund.  I see my dog.
 Ich gebe deinem Vater die Maus.  I give your father the mouse.
 Das ist die Farbe deines Hauses.  This/That is the color of your house.
 Ihre Katze sieht einen Affen.  Her cat sees a monkey.
 Das Buch ist auf ihrem Tisch.  The book is on her table.
 Er ist sein Vater.  He is his father.
 Jan fragt seinen Großvater.  Jan asks his grandfather.
 Das ist unser Schlüssel.  This/That is our key.
 Er spricht über unseren Hund.  He talks about our dog.
 Eine Katze ist auf eurem Haus.  A cat is on your house.
 Das ist euer Auto.  This/That is your car.
 Er ist ihr Kind.  He is their child.
 Er gibt ihrem Hund eine Flasche.  He gives their dog a bottle.
 Jan sieht Ihr Foto.  Jan sees your photo.
 Das Buch ist auf Ihrem Stuhl.  The book is on your table.

This looks a little complicated, because all possessive pronouns are declinated in German. The case and gender endings are the same as for the indefinite article.

All Personal Pronouns

In lesson 1, you learned the nominative (subject) pronouns. Now you've just seen the possessive pronouns, which cover the genitive case. Of course there also dative and accusative pronouns:

   nom.  gen.  dat.  acc.
 1st sg  ich  mein-  mir  mich
 2nd sg  du  dein-  dir  dich
 3rd sg f  sie  ihr-  ihr  sie
 3rd sg m  er  sein-  ihm  ihn
 3rd sg n  es  sein-  ihm  es
 1st pl  wir  unser-  uns  uns
 2nd pl  ihr  eur-  euch  euch
 3rd pl  sie  ihr-  ihnen  sie
 formal  Sie  Ihr-  Ihnen  Sie

Plural Nouns

Now it's time to learn plural nouns and articles. Until now, you've only seen singular nouns such as house and chair. It's time to teach you how to form the plural (houses, chairs).

The plural is quite difficult in German. There are more than a dozen declension groups, and it is virtually impossible to tell which group a noun belongs to if you only know the nominative singular. That's why we recommend you to learn the plural of every noun by heart, just like the gender.
Fortunately there is no gender distinction in plural!

In English, the plural is generally formed by adding an S or by changing the word completely (one mouse, two mice). There are no such radical changes in German. German plural endings are EN, N, ER, S or nothing. Sometimes the stressed vowel can become an "umlaut":
a --> ä, au --> äu, o --> ö, u --> ü.

We have the following possibilities:

1.   no letter added, stressed vowel can become umlaut
(in words ending in E/EL/EN/ER)
das Zeichendie Zeichen (sign)
der Vogeldie Vögel (bird)
2.   E added, stressed vowel can become umlaut
der Wegdie Wege (way, path)
die Mausdie Mäuse (mouse)
3.   EN added
(only N if the word ends in E, EL or ER)
die Fraudie Frauen (woman)
die Blumedie Blumen (flower)
4.   ER added, stressed vowel can become umlaut
das Kinddie Kinder (child)
der Manndie Männer (man)
5.   S added
(in words of foreign origin or acronyms)
das Autodie Autos (car)
das Babydie Babys/Babies (baby)

Do you remember what we said about genitive endings? Feminine nouns never change in genitive case. Masculine and neuter nouns usually add S or ES, but some end in EN or N. This is only possible if the plural ends in EN or N, too.

From now on, we'll always give the plural of every noun in our vocabulary lists.
If a masculine or neuter noun forms its genitive with EN/N instead of ES/S, we'll mention this.

Have you realized something about the definite article? It's always die in nominative plural. In fact, there's something the articles have in common with the personal pronouns of the 3rd person: There is no gender distinction in plural, and the plural forms are almost all like the feminine singular forms:

   (f)  (m)  (n)  pl.
 nom.  die  der  das  die
 gen.  der  des  des  der
 dat.  der  dem  dem  den
 acc.  die  den  das  die

There are no indefinite articles in the plural, just like inEnglish:

 das Auto  the car (definite singular)
 die Autos  the cars (definite plural)
 ein Auto  a car (indefinite singular)
 Autos  cars (indefinite plural)

There is another thing you have to keep in mind about plural nouns: If the plural doesn't end in N or S, the noun gets an additional N in dative case.

