Easy Learning German

Specific problems - Easy Learning Grammar German

1 Nouns with capital letters

  • Unlike English, ALL German nouns start with a capital letter, not just proper names.
der Tischthe table
die Politikerinthe politician
die Königinthe Queen
  • Note that this also applies to verbs being used as nouns.
Sie hat ihr Können bewiesen.She has proved her ability.

2 Three forms of you

  • In English we have only one way of saying you. In German, there are three words: du, ihr and Sie. You use:
  • the familiar du if talking to one person you know well, such as a friend, someone younger than you or a relative.
Kommst du mit ins Kino?Are you coming to the cinema?
  • the familiar ihr if talking to more than one person you know well.
Also, was wollt ihr heute Abend machen?So, what do you want to do tonight?
  • the formal or polite Sie if talking to one or more people you do not know so well, such as your teacher, your boss or a stranger.
Was haben Sie gemacht?What did you do?

3 -ing

  • Although English sometimes uses parts of the verb to be to form the present tense of other verbs (for example, I am listening, she’s talking), German NEVER uses the verb sein in this way. Instead, it uses the normal present tense of the verb.
Ich spiele Tennis.I play tennis
OR:
I am playing tennis

4 To be

  • The verb to be is generally translated by sein.
Es ist spät.It’s late.
Das ist nicht möglich.That’s not possible.
  • When you are talking about the physical position of something you can use liegen. You may also come across sich befinden in more formal contexts.
Wo liegt/befindet sich der Bahnhof?Where’s the station?
  • In certain set phrases which describe how you are feeling or a state you are in, the verb haben is used.
Hunger habento be hungry
Durst habento be thirsty
Angst habento be afraid
unrecht habento be wrong
recht habento be right
  • Note that to say I etc am hot or I etc am cold, you use a personal pronoun in the dative case followed by sein.
Mir ist heißI am hot
NOT
Ich bin heiß
Ihr ist kaltShe is cold
NOT
Sie ist kalt
  • When talking about your health, use the following forms of the verb gehen.
Wie geht es dir/Ihnen?How are you?
Es geht mir gut
OR
Mir geht es gut.I’m fine.

5 It

  • There are three ways of saying it in German: er, sie and es. These correspond to the three different genders, masculine, feminine and neuter.
Wo ist der Wagen? – Er steht da drüben.Where is the car? – It’s over There.
Ich finde meine Uhr nicht. Hast du sie gesehen?I can’t find my watch. Have you seen it?
Was hältst du von meinem Haus?What do you think of my house?
Es ist ganz schön.– It’s really nice.
  • For more information on Gender, see Gender.

6 Date and time

  • When talking about a particular day or date, use the preposition an + the dative case in the following constructions:
Ich fahre am Montag nach Hause.I’m going home on Monday.
Sie wurde am Dienstag, den 1. April aus dem Krankenhaus entlassen.She was discharged from hospital on Tuesday, the 1st of April.
Meine Nichte hat am 6. September Geburtstag.My niece’s birthday is on the 6th of September.
  • When stating the time of a particular event, use the preposition um + the accusative case in the following construction.
Ich bin um 9 Uhr aufgestanden.I got up at 9 o’clock.
Der Zug ist um 22.30 Uhr abgefahren.The train left at 22.30 hours.

7 There is, there are

  • Both there is and there are are translated by es gibt.
Hier gibt es ein schönes Freibad.There’s a lovely open-air pool here.
In Stuttgart gibt es viele Parks.There are lots of parks in Stuttgart.

8 The imperfect of modal verbs

  • Modal verbs never have an umlaut in the imperfect tense.
können (can, to be able)konnte
müssen (must, to have to)musste
mögen (to like)mochte
dürfen (to be allowed to)durfte
sollen (to ought to)sollte
wollen (to want)wollte

9 Er/sie/es parts of strong verbs in the imperfect

  • You do NOT add a -t to the er/sie/es parts of the imperfect tense of strong verbs.
Er/sie/es gingHe/she/it went
NOT
Er/sie/es gingt
Er/sie/es sangHe/she/it sang
NOT
Er/sie/es sangt

10 Inseparable verbs in the perfect tense

  • Inseparable verbs have no ge- added to the beginning of the past participle in the perfect tense. For example:
Das habe ich schon bezahlt.I’ve already paid for that.
Er hat sich endlich entschlossen.He’s finally decided.

11 Can, to be able

  • If you want to say could, meaning was able, you use konnte, the imperfect form of können, you do NOT use the conditional form könnte.
Sie konnte nicht kommen.She couldn’t make it.
Er konnte das einfach nicht.He just wasn’t able to do it.

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