ARTS AND SCIENCE | MAIN | STUDENT | ACADEMIC | CAMPUS LIFE | ALUMNI | NEWS | ADMINISTRATION
 
TheUniversityof Winnipeg Lockhart Hall German Review


Please Note: This page is very much under construction!


Essentials of German Grammar

These pages present a concise review of the essentials of German grammar for students at the Intermediate level. For a complete coverage of the grammar points investigated here, consult one of the standard references such as Duden IV: Die Grammatik.

Would you like to download the interactive CALL program German Review (130 KB)? This program gives a concise overview for important grammar items and offers progressive, interactive grammar exercises with instant feedback on all input and online help.


Please note that the principles of the new orthography (neue deutsche Rechtschreibung) are reflected in the German examples given in these pages. These rules have become official August 1, 1998.

For further details, you may want to consult the Home Page on Rechtschreibung of the Institut für Deutsche Sprache.


Table of Contents

The Verb
 

Nouns and Pronouns Adjectives and Adverbs Prepositions Basic Word Order Numbers Miscellaneous [To the Beginning]

The Verb

The Infinitive

The infinitive is the base form of the verb. In German, all infinitives end in en or n. Most infinitives end in en.

From the infinitive, we can form the verb stem (the infinitive minus the en or n). We use the this verb stem to form the present tense by adding personal endings to it.

[ Table of Contents ] [ Glossary ]


The Present Tense

In German, the present tense is used to express an action that is taking place in the present or in the future (when ambiguity is not possible because of the context).

Actions begun in the past and continuing into the present (e.g. I have been studying German for a year) will also use the present tense. Since German does not have the emphatic or progressive moods, these will also have to be translated by the present tense.

The statement Ich lerne Deutsch will have the following German equivalents:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Conjugation of Regular (weak) Verbs

In the present tense the personal endings are added to the verb stem (the infinitive minus en or n).

Note: When the verb stem ends in d or t or a consonant cluster (three or more consonants in a series - e.g. öffnen - to open) we must insert an extra e before adding the personal endings in the du-form, the er/es/sie-form and the ihr-form.

Example:

When the verb stem ends in a sibilant (something that sounds like an s - i.e. s, ss, z, ß, z) we do not need to add another s in the du-form. This means in effect that the du-form and the er/es/ sie-form will have the same ending. [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Verbs with Separable Prefixes

Prefixes are particles that are added to the beginning of a verb (hence prefix) to modify or change the meaning of the verb. An example of a prefix in English would be describe, where the syllable de completely changes the meaing of the verb scribe.

In German, we have two kinds of prefixes:

Thus we would say: Ich verkaufe das nicht or Ich verstehe Sie nicht, because ver is an inseparable prefix.

However, in the present tense, separable prefixes are detached from the verb that shows a personal ending (the inflected verb) and will stand in final position in the clause.

Examples

In fact, separable prefixes are always detached from the verb when a personal ending is added to the verb. They will therefore be detached in the present and simple past tenses, and in the imperative.

Thus:

But: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Verb sein

The verb sein is completely irregular in the present tense and has to be learned. Note the forms:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Irregular Verbs with a Vowel Shift

Some German verbs undergo a shift in the stem vowel in the present tense.

This shift occurs only in the du-form and the er/es/sie-forms.

Here are some of these verbs:

It's easy to remember the possible changes in stem vowels: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Verb haben

The verb haben fits into the category of verbs that are irregular in the du and er/es/sie-forms. Note the forms:

Note that the b of the stem hab has been dropped from both the du and er/es/sie-forms

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Present Tense of Modal Auxiliaries and the Verb wissen

There are six modal auxiliaries. Modals are helping verbs. They add the indicated flavour to the verbal expressions:

NOTE: All but the verb sollen have a change in the stem vowel throughout the singular.

All modals have regular forms in the plural

The verb wissen - which is not a modal - also has a change in the stem vowel throughout the singular The plural of wissen, is, of course, regular (wir wissen, ihr wisst, sie/Sie wissen)

Let us now look at the conjugation of a modal.

NOTE: The ich-form and the er/es/sie-form have no ending and that the plural forms are regular.

The verb wissen behaves in the same way: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Imperative

The imperative is the mood for making requests and giving orders or commands.

Since German has three ways of saying you (du, ihr and Sie), it follows quite logically that there are also three different forms for the imperative.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Imperative of Regular (Weak) Verbs

For people we address as du, we use the verb stem (the infinitive minus the en or n).

An optional e is sometimes added to soften the tone of the command.

For verbs whose stem ends in a t or d or in a consonant cluster (three consonants in a row), we must add an e to the stem before adding the endings.

For two or more people we address as ihr, we use the verb in the ihr-form without the pronoun. For people whom we address in the polite form Sie, we invert the Sie-form of the verb. Note: German often uses the period instead of the exclamation for punctuation in imperatives. In these examples we have used exclamation marks to show that we are dealing with commands.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Imperative of Irregular (strong) Verbs

The verb sein has the following imperative forms:

All other German verbs have regular imperatives in the plural, (i.e. the wir, ihr and Sie-imperatives).

Thus only the du-imperatives can be irregular for verbs other than sein.

There are two relatively small groups of verbs with irregular imperatives:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Imperatives for Verbs with Separable Prefixes

In the imperative (command-form) the prefix is detached from the verb and placed at the end of the clause.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Present Perfect

The present perfect is used to describe an action that has taken place in the past and is no longer taking place at the time of the description.

The German present perfect has several English equivalents. Thus, Ich habe Deutsch gelernt will have the following English translations: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Present Perfect of Regular (weak) Verbs

The present perfect is formed with the present tense of the verb haben - (in a few cases with the verb sein) - and the past participle of the verb. The past participle stands last in the clause.