Summary

die Frau / die Frauen - the woman / the women [nominative]
der Frau / der Frauen - of the woman / of the women [genitive]
der Frau / den Frauen - to the woman / to the women [dative]
die Frau / die Frauen - the woman / the women [accusative]

der Mann / die Männer - the man / the men [nominative]
des Mann(e)s / der Männer - of the man / of the men [genitive]
dem Mann / den Männern - to the man / to the men [dative]
den Mann / die Männer - the man / the men [accusative]

das Auto / die Autos - the car / the cars [nominative]
des Autos / der Autos - of the car / of the cars [genitive]
dem Auto / den Autos - to the car / to the cars [dative]
das Auto / die Autos - the car / the cars [accusative]


Vocabulary

 der Affe (die Affen)  monkey
 das Auto (die Autos)  car
 das Baby (die Babys/Babies)  baby
 die Blume (die Blumen)  flower
 das Buch (die Bücher)  book
 die Farbe (die Farben)  color
 die Flasche (die Flaschen)  bottle
 das Foto (die Fotos)  photo
 die Frau (die Frauen)  woman
 die Großmutter (die Großmütter)  grandmother
 der Großvater (die Großväter)  grandfather
 das Haus (die Häuser)  house
 der Hund (die Hunde)  dog
 die Katze (die Katzen)  cat
 das Kind (die Kinder)  child
 der Mann (die Männer)  man
 die Maus (die Mäuse)  mouse
 die Mutter (die Mütter)  mother
 der Schlüssel (die Schlüssel)  key
 der Stuhl (die Stühle)  chair
 das Tier (die Tiere)  animal
 der Tisch (die Tische)  table
 der Vater (die Väter)  father
 der Vogel (die Vögel)  bird
 der Weg (die Wege)  way, path
 das Zeichen (die Zeichen)  sign

Exercises

Exercise A: Translate to English and explain which cases, genders and numbers are used:
1) Eure Mutter sieht die Farben der Häuser.
2) Wir sind die Kinder des Hauses.
3) Der Affe gibt unserem Vater Schlüssel.
4) Das sind die Fotos unserer Katzen.
5) Seine Mutter sieht Ihr Auto.
6) Die Mäuse sind auf den Tischen.
7) Dieser Hund gibt dem Kind den Schlüssel.
8) Wir sind die Tiere der Mutter.

Exercise B: Translate to German:
1) This is her father.
2) My cats are on the houses.
3) She sees you (formal, plural).
4) He gives you (informal, plural) a key.
5) My grandmothers are on that chair.
6) She sees the photos of the dogs.
7) These are the books of our mice.
8) A father gives your children this table.

Exercise C: Correct the errors
1) Mein Vater gibt dich die Hunden.
2) Jan liebt den Farbe dieser Hausen.
3) Diese Kätze sind auf der Tische.
4) Das sind die Fotoen Ihrer Mausen.
5) Das sind den Frauen und Mannen des Haus.
6) Der Tier sieht diese Blumes.

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1) Your (plural informal) mother (nom. sg. f.) sees the colors (acc. pl. f.) of the houses (gen. pl. n.)
2) We are the children (nom. pl. n.) of the house (gen. sg. n.)
3) The monkey (nom. sg. m.) gives our father (dat. sg. m.) keys (acc. pl. m.)
4) These are the photos (nom. pl. n.) of our cats (gen. pl. f.)
5) His mother (nom. sg. f.) sees your (formal) car (acc. sg. n.)
6) The mice (nom. pl. f.) are on the tables (dat. pl. m.)
7) This dog (nom. sg. m.) gives the child (dat. sg. n.) the key (acc. sg. m.)
8) We are the animals (nom. sg. n.) of the mother (gen. sg. f.)

