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German Tenses: All You Need to Know

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First of all, what is a verb? 

Together with nouns, verbs are the most important part of any sentence. They’re words that we use to describe actions (singen – to sing), states of being (existieren – to exist), or occurrences (entwickeln – to develop). They have to agree with the subject, which represents who or what is performing the action. 

Basically, every type of sentence requires a verb to be complete. This is why it’s so important to give them due attention when learning a foreign language—especially German! Today, we’ll talk about German tenses and how to correctly apply them to verbs.

A Man Studying Using His Laptop

German verbs are one of the most challenging aspects of learning this beautifully complex language, but don’t worry. We’ll have a look at the main rules you need to know in order to use German verbs with no problems! 

In particular, we’ll look at the main verb tenses in German and how to conjugate them for both regular and irregular verbs. 

Does this all sound a bit complicated? Don’t worry. We’ll try to explain each concept thoroughly in the following paragraphs. By the time you finish reading, you’ll know how to form German tenses, when to use each one, and more!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. The Use of Tenses in German
  2. Present
  3. Past
  4. Future
  5. German Tenses: A Summary

1. The Use of Tenses in German

The tenses of a verb are used to express when an action takes place, so they make all the difference when talking about the three concepts of present, past, and future. 

In the German language, there are six main verb tenses:

1. Present (Präsens)

2. Present perfect (Perfekt)

3. Past simple (Imperfekt/Präteritum)

4. Past perfect (Plusquamperfekt)

5. Future (Futur I

6. Future perfect (Futur II)

Let’s look at each of these tenses in more detail with examples of how to conjugate them.

A Simple Clock against a White Background

2. Present 

The present tense, or Präsens in German, is the most used of all the German verb tenses. It can be used to talk about present actions or future actions that have already been determined. This tense can actually be used to express concepts in three equivalent English tenses: the present, the present continuous, and the future (“will” and “going to” constructions). 

We use the German Präsens to express…

  • …a fact or condition in the present, or an action that takes place in the present.

Das ist Andreas.
That’s Andreas.

Jeden Montag geht er zum Fußballtraining.
He goes to football training every Monday.

  • …an action that gives information on the duration of something. (Note that in this case, English uses the present perfect.)

Er spielt schon seit zwei Jahren Fußball.
He’s been playing football for two years.

  • …a future action that is already determined to happen. (In English, we can use the future or the present.)

Nächste Woche hat seine Mannschaft ein wichtiges Spiel.
His team will have an important match next week.

A Football Stadium

To conjugate regular verbs in the present tense, we simply remove the infinitive ending -en and add the following endings according to the subject:

Personal PronounPresent Tense EndingConjugation of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)-eich lerne
Du (You) [s]-stdu lernst
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)-ter / sie / es lernt
Wir (We)-enwir lernen
Ihr (You) [p]-tihr lernt
Sie (They)-ensie lernen

Remember, however, that verbs can be irregular. This is the case for two of the most used verbs in German: sein (to be) and haben (to have). Have a look at the table below to see their conjugation in the present tense:

Personal PronounSein (To Be)Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)binhabe
Du (You) [s]bisthast
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)isthat
Wir (We)sindhaben
Ihr (You) [p]seidhabt
Sie (They)sindhaben

3. Past

To convey events that happened in the past, we have three available tenses in German: the simple past, the present perfect, and the past perfect. Let’s look at when to use these and how to conjugate them!

A- Simple Past

In German, the simple past tense is usually referred to as Imperfekt or Präteritum, and it’s mainly used in writing. The majority of speakers prefer to use the present perfect instead, unless they’re trying to be formal or are telling a story. All the same, knowing this tense will be extremely useful if you want to be able to read books, magazines, and newspapers in German. 

All regular German verbs in the simple past follow the same pattern, so once you learn it, you’ll be able to conjugate all of them! 

To form the Präteritum, just remove the ending -en and add the following endings according to the subject: 

Personal PronounSimple Past Tense EndingConjugation of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)-teich lernte
Du (You) [s]-testdu lerntest
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)-teer lernte
Wir (We)-tenwir lernten
Ihr (You) [p]-tetihr lerntet
sie/Sie (They)-tensie lernten

Of course, there are still irregular verbs that do not follow this pattern—you’ll just have to recognize them and memorize their endings by heart! Don’t worry, though: with time and practice, this will come as second nature!

Here’s a table with the conjugations of sein (to be) and haben (to have) in the simple past tense. These verbs are often used not only in writing, but also in speaking. 

Personal PronounSimple Past of Sein (To Be)Simple Past of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)warhatte
Du (You) [s]warsthattest
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)warhatte
Wir (We)warenhatten 
Ihr (You) [p]warthattet
Sie (They)warenhatten

Note that although haben is an irregular verb, it actually uses the same endings as regular verbs. It simply changes its stem from -b- to -t-. Verbs like this are called mixed verbs and, even though there aren’t many, they’ll stick in your mind for this peculiarity!

B- Present Perfect

Just like in English, the present perfect tense (Perfekt in German) is composed of two parts: 

1) The present tense of an auxiliary verb (“have” in English, haben or sein in German)

2) The past participle of the verb you’re conjugating (for example, “learned” or gelernt)

  • Ich habe gelernt. (I have learned.)

In German, we form the past participle by adding the prefix ge- to the third person singular.

  • Infinitive: lernen → Third person singular: er lernt → Past participle: gelernt

This works with all regular verbs. 

Usually, we choose haben as an auxiliary verb when forming the Perfekt. But if we’re describing a condition or a movement, or are conjugating the verb sein, we would use sein as the auxiliary verb. 

  • Wir sind in den Supermarkt gegangen. (We went to the supermarket.)
  • Sie ist gestern krank gewesen. (She was ill yesterday.)

A Couple at the Supermarket

Personal PronounPresent Perfect of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)habe gelernt
Du (You) [s]hast gelernt
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)hat gelernt
Wir (We)haben gelernt
Ihr (You) [p]habt gelernt
Sie (They)haben gelernt

Personal PronounPresent Perfect of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)habe gehabt
Du (You) [s]hast gehabt
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)hat gehabt
Wir (We)haben gehabt
Ihr (You) [p]habt gehabt
Sie (They)haben gehabt

C- Past Perfect

The Plusquamperfekt (Past Perfect) expresses actions that took place before a given point in the past. It’s the German equivalent of the English past perfect tense (I had learned). We use this tense in storytelling, combined with the simple past, to talk about something that happened before a past event.

Like in English, we form it using the simple past of the auxiliary verb (“have” in English, haben or sein in German) and the past participle of the verb you’re conjugating (for example, “learned” or gelernt).

Personal PronounPast Perfect of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)hatte gelernt
Du (You) [s]hattest gelernt
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)hatte gelernt
Wir (We)hatten gelernt
Ihr (You) [p]hattet gelernt
Sie (They)hatten gelernt

Personal PronounPast Perfect of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)hatte gehabt
Du (You) [s]hattest gehabt
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)hatte gehabt
Wir (We)hatten gehabt
Ihr (You) [p]hattet gehabt
Sie (They)hatten gehabt

4. Future

As we’ve mentioned, we can often use the present tense to talk about set events in the future. What happens, though, when we want to talk about an intention or an event in the future we’re not sure about?

In German, we have two future tenses: Futur I and Futur II.

A Woman Writing Something at a Wooden Desk with a Typewriter

A- Futur I

This tense is comparable to the English “I will ___” or “I am going to ___.”

In German, we use it to express:

  • A future intention
  • An assumption about the future
  • An assumption about the present

To conjugate it, we need the finite form of werden and the infinitive form of the verb.

Personal PronounFutur I of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)werde lernen
Du (You) [s]wirst lernen
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)wird lernen
Wir (We)werden lernen
Ihr (You) [p]werdet lernen
Sie (They)werden lernen

Personal PronounFutur I of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)werde haben 
Du (You) [s]wirst haben 
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)wird haben 
Wir (We)werden haben 
Ihr (You) [p]werdet haben 
Sie (They)werden haben 

B- Future Perfect

The Futur II (future perfect) expresses the idea that an action will have been completed by a particular point in the future.

To form this tense, we need the finite form of werden, the past participle of the full verb, and the auxiliary verbs sein/haben.

Personal PronounFutur II of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)werde gelernt haben
Du (You)wirst gelernt haben
Er/sie/es (He/she/it)wird gelernt haben
Wir (We)werden gelernt haben
Ihr (You plural)werdet gelernt haben
Sie (They)werden gelernt haben

Personal PronounFutur II of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)werde gehabt haben
Du (You) [s]wirst gehabt haben
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)wird gehabt haben
Wir (We)werden gehabt haben
Ihr (You) [p]werdet gehabt haben
Sie (They)werden gehabt haben

5. German Tenses: A Summary

As you’ve seen, learning how to use verbs and verb tenses in German can be tricky, but it’s certainly one of the most important aspects of learning this beautiful and interesting language

We hope that this post helped you gain some insight into German tenses and how to use them properly to talk about the past, present, and future!

If you want to learn more about verbs and conjugations and have access to much more German learning material, visit GermanPod101.com. Here you’ll find lessons for all levels, grammar material, vocab lists, podcasts, dictionaries, blog posts, and more!

What are you waiting for? Start learning and practicing German with us—you’ll be able to master the use of German verbs and tenses in no time at all! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments if this article helped you. Do you feel ready to tackle the challenge of German verb tenses, or do you still have questions? We look forward to hearing from you!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn German?

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What dedicated language learner could pass up an opportunity to spend endless days studying German and all its nuances? Unfortunately, in our society, time is money and the reality of things can be quite different. Most of us just don’t have the time to study languages at our leisure. 

Because time is such a constraint, there’s an important question to ask yourself before beginning to learn this beautiful language: How long does it take to learn German?

Mark Twain said: “A gifted person ought to learn English in 30 hours, French in 30 days and German in 30 years.” But it might not take quite that long!

I’m sure we all instinctively look for the fastest and easiest ways to learn new things. Being efficient with our time allows us to start practicing and using our new skills much sooner, so we can find a better job, travel abroad, or better communicate with a loved one. 

Learning a foreign language is always an amazing and fulfilling process, though often arduous. By learning to understand, speak, and think in a different language, we not only add a new skill to our repertoire but we also change the very way we see and interact with the world.

It’s understandable that you’d like to know for certain how long this marveolus language learning journey will take you, so that you could make plans and form solid expectations. The reality is, however, that there’s no one best way to learn German and there’s no set timetable for it! 

Everyone learns differently, and how long it takes to learn German will depend on many factors. 

In this article, we’ll explore some of the factors that will affect your learning and how you can speed it up as much as possible!

Hourglass against a Dark Background
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Experience
  2. Learning Style
  3. Approach
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?
  5. How Our Website Can Help

Experience

One of the most important factors to take into account when considering how fast you can learn a language is your personal experience with languages

The Language(s) You Speak

What’s your native language? And what other languages do you speak? 

Yes, this might actually be a defining element in how quickly you’ll be able to pick up the German language. If you’re a native (or near-native) English speaker, you’re in luck! German and English actually share the same roots and forty percent of German vocabulary is similar to English vocabulary!