The past participle of regular verbs is formed by adding ge to the front of the verb stem (that is the infinitive without the nor enending) and t or et to the end of the stem. When the verb stem ends in t or d or a consonant cluster (three or more consonants in a series - e.g. öffnen) an et must be added to the stem. No ge is added if the verb begins with an inseparable prefix (i.e. be, ent, emp, er, ge, miss, ver, zer), or when the verb contains the syllable ieren [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Present Perfect of Irregular (Strong) Verbs

Irregular verbs form the Present Perfect with the present tense of the verb haben (and in a few cases with the verb sein) and the past participle of the verb. This past participle is placed at at the end of the clause. The past participle of irregular verbs is formed by adding ge to the beginning of a stem with a vowel change and en at the end of this stem. There is, of course no ge when the verb contains the syllable ieren or has an inseparable prefix.

Some verbs use sein as an auxiliary. These are intransitive verbs - they have no object - and they signal a change. Many verbs of locomotion (where a change from one location to another is described) fall into this category:

Examples:

The verbs sein, werden, and bleiben also use sein as an auxiliary.

Here are some examples for the Present Perfect:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Present Perfect of Mixed (Irregular Weak) Verbs

A few verbs such as kennen form their past participles by adding a ge to the beginning of the stem (infinitive minus en or n) and a t to the end. The stem in mixed verbs, however, shows a shift in the stem vowel in the past participle.

Such verbs are called mixed verbs because they exhibit characteristics of regular and irregular verbs. Here are some common ones. Note that rennen is conjugated with sein: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Present Perfect for Verbs with Separable Prefixes

Verbs with separable prefixes form the present perfect the usual way (i.e. the present tense of haben and sein and the past participle at the end of the clause).

The past participle is also formed the usual way (i.e. ge is added to the beginning of the stem and t or en to the end). The prefix is then attached to the beginning of the past participle.

Two examples: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Simple Past

The simple past is used to describe an action that has taken place in the past and is no longer taking place at the time of the description. it is mainly used in narratives and in more formal German.

The German simple past has several English equivalents. Thus, Ich lernte Deutsch will have the following English translations: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Simple Past of Regular (Weak) Verbs

In regular (weak) verbs the form of the stem (the infinitive minus the enor n) remains unchanged when the simple past tense is formed:

Note that all forms except the ich-form and the er/sie/es-form add endings to the te past-tense marker. These endings look just like the regular present-tense endings.

Let's look at the simple past tense of a typical verb:

The past-tense marker te becomes ete when the verb stem ends in d or t, or when a consonant cluster (3 or more consonants in a series - e.g. ich öffnete) occurs. [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Simple Past of Irregular (Strong) Verbs

Strong verbs usually have a stem vowel change in the simple past. e.g. schwimmen = ich schwamm Some verbs also have consonant changes. e.g. ziehen = ich zog

Let us look at a common irregular verb sein (to be)

and the verb schwimmen (to swim) Note the following characteristics:

There are no endings in the ich-form and in the er/es/sie-form. The ich-form and the er/es/sie-form therefore always look the same.

The endings for the other forms look like the endings of the present tense.

The nature of the stem change has to be learned as in English. However, verbs with similar looking infinitives often have the same stem change.

Many verbs that are irregular in English are also irregular in German and often the sound change is similar. So, if you are forced to guess, follow the pattern suggested by the English. More often than not your answer will lead to a correct guess. [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Simple Past of Mixed (Irregular Weak)Verbs

A few verbs are irregular in that they undergo a shift in the stem vowel in the simple past but then add regular endings. That is why we refer to them often as "mixed" verbs.

Here is a typical mixed (irregular weak) verb: kennen = to know Note that the stem vowel in kennen changed from e to a but that, at the same time the endings are those of a regular verb.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Modals in the Simple Past

Modals have regular endings in the Simple Past and drop their Umlaut. Take a close look at them:

Note that since sollen and wollen do not have an Umlaut in their infinitive forms they act just like regular verbs in the simple past.

Let's look at one of the modals fully conjugated!

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Simple Past of Verbs with Separable Prefixes

In the simple past, the prefix in separable verbs is detached in inflected verbs and placed at the end of the clause.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Past Perfect

The past perfect is used to describe an action that has been completed in the past before another action began.

German uses the past tense of the auxiliaries sein or haben and the past participle. The construction looks very similar to the present perfect.

The past perfect is formed with the simple pasttense of the verb haben - (in a few cases with the verb sein) - and the past participle of the verb. The past participle stands last in the clause.

The formation of the past participle is the same as for the present perfect.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Future Tense

The future tense is used in German to describe actions will take place in the future. Often the present tense is used instead. However, when we want to emphasize that the action will take place in the future rather than now, and when there are no other indicators of future time in the sentence, we use the future.

As in English, the future is also used in German to show a strong intention. The future tense in German is formed with the present tense of the verb werden and the infinitive of the verb that is to express future activity. The infinitive is in final position in the clause. Don't forget that the present tense of werden is irregular. Note that the d is dropped in the du-form and that the er/es/sie-form ends in d.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Future Perfect

As in English, the future perfect is used in German to describe an action that will have terminated in the future before another action will begin. This use of the future perfect is, however, relatively rare.

More commonly the future perfect is used in German to express the probability that somethingwill have taken place by the time the speaker expresses it. Usually wohl or sicher or similar expressions are added to make the situation clearer. The future perfect is formed with the present tense of werden, the past participle of the verb, and the infinitive of haben or sein. [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Passive Voice

In the active voice (e.g. The dog bites me.) the subject (dog) performs an action affecting the object, is active.

In the passive voice the subject is passive (e.g. I am being bitten by the dog). The action is performed by an agent (by the dog).

In German the passive is not used as frequently as in English. English often uses the passive to disguise the agent. e.g. I was asked to do this. In German such a sentence would normally use man (one).