Solution of Exercise B:
1) Das ist ihr Vater.
2) Meine Katzen sind auf den Häusern.
3) Sie sieht Sie.
4) Er gibt euch einen Schlüssel.
5) Meine Großmütter sind auf diesem Stuhl.
6) Sie sieht die Fotos der Hunde.
7) Das sind die Bücher unserer Mäuse.
8) Ein Vater gibt deinen/euren/Ihren Kindern diesen Tisch.

Solution of Exercise C:
1) Mein Vater gibt dir die Hunde.
2) Jan liebt die Farbe dieser Häuser.
3) Diese Katzen sind auf den Tischen.
4) Das sind die Fotos Ihrer Mäuse.
5) Das sind die Frauen und Männer des Hauses.
6) Das Tier sieht diese Blumen.


Lesson 4: Verbs

You've already worked your way through three chapters. Make sure you understand the grammar and vocabulary, and don't forget to do the exercises to get some practice. Pronounce every German sentence, so you can also practice your pronunciation.

Let's now start learning a regular German verb: fragen (to ask in English).
The part of the verb that's not underlined is called the stem. That's the part that always remains the same, though many irregular verbs use two different stems in present tense. You can obtain the stem by removing the EN ending of the infinitive (i.e. the basic form).

 ich frage  I ask
 du fragst  you ask
 er/sie/es fragt  he/she/it asks
 wir fragen  we ask
 ihr fragt  you ask
 sie/Sie fragen  they/you ask

It's not difficult to understand. Each person has its own ending. These endings are valid for all verbs except sein (to be).

Let's have a look at an irregular verb now: haben (to have).
Irregular verbs use two different stems in present tense. The irregular stem is shown bold here:

 ich habe  I have
 du hast  you have
 er/sie/es hat  he/she/it haves
 wir haben  we have
 ihr habt  you have
 sie/Sie haben  they/you have

Are you ready for another one?
Okay, let's learn essen (to eat):

 ich esse  I eat
 du isst  you eat
 er/sie/es isst  he/she/it eats
 wir essen  we eat
 ihr esst  you eat
 sie/Sie essen  they/you eat

There is no difference between I eat and I am eating in German. Both are translated as ich esse.

There are many irregular verbs in German. So from now on, we'll give the third person singular with every new verb in the vocabulary list.

Negation

Now we're going to talk about negation. There are two words for negation in German: nicht is an adverb that negates a verb (similar to don't in English), while kein negates a noun. That's why kein is declinated in case, gender and number just like the indefinite article (including plural forms!).

 Ich frage dich nicht.  I don't ask you.
 Du bist nicht Ulrike.  You are not Ulrike.
 Das ist kein Haus.  This is not a house. ("This is no house.")
 Ich habe keinen Hund.  I don't have a dog. ("I have no dog.")

   (f)  (m)  (n)  pl.
 nom.  keine  kein  kein  keine
 gen.  keiner  keines  keines  keiner
 dat.  keiner  keinem  keinem  keinen
 acc.  keine  keinen  kein  keine

In this basic course, you should always put nicht at the end of the sentence, except when you negate sein (then it comes right behind the verb).
kein always precedes a noun.

Vocabulary

Verbs are now always given in the infinitive and with the 3rd person singular.


Vocabulary

 essen (sie isst)  to eat
 fragen (sie fragt)  to ask
 geben (sie gibt)  to give
 gehen (sie geht)  to go, walk
 haben (sie hat)  to have
 helfen (sie hilft)  to help
 legen (sie legt)  to put
 lieben (sie liebt)  to love
 schlafen (sie schläft)  to sleep
 sehen (sie sieht)  to see
 sprechen (sie spricht)  to talk
 suchen (sie sucht)  to look for
 verlieren (sie verliert)  to lose
 verstehen (sie versteht)  to understand
 warten (sie wartet)  to wait
 die Frau (die Frauen)  woman, wife
 der Mann (die Männer)  man, husband
 der Apfel (die Äpfel)  apple
 das Geld (die Gelder)  money
 das Brot (die Brote)  bread
 Deutsch  German
 Englisch  English
 viel  much, a lot

Exercises

Exercise A: Translate to English:
1) Die Frau sucht den Mann.
2) Die Frauen lieben den Mann nicht.
3) Wir haben keine Kinder.
4) Du isst viel.
5) Das sind keine Tiere.
6) Die Frau wartet nicht.