If you’re a native speaker of a Semitic language like Arabic, on the other hand, it might be a little trickier to learn German—but all the more challenging and rewarding! So, don’t be discouraged. Just be aware that your native English-speaking classmates might have a bit of a headstart…but that doesn’t mean they’ll learn it better than you!

Several Language Learning Textbooks

Your Previous Language Learning Experience

Have you ever learned another language before?

If you already speak a foreign language fluently, or were raised bilingual, it may be easier and quicker for you to learn German. Several studies have now proven that bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language. This is because they already have experience learning and using a second language, and are thus more accustomed to the entire process.

Even if you’re not bilingual, having studied and learned a foreign language at some point in your life will help. Having fluency and skill in one language will help you gain fluency and skill in another, even if the two languages are unrelated! 

Your Previous Grammar Knowledge

One of the first steps in learning a foreign language is finding out how it’s built and how it works. This is usually done by studying its structure and grammar. 

If you already have some experience studying grammar and syntax, even in your native language, it will be much easier for you to study the grammar and syntax of a foreign language. 

So, if you plan to start learning German (or another language!), it’s a good idea to have some grammar foundations to build on!

An Asian Woman Studying German

Learning Style

The way you learn and study is another essential aspect that may affect how long it will take you to become fluent in German. 

Your Methods

If you limit your learning to a classroom setting, even if you show up every day, it will probably take you a little longer to learn and feel confident using your language skills. Try to expose yourself to German outside the classroom (or online lesson) and you’ll cut down the time it takes you to learn it! 

Try reading German newspapers, watching films and series in German, and even listening to German podcasts while you drive or cook. Of course, finding a language partner to practice conversing with will also go a long way toward making you fluent faster! 

Your Time

There’s another aspect we haven’t mentioned yet, but it’s the most important of all when asking yourself how long it takes to learn German: The time you dedicate to it!

If you want to learn fast, try to dedicate as much time to learning as you can. 

Daily practice is ideal, and research has actually proven that learners who dedicate an hour a day to language learning—whether studying grammar, memorizing new words, watching a film, or reading a book—learn significantly faster than those who just attend weekly classes. 

And of course, if it’s an option for you, full immersion is best. If you can travel to Germany and live there for a while, that will make a big difference!

A Christmas Market in Germany

Approach

This is quite possibly the game-changer that will determine how fast you learn German. It can really make a massive difference!  

Your Motivation

It really is no secret that staying motivated is essential for learning a foreign language. Why do you want to learn German?

Have this clear in your mind and set weekly (or even daily) goals for maximum efficiency. This will help you stay motivated and interested in learning, and you can remind yourself every day why you’re learning this beautiful language. 

Your Attitude

Keeping your motivation up will make you feel like you’re learning more efficiently, and it will help you maintain a positive attitude during your language learning journey! 

It’s key to see learning as a fun and interesting activity that you’re choosing to do, and not a chore that you’re forced to do.

A Man Expressing Victory

Remember that learning a new language will open your mind and your horizons, and it will give you a great set of skills you can use in your day-to-day life. 

When you think this way, you’ll feel like learning something new every day and the process will be more enjoyable and much faster! 

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?

So, let’s get to the point. Even though it’s hard to say for sure, we’ve tried to make an estimate of how long it might take you to reach a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level of German. 

Beginner

A beginner speaker of a language will be able to introduce themselves, understand slow and simple spoken language, and ask basic questions (probably making some mistakes along the way!). 

This level is probably enough if you just want…

  • …to be able to greet people. 
  • …to order a meal at the restaurant
  • …to understand when someone talks to you slowly and carefully. 
  • …some basic reading skills. 

You’ll be able to do all these things after about 180-200 hours (level A2) of German classes. This means that if you’re motivated and willing to put in 10-15 hours a week, you can travel to Germany without any worries in just over three months! 

So get studying now, and you’ll soon be having some basic conversations with native speakers!

Intermediate

If you reach an intermediate level, you’ll be able to understand everyday conversation (if spoken clearly), even if you have to ask some questions here and there to keep up. This level will also allow you to… 

  • …watch videos and read the news without major problems understanding the main points. 
  • ask for and follow directions
  • …have basic interactions with locals about familiar subjects. 

We estimate that to achieve an intermediate level in German, you’ll need around 350 hours of study. This means that, if you dedicate around 15 hours a week to practicing your German, you’ll be able to reach this level in just six months! 

Advanced

If you want to achieve fluency, this is what you’re aiming for: advanced language skills. With this level, you’ll basically be able to… 

  • navigate any kind of situation that may arise in your daily life or while traveling.
  • …have in-depth conversations with native speakers. 
  • watch movies without subtitles.
  • …read books in German with no problem.

You’ll be fluent! (Even if there will always be something more to learn about this intricate and beautifully complex language…)

A Woman Studying Late at Night

So, how long do you need to learn German if you want to reach this level of fluency? 

According to the U.S. Foreign Service Institute (FSI), you’ll need about 750 hours of study to become fluent in German. This means that if you study 12-15 hours a week, you’ll be able to speak like a pro in just a year! 

If this seems like a long time, take into account that harder languages like Japanese or Arabic may take up to 2200 hours, three times longer than German!

How Our Website Can Help

What are you waiting for? The right time to start learning a new language is now! 

The sooner you start learning, the faster you’ll achieve your language objectives and start speaking German. 

As you consider your options (and the world’s ongoing pandemic), you might wonder how to learn German online. GermanPod101 is a great place to start! 

To keep you motivated and interested (and to make your language learning adventure easy to navigate), we offer all kinds of language learning content on GermanPod101.com. Here you’ll find lessons for all levels, as well as vocabulary lists, dictionaries, and blog posts. 

Above all, how long it takes to learn German just depends on how much time you’re willing to invest. Our courses and resources are specifically designed to give you all the right tools to learn German as quickly and easily as possible, so that your precious time is well-spent!

Whether you’re a beginner who wants a full immersion experience or an advanced speaker who just needs to refine your skills, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Before you go, let us know in the comments if this article helped you! Do you feel ready to tackle the challenge of learning German? We look forward to hearing from you!

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30 German Proverbs and Idioms to Speak Like a Native

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Proverbs are popular sayings that provide a little dose of wisdom—a truth that is, sometimes, so obvious that it’s overlooked. 

If you really want your language skills to shine, knowing some popular German proverbs is a great way to start. And of course, it will also help you fit in with the German locals and better understand their culture!

The German City of Bremen

In Germany, there’s a great variety of wisdom-infusing sayings—whether we’re talking about a lot of sausages, some bears and rabbits running around in forests, or some serious-sounding, deep stuff! 

As we say, “There is no time like the present.” So let’s get to it. These thirty popular German proverbs will add versatility and color to your spoken language, so that even locals will mistake you for a native.


Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. 6 Funny German Proverbs
  2. 8 German Proverbs About Food and Drinks
  3. 6 German Proverbs Related to Nature
  4. 10 Beautifully Wise German Proverbs
  5. Conclusion

1. 6 Funny German Proverbs

Let’s face it, Germans are not known for being the most humorous people in the world… I can assure you, though, that they do have some pretty funny proverbs they like to use! 

Laughter is the best medicine,” we say in English, so let’s start by having a look at some lighthearted German-language proverbs and idioms!

Wer rastet, der rostet.

Literal translation: He who rests grows rusty.
English equivalent: You snooze, you lose.

To remain true to their engineering and car-building reputation, when Germans get lazy or inactive…they get rusty! This will make it harder to start being productive again. 

Krummes Holz gibt auch gerades Feuer.

Literal translation: Crooked logs also make straight fires.

If you’re cold during the German winter, crooked logs will be just fine…no need to find perfect ones. So stop looking for perfection and make do with what’s available!

People with Christmas socks getting warm in front of a fire

Des Teufels liebstes Möbelstück ist die lange Bank.

Literal translation: The devil’s favorite piece of furniture is the long bench.
English equivalent: Never leave until tomorrow what you can do today.

In German, to put something “on the long bench” means to put it off until later. This proverb warns us to be careful about procrastination, because you don’t want to mess with the devil’s favorite piece of furniture!

It also has an alternative version, closer to the English equivalent: Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen. (Literally: “What you can get done today, don’t move it until tomorrow.”) 

Selbst ist der Mann. / Selbst ist die Frau.

A Man Holding a Drill

Literal translation: Self is the man. / Self is the woman.
English equivalent: Self do, self have.

This is your proverb if you like DIY. Say it to yourself (or to a friend) after you’ve managed to do something without help from anyone. It’s pretty empowering!

Ich kriege so eine Krawatte. / Ich kriege so (dicken) einen Hals.

Literal translation: I get such a tie! / I get such (thick) a neck.
English equivalent: It really annoys me / winds me up!

Both variants are often accompanied by the gesture of putting a hand around one’s own neck.

In Germany, apparently, you get a necktie or a thick neck when something annoys you. Personally, I do understand the comparison…do you?

Bis über beide Ohren verliebt sein.

Literal translation: To be over both ears in love!
English equivalent: To be head over heels in love.

Just change the head and heels for both of your ears, and it means you’ve found someone really, really special!

2. 8 German Proverbs About Food and Drinks

Food might not be the first thing you think about when planning a trip to Germany, but the country has as much of a food culture as anywhere else in Europe. The cuisine is tasty, original, and different in every region.

A Plate of German Food

As you can imagine, you’ll find a lot of sausage-related idioms. But you’ll also find German food proverbs talking about cookies, soups, and (of course) beer! 

Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen.

Literal translation: To play the offended liver sausage.

This one could actually have been in the previous section, but here it is: If you’re behaving like an offended liver sausage, it means you’re throwing a tantrum or overreacting to something. The good thing is that being called a liver sausage might make you forget what you were on about, and just laugh it out!

Der Hunger kommt beim Essen.

Literal translation: Appetite emerges while eating.

According to this proverb, you’ll only realize how hungry you are after you’ve started eating. But the proverb can apply to other things, too. For example, do you want to learn German but don’t feel so hungry for it? Start learning and the appetite will come!

Sich die Wurst vom Brot nehmen lassen

Literal translation: To let someone take the sausage off your bread

This is a warning to stand up for yourself. Don’t let anyone take the sausage off your bread. You’re too good to be taken advantage of. 

Das ist mir Wurst.

Literal translation: That is sausage to me.

I warned you about the sausage content, so don’t complain. If something is ‘sausage to you,’ it means you couldn’t care less about it! (Which is strange, as Germans do seem to care about sausages…)

Um den heißen Brei herumreden

Literal translation: To talk around the hot soup/porridge
English equivalent: To beat around the bush

Well, what do you do when the soup’s hot and you can’t eat it just yet? This phrase is used when someone is talking and talking, without ever getting to the point. 

Du gehst mir auf den Keks.

Literal translation: You’re getting on my cookies.
English equivalent: You’re getting on my nerves.

Use this phrase when someone annoys you, as if you were eating a cookie and they tried to take it out of your hands!

Das ist nicht mein Bier.

Beer in a Mug

Literal translation: That’s not my beer.
English equivalent: That’s not my business.

This phrase is used when you don’t want to get involved in something you have nothing to do with. Not your beer, not your problem!

Dienst ist Dienst und Schnaps ist Schnaps.

Literal translation: Work is work and liquor is liquor.