The passive voice in German is formed with the appropriate tense of the verb werden and the past-participle of the verb. Note that werden uses a special past-participle (worden) when it is used in the present perfect, the past perfect and the future perfect of the passive voice. In the following examples the active sentences on the left side are transposed to the passive on the right side. Take a close look at what changes do take place. Note that the object (Accusative) of the active sentence becomes the subject (Nominative) in the passive sentence.

Present:

Simple Past: Present Perfect: Past Perfect: Future: Future Perfect: The Agent in a passive sentence is generally expressed by using von with the Dative if they are considered to act on their own volition, and by durch with the Accusative when agents are merely the means through which the action takes place.

e.g. Ich wurde von meiner Mutter geschickt. Er wurde durch die Nachricht betrübt.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Dative Verbs in the Passive Construction

Do you remember that there are a number of German verbs that are always followed by the Dative Case? Do you remember which ones they are? Well, in case you don't, here are the most important ones:

antworten - befehlen - begegnen - danken - dienen - folgen - fehlen - gefallen - gelingen - glauben - gehorchen - gehören - helfen - leid tun - passen - passieren - raten - schmecken - verzeihen - weh tun

Many of these verbs may appear in passive constructions. When they do, their dative object must remain in the Dative Case and not be changed to the Nominative as we do in other passive constructions.

Here are some examples of passive constructions involving Dative verbs:

In these examples there are no Nominatives. Instead, the passive recipient of the action is in the Dative Case.

Sometimes the "stand-in" subject es is used in such constructions. We have to pay attention here, but it's not really that hard.

In other words Mir wird von ihm geholfen may also be rendered as: Es wird mir von ihm geholfen

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Impersonal Passive Constructions

German has the ability to form impersonal passive constructions. This is often done when the speaker does not wish to disclose who is performing the action or considers that fact immaterial.

In English we might accomplish that by saying: There was a lot of laughing.

German would express this with an impersonal passive construction:

Note that the pronoun es is simply acting as a substitute subject.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Modal Auxiliaries in the Passive Voice

Modal Auxiliaries are frequently used in the passive voice. Look at some typical constructions.

The examples show the present, future, present perfect and simple past of this construction. Notice what happens to the modal and to the verb werden in these constructions. It is just what you would expect. Right?

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Alternatives to the Passive Voice

here are a number of interesting ways to get around using the passive voice in German. These are very frequently used instead of the passive voice.

The most common "dodge" to the passive is the use of the impersonal pronoun man (one).

sein...zu plus an infinitive is often used to replace passive constructions expressing possibility or necessity. sich lassen plus an infinitive can be used to replace a passive construction expressing possibility. Sometimes reflexive constructions are used to replace a passive. Let's look at a summary of all these alternatives to the passive voice. ALTERNATIVES: As you can see, there are many ways to express the same idea.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Present-Time General Subjunctive

The subjunctive is used in a number of situations:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Regular Verbs

The present-time general subjunctive for regular verbs is identical to the simple past indicative.


Irregular Verbs

The present-time general subjunctive for irregular verbs is also based on the simple past. However, for the subjunctive we add an Umlaut were possible (to a, o, u) and we add special subjunctive endings.

e.g.

Note that there is an e in all of the endings for the present-time subjunctive.

In the case of the modals, those that have an Umlaut in the infinitive keep it in the present-time subjunctive. The verbs sollen and wollen, however, will look like regular verbs in the present-time general subjunctive (i.e. they will look like the regular simple past tense of these verbs).

e.g.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Past-Time General Subjunctive

The past-time general subjunctive is formed in a manner similar to the present perfect of the indicative.

We use the present-time subjunctive of haben or sein and place the past participle at the end of the clause.

Incidentally:

Do you remember the present-time general subjunctive of haben and sein?

Just in case you don't, here they are again:

Here are some examples of the past-time subjunctive in unfulfillable or contary-to-fact conditions: With the modals we cannot get around the double-infinitive construction in the past-time subjunctive (i.e. the past participle changes to the infinitive form and is immediately preceded by the dependent infinitive - hence the name "double-infinitive" construction). Study this construction carefully, especially the wenn clause. Note that the hätte occurs before the double infinitive.

Another example:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The würde-Construction

The würde-construction can be used to replace any subjunctive construction, though sometimes it can be far more cumbersome than the subjunctive itself.

The würde-construction consists of the present-time general subjunctive of werden and the infinitive to express present-time subjunctive. Naturally, this infinitive is placed at the end of the clause.

The present-time würde-construction looks as follows:

The past-time würde-construction looks as follows: The würde construction is often used in one part of a condition, while the subjunctive is used in the other part. [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Subjunctive with als ob and als wenn

After the expressions als ob and als wenn - which both mean as if - the subjunctive is used. The two expressions are always preceded by a comma.

It's not that hard, but we do have to watch the tense in the als wenn/als ob clause a little.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Special Subjunctive

The Special Subjunctive is used in the formal reporting of indirect speech. When we report what someone has said, we may use quotations marks to enclose the words of the original speaker:

Indirect speech is used when we report what someone else has said without quoting the exact words: Note in this example that the verb will changed to would and that the pronoun your to our.

In everyday informal situations, Germans tend to simply use the indicative to report what someone else has said:

In more formal situations, you will hear the General Subjunctive being used to report what someone else has said: In formal reporting in lectures, newspapers, magazines and journals and, of course, in literature, the Special Subjunctive is often used: The subjunctive may be used in past, present and future times, depending on the original tense used in the direct quotation. The verb of reporting may be in the past or present depending on the perspective of the speaker.