Exercise B: Translate to German:
1) I lose my wife.
2) We speak German.
3) I have no apples.
4) They are not eating the bread.
5) We haven't got those keys.
6) You don't understand us.

Exercise C: Correct the errors:
1) Du sieht nicht mich.
2) Ihr isst keine Apfel.
3) Ich gebt dich den Schlüssel.
4) Du legst keinen Brot auf dem Tisch.
5) Sie sprecht Englisch.

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1) The woman is looking for the man.
2) The women don't love this man.
3) We haven't got any children.
4) You are eating / eat a lot.
5) These are no animals.
6) The woman is not waiting.

Solution of Exercise B:
1) Ich verliere meine Frau.
2) Wir sprechen Deutsch.
3) Ich habe keine Äpfel.
4) Sie essen das Brot nicht.
5) Wir haben diese Schlüssel nicht.
6) Du verstehst / Ihr versteht / Sie verstehen uns nicht.

Solution of Exercise C:
1) Du siehst mich nicht.
2) Ihr esst keinen Apfel. OR Sie isst keine Aüpfel.
3) Ich gebe dir den Schlüssel.
4) Du legst kein Brot auf den Tisch.
5) Sie spricht Englisch. OR Ihr sprecht Englisch.


Lesson 5: Adjectives, Adverbs, Questions

Adjectives

An adjective describes a noun, that's why it stands right before it in German. Sometimes the two are separated using the verb sein (to be). So much everything is like in English. Now look at some examples:

 Die Äpfel sind rot.  The apples are red.
 Gabi liebt rote Äpfel.  Gabi loves red apples.
 Die roten Äpfel sind sehr gut.  The red apples are very good.
 Das Haus ist groß.  The house is big.
 Ulrike ist eine nette Frau.  Ulrike is a nice woman.
 Die schnellen Kinder sehen ein weißes Auto.  The fast children see a white car.
 Das große Haus ist hier.  The big house is here.

This looks strange, doesn't it? If you speak a Romance language (French or Spanish for example), you are used to the adjective agreeing with the noun in number and gender. Now look at the first three examples. The adjective always refers to Äpfel, which is masculine plural. But why does the adjective rot use three different endings? That's because German adjectives are different. We distinguish four situations:

1.  If the adjective is left alone after sein, it is too shy to show an ending.
2.  If the adjective stands alone with a noun (without an article), it shows strength by using the strong declension.
3.  If the adjective stands between a definite article and a noun, it only uses the weak declension.
4.  If the adjective stands between an indefinite article and a noun, it can't really judge the situation, so it uses a mixture of strong and weak declension.
 Strong:
   (f)  (m)  (n)  pl.
 nom.  -e  -er  -es  -e
 gen.  -er  -en  -en  -er
 dat.  -er  -em  -em  -en
 acc.  -e  -en  -es  -e
 
 Weak:
   (f)  (m)  (n)  pl.
 nom.  -e  -e  -e  -en
 gen.  -en  -en  -en  -en
 dat.  -en  -en  -en  -en
 acc.  -e  -en  -e  -en
 
 Mixed:
   (f)  (m)  (n)  pl.
 nom.  -e  -er  -es  -en
 gen.  -en  -en  -en  -en
 dat.  -en  -en  -en  -en
 acc.  -e  -en  -es  -en

This looks quite confusing. Let's see whether we can find some regularities:

1.   In nominative singular, the weak declension is -e, otherwise it's -en.
2.   If the definite article is the same as in nominative, the weak declension is the same as in nominative, too.
3.   The strong declension depends on the definite article:
DAS/-es, DEM/-em, DEN/-en, DER/-er, DES/-en, DIE/-e
4.   If the weak declension is -en, so is the mixed one, otherwise it's like the strong declension.