Germans are known to be very diligent workers…but there’s no mixing of business and pleasure! Everything has its time. So work hard, play hard!

3. 6 German Proverbs Related to Nature 

If you’ve been to Germany, you’ll certainly know how important it is for the locals to spend some time in touch with nature. This is reflected in the proverbs they use in their daily lives. 

Bears, horses, rabbits, and forests…here we come!

Da steppt der Bär.

A Black Bear in a Tree

Literal translation: There steps the bear.

You can use this phrase when referring to a party you really want to go to. If even the bears will start dancing, it means it’s gonna be good! Be careful, though, as it’s often used sarcastically!

Wenn der Reiter nichts taugt, ist das Pferd schuld.

Literal translation: If the rider is no good, it’s the horse’s fault.
English equivalent: A bad workman always blames his tools.

Someone who has done their job poorly will always try to blame it on outside circumstances (in this case, poor horses), rather than admit their lack of skills. 

Wer zwei Hasen auf einmal jagt bekommt keinen.

Literal translation: He who chases two rabbits at once will catch none.
English equivalent: He who follows two hares catches neither.

Concentrate on one task at a time, or you’ll end up not doing either of them properly.

Kümmere Dich nicht um ungelegte Eier.

Literal translation: Don’t worry about eggs that haven’t been laid yet.
English equivalent: Don’t cross your bridges before you come to them.

In other words, don’t worry about problems before they arrive. Be them eggs or bridges, just chill for now. 

Du siehst den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht.

Literal translation: You don’t see the forest for all the trees.

Several Trees in the Forest

This is something along the lines of the Zen proverb: “When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger.” Look beyond and see the bigger picture! And also, don’t think too much; just see what’s there, the obvious!

Bäume wachsen nicht in den Himmel.

Literal translation: No trees grow into the sky. 

This German saying suggests that there are natural limits to growth and improvement. So actually, don’t reach for the sky…

4. 10 Beautifully Wise German Proverbs

This is the longest list, so let’s admit it: Germans are pretty wise. Yes, they like to be funny sometimes, enjoy their food and drink, and love to spend time in nature. But when it comes to philosophical statements, they have no rivals! 

After all, German philosophers and thinkers are some of the most famous around the world. It’s easy to see why, if they’ve grown up repeating these beautiful German sayings. 

Let’s look at some of these German proverbs and their meanings in English. (Although they just sound wiser spoken in German!)

Aller Anfang ist schwer.

Literal translation: All beginnings are hard.

This one is pretty self-explanatory: Beginnings can be very hard, but it will get easier.

Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.

A Man Studying Late at Night

Literal translation: Starting is easy, persistence is an art.

Hmm…apparently, starting can be the easy part and keeping it up the hard bit. Let’s say it depends on the situation! 

Man muss die Dinge nehmen, wie sie kommen.

Literal translation: You have to take things the way they come.

We all know life never happens exactly as we expect it to. So relax, and try to accept whatever comes. Make the best of it, rather than always wishing for things to be different. 

Übung macht den Meister.

Literal translation: Practice is what makes a master.
English equivalent: Practice makes perfect.

Practice, practice, practice! It’s the only way to master virtually anything. 

Wer A sagt, muss auch B sagen.

Literal translation: He who says A also has to say B.

If you commit to something, commit all the way!

Taten sagen mehr als Worte.

Literal translation: Actions say more than words.
English equivalent: Actions speak louder than words.

In German, actions don’t necessarily speak louder…they’re just more chatty!

Aus Schaden wird man klug.

Literal translation: Failure makes smart.

Nobody likes to screw up, but failure is necessary for learning. If you don’t make mistakes, you’ll never get better!

Das Billige ist immer das Teuerste.

Literal translation: The cheapest is always the most expensive.

This is a philosophical way of inviting you to invest in quality, and not only in terms of money. If something is too cheap or too easy to get, it will probably end up costing you much more later on!

Erst denken, dann handeln.

Literal translation: First think, then act.

Wise and clear. Think before you act!

Gut Ding will Weile haben.

Literal translation: Good things take time.

If you’re an impatient person, we have bad news for you. Germans believe that if you want something to be done well, you need to wait for it. In other words: take your time, enjoy the process, and don’t rush things! 

5. Conclusion

“All good things must come to an end.”

But it’s not really the end, is it? There’s so much more to learn about the German language! 

As they say, “Practice makes perfect.” So keep practicing your German skills on GermanPod101.com! With all the features we offer (podcasts, videos with transcriptions, word lists, a dictionary, and more), you’ll pick up this beautiful and interesting language in no time. 

And remember: What makes a master? Practice, practice, practice!

Which of these German proverbs or idioms is your favorite, and why? Let us know in the comments!

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What’s German Grammar All About?

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Congratulations, you’ve joined the club! By just opening this article, you’ve become a learner of German. Excited?

Well, that’s how easy it really is. Lots of people say that learning German is hard, but it’s really just something you have to approach methodically.

And that’s because of German grammar. While German vocabulary is based on roots and quite logical, and German pronunciation is easy to master with a few new lip shapes, the grammar tends to prove difficult for learners (though some say that it’s getting simpler over time).

So now that you’re learning German, what exactly is it that you need to pay attention to? How complex are the different parts of German grammar, and what is it going to take to master them? It’s time to find out right here, once and for all. 

Without further ado, here are the elements of German grammar you really need to know when starting out.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. General Rules
  2. German Noun Gender
  3. German Cases
  4. German Word Order
  5. German Verbs
  6. Conclusion

1. General Rules

Someone about to Push Over a Wooden Block for a Domino Effect

German grammar is considered “rigid,” but it just has lots of details to keep track of. It’s definitely an intellectual challenge to get on top of it all, but once the patterns start feeling natural, it’s pretty exciting to see your mind intuitively handle new rules it didn’t even know were possible before.

The German grammar rules that trip most people up have to do with the noun gender and case system. English gets by fine without either, so why bother in German? Well, to a German, the noun genders just sound right when they’re used correctly, and something’s off when a non-native consistently makes mistakes.

In general, adjectives and articles are the hardest things to learn for this reason—they change based on case and gender, meaning your brain has to work fast to keep track of the case and gender of every element in the sentence.

On top of that, the German word order is sometimes opposite of that in English in terms of verb placement. A long German sentence can even have a stack of modal verbs at the end that you have to decipher!

Overall, though, as long as you systematically work through these new rules, it’s just a matter of time. Nobody who’s been consistently studying German for years has failed to absorb these patterns.

2. German Noun Gender

A Dog Looking Out the Window

In German grammar, nouns take on one of three genders, and a noun’s gender affects the articles and the adjectives. The German definite articles are der, die, and das, corresponding to the masculine, feminine, and neuter genders respectively.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of grammatical gender, try disassociating it mentally from the concept of human gender. “Gender” here really means “genre,” as in classes of words.

Each word belongs to a certain “class,” and that’s reinforced naturally for native German speakers thanks to massive input. They’ll always see the word Fenster (“window”) with the article das, and so to them, it’s crazy to think it could be anything but a neuter word.

The same mentality extends toward indefinite articles and adjectives, which take specific endings based on the gender of the word. So, you have to pay attention to the gender in order to form an accurate sentence.

For the foreign learner who might not have time to be raised in a German family, noun gender presents a rather significant obstacle. These just have to be learned by rote, even though there are a few tricks. Don’t despair, though. As your brain gets used to learning more and more German words, the habit of remembering the gender along with them will start to become second nature.

    → Just getting started with this whole German thing? See our list of the Most Common Nouns to get a headstart!

3. German Cases

Someone Checking Their Email Outside

German has four cases: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive (though the genitive case is not used very often in speech or casual writing). Each of these cases provides extra information about the grammatical role of the noun in the sentence.

Examples are worth a lot more than descriptions when it comes to something like this.

  • Ich gebe ihm meinen Rechner. / “I give him my computer.”

Here, ich is in the nominative case because it’s the subject of the sentence. Meinen Rechner is in the accusative case, since it’s the direct object. Finally, ihm is the indirect object, so it’s in the dative case.

You’ll note that we have vestiges of this in English too, even though the medieval case system that English used to have is all but gone. For example, we say “him” in this case to mark the object, not “he.” German simply takes that to the next level.

Also note that, according to German grammar, cases can be governed by prepositions as well. There are sets of prepositions that belong to each case, and those have to be learned too since they don’t quite line up like you’d expect in English. There are even ‘two-way’ prepositions, which change their case based on the motion of the subject!

  • Ich laufe in das Kino. / “I am running into the movie theater.”
  • Ich laufe in dem Kino. / “I am running around in the movie theater.”

Why das or dem? The difference is that in the first example, you move from “outside” the theater to “inside,” while in the second example you’re always “inside.”

Again, this kind of thing can really seem tricky at first, but the more you open up your mind to a new way of thinking, the easier it will come to you. In addition, as you learn more idioms and set phrases, the cases will become fixed in your mind.

4. German Word Order

A Woman Listening to Music with Earbuds

If there’s one thing to remember about German word order, it’s “V2.” That’s linguistics shorthand for “verb-second,” which is itself shorthand for “the verb takes the second position in the sentence.” Often, this lines up with English, where the verb is literally the second word.

  • Ich höre Musik. / “I’m listening to music.”

But what happens if you add some adverbial phrases?

  • Ich höre jeden Tag Musik. / “I listen to music every day.”

Jeden Tag (“every day”) can’t go at the end of the sentence in German like it can in English. The verb must stay in the second place.

One thing that trips up learners is how, in subordinating (secondary) clauses, the verb moves to the end of the sentence. It turns out that “V2” only applies to main clauses!

  • Ich mag dich, weil du so schön bist. / “I like you because you are so beautiful.”

Here, the pronoun du and the verb bist get stretched far apart syntactically. This can sometimes lead to confusion when a German speaker is explaining a long and complicated concept, and the listener has to wait until the end to find out what the verb is!

5. German Verbs

A Car Going Down a Scenic Road

Let’s take a closer look at verbs before closing out here.

German verbs have easy and hard aspects. First the good news: In German grammar, tenses work much like they do in English, except occasionally even simpler. In English, we distinguish between present progressive (“I am going”) and present habitual (“I go”).

In German, both of those are expressed in the simple present tense:

  • Ich fahre. / “I drive.” OR “I am driving.”

This present tense can also indicate future events, as long as context is given within the sentence.

  • Ich fahre morgen nach Köln. / “I’m driving to Cologne tomorrow.”

German forms its past tense much like English does, with a simple past and a present perfect. In spoken German, though, the simple past has mostly disappeared in favor of the present perfect.

  • Ich habe ihn heute gesehen. / “I saw him today.”

Unfortunately, one of the harder features of German verbs is something it shares with English. Combining a German verb with a preposition turns it into another verb entirely, much like how in English, to take someone out and take someone down are two very different concepts.

Finally, German verbs are reflexive much more often than English ones are. Take the verbs sich unterhalten (“to have a conversation with”) and sich erinnern an (“to remember”). The particle sich is a reflexive particle just like -self in the English words “myself” and “yourself.” It sounds a bit off to say, “I’m having myself a conversation with you,” but that’s the way you’ll have to say it in German!