Examples:

Figuring out the correct tenses to use is the trickiest part of rendering indirect speech.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Present-time Special Subjunctive

Here are the forms of the Special Subjunctive to express present-time actions and situations:

You will notice that these forms look very similar to the present indicative. In other words, we take the verb stem and add the following endings to it: The present-time Special Subjunctive for sein looks as follows: The present-time Special Subjunctive for haben looks as follows. The present-time Special Subjunctive for werden looks as follows: Some Examples: In both cases we could have also used the General Subjunctive (...sie käme heute nicht / sie hätte doch kein Geld) or the würde-construction (...sie würde heute nicht kommen).

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Past-time Special Subjunctive

The past-time Special Subjunctive is formed with the present-time subjunctive of either haben or sein and the past participle. It is similar in formation to the present perfect indicative.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Future-time Special Subjunctive

The future-time Special Subjunctive is formed with the present-time Special Subjunctive of werden and the infinitive of the verb. In structure it looks exactly like the future of the indicative.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Wishes in the Special Subjunctive

The Special Subjunctive is sometimes used in wishes:

On grave stones we often read: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Gender of Nouns

In German, male beings are usually masculine in gender, and female beings are normally feminine. However, inanimate objects may be either masculine, neuter or feminine.

It is usually best to memorize the gender of nouns. However, there are some general guidelines that may be useful to make an intelligent guesses about unknown words.

Masculine Words:

Neuter Words: Femine Words [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Cases

The cases of nouns denote their function in a clause. There are four cases in German:

The Nominative Case

The Accusative Case The Dative Case The Genitive Case Assigned cases are also used with prepositions.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Nominative Case

The forms for the Nominative Case for der, der-words (e.g. dieser), ein and ein-words (e.g. unser) are:

We can see that in the Nominative Case the endings for der and ein and der and ein-words are the same for the feminine only. In the masculine and neuter they are dissimilar.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Accusative Case

The forms for the Accusative Case for der, der-words (e.g. dieser), ein and ein-words (e.g. unser) are:

Only the masculine changes its form from the Nominative to the Accusative case.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Dative Case

The forms for the Dative Case for der, der-words (e.g. dieser), ein and ein-words (e.g. unser) are:

In the Dative plural, all nouns that do not already end in n or end in s must add n or en (e.g. den Leuten)

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Genitive Case

The forms for the Genitive Case for der, der-words (e.g. dieser), ein and ein-words (e.g. unser) are:

Note that in the masculine and the neuter nouns must add an s (except for N-nouns - des Herrn, des Kollegen)

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Overview of der and ein

Here is an overview of all the cases:
 

CASE:  masculine neuter feminine plural
Nominative der Mann 

ein Mann

das Auto 

ein Auto

die Frau 

eine Frau

die Leute 

keine Leute

Accusative den Mann 

einen Mann

das Auto 

ein Auto

die Frau 

eine Frau

die Leute 

keine Leute

Dative dem Mann 

einem Mann

dem Auto 

einem Auto

der Frau 

einer Frau

den Frauen 

keinen Frauen

Genitive des Mannes 

eines Mannes

des Autos 

eines Autos

der Frau 

einer Frau

der Frauen 

keiner Frauen

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Der and Ein-Words

Der-words are words that behave like the definite article der. They change their form in a similar fashion.

The der-words are: dieser, jeder, jener, mancher, solcher, welcher, alle (pl.)

Examples: Kennst du diesen Mann? Für welches Kind ist das? Alle Kollegen kommen mit.

Ein-words are words that add the same endings as the indefinite article ein.

The ein-words are: kein, mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, Ihr

Examples: Wir sehen unser Auto. Das ist für unseren Lehrer. Er kommt mit einem Freund.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Pronouns

Pronouns are parts of speech that represent nouns. Their behaviour is very similar to nouns. They change their form according to gender, number and case.

There are personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns and relative pronouns.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Four Cases

Like nouns, the pronouns have cases:

The use of these pronouns is identical with the use of nouns.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Overview

Here is a chart showing you all the pronouns in a glance:
 

Nominative ich  du  er  es  sie  wir  ihr  sie / Sie 
Accusative  mich  dich  ihn  es  sie  uns  euch  sie / Sie
Dative mir  dir ihm  ihm  ihr uns euch ihnen / Ihnen

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are pronouns that refer back to the subject of the clause.

In example one, the subject and object (she and me) are not the same thing or person. In example two, however, the subject and object (I and me) are the same person.

Reflexive pronouns are identical to the personal pronouns already discussed, except in the third person, singular (er/es/sie) and plural (sie) and the polite form (Sie) where the reflexive pronoun is sich.

Reflexive pronouns will be in either the Dative or Accusative case, depending on their function in the clause. Look at these examples:

Here is an overview:
 
Accusative: mich  dich  ihn  es  sie  uns  euch  sie  Sie
Dative: mir dir ihm  ihm  ihr uns euch ihnen  Ihnen

Note that the pronouns are in the order of : I, you, he, it, she, we you, they, you (pol.)

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Relative Pronouns and Relative Clauses

Relative pronouns (in English: who, whose, whom,which, what or that) introduce relative clauses. Relative clauses give information about nouns or pronouns in a clause. Look at these English examples:

The highlighted words are the relative clauses. These clauses give specific information about the nouns in these sentences much more specific. In the last example, for instance, we are not talking about any man, but a particular one, namely the one who did that.

Sometimes we omit the relative pronoun in English.

In German the relative pronoun must always be expressed. What are the relative pronouns in German?

As we will see, they are very closely related to der, das and die. Let's have a closer look at them!
 

Relative Pronouns
Case masculine  neuter  feminine  plural
Nominative:  der das die die
Accusative:  den das die die
Dative: dem dem der denen
Genitive: dessen  dessen  deren  deren 

Notice that the relative pronouns are identical to the definite article in form except in the Dative plural and throughout the Genitive Case singular and plural.