Adverbs

Now we can move on to something easier: adverbs. An adverb says something about a verb, an adjective or another adverb, but not about a noun. In English, many adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective, as in slowslowly. In German, you don't add anything. And since adverbs have no noun to refer to, they never decline.

 Emil ist langsam.  Emil is slow.
 Er geht langsam.  He walks slowly.
 Ulrikes Englisch ist gut.  Ulrike's English is good.
 Ulrike spricht gut Englisch.  Ulrike speaks English well.

Questions

We distinguish two types of questions: WH questions such as Who are you? and yes/no questions such as Do you know John?.

German WH questions are almost like normal sentences, except that the question word stands at the beginning.

Das ist mein Bruder. That's my brother.
Wer ist das? Mein Bruder.Who is that? My brother.

Ich sehe dich. I see you.
Wer sieht dich? Ich. Who sees you? I do.
Wen sehe ich? Dich. Who(m) do I see? You.

Jan gibt seiner Mutter das Buch. Jan gives his mother the book.
Wer gibt seiner Mutter das Buch? Jan.Who gives his mother the book? Jan does.
Wem gibt Jan das Buch? Seiner Mutter.Whom does Jan give the book? His mother.
Was gibt Jan seiner Mutter? Das Buch.What does Jan give his mother? The book.

In yes/no questions, you don't add anything. But the verb moves to the beginning of the sentence:

 Ist das mein Bruder?  Is that my brother?
 Sehe ich dich?  Do I see you?
 Gibt Jan seiner Mutter das Buch?  Does Jan give his mother the book?

Vocabulary

 gelb  yellow
 groß  big, huge, great, tall
 grün  green
 gut  good
 hier  here
 klein  small, little
 langsam  slow
 nett  nice, friendly
 rot  red
 schnell  fast, quick
 schwarz  black
 weiß  white
 was?  what?
 wem?  who(m)? [dative]
 wen?  who(m)? [accusative]
 wer?  who? [nominative]
 wessen?  whose? [genitive]

Exercises

Exercise A: Translate to English:
1) Was siehst du?
2) Wer ist dieser nette Mann?
3) Isst das Kind ein Brot?
4) Das kleine Kind sieht den großen Hund.
5) Sprecht ihr Deutsch?
6) Wessen Vater hat ein rotes Auto?
7) Wen liebt Emil nicht?

Exercise B: Translate to German:
1) Do you have a big house?
2) Ulrike loves red apples.
3) Our mother is walking quickly.
4) Whose grandfather is that?
5) The big children have fast cars.
6) Aren't you sleeping?
7) Who is eating the apple?

Exercise C: Correct the errors:
1) Wem sieht das kleines Kind?
2) Was die schwarze Katzen sehen?
3) Wir gute sehen das grünes Haus.
4) Ein kleine Mann hat ein großen Haus.
5) Ist das weißes Auto schnelle?
6) Die Kinder gehen langsame.

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1) What do you see?
2) Who is this nice man?
3) Is the child eating a bread?
4) The small child sees the big dog.
5) Do you speak German?
6) Whose father has got a red car?
7) Who doesn't Emil love?

Solution of Exercise B:
1) Hast du / Habt ihr / Haben Sie ein Auto?
2) Ulrike liebt rote Äpfel.
3) Unsere Mutter geht schnell.
4) Wessen Großvater ist das?
5) Die großen Kinder haben schnelle Autos.
6) Schläfst du nicht?
7) Wer isst den Apfel?

Solution of Exercise C:
1) Wen sieht das kleine Kind? (Who does the small child see?)
      OR Wer sieht das kleine Kind? (Who sees the small child?)
2) Was sehen die schwarzen Katzen?
3) Wir sehen das grüne Haus gut.
4) Ein kleiner Mann hat ein großes Haus.
5) Ist das weiße Auto schnell?
6) Die Kinder gehen langsam.


End Of Part One

This is the end of the basic German course. Now you've learned some of the basics of this fascinating language.

Continue to part II

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