6. Conclusion

Learners can agree that learning German grammar is a rewarding experience, through all its ups and downs. It teaches you to get familiar with a complex, logical system in an intimate way, and when you can speak German fluently, the proof of your hard work is there with every sentence you say!

So, are you wondering how to master German grammar? It all comes with time.

That time goes a lot faster, though, when you have a good resource backing you up!

If you feel like you need some extra German grammar help or just want to stay consistent with your studies, try out GermanPod101! With podcasts for learners at every level, from beginner to advanced, and dozens of helpful guides and articles, you’ll never be lost for words.

As you learn new vocabulary with us, you’ll automatically learn words in context and easily remember the grammatical structures associated with them. That way, German grammar will become something you naturally pick up instead of something you have to struggle to remember. A little bit of concentrated review here and there, and you’ll wonder what you ever had to worry about.

Which of these German grammar points are new to you, and which ones seem the most difficult so far? Let us know in the comments!

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Is German Hard to Learn? Yes – But in a Good Way.

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You might be one of those folks who wishes they knew German.

But wanting to know German is different from learning German or wanting to learn German. The people who just long for the day when they know German are usually the ones asking “Is German hard to learn?”

But here’s the thing. Every language out there is hard in one way or another, even the ones that are close to your native language. Whether the difficulty comes at the beginning of the journey or in the middle, you’re never going to get off easy.

The challenge is the fun of it! And besides, do you really have that much to worry about when it comes to learning German? 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning German Table of Contents
  1. Is it Hard to Learn German?
  2. The Hardest Parts of German
  3. The Easiest Parts of German
  4. Where Should You Start Learning German?
  5. Advice to a New Learner
  6. The Advantages of GermanPod101
  7. Conclusion

1. Is it Hard to Learn German?

Traditional German Tree Image

German has this bad reputation of being difficult. Centuries of students from all around the world have been stuck translating German back and forth from their native languages, usually long and dreadfully boring passages made up to illustrate some grammar rule or another. Hemingway himself studied German and wrote his experiences down in an essay, where he talked about the struggles that English-speakers face when learning this difficult language.

But what makes German so hard to learn?

The only reason that German seems so difficult to people is that it has grammar rules that other languages don’t.

German is a language with relatively high “inflection,” meaning that the words in a sentence change based on their grammatical roles. For example, you have to add different endings to the adjectives and the articles in order to show which part of the sentence is the subject and which is the object.

Like English, German also has a lot of set phrases and verbs that go with specific prepositions. Adding a different preposition or prefix to a verb can change the meaning completely. Just like how, in English, a business can “go under” if the rent prices “go up.”

There’s also the question of pronunciation. After a handful of spelling reforms, German is spoken much like it’s written, but there are some consonants and vowels that don’t exist in English. It’s especially tricky because some of them are almost like their English counterparts, but just different enough to cause confusion.

These factors definitely make it sound like German is a tough nut to crack. Don’t worry, though—with every difficult feature comes an easy one to balance things out. 

2. The Hardest Parts of German

A Kid Stressed about His Homework

Let’s go into a bit more detail on the things that scare people the most. 

Look up any information about why the German language is hard to learn, and the number-one answer is “the cases.” Those are the word changes we alluded to earlier. 

Interestingly enough, German is one of very few European languages in which the article is affected by the grammatical role instead of the noun. Look at any of the Slavic languages or Latin, for instance, and you’ll see that the noun itself has to change!

German has four cases: the nominative (subject of the sentence), accusative (direct object), dative (indirect object), and genitive (possession). Nominative is the “basic” case with the dictionary form of the word, so you can strike that one off your list of things to worry about right away.

The genitive is slowly being phased out, except in formal language and in set phrases, so you only really need to recognize it until you’re an intermediate learner. That leaves just two cases you have to choose from, and honestly, it becomes second nature to think in that sort of “framework” after enough practice. 

3. The Easiest Parts of German

Oktoberfest Decorations

It’s definitely not all doom and gloom here. German is related to English, and that means there are some delightfully easy things about it.

First of all, the verb system. Anybody who’s ever studied a Romance language (like Spanish) or a Slavic language (like Russian) knows that the verbal system in other languages can be very complex. 

In German, the tenses of verbs are made with helping words, like in English. English doesn’t really have a future tense—we just say “I will do.” German doesn’t either: ich werde tun. And although the word order changes around a bit, this holds true even for rarer and “more complicated” tenses.

  • Es wird getan sein.
    “It will be done.”

Also, there are quite a few words in German that are easy to guess the meaning of. English and German    share an ancestor language, so a lot of the basic, core vocabulary comes from the same root. 

Once you hear that Das Buch means “the book” and Das Schwert means “the sword,” these words are super-easy to remember when you see them again. You’ll even unconsciously pick up on the sound changes that connect German and English roots.

And even better, there’s now a second wave of common vocabulary: words loaned from modern English into German! Das Management and Der Computer are just two examples. They mostly come in the form of tech or business words.

4. Where Should You Start Learning German?

Someone Turning Up the Volume

The best way to start learning German is to begin with audio.

German pronunciation is a pitfall for a lot of people, because it has subtle vowel changes from English that are hard to pick up on your own. If you start by listening to German instead of reading it, though, you’ll hear the differences early on.

An easy place to start is with GermanPod101 or a YouTube German-learning series where you can see the German transcript of what you’re hearing. That’s a great way to match each word to its correct sound right from the beginning.

After that, you should go through a quick set of pronunciation drills. YouTube is fine for this, too, though you can just follow the instructions in a German textbook. 

This may sound like a lot of work before you really get going, but laying a proper foundation is absolutely crucial to achieving a good command of German later on. 

There are far too many people out there who started speaking before they were ready, and ended up hitting a wall in the intermediate stage where their constant mistakes continue to hold them back.

Avoid that fate—study methodically at first, and then let loose later on! 

5. Advice to a New Learner

A Woman Reading and Writing Late at Night

Now that you know what makes German hard to learn, have you decided it’s not too bad after all? Great! Here’s some advice for new learners:

Since German has a lot of little things that have to be memorized, just embrace it.

Take a two-pronged approach: set aside a bit of time every day to go over the declension charts and review the core grammar rules. You’ll quickly find that this stuff locks itself into your memory pretty easily. Be patient with yourself and slowly write out the charts over and over until they’re second nature.

At the same time, it’s important to work with real native German material right from the start. Again, GermanPod101 and YouTube are treasure troves for this. You can find interesting content, slow it down, read the transcripts, and break it down into chunks you can understand.

Understanding is way more important than being able to speak right away, because everything depends on your ability to know what’s being said to you or what you’re reading.

Your brain will subconsciously pick up the patterns of natural German speech. This means that when you want to actually speak or write, it’ll be easy because you’ll also know the theory of German grammar.


6. The Advantages of GermanPod101

Obviously, the flagship podcast series from GermanPod101 is the main attraction on our website. With hundreds of episodes covering hundreds of topics, there’s always something new to learn. Plus, it’s all broken down with clear explanations and advice for learners.

Also, don’t miss our excellent grammar and pronunciation guides, where each sound and each case is explained by experts so that you can follow along, no matter your current level.

One huge thing you can take advantage of right now is the GermanPod101 YouTube channel, which has a great series of videos designed for listening comprehension from absolute beginner to advanced.

Each of those videos has slow and clear native-speaker audio acting out dozens of realistic situations, such as buying things in shops, talking with friends, and interacting with people at work. Each dialogue gets played twice, once without subtitles and once with subtitles, so you’ll automatically make the connections you need. 


7. Conclusion

Honestly, the best way to find out if the German language is hard or not is to try learning it yourself. Although there are definitely things you’ll have to spend more time on than others, no language is really “more difficult” overall than any other.

With German, you will have the initial handicap of it taking longer to be able to form simple sentences, especially compared to a language like Indonesian, where the words just fall into place.

However, you’ll also have a huge advantage if you know English, because you have a great base of shared vocabulary and cultural knowledge. That advantage only grows if you know French or another Romance language.

When you get to the more advanced levels, you’ll see your vocabulary grow exponentially because you’ll already have learned all the roots you need to create those impressively long German nouns.

The path begins today. Take the right first step by checking out GermanPod101, and see how far you can go!

If you’re learning the language already, which parts of German do you struggle with most? What things are easier for you? Let us, and aspiring German learners, know in the comments!

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Guard Yourself Against These Common German Mistakes

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Make no mistake—people have been complaining about the difficulty of the German language for centuries. Mark Twain did it then, and you’re probably doing it now.

It seems like the harder a language is, the more pressure we put on ourselves to get it exactly right. That’s even more true when the locals tend to speak English quite confidently. 

But as the Europe of today becomes more and more multicultural, the stigma of “perfect German or bust” is slowly falling away. There’s no need to paralyze yourself with doubt concerning common German mistakes or creating the perfect German sentence, because others in your community are probably dealing with language struggles of their own. 

So if you want to improve your German, you can start first with the beginner mistakes in German that make you stand out the most. That’s what we’ve distilled right here for you in this article!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. German Pronunciation Mistakes – The Trickiest German Sounds
  2. Confusing Words
  3. Put That Verb Back Where it Came From
  4. Flex Your Grammar Skills
  5. The Mistake Grab Bag
  6. The Biggest Mistake
  7. Conclusion

1. German Pronunciation Mistakes – The Trickiest German Sounds

Woman Struggling with Complex Math Equation

German definitely has a stereotype of being a “harsh” language. Outside of World War II movies, though, there’s no basis for that! 

It just has sounds that English-speakers aren’t used to. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a matter of accent. Pronouncing German sounds wrong can lead to serious misunderstandings.

For many people, it seems that the most common German pronunciation mistakes have to do with the consonants.

German has two rather throaty “ch” sounds, one called the ich-laut and one called the ach-laut. To distinguish between them, think about where your tongue is placed when you say the vowel in ich and the vowel in ach

The “ch” sound in ich is lighter and made more forward in your mouth. It actually requires the same tongue position as the vowel—you’re basically just whispering that ich vowel. The ach-laut, in contrast, is made more in the back of the mouth, with your throat just a little bit tighter than when you made the vowel sound in ach.

You should know that in some German dialects, the ich-laut does become something more like the English sound “sh,” and people even spell it as isch

The throaty German “R” sound is another rough one for learners, and some even complain about sore throats when reading German aloud. 

If that’s happening to you, relax a bit, since your tongue shouldn’t actually be touching your throat when you make that sound. Do your best with audio or a native instructor, but the most important part is to get the transition sounds right.

That means you need to practice saying words that begin with R, end in R, and have R in the middle. Seamlessly moving from other vowels or consonants than R is a true mark of an advanced speaker. 

2. Confusing Words

Someone Getting Ready to Write in Their Journal

There are, unfortunately, quite a few German words that learners tend to mix up. 

The simplest ones are those that English doesn’t quite have an equivalent for, like machen/tun and wissen/kennen

Machen and tun both mean “to do,” but each word has its own separate collocations and set phrases. Furthermore, tun sounds a bit informal or even juvenile at times, and so you’ll rarely (if ever) see it in formal written German. There’s even a saying: Tun tut man nicht. (“One does not tun.”)

And if this wasn’t enough, the few times you do see tun written somewhere, it will very likely be misspelled. There are a few words in German that even the natives aren’t sure how to spell. That’s why you might come across variants like tuhn, tuhen, or tuen. Indeed, tun sounds like there could be an h or e in-between, but we guarantee that this word consists of only three letters.