Once we know the forms of the relative pronouns we have to figure out how to use them. Here is how:

Let's look again at the examples given at the beginning:

In the first example we look at whom and ask what it refers to. The answer is: a masculine, singular noun - man. We then ask what function the pronoun serves in its own clause and we discover that it is the direct object (Accusative).

Therefore the correct form of the relative pronoun will be masculine, singular, accusative = den

By the same analysis we discover that about whom in the second example will be either von dem or über den depending on which preposition we use and who in the third example will be der.

So, remember:

Don't forget:

In German the relative pronoun is never omitted! Relative clauses are dependent clauses which means that the verb must be placed at the end of the clause. Relative clauses, like most clauses in German, are marked off by commas.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Predicate Adjectives

Predicate adjectives (those following the noun they modify) take no endings.

Examples:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Attributive Adjectives: Preceded Adjectives

Attributive Adjectives precede the nound and they take endings which are determined by what precedes them (i.e. a "der-word" or an "ein-word" or nothing).

Examples:

Let us take a close look at the attributive adjective endings after "der-words" and "ein-words":

ATTRIBUTIVE ADJECTIVES IN THE SINGULAR


Case: masculine neuter feminine
Nominative:  der nette Mann

ein netter Mann

das nette Kind

ein nettes Kind

die nette Frau 

eine nette Frau

Accusative: den netten Mann

einen netten Mann

das nette Kind

ein nettes Kind

die nette Frau

eine nette Frau

Dative: dem netten Mann

einem netten Mann 

dem netten Kind

einem netten Kind 

der netten Frau 

einer netten Frau

Genitive:  des netten Mannes

eines netten Mannes 

des netten Kindes

eines netten Kindes 

der netten Frau

einer netten Frau

At first the adjective endings may look very complicated. However, consider these facts:

In the plural the attributive endings after "der-words" and "ein-words" are as follows:
 
Nominative:  die netten Leute 

keine netten Leute 

Accusative: die netten Leute 

keine netten Leute 

Dative: den netten Leuten 

keinen netten Leuten 

Genitive: der netten Leute 

keiner netten Leute 

In other words, in the plural the attributive adjective ending after "der-words" and "ein-words" is always EN.

To summarize:

Attributive endings after der- and ein-words are as follows:

after der - e [gute] (masculine, singular), en [guten] (feminine, singular), en [guten] (plural)

after das - e [gute] (neuter, singular)

after die - e [gute] (feminine, singular), en [guten] (plural)

after den - en [guten]

after dem - en [guten]

after des - en [guten]

after kein - er [guter] (masculine, singular), es [gutes] (neuter, singular)

after keine - e [gute] (feminine, singular), en [guten] (plural)

after keinen - en [guten]

after keinem - en [guten]

after keines - en [guten]

after keiner - en [guten]

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Attributive Adjectives: Unpreceded Adjectives

When an attributive adjective is not preceded by a "der-word" or an "ein-word" it is called an unpreceded adjective.

For unpreceded attributive adjectives the endings (with the exception of the masculine and neuter Genitive) are the "der-word" (or "dieser-word") endings.

Let's have a look at those endings.

Here are unpreceded adjective endings:
 

Case:  masculine  neuter  feminine  plural 
Nominative:  guter Wein  gutes Bier  gute Milch  gute Kinder 
Accusative:  guten Wein  gutes Bier  gute Milch  gute Kinder 
Dative:  gutem Wein  gutem Bier  guter Milch  guten Kindern
Genitive: guten Weins  guten Biers  guter Milch guter Kinder

As long as we remember what the "der-word" endings are, we have no problems with unpreceded attributive adjectives. However, watch out for the masculine and neuter Genitive! Think en!

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


The Comparative and Superlative of Adjectives

For the comparative of the adjective in English we add either er or the word more to the base form of adjectives.

Examples:

In German we always add er to the base form. When we use the adjective attributively we must also add the appropriate ending.

Examples:

For the superlative of the adjective in English we add either (e)st or the word most to the base form of the adjective.

Examples:

In German we always add st or est if the noun ends in a t or d or a consonant cluster (three or more consonants in a series). When we use the adjective attributively, we must also add the appropriate adjective ending.

Examples:

Actually, it is not that complicated. However, don't forget that there are some irregular forms too.

Remember what they are?

BASE FORM - COMPARATIVE - SUPERLATIVE

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Comparative and Superlative of Adverbs

The comparative of adverbs is similar to that of the predicate adjective. In English we add er or more to the adverb.

Examples:

In German we always add er

Examples:

Remember that an Umlaut is sometimes added as well as in er kommt öfter!

The superlative of adverbs in English is formed by adding the . . . (e)st or most . . . ly to the adverb.

Examples:

In German we use the invariable expression am...sten with the adverb. When the stem ends in t, d or a consonant cluster (three or more consonants in a series) we use the expression am...esten.

Examples:

Remember that an Umlaut is sometimes added as in "er kommt am öftesten").

Of course, as always, there are some irregular forms. Remember these?

BASE FORM - COMPARATIVE - SUPERLATIVE

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Adjectives used as Nouns

We may change an attributive adjective into a noun by capitalizing it. The ending remains the same as for the attributive adjective.

Examples:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Participles used as Adjectives

In German, both present participle and past participles may be used as adjectives. When used in this way they add the appropriate attributive endings.

PRESENT PARTICIPLE:

PAST PARTICIPLE: As long as we remember the correct attributive adjective endings, we'll have no problems.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Prepositions with the Accusative

The prepositions bis, durch, entlang (follows its object), für, gegen, ohne, um are always followed by an accusative object. Note that the preposition entlang follows its accusative object.

Examples:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Prepositions used with the Dative Case

The following prepositions are used with the Dative case:

Here are some examples of prepositions used with the Dative case: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Dative/Accusative (Two-way) Prepositions

A number of prepositions may be followed either by the dative case or by the accusative case, depending on the precise meaning.

For example, the prepositions in (position within) and into (motion to) have only one equivalent in German: in.

There are nine prepositions in German that may take either the dative or accusative case for the same reasons.

Here are the Dative/Accusative Prepositions (sometimes also called the "Either-or" or "Two-way" prepositions).

When they answer the question wo? (where, in what place?) they are followed by the dative case.

When they answer the questions woher? (from where?) or wohin? (where to?) they are followed by the accusative case.

DATIVE/ACCUSATIVE PREPOSITIONS:

We have to pay close attention when we use these prepositions, but they are not at all difficult to use.

Here are some examples:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Prepositions with the Genitive Case

The most common prepositions used with the Genitive Case are:

Examples: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Special Meanings of Dative/Accusative Prepositions

Sometimes prepositions are used figuratively in that they do not refer to spatial relationships. When we say in English that "she is waiting on tables in a restaurant" we do not mean that she is waiting in a restaurant sitting or standing on tables. The prepositon on is therefore used figuratively. German often uses prepositions in the same figurative way.

Thus, the German sentence Er wartet auf seinen Freund means, of course, that he is waiting for his friend and not on top of him.

Here are some examples of common prepositions used figuratively:

Examples: There are many other figurative uses of prepositions like those shown. Watch your vocabulary lists for them! All but the smallest of dictionaries give examples.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Word Order in Statements and Questions

In German word order in statements, the inflected verb is usually in second place. It is often preceded by the subject.

Example:

To emphasize a certain word or phrase, the speaker may place it before the inflected verb at the beginning of the sentence. When this is done, the verb must remain in second place and the subject must follow it. Only one element may precede the inflected verb

Examples:

Questions may be asked in German using three different approaches: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Independent Clauses and Coordinating Conjunctions

Independent clauses are clauses that make complete statements and do not need elements outside the clause to complete them.

Example:

Clauses introduced by coordinating conjunctions (aber, denn, sondern, weil, wenn, und) are also independent clauses Note that after the conjunctions aber, denn, sondern, weil, wenn, and und the word order of the clause following is not affected.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Dependent Clauses and Subordinating Conjunctions

Dependent clauses, as their name indicates, do not make complete statements and are dependent on some other element in the sentence for their proper meaning.

The clause that he is here, for instance, is meaningless until we look at elements outside the clause to find the clause I am happy.

The sentence I am happy, that he is here. makes perfect sense. The clause That he is here is a dependent clause.

Dependent clauses are introduced by subordinating conjunctions.

The German version of the example we just looked at is: Ich freue mich, dass er hier ist.

The conjunction dass is a subordinating conjunctions.

Many elements (such as relative pronouns and questions words, for instance) may act like subordinating conjunctions as well.

Example:

It is useful to memorize the most frequently encountered subordinating conjunctions. They are: Examples: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Indirect Statements and Questions

Indirect statements and questions generally use the subjunctive (either general or special). The principles of indirect discourse apply.

Indirect statement are usually introduced by dass. The dass may be omitted and the word order remains unaffected.

Example:

Specific questions (those beginning with a question word) will have the inflected verb in the reported clause at the end of the clause. However, general questions - those not beginning with a question word (such as wer, wo, wie) are introduced by the word ob and are dependent clauses (i.e. the verb is placed at the end of the clause). Here is an example:

DIRECT QUESTION:

INDIRECT QUESTION: When the question begins with a question word (such as wer, wo, wie) the indirect question is also introduced by that question word and the verb is placed at the end of the clause.

DIRECT QUESTION: Er fragt: "Wann hat sie Zeit?"
INDIRECT QUESTION: Er fragt, wann sie Zeit hätte. Or: Er fragt, wann sie Zeit habe.

As in indirect statements, we have to watch our tenses carefully!

If Erna asked "is he coming today?" we will use the present-time subjunctive (either general or special).

If Erna asked "will he be coming today?" we will use the future-time subjunctive (either general or special).

If Erna asked "did he come today?" we will use the past-time subjunctive (either general or special).

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Indirect Commands

Like indirect statements and questions, indirect commands use the general or special subjunctive.

An indirect command uses the appropriate subjunctive tense of the verb sollen. German is similar to English in this aspect.

Let's first look at the situation in English:

In German the transposition is very similar. [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Dependent Infinitives with modals, "hören", "sehen" and "lassen"

Dependent infinitives with modals (können, dürfen, mögen, wollen, müssen, sollen) and the verbs hören and sehen and other verbs of perception, as well as with the verb lassen are placed at the end of the clause. No zu is required.

Examples:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Double Infinitive Construction with modals, and the verbs hören, sehen, lassen

When we use these verbs in the present perfect and there is no dependent infinitive, their past-participles are as follows:

When the modals, hören, sehen and lassen are used in the present perfect or the past-time subjunctive, they will remain in the infinitive form and are immediately preceded by the infinitive - hence we talk of the double infinitive contruction.

Here are some examples:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The "zu-construction" with Dependent Infinitives

As we have seen, the dependent infinitive for modals and the verbs hören, sehen (and certain other verbs of perception such as fühlen) and lassen are placed at the end of the clause.

Examples:

For all other verbs the dependent infinitive is not only placed at the end of the clause but is also preceded by the word zu.

Examples:

There are also many expressions that incorporate the "zu-construction".


Separable prefixes precede the zu, so that we get constructions like:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

The Constructions um...zu, (an)statt...zu and ohne...zu

the constructions um...zu, (an)statt...zu andohne...zu the dependent infinitive, preceded by zu, is placed at the end of the clause.

Examples:

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Pre-Noun Inserts

Whereas in English we are restricted in our ability to add modifiers before a noun and usually have to use a subordinate clause to add a significant amount of information to a noun, German is able to incorporate quite a bit of information Through the use of the so-called "pre-noun insert" or "extended modifier".

Look at the following problems:

We can readily translate expressions such as:

However, translation becomes a bit more complicated when we look at the construction: It is perhaps best translated as: the woman who had been waiting for a long time in front of the house

As we can see, in German it is possible to place quite a bit of information about the noun before it.

As the examples show, present and past participles with the correct adjective ending are usually seen in the extended modifier construction.

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Ordinal Numbers

Cardinal numbers (i.e. one, two, three) in German do not add adjective endings except for "ein" (as "a" or "an").

Example:

Ordinal numbers (i.e. first, second, third) add attributive adjective endings.

Examples:

The Ordinal Numbers from 1 to 25 are as follows. The dash after the number indicates that an appropriate adjective ending must be added: [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Cardinal Numbers

In German, the numbers 1 to 12 have to be memorized

Here they are:

Cardinal Numbers


1 eins  vier  7 sieben  10 zehn 
zwei  fünf  8 acht  11 elf
3 drei  6 sechs  9 neun 12 zwölf 

All other numbers up to twenty (zwanzig) are a combination of these numbers.

e.g. 13 = dreizehn, 14 = vierzehn, 15 = fünfzehn, 16 = sechzehn, 17 = siebzehn, 18 = achtzehn, 19 = neunzehn

Then, the following have to be memorized:

20 = zwanzig, 30 = dreißig , 40 = vierzig, 50 = fünfzig, 60 = sechzig, 70 = siebzig, 80 = achtzig, 90 = neunzig,

100 = (ein)hundert, 200 = zweihundert, 300 = dreihundert, 400 = vierhundert etc.

Now we simply combine the numbers with und

The number 21 would therefore be einundzwanzig, the number 22 zweiundzwanzig etc.

422 would be vierhundertzweiundzwanzig, 598 would be fünfhundertachtundneunzig etc.

Then we get:

1000 = (ein)tausend, 2000 = zweitausend, 3000 = dreitausend, 4000 = viertausend etc.

thus,

1001 = tausendeins, 1002 = tausendzwei,

1101 = tausend hunderteins, 2222 = zweitausend zweihundertzweiundzwanzig

[Table of Contents] [Glossary]


Die neue deutsche Rechtschreibung

Here are some guidelines on the most important features of the new German orthography. For a detailed treatment of theses topics, consult the Home Page on Rechtschreibung of the Institut für Deutsche Sprache.

Capitalization

Important Spelling Changes Writing compounds separately or together Hyphenation Punctuation [Table of Contents] [Glossary]

Glossary of Grammar Terms

[A] [B] [C][D][E][F] [G] [H] [I] [K] [L] [M] [N][O] [P][R][S][T] [U] [V] [W] [Z]

Accusative Case: The case that denotes the direct object of the verb (e.g. Ich sehe den Mann). Also used with the prepositions: durch, für, gegen, entlang, ohne, um

Active Voice: The subject is the performer of the action (Er schreibt den Brief)

Adjective: A descriptive word that describes the properties of a noun (Das schöne Schloss)

Adverb: A descriptive word that modifies a verb or an adjective or another adverb (Er singt schön, Das sehr schöne Schloss ist beliebt, Er läuft wirklich schnell)

Agreement: The correct correspondence between parts of speech such as between subject and verb or adjective and noun

Antecedent: Parts of speech that have just been mentioned and are now referred to. (The man whom you see is my father - the man is the antecedent of "whom")

Attributive Adjective: Adjectives that precede the noun they modify. They have endings

Auxiliary Verbs: These are literally helping verbs such as modals, sein and haben and werden (Ich muss es machen, Ich habe es gemacht, Ich bin gekommen, Ich werde es tun)

Cardinal Number: The counting numbers we use to tell how many items there are (eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf ...)

Case: The function of a noun or pronoun. Case shows whether these parts of speech are the subject, object, indirect object or possessive. German has four cases: Nominative, Accusative, Dative, Genitive

Clause: The smallest possible unit of a sentence. Often a sentence has only one clause (Er kommt nach Hause)

Coordinating Conjunction: The conjunctions aber, denn, sondern, and und. They do not affect the word order

Comparative: The form of the adjective or adverb that is used to compare two or more things (Sie ist größer als er, Er fährt schneller als ich)

Compound: A combination of two or more nouns, verbs etc. (Hauptpostamt, kennen lernen)

Conjunction: Words that connect clauses (Ich weiß, dass er heute kommt)

Dative Case: The indirect object of the sentence that denotes the beneficiary of what the subject does with the verb to the object (e.g. Ich kaufe ihm das Buch). The Dative is also used after the prepositions aus, außer, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu

Definite Article: The articles der, das, die and their various forms

Dependent Clause: A clause that depends on outside elements to be complete (e.g. dass er hier ist, ob er kann)

Dependent Infinitive: The infinitive that is used with a finite verb and stands at the end of the clause (Ich kann es vielleicht machen, Ich werde morgen kommen)

Der-Words: These are words that change their endings in a similar fashion to the definite article (dieser, jener, jeder, solcher, welcher, mancher, alle)

Ein-Words: These are the possessives (mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, ihr, Ihr) and kein. Ein-words add the same endings as ein (eine = meine, einer = unserer)

Extended Adjective: see pre-noun inserts

Finite Verb: The verb that has a subject and an ending (Ich will es machen, Ich gehe, Ich bin gekommen)

Gender: Gender denotes whether a noun is masculine (der), neuter (das) or feminine (die)

Genitive Case: The case of nouns and pronouns which shows possession or relationship (Ich wohne im Haus meiner Mutter, Peters Buch liegt hier, Das Dach unseres Hauses ist kaputt)

Imperative Mood: This mood is used to make requests, give orders or commands (Geh in die Küche!, Kommen Sie bitte um zwei)

Independent Clause: A clause that expresses a self-contained complete idea (Er singt schön.)

Infinitive: The base form of the verb that is listed in dictionaries and word lists (lernen, machen, tun, wandern, sein)

Interrogative Pronouns: Question words such as wer

Object: The case that denotes the noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb. There are direct and indirect objects (Ich sehe ihn, Ich kaufe ihm ein Auto)

Ordinal Number: Numbers that show a definite order (erst-, zweit-, dritt-)

Mixed Verb: Irregular weak verbs, in other words, verbs that display characteristics of both irregular and regular verbs. They show a stem change but exhibit a regular ending (Es brannte gestern)

Modal Verbs: These are auxiliary verbs that show the mode (attitude) with which things are performed. The modals are: können, dürfen, müssen, sollen, wollen, mögen

Modifier: Part of speech that qualifies or describes another, such as adjectives and adverbs

Mood: Refers to whether a statement is in the subjunctive or indicative, interrogative, or the imperative

Nominative Case: The case that shows the subject of a clause. The subject is the agent that causes the verb to do what it does (Er macht es.)

Noun: That part of speech that names persons, animals, things, places, ideas, and quality. German nouns have gender (masculine, neuter, feminine - der, das die), and show case (Nominative, Accusative, Dative, Genitive). They can be singular or plural. Nouns are listed in dictionaries and word lists in the nominative.

Number: Number refers to whether a noun or pronoun is in the singular or plural

Participle: A form of the verb used either as an adjective or to form compound tenses. The present participle is formed by adding d to the infinitive (Sie hört das weinende Kind nicht, Das fehlende Handtuch warschmutzig), the past participle usually has the prefix ge and ends in t, et or en (Sie hat es gehört, Er ist gekommen) but sometimes there is no ge (Ich habe studiert).

Part of Speech: The individual elements of a clause such as nouns, pronouns, adjectives

Passive Voice: In the passive voice the subject is the recipient of the action (Ich wurde von einem Hund gebissen)

Past Participle: A form of the verb used either as an adjective or to form compound tenses. The past participle usually has the prefix ge and ends in t, et or en (Sie hat es gehört, Er ist gekommen) but sometimes there is no ge (Ich habe studiert).

Personal Pronouns: the pronouns ich, du, er, es, sie, wir, ihr, sie/Sie

Phrase: Two or more words conveying a coherent thought not containing a subject and verb

Possessive Case: see genitive

Possessive Pronouns: These are the ein-words: mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, Ihr

Predicate Adjective: An adjective that is separated from the noun it modifies by a verb. It has no endings

    Das Haus ist schön.

Pre-Noun Inserts: Extended phrases involving adjectives, adverbs, verbs, nouns etc. that modify a noun. German has the ability to include quite a bit of information in these phrases that stand before the noun they modify. English must usually substitute a subordinate clause

    Die schon seit ziemlich langer Zeit wartende Frau ging plötzlich weg)

Preposition: Prepositions are connecting words that show the relationships between parts of speech (e.g. Er geht durch den Garten)

Prepositional Phrase: A phrase introduced by a preposition (in das neue Haus)

Predicate Nominative: This condition occurs with selected verbs such as sein, heißen, werden. The noun after these verbs is the Predicate Noun and is in the Nominative. The Predicate Noun and the subject of a clause are identical (Ich bin ein kleiner Mensch)

Pronoun: The part of speech that is substituted for the noun (der Mann = er, das Haus = es, die Frau = sie, die Leute = sie). Pronouns act exactly like nouns

Reflexive Pronoun: A pronoun that refers back to the subject of the verb of which it is the object (Ich sehe mich im Spiegel, Ich kaufe mir Aspirin)

Relative Clause: A clause that gives specific information about a noun or pronoun and makes it relative (Der Mann, den du siehst, ist mein Vater)

Relative Pronoun: A pronoun (such as "who" or "which") that introduces a relative clause (Der Mann, den du siehst, ist mein Vater)

Stem: see verb stem

Strong Verb: An irregular Verb. Irregular verbs may show variations in the formation of the stem or the endings (ich war, du warst, er/es/sie war, wir waren, ihr wart, sie/Sie waren)

Subject: The case that denotes the doer of an action (Er macht es.)

Subjunctive Mood: To express doubt, possibility, contrary to fact conditions and show politeness, the subjunctive is used. The subjunctive is also used to render indirect speech (Das könnte stimmen, Wenn ich könnte, würde ich kommen, Würden Sie bitte so nett sein, Er sagte, er käme erst morgen)

Subordinate Clause: see dependent clause

Subordinate Conjunction: A conjunction such as daß, ob, weil, wenn. Subordinate Conjunction cause the finite verb to be in final position in the clause (Es ist wahr, dass er auch kommen will.)

Superlative: The highest degree of an adjective or adverb (Sie ist die größte, Sie läuft am schnellsten)

Tense: A form of the verb that shows the time of the action such as the present, past and future tenses

Verb: Words expressing actions, existence or occurences (Er kommt schon, Der Winter ist kalt, Es regnet bald).

Verb Stem: The verb stem is that form of the verb we need to form personal verbs. It is the infinitive without its en or n ending (lern, arbeit, tu, sei, hab)

Voice: Voice determines whether the subject is the performer of the action (Active Voice: Der Hund beißt mich) or the recipient of the action (Passive Voice: Ich werde von dem Hund gebissen)

Weak Verb: A regular verb. Regular verbs are conjugated according to a standard norm (ich lernte, du lerntest, er/es/sie lernte, wir lernten, ihr lerntet, sie lernten)

[Table of Contents][Index]


This page is maintained by André Oberlé (a.oberle@uwinnipeg.ca)
Last Update: May 11, 2001.