Easy Learning German

Some common difficulties - Easy Learning Grammar German

General problems

  • You can’t always translate German into English and English into German word for word. While occasionally it is possible to do this, often it is not. For example:
  • Sentences which contain a verb and preposition in English might NOT contain a preposition in German.
Jemanden/etwas ansehento look at somebody/something
Jemandem/etwas zuhörento listen to somebody/something
  • However, many sentences which contain a verb and preposition in German DO contain a preposition in English.
sich interessieren fürto be interested in
denken überto think about
  • Remember that German prepositions are of two types:
  • Some are only ever used with one case, such as gegen (accusative), bei (dative) and außerhalb (genitive). For all of these it is useful to learn the preposition and its case by heart.
  • The second type are used either with the accusative or the dative, according to whether movement from one place to another is involved or not. The translation of the same preposition from the last group can change according to the case being used.
Sie schrieb einen Brief an ihren Bruder.She wrote a letter to her brother.
Wir treffen uns am Bahnhof.We’re meeting at the station.
  • For more information on Prepositions, see .
  • A word which is plural in English may not be in German.
eine Brilleglasses, spectacles
eine Scherescissors
eine Hosetrousers
  • Note that they are only used in the plural in German to mean more than one pair, for example, zwei Hosen = two pairs of trousers.
  • In English, you use ‘s to show who or what something belongs to; in German you generally either use the genitive case or von + the dative case.
Das Auto meiner Schwester
Das Auto von meiner SchwesterMy sister’s car
  • For more information on the Genitive case, see The Cases.
  • German punctuation differs from English in several ways.
  • Decimal places are always shown by a comma, NOT a full stop.
3,4 (drei Komma vier)3.4 (three point four)
  • Large numbers are separated by means of a space or a full stop, NOT a comma.
20 000
OR: 20.000 (zwanzigtausend)20,000 (twenty thousand)
  • Subordinate clauses are always separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma.
Er bleibt gesund, obwohl er zu viel trinkt.He stays healthy, even though he drinks too much.
  • For more information on Subordinate clauses, see .
  • When two main clauses are linked by und (meaning and) or oder (meaning or), no comma is required.
Wir gehen ins Kino oder wir bleiben zu Hause.We’ll go to the cinema or stay at home.
Specific problems

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