Wissen and kennen, similarly, both mean “to know,” but kennen is for people and wissen is for knowledge. 

  • Ich kenne ihn nicht.
    “I don’t know him.”

Trickier still, are the many, many words with prefixes or reflexive components that otherwise sound quite similar. Native English-speakers never had to learn it consciously, but English does the same thing: imagine you’re a learner and you’re trying to keep the meanings straight between “throw up,” “throw out,” “throw off,” and “throw on”!

Writing in German is one of the best ways to master confusing words and avoid common German spelling mistakes in the future. This is because, in speech, it’s too easy to stutter and correct yourself in real time while losing the thread of what you really wanted to say. In writing, though, you can carefully consider each word and lock its meaning into your brain. 

Be careful, though, not to contrast similar-sounding words too much right next to each other. Don’t sit in your chair with your eyes closed and repeat betrunken (“drunk”) and ertrunken (“drowned”) over and over. People will look at you funny, and you’ll only make the mental links between the words stronger.

3. Put That Verb Back Where it Came From

Someone Going on a Hike

To a native English-speaker, German word order can seem like one of its quirkiest aspects. 

As you’re probably aware, the verb is the very last element of German relative clauses. 

  • Ich habe einen Ball.
    “I have a ball.”
  • Ich habe einen Ball, der schwer ist.
    “I have a ball that is heavy.”

We’ve put ist (“is”) in the very last spot in the second clause of the second example. That trips up even advanced German students, because when you’re composing a sentence in your head, it’s often unnatural to wait until the end to think of the verb.

Try out some online grammar quizzes in German for a quick refresher of the word order rules. Also, if you do some writing in German from time to time, you should try stepping away from your text and reading it aloud after a break. It will probably surprise you how many little mistakes you find!

Another type of word order mistake in German has more to do with comprehension than production. German articles have several different forms depending on the number and case, but in English, they all get mapped to “the.” 

Have a look at this, though:

  • Dem Mann folgte die Frau.
    “The woman followed the man.” (It was the man that the woman followed.)

In today’s German writing, you won’t come across sentence inversions like this very often, but crack open a book written before the 1920s or so, and this will be everywhere. This example shows that the cases do play an important role in allowing for free word order while maintaining intelligibility. 

4. Flex Your Grammar Skills

Male, Female, and Neuter Gender Signs

You probably already know that the single biggest problem German learners face grammar-wise is the grammatical gender and the word endings that go along with them. Here, we’ll cover common German grammar mistakes concerning this, and how to avoid them.

Although there are a couple of rules you can memorize to make guessing noun gender go a little faster, it’s truly just going to come down to memorization and exposure. Learning German isn’t a race. The longer you spend with it, the more natural the correct noun endings are going to seem.

One thing that can actually help a lot for learning adjectives and article declensions is making study guides. 

Take a selection of intermediate-level German text and explain it, word by word, to a learner who doesn’t know a thing about German. Explain why each word has each ending, and how it relates to the sentence as a whole.

This is the kind of exercise you only need to do a handful of times before you start surprising yourself with how accurate your grammar is.

5. The Mistake Grab Bag

Many learners aren’t quite comfortable with the concept of polite and informal pronouns. To tell the truth, tons of native speakers have a hard time knowing exactly when to siezen “use Sie” or duzen “use du” as well!

There’s also a general shift toward using du more, especially online and especially among young people. However, if you ever take a German standardized test, you’ll be specifically tested on your ability to effectively use both levels of politeness, so make sure you’re equally strong in both.

And although German is considered to be one of the easier languages to spell, there are a few words with irregular pronunciation. These mostly come from other languages.

For instance, the words Restaurant and Fond (“fund”) are from French, and so they end in nasal vowels. Also, Regisseur (“film director”) has a smooth French “zh” sound, but Region has a hard “G” sound.

Finally, the humble word vier (“four”) has a long vowel, but it actually becomes a short vowel in the related words Viertel (“fourth”), vierzehn (“fourteen”), and vierzig (“forty”). Keep a sharp ear out, and you may hear more irregularities!

6. The Biggest Mistake

Man with Tape Over His Mouth

However, all of these little mistakes pale in comparison to one thing that could ruin your German forever—not using it. 

German-speakers aren’t going to bite you if you use a few words wrong or forget an ending. If you force yourself to stay silent even when you hear a lost German tourist asking for directions in your home country, you’re missing out on unequaled practice and the opportunity to make new friends. 

You might have the preconception that German-speakers would be too good at English to ever help you with your German, but that’s really not the case. The more you put yourself out there, the more international friends you’ll make and the better your German will become.

7. Conclusion

Even though practice with native speakers is the only tried-and-true way to really feel comfortable with native speakers, you can still make a strong effort at home. 

That’s where GermanPod101 comes in as a complete solution to all of your German-learning needs—all inside two earbuds. 

Learning German is a slow road, but oftentimes, you look back and marvel at how far you’ve come. Daily practice is the key, and that’s made easy with the podcast episodes, video tutorials, and vocabulary lists you’ll find on GermanPod101.com.

So step right up, and try out GermanPod101 today to start speaking beautiful and correct German as soon as possible!

Before you go, let us know in the comments what German mistakes you make the most often, or how you’ve learned to overcome them. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Master Simple German Questions and Answers for Beginners

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Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to tonight’s round of German Questions Extraordinaire! 

Does that sound like a quiz show you would watch? It would certainly help out your German!

Perhaps you’ve realized that every time you have a German conversation, you’re kind of on a quiz show yourself. Conversations tend to be built around questions and answers—especially the kinds of conversations that you’re likely to have as a foreign student of German.

Therefore, practicing the following German questions and answers for beginners will provide you with the tools you need to sail through opening conversations like they’re nothing.

In a typical German conversation, questions and answers like the ones we’ll introduce today will come up all the time. Try them out now and see how you like them!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Contestant Number One
  2. You and Your Home
  3. Whose Language is it Anyway?
  4. Language Follow-Ups
  5. Travel Time
  6. Compare a Few Places
  7. All Eyes on Food
  8. What Do You Do?
  9. What’s Going On?
  10. The Price is Right
  11. Conclusion

1. Contestant Number One

Two People Shaking Hands with Each Other
  • Wie heißen Sie?
    “What’s your name?”

We begin the show today with the verb heißen, meaning “to be called.” As you can see, the pronoun here is the formal Sie, as opposed to the informal du. In general, younger people and people commenting online use du with one another (there’s even a verb for that: duzen), while one would use Sie with older people and in very formal situations.

To answer the question, simply use the same verb:

  • Ich heiße Martin.
    “My name is Martin.”

There’s actually another way to form this sentence that’s perhaps a little less common, but still familiar amongst native German-speakers. This one is a near-carbon copy of the English question:

  • Wie ist ihr Name?
    “What is your name?”
  • Mein Name ist Gloria.
    “My name is Gloria.”

The only difference compared to the English version is that German uses wie, meaning “how,” here instead of was, or “what.” 

2. You and Your Home

First Encounter

Log on to any online language chat room and introduce yourself as a German-learner; people will absolutely ask you where you’re from. It’ll happen in Germany, too!

  • Woher kommen Sie?
    “Where do you come from?”

The first word here, woher, is an interesting quirk of German grammar. It means “from where” because wo is the “where” part and her is a particle meaning “to here.” So literally, you’re saying “From where to here do you come?”

To answer, we’ll need a preposition:

  • Ich komme aus Ungarn.
    “I come from Hungary.”

Aus simply means “out,” so literally, you’re expressing coming “out of a place.” There’s no need to use the her particle because it’s already been established by the context and the preposition.

3. Whose Language is it Anyway?

Let’s bring ourselves back to the basics for a moment. Here’s a German question you probably heard in movies long before you actually started studying the language. 

  • Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
    “Do you speak German?”

Germans traveling abroad sometimes seem to have a sixth sense about who can speak German. You may end up getting this question even if you’re not in Germany!

There are a couple of good answers, depending on your comfort level.

  • Ja, ein bisschen.
    “Yes, a little.”
  • Ja, wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?
    “Yeah, what can I do for you?”
  • Natürlich!
    “Of course!”

If you find yourself lost for words in German-speaking lands, it’s a good idea to learn the names of other languages you can handle, just in case. 

  • Sprechen Sie Japanisch?
    “Do you speak Japanese?”
  • Können Sie Englisch?
    “Can you speak English?”

There’s another German quirk right there: it’s acceptable to say “I can English” without specifying the verb “to speak.” Don’t try that with other skills, though. That sentence structure is reserved only for languages!

4. Language Follow-Ups

Introducing Yourself

Once you’ve established that you’re not from Germany and are, in fact, capable of speaking the German language, people tend to get curious. After all, they’ve probably met at least one foreigner with pretty flawed German, and you, on the other hand, are doing quite well. 

  • Wie lange lernen Sie schon Deutsch?
    “How long have you been learning German?”

German doesn’t have a tense that corresponds to “have been doing” in English. Instead, Germans simply use the present tense. The answer works the same way:

  • Ich lerne Deutsch seit vier Jahren.
    “I’ve been learning German for four years.”

The use of seit, meaning “since,” instead of für, meaning “for,” causes confusion in both German and English. Look carefully for people making this mistake in English-language internet comments, and you’ll probably find a couple of Germans!

The use of schon, or “already,” is optional here, but it can be readily adopted into the answer as well:

  • Schon elf Jahre.
    “Eleven years already.”

5. Travel Time

Berlin, Germany

Let’s assume that you’re learning German at home in a country far away from Germany, Austria, or Switzerland. If you happen to come across a native speaker and strike up a conversation, you may get tossed this question:

  • Waren Sie schon mal in Deutschland?
    “Have you ever been to Germany?”

Here, we’re substituting waren, or “were,” as the past tense instead of the English “have you ever been.” It’s possible to say that in German, of course:

  • Sind Sie schon mal in Deutschland gewesen?
    “Have you ever been to Germany?”

However, this is rather stilted and definitely a mark of older speech or writing. 

Also note the use of mal. This literally means “time” or “occurrence,” as in “one time, two times…” Here, it doesn’t really have a word-for-word translation; instead, it simply lends the flavor of “ever been.” You can think of schon mal as a set phrase in that regard.

  • Ich war 2015 in Berlin.
    “I went to Berlin in 2015.”
  • Ja, dreimal insgesamt.
    “Yeah, three times in total.”

Here, mal has its traditional meaning as part of dreimal, or “three times.”

6. Compare a Few Places

Germans are educated folks, and they tend to be quite open to traveling and new perspectives. Just go on YouTube and look for kultur shock (culture shock) to find a bunch of different vloggers talking about their experiences abroad. 

It’s not uncommon for a German conversation to include a genuinely interested question about what things are like in your country.

  • Und wie ist es in Amerika?
    “And what is it like in America?”
  • Gibt es so etwas in Mexiko?
    “Do they have this in Mexico?”

You can, of course, give as simple or as complicated of an answer as you want. In fact, some of the most high-level German exams ask you specifically to compare things in your home country to those in Germany.

So you have virtually unlimited options for description here. Let’s keep it basic with these sample answers:

  • Nein, so was haben wir gar nicht!
    “No, we don’t have that kind of thing at all!”
  • Ja, aber es ist bei uns anders.
    “Yes, but it’s different with us.”

Again, we can see some differences in the way that English and German use prepositions. It’s bei uns, meaning “by us,” instead of mit uns, or “with us.” 

7. All Eyes on Food

A German Christmas Dinner

Germans probably wouldn’t say that they’re particularly proud of German food, but it’s a common-enough conversation topic that it’s good to practice. Here are some good questions in German you can try out.

  • Was mögen Sie an deutsches Essen?
    “What do you like about German food?”
  • Mögen Sie deutsches Essen?
    “Do you like German food?”

This is a situation where telling a bit of a white lie doesn’t hurt (assuming you’re not a fan of the food, of course).

  • Ja, alles schmeckt sehr gut!
    “Yes, everything tastes very good!”
  • Ich esse gern Weißwurst.
    “I like eating white sausage.”

Here we’ve got the great particle gern, which can’t really be translated on its own, but instead is used after a verb to express enjoyment of that action.

8. What Do You Do?

People Working on a Creative Advertising Campaign

Everybody’s got to do something to bring home the bacon. How about you?

  • Was machen Sie beruflich?
    “What do you do for your job?”

If you haven’t already brushed up on the names for jobs and careers in German, definitely check out our vocab list. 

People aren’t going to need a complicated description of what you do, especially if you’re in a niche field like insurance or SEO marketing. 

Instead, stick to a general field:

  • Ich schreibe Werbungen.
    “I write advertisements.”
  • Ich bin Krankenschwester.
    “I’m a nurse.”

Remember, when you talk about job titles in German, you don’t need to use an article the way you would in English.

9. What’s Going On?

To be frank, an introduction question like this is much more of a set phrase than an actual inquiry into your well-being.

  • Wie geht es Ihnen?
    “How’s it going?”

The easy answer is Gut or Sehr gut, but your answer could also be the opening to any one of several classic conversation topics.

  • Nicht so gut bei diesem Wetter!
    “Not so well in this weather!”

10. The Price is Right

A Man Paying with a Twenty-Buro banknote

Germany isn’t really a country known for street markets or haggling, but a phrase for asking the cost of something is one worth knowing.

  • Wie viel kostet es?
    “How much does it cost?”

Even if you’re not haggling, you can still get use out of this phrase in cafes and restaurants that might not have all of the prices posted. 

  • Es kostet zwei Euro.
    “It costs two euros.”

Just as we’re wrapping up here, we get a nice sentence that perfectly maps onto English. The only thing to note is that wie viel, or “how much,” is sometimes written as one word: wieviel. But with the new spelling reforms of the 21st century, using two words is considered correct.

11. Conclusion

Congratulations! You’ve won a ticket to German fluency! 

These common German questions and answers represent just the smallest beginning of the wide expanse of German conversations available to you. 

For more excellent resources to take you from the beginning all the way through advanced German levels, try out GermanPod101! Listening to real-life situations in podcasts and following along with the transcripts and vocab lists will help you pick up the German language smoothly and painlessly. 

Check it out now, and watch your questions about German disappear into thin air!

Before you go, why not try practicing these questions and answers in German straight away? Answer one or more of the questions in this article in German. We look forward to hearing from you!

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100 Hand-Picked German Verbs for Your Everyday Life

You know, German treats verbs differently.

In contrast to pretty much any other European language, German moves the verb all the way around the sentence quite often. They call it “verb-second” and “verb-final.”

All that to say, you’re going to need to know your German verbs well if you want to be a good German speaker. Here are one hundred of the best German verbs for beginners to learn—how many do you know already?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in German Table of Contents
  1. Regular Tourist Verbs in German
  2. Verbs at Home
  3. Verbs in the Kitchen
  4. Verbs at the University
  5. Verbs at Work
  6. Verbs for Your Spare Time
  7. Verbs at the Gym
  8. Verbs on a Date
  9. Conclusion

1. Regular Tourist Verbs in German

City of Bremen in Germany

Everybody wants to travel to Germany at some point! Remember, work on your German accent and stay confident, and people will be surprised and pleased at your language abilities.

Here are some German verbs you need to know for your travels.

1. gehen – “go”

Wo gehen Sie hin?

“Where are you going?”

2. schlafen – “sleep”

Ich kann nicht schlafen.

“I can’t sleep.”

3. bleiben – “stay”

Wie lange bleibst du hier?

“How long are you staying here?”

4. bezahlen – “pay”

Kann ich mit der Karte bezahlen?

“Can I pay with a card?”

5. essen – “eat”

Was wollen Sie essen?

“What do you want to eat?”

6. trinken – “drink”

Gibt’s noch was zum trinken?

“Is there anything else to drink?”

7. kaufen – “buy”

Ich kaufe nur Android Handys.

“I only buy Android phones.”

8. verkaufen – “sell”

Ich möchte meine alten Kleider verkaufen.

“I want to sell all of my old clothes.”

9. bestellen – “to order (food)”

Möchten Sie bestellen?

“Would you like to order?”

10. bummeln – “to wander”

Nach der arbeit, bummelte er noch durch die Stadt.

“After work, he wandered through the city.”

11. chillen – “to relax,” “to chill”

Ich möchte heute etwas in dem Park chillen.

“I’d like to relax in the park for a bit today.”

12. wandern – “to hike”

Kann man in den Bergen wandern?

“Can you hike in the mountains?”

13. reservieren – “to reserve”

Sie haben kein Zimmer reserviert.

“You haven’t reserved a room.”

14. feiern – “to celebrate,” “to party”

Er feiert nächste Woche seinen Geburtstag.

“He’s celebrating his birthday next week.”

15. saufen – “to get drunk”

Saufen wir zu viel?

“Do we drink too much?”

Top Verbs

2. Verbs at Home

One of the best ways to practice your German with nobody around is to simply describe to yourself what you’re doing at home, as you’re doing it. With nobody to hear, who cares if you make mistakes?

Here’s a list of German action verbs you can use around the house.

16. aufwachen – “wake up”

Ich muss jeden Tag um sechs Uhr früh aufwachen.

“I have to wake up every morning at 6 A.M.”

17. aufstehen – “to get up”

Ich stehe um zehn Uhr auf.

“I get up at ten.”

18. schlafen – “to sleep”

Sie schläft immer noch.

“She’s still sleeping.”

19. sich die Zähne putzen – “brush teeth”

Ich putze mir gerade die Zähne, warte mal kurz.

“I’m brushing my teeth right now, wait a moment.”

20. sich die Haare bürsten – “brush hair”

Ich hasse es, wenn jemand mir die Haare bürstet.

“I hate it when someone brushes my hair.”

21. das Bett machen – “make the bed”

Wann wirst du dein Bett machen?

“When are you going to make your bed?”

22. sich duschen – “to shower”

Ich dusche mich zweimal in der Woche.

“I take a shower twice a week.”

23. staubsaugen – “to vacuum”

Bitte, könntest du unter dem Bett noch mal staubsaugen?

“Please, could you vacuum under the bed again?”

24. bügeln – “to iron”

Ich bügle nie meine Hemden.

“I never iron my shirts.”

25. waschen – “to wash”

Hast du deine Hände gewaschen?

“Did you wash your hands?”

26. aufräumen – “to clean up”

Können Sie bitte die Küche aufräumen?

“Could you please clean up the kitchen?”

27. fernsehen – “to watch TV”

Ich sehe selten fern.

“I don’t watch TV often.”

28. lesen – “to read”

Was lesen Sie gerade?

“What are you reading now?”

29. anhören – “to listen (to something)”

Hörst du deutsche Hörbücher?

“Do you listen to German audiobooks?”

3. Verbs in the Kitchen

Couple Preparing Food in the Kitchen

You don’t find a whole lot of German restaurants outside of Europe, but if you should happen to visit Germany, be sure to check out the local specialties in every state. When you come back, use these verbs to describe how the dishes are made!

Here are some good German verbs to know related to the kitchen and cooking.

30. kochen – “to cook,” “to boil”

Ich koche jeden Tag Eier.

“I cook eggs everyday.”

31. umrühren – “to stir”

Rühr die Suppe um.

“Stir the soup.”

32. backen – “to bake”

Kannst du Kekse backen?

“Can you bake cookies?”

33. vorheizen – “to preheat”

Den Backofen auf einhundert achtzig Grad vorheizen.

“Preheat the oven to one hundred eighty degrees.”

34. erhitzen – “to heat up”

Erhitzen Sie das Öl in der Pfanne.

“Heat up oil in the pan.”

35. einfrieren – “to freeze”

Wenn du es nicht essen willst, können wir es einfrieren.

“If you don’t want to eat it, we can freeze it.”

36. frühstücken – “to eat breakfast”

Ich frühstücke immer auf Arbeit.

“Where are we going to eat breakfast?”

37. Abendessen essen – “eat dinner”

Er isst Abendessen allein zu Hause.

“He is eating dinner alone at home.”

38. anbrennen – “to burn (food)”

Oh nein, ich habe das Sandwich angebrannt!

“Oh no, I burned the sandwich!”

39. schneiden – “to cut”

Wir schneiden den Teig mit einem Messer.

“We cut the dough with a knife.”

40. nach etwas schmecken – “to taste like something”

Das hier schmeckt nach altem Käse.

“This tastes like old cheese.”

41. probieren – “to try”

Schnecken würde er niemals probieren.

“He would never give snails a try.”

42. salzen  – “to salt”

Als Nächstes werde ich das gericht salzen.

“Next, I’ll salt the dish.”

4. Verbs at the University

People Taking a Test in a University Classroom

German universities generally have some strict entrance requirements, but that’s because they want to keep their well-known academic standards high. With nearly free tuition for international students and an unforgettable immersion experience, what’s not to love?

Here’s a list of common German school verbs you’ll hear all the time while attending a university. 

43. schreiben – “to write”

Ich kann nicht so gut schreiben.

“I can’t write very well.”

44. studieren – “to study (a subject)”

Ich studiere Geschichte als Hauptfach.

“I’m studying history as my major.”

45. lernen – “to study (for review),” “to learn”

Haben Sie für die Prüfung gelernt?

“Did you study for the test?”

46. auswendig lernen – “to learn something by heart”

Du hast das ganze Buch auswendig gelernt?!

“You learned the whole book by heart?!”

47. anmelden – “to register”

Wo melde ich mich an?

“Where do I register?”

48. forschen – “to research”

Forschen Sie lieber oder lehren Sie lieber?

“Do you prefer researching or teaching?”

49. sich verabreden – “make an appointment”

Wir haben uns schon verabredet.

“We’ve made an appointment.”

50. den Unterricht schwänzen – “to skip classes”

Ich habe niemals im Leben den Unterricht geschwänzt.

“I have never, in my life, skipped classes.”

51. spicken – “to cheat”

Sie wurden beim spicken erwischt.

“They were caught cheating.”

52. bestehen – “to pass”

Ich will meine Deutschprüfung bestehen!

“I want to pass my German test!”

53. durchfallen – “to fail”

Viele Studenten sind dieses Jahr durchgefallen.

“Lots of students failed this year.”

54. wiederholen – “to repeat”

Können Sie das bitte wiederholen?

“Could you please repeat that?”

55. überzeugen – “to convince”

Ich bin immer noch nicht überzeugt.

“I’m still not convinced.”

56. vorlesen – “to read aloud”

Kannst du den Satz bitte vorlesen?

“Could you please read the sentence aloud?”

57. lehren – “to teach”

Er lehrt im Gymnasium.

“He teaches at the secondary school.”

58. verpassen – “to miss”

Ich habe meinen Bus verpasst!

“I missed my bus!”

59. einen Abschluss machen – “to graduate”

Sie hat ihren Abschluss noch nicht gemacht.

“She hasn’t yet graduated.”

5. Verbs at Work

Two Women Going Over Work-related Papers

It’s only logical that you’d get a job in a German-speaking country after your German degree. And even if you haven’t moved to Germany yet, speaking German is a valuable asset to include on your resume.

 Here are a few German verbs you must know before snatching that job.

60. Kaffee machen – “to brew coffee”

Ich werde mir einen Kaffee machen, möchtest du auch einen?

“I’ll brew myself a coffee, would you like one as well?”

61. pünktlich sein – “to be on time”

Wie kann er immer pünktlich sein?

“How can he always be on time?”

62. sich verspäten – “to delay,” “to be late”

Das Kind verspätet sich immer.

“The child is always late.”

63. anstellen – “to hire”

Stellen Sie hier viele Frauen an?

“Do you hire many women here?”

64. entlassen – “to fire”

Vorsicht, du könntest dafür entlassen werden.

“Watch out, you could be fired for that.”

65. arbeiten – “to work”

Wo arbeiten Sie?

“Where do you work?”

66. kündigen – “to quit”

Ich werde in zwei Wochen kündigen.

“I’m quitting in two weeks.”

67. erklären – “to explain”

Wir können diese Situation erklären.

“We can explain this situation.”

 68. jammern – “to babble”

Er jammert stundenlang in seinem Büro.

“He babbles constantly in his office.”

69. telefonieren – “to make a call”

Haben Sie mit der Abteilungsleiterin telefoniert?

“Did you call the department manager?”

70. drucken – “to print”

Wir drucken zu viele Sachen.

“We’re printing too many things.”

71. speichern – “to save”

Ich habe das Dokument nicht gespeichert!

“I didn’t save the document!”

72. schicken – “to send”

Ich habe es dir in einer E-Mail geschickt.

“I sent it to you via email.”

73. verhandeln – “to negotiate”

Ich muss ein besseres Gehalt verhandeln.

“I have to negotiate a better salary.”

More Essential Verbs

6. Verbs for Your Spare Time

Everybody has their hobbies. Whether you just have to take a German exam or like to chat, having interesting hobbies can make you a fascinating conversationalist.

Here are a few German hobby verbs to memorize.

74. zeichnen – “to draw”

Ich zeichne keine Menschen.

“I don’t draw people.”

75. skizzieren – “to sketch”

Er skizziert ein Turm.

“He sketches a tower.”

76. malen – “to paint”

Ich male gern mit den Kindern.

“I like to paint with the kids.”

77. fotografieren – “to take photos”

Ich fotografiere viele Blumen.

“I take a lot of pictures of flowers.”

78. Gitarre spielen – “to play guitar”

Es ist lange her seitdem ich Gitarre gespielt habe.

“It’s been a long time since I played guitar.”

79. programmieren – “to program”

Ich programmiere sechs Stunden pro Tag.

“I program for six hours a day.”

80. klettern – “to climb”

Ist es erlaubt, hier zu klettern?

“Is it allowed to climb here?”

81. aufnehmen – “to record”

Ich nehme alle meiner Lieder auf.

“I record all my songs.”

82. üben – “to practice”

Ich übe jeden Tag Deutsch.

“I practice German everyday.”

83. fahren – “to drive,” “to ride”

Ich fahre gern Fahrrad.

“I like riding bikes.”

84. bolzen – “to play soccer”

Manchmal nach der Arbeit gehe ich mit den Jungs bolzen.

“Sometimes after work, I play soccer with the boys.”

7. Verbs at the Gym

Woman and Man Weightlifting at the Gym

Overall, Germany is a pretty healthy country. People do a lot of walking and biking, and if you want to get in on that action, you should have the vocabulary to say so in German.

Here are a few different German verbs for the gym and outdoor exercise. 

85. trainieren – “to exercise”

Trainierst du jeden Tag?

“Do you work out everyday?”

86. laufen – “to run”

Sie läuft im Park.

“She is running in the park.”

87. Gewichte heben – “to lift weights”

Wieviel kannst du heben?

“How much can you lift?”

88. pumpen – “to work out”

Ich war gestern im Fitnessstudio pumpen.

“I went to the gym yesterday to work out.”

89. joggen – “to jog”

Ich jogge zwei mal die Woche im Mauerpark.

“I’m jogging twice a week in Mauerpark.”

90. schwimmen – “to swim”

Kann man in dem Rhein schwimmen?

“Can you swim in the Rhine?” 

91. einen Muskelkater kriegen – “(to get) muscle soreness”

Kriegst du keine Muskelkater?

“Don’t you ever get sore muscles?”

92. sich wiegen – “to weigh oneself”

Du solltest dich nicht zu oft wiegen.

“You shouldn’t weigh yourself too often.”

93. sich entspannen – “to relax oneself”

Es ist schwer, mich zu entspannen.

“It’s hard to relax.”

94. abnehmen – “to lose weight”

Ich versuche etwas abzunehmen.

“I’m trying to lose some weight.”

95. zunehmen – “to gain weight”

Ich nehme immer noch zu.

“I’m still gaining weight.”

Negative Verbs

8. Verbs on a Date

Have you met a special someone? These are the activities you might get up to in German:

96. rauchen – “to smoke”

Rauchst du?

“Do you smoke?”

97. lachen – “to laugh”

Sie lachten laut und lang.

“They laughed loud and long.”

98. lächeln – “to smile”

Er lächelte und sagte, sie sei schön.

“He smiled and said she was beautiful.”

99. umarmen – “to hug”

Sie haben sich zum Abschied umarmt.

“They hugged each other goodbye.”

100. küssen – “to kiss”

Kann ich dich küssen?

“Can I kiss you?”

That’s enough for this section—take a look at our Valentine’s Day article for more!

9. Conclusion

Congratulations! That’s 100 German verbs in sentences for context.

How many of the words on this German verbs list were new to you? Let us know in the comments! 

The best way to study a list like this is to read it a couple of times for several days in a row. After the second or third time through, you’ll have already internalized some of the key structures.

Even better than that is going onto GermanPod101.com and listening to our vast podcast lesson library, complete with transcripts and translations. Listen for a couple of hours, and you’ll hear more verbs than you ever dreamed of!

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You And Me Against the World Of German Pronouns

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You already know you need to learn about German pronouns. They’re a small but absolutely indispensable part of learning a new language.

Congratulations – you mostly know them already!

German pronouns are almost the same as the English ones, with just a couple more here and there. You know, plural second person, formal address, all that good stuff like in other European languages.

The only difficult part is, well, the grammar. Each pronoun has several different forms based on what case it’s in. You not only need to know what that means, but you also need to get used to actually making those changes during natural speech.

Since cases are the key to really understanding German pronouns, let’s start with those.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Opening Up The Cases
  2. German Pronouns in the Nominative
  3. Accusative German Pronouns
  4. Dative German Pronouns
  5. Genitive Case
  6. Conclusion

1. Opening Up The Cases

Introducing Yourself

Cases, for all their difficult reputation, are just different forms of words to mark their grammatical function, such as subject or object in the sentence. English shows that only with pronouns: she is the subject form (“she does something”) of an English pronoun, and her is the object (“something happens to her”).

German marks many parts of speech for case, especially pronouns. German has four cases, but that doesn’t mean four pronoun forms – there are overlaps. You’ll see that very quickly.

Traditionally, the German cases are known as Nominative (subject), Accusative (object), Dative (indirect object), and Genitive (possession).

Let’s have a look at an English sentence to illustrate.

         Her brother gave me the book.

Here, “her” is a possessive pronoun. “Brother” is the subject. “Me” is the indirect object. And “the book” is the direct object.

All of these kind of blend together in English, but in German, the parts of the sentence are usually crystal clear.

This, by the way, doesn’t mean German is any better or worse of a language than English for having cases.

It’s simply the way the language developed. Thousands of years ago, every language spoken in Europe had complex cases, but over time, some of them combined and others were lost entirely in different languages. It’s a natural cycle, and in a few more centuries German might lose its cases – or even give them to English!

2. German Pronouns in the Nominative

Woman Looking in Rearview Mirror

“Nominative” is the first German case, used to mark the subject. It’s the basic form of the word, and therefore the simplest to translate directly into English.

Here’s a brief chart of the personal pronouns in English and their counterparts in German, all in the nominative case.

EnglishGerman
Iich
You (informal)du
You (plural)ihr
Wewir
Heer
Shesie
Ites
You (formal)Sie
Theysie

As you can tell, German distinguishes between three different kinds of “you:” Formal, used for talking to strangers older than you or people like bosses or professors; informal, used for friends, relatives, and strangers younger than you, and plural, used when you’re talking to a group of people in an informal setting. When speaking formally to a group, the formal pronoun pulls double duty.

This makes sense from an English perspective too, by the way. A couple of centuries ago, “you” was both the plural and the formal in English, and “thou” was the informal singular. German still makes that  distinction – and even uses ihr to refer to one person in particularly formal or traditional settings, such as an apprentice to their master.

Also take note of capitalization! Only the formal Sie is always capitalized in German, though du is sometimes capitalized in advertisements or in magazines for young people. It can seem a little weird for English speaker to keep ich in lowercase, though naturally that’s balanced out by all the other capital letters floating around in German.

Let’s see some examples!

Sie ist Taxifahrerin.

She is a taxi driver.

Sie sind ein guter Lehrer.

You’re a good teacher.

Sie haben heute viel zu tun.

They have a lot of work to do today / You have a lot of work to do today.

These sentences illustrate how you have to rely on either the verb conjugation, the context, or both to make the meaning clear. Here, though, are some easier ones:

Ich wohne in Belgien.

I live in Belgium.

Hast du Hunger?

Are you hungry?

3. Accusative German Pronouns

One Man Helping Another Climb Mountain

“Accusative” is the case that marks the object. First, the chart for reference.

EnglishGerman
Memich
You (informal)dich
You (plural)euch
Uswir
Himihn
Hersie
Ites
You (formal)Sie
Theysie

Not a whole lot of difference from the nominative case! Less than half change at all from nominative to accusative. And here’s how you know when to make that change.

Whenever you’d say “me” in English to express the same concept, use the accusative in German. Think about a couple of verbs for a moment: “Pat sees me.” “The coach hit me.” Those verbs are going to be accusative in German too, and so look at the examples:

Hast du ihn gesehen?

Did you see him?

Ich werde euch nicht beraten.

I won’t give you (plural) advice.

Magst du mich?

Do you like me?

It’s easy to find lists online of the most common accusative verbs in German. You can also look for set phrases, because many German preposition-verb combinations take a specific case. Thus, for “to think of somebody,” the preposition is always an and the phrase is an jemanden dachten.

Of course, knowing when to use the pronouns is one thing, but learning to actually produce them accurately under pressure is more difficult.

4. Dative German Pronouns

A Weekly Planner

The “dative” case marks the indirect object. In German, some verbs require a dative case pronoun even if you think it would logically be accusative, such as “to help.”

Können Sie mir helfen?

Can you help me?

That’s not mich like we learned before! Take a look at the next chart:

EnglishGerman
Memir
You (informal)dir
You (plural)euch
Usuns
Himihm
Herihr
Itihm
You (formal)Ihnen
Theyihnen

English no longer distinguishes between accusative and dative. Instead, you can think of dative as being something like “to me.” Whenever you want to say “to me” in English, translate it as mir in German.

These pronoun forms, if anything, are used more frequently than accusative forms in everyday German.  Of course that depends on what you’re talking about and what verbs you’re using, but take service German for instance.

Wir wünschen Ihnen einen schönen Tag.

We wish you a good day.

5. Genitive Case

Basic Questions

By the way, what happened to the genitive case?

To be honest, there are in fact genitive pronouns in German, but they’re very rarely used. Here’s a list of those pronouns:

  • meiner “of me”
  • deiner “of you “
  • Ihrer “of you”
  • seiner “of him, of it” 
  • ihrer “of her, of it” 
  • seiner “of it” 
  • unser “of us” 
  • euer “of you”
  • Ihrer “of you “
  • ihrer “of them” 
Person Washing Hands

So fall, all of our charts have been separated by case. That was to make it easier to handle. Crack open any German textbook, though, and you’ll see a nice big chart with every case all at once. 

Now that you’re comfortable with each case at a time, let’s open it up and show off the demonstrative pronouns in every German case.

MasculineFeminineNeutralPlural
Nominativedieserdiesediesesdiese
Accusativediesendiesediesesdiese
Dativediesemdieserdiesemdiesen
Genitivediesesdieserdiesesdieser

This looks surprisingly like the charts for ordinary German articles – so once you learn the case endings for those, you’re good to go here as well!

In written or formal German, the word jener is used to say “those,” while dieser is used for “these.” Jener has the same endings, so it’s not too hard to learn, but the truth is, people just say dieser for both “these” and “those.”

Kennen Sie diesen Mann?

Do you know this man?

Mit der Hilfe meiner Frau, habe ich diese Stelle bekommen.

With the help of my wife, I got this job.

One more important type of pronoun is a reflexive pronoun, used with a huge number of German verbs.  It’s the equivalent to English pronouns like “myself” or “ourselves.” Also, it’s mostly identical to the accusative and dative pronouns we saw earlier, but with one nice simplification.

The only change is that you have to say sich (in both accusative and dative) for the third person. Put another way, “himself,” “herself,” and “itself” all translate to sich in German.

Sie wäscht sich täglich.

She is washing herself everyday.

6. Conclusion 

Improve Listening

You might be thinking, “Do I really have to memorize those charts?”

Well, yes and no. Memorizing the charts and being able to write them by hand does have some real advantages. You’ll be able to compose and revise accurate texts, for one, since you’ll know all the rules by heart.

But developing a feel for the language is just as important.

And that comes with time. It’s a slow process that requires a whole lot of actual German content to be read, watched, and listened to.

Fortunately, you can achieve both goals quite easily right here on GermanPod101.com! We have excellent grammar resources as well as a real treasure trove of vocabulary lists – and that’s not even mentioning our flagship podcast series!

Relax with our German learning material and watch as it slowly becomes second nature to use the correct German pronoun every time.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments section with any questions you have about German pronouns. We’ll do our best to help!

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Throw Out Your Talking Clock: Telling Time in German

Thumbnail

Did you know that Germans aren’t that punctual?

They have a reputation for always being on time, sure.

But the Deutsche Bahn, the German train system, has more delayed trains than you might imagine.

Given that fact, and all the other pressures of modern life, you’ll need to be quite aware of the time in Germany. Do you know how to ask for it?

Or, perhaps, how to talk about time in general? 

This article is more than just a phrasebook for telling time in German. Time touches a lot of facets of everyday life and language, and the phrases you learn here are things that you can carry over into the rest of your German studies.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Time Phrases in German Table of Contents
  1. Asking Others for the Time
  2. Hours in German
  3. Minutes and Seconds
  4. Describing Lengths of Time
  5. When Did it Happen?
  6. International Time in German-Speaking Countries
  7. Time in German Idioms
  8. Conclusion

1. Asking Others for the Time

Time

Actually asking people the time in German is dead simple. That said, asking “What time is it?” in German does use a rather different structure than English.

  • Entschuldigung, wie spät ist es jetzt?

“Excuse me, what time is it?”

Here, you’re actually saying “How late is it?” To an English speaker, this might seem like a weird thing to ask, especially in the morning, but in Germany it’s totally fine.

Another equally common way of asking about time in German is with this phrase:

  • Wieviel Uhr haben wir?

“What time is it?”

This is closer to the English question, in a broad sense. If you think about it, saying “what time” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anyway. In German, this translates to “How many hours do we have?” This at least fits logically into the whole counting-hours thing that our clocks do.

Just as in English, you can also make any question to a stranger slightly more polite by adding “Do you know” in front of it. In German, this actually reverses the word order of the sentence, so we end up with this phrase:

  • Wissen Sie, wie spät es jetzt ist?

“Do you know what time it is now?”

Speaking of hours, the next step we’ve got to take is to understand the answer. No good knowing the question if we can’t!

2. Hours in German

Large Hourglass Against Dark Background

When telling time in German, imagine that the German language has gone and given names to each of the hours on the clock face. Fortunately for you, these are very boring names.

Each name is just the number, from one to twelve, and often from one to twenty-four.

  • Es ist vier Uhr.

“It’s four o’clock.”

  • Jetzt ist es sieben Uhr.

“It’s seven o’clock.”

Remember that the Uhr here is mandatory. There are some cases where you can drop it, but not right now. You can’t say the equivalent of “It’s four.”

In Germany, you’ll always see the twenty-four-hour clock used for schedules, signs, and other official information. Many people continue to use the twelve-hour clock when speaking to one another, however.

This requires an equivalent of what we call “a.m.” and “p.m.” in English. Where English speakers borrow the terms from Latin, German speakers use native German words here: vormittags and nachmittags.

  • Es ist knapp drei Uhr nachmittags.

“It’s almost three p.m.”

Here, German is rather flexible, as you could sub in morgens (“morning”), abends (“evening”), mittags (afternoon”), or nachts (“nighttime”).

  • Es ist zwei Uhr nachts.

“It’s two at night (two a.m.).”

3. Minutes and Seconds

Man Pointing to Wristwatch

The next logical step here is to learn how to combine talking about hours with talking about minutes. After all, there’s only 24 minutes a day when the time is an hour sharp!

  • Es ist zwei Uhr zwanzig.

“It’s two-twenty.”

Simple as that! And in fact, this is the place mentioned earlier where you don’t exactly need to say the word Uhr each time.

  • Es ist achtzehn fünfzig.

“It’s 18:50 (six-fifty p.m.).”

In German, there are several different ways to divide the hour so that you’re not left reading off the numbers as if from a clock.

The word halb in German looks an awful lot like “half,” but here’s one thing that really trips a lot of learners up. If you hear someone say halb sieben, it doesn’t mean “half past seven.” Instead it means “halfway to seven,” or six-thirty!

When it comes to quarter-hours, the word you need is das Viertel, which really refers to a quarter of anything, not just an hour. You’ll also need the prepositions vor (“before”) and nach (“after”). German prepositions can get rather tricky, but fortunately they’re easy as pie when telling time! 

  • Es ist Viertel vor sechs.

“It’s a quarter to six (five forty-five).”

  • Es ist Viertel nach zehn.

“It’s a quarter after twenty (ten-fifteen).”

Sometimes, you may hear people just saying:

  • Viertel zwölf.

    “Quarter twelve.”

This is actually something that many German people get confused with, since whether it’s used or not  depends on the region. Even though not everyone is using it, it’s still seen as a common way to tell the time in German. If you can master this, you’ll sound like a real native.

In this particular example, viertel zwölf means eleven-fifteen. Confusing, eh? The idea behind telling the time like this is to give the information that a quarter of an hour passed until twelve. Imagine having a round cake, and only a quarter is left. You’d say:

  • Ein Viertel der Torte

“A quarter of the cake”

Now exchange “cake” with zwölf, and you’ll have a quarter of twelve, which is eleven-fifteen. You can also say: 

  • Drei viertel zwölf

“Three quarters of twelve”

On the other hand, you could interpret this as eleven forty-five, because three quarters of twelve have already passed.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it straight away. As mentioned before, many Germans in the western part of the country don’t understand this either. 

That should just about cover it! However, learning to tell the time in German is only half the battle. We can use time words and expressions to describe a lot more!

4. Describing Lengths of Time

Woman Thinking about Length of Time

What if you’re not being specific at all? How would you guesstimate how long something takes?

  • Wie lange wird es dauern?

“How long is it going to take?”

  • Wie lange bis wir fertig sind?

“How long until we’re finished?”

Those are the kind of questions everyone asks, from kids on long car rides to bosses looking over your shoulder at your project.

If you can, giving a nice vague answer can be an excellent way to sound natural and push off your real answer, as the situation may require.

  • Es wird ungefähr ein paar Stunden dauern.

“It will take about a couple of hours.”

  • Es wird wahrscheinlich zwei bis drei Minuten dauern.

“It’ll probably take about two to three minutes.”

As you can see, all you really need for talking about time in German is a couple of key phrases to slip into the sentence patterns you’re already familiar with.

Or is it?

5. When Did it Happen?

Improve Listening

Perhaps those vague answers don’t cover your needs, natural though they are. At some point, you’ll have to know how to say what time certain things take place.

There’s another preposition you need to handle here: um. Normally, this means “around,” but when referring to time, it means “at.”

  • Das Konzert findet um zwölf Uhr statt.

“The concert will take place at twelve.”

Remember that when using time expressions, German allows you to use the simple present tense. For other tenses, the time expressions stay the same as the verbs conjugate.

  • Wann ist das geschehen?

“When did it happen?”

  • Es hätte um acht Uhr zwanzig anfangen sollen.

“It should have started at eight-twenty.”

6. International Time in German-Speaking Countries

Airplane Taking Off from Airport on Clear Day

The way most learning resources talk about it, you could be forgiven (perhaps) for thinking they only speak German in Germany. Some extra points for Austria and Switzerland.

Beyond those countries, German is even official in parts of Italy, Liechtenstein, and Belgium. It’s also spoken by minority communities of German speakers in Canada, the USA, Romania, Namibia, Brazil, and Argentina!

Naturally, to describe these communities and facilitate communication between them, one has to take the time difference into account.

  • Hat Belgien die selbe Zeitzone als Österreich?

“Is Belgium in the same time zone as Austria?”

Even if the German-speaking communities aren’t directly contacting one another, German is studied around the world thanks to the economic power of German-speaking countries in Europe.

Fortunately, all you have to do when asking time in German in a certain place is to use the preposition in, exactly like in English.

  • Wie spät ist es in Brasilien?

“What’s the time in Brazil?”

7. Time in German Idioms

Basic Questions

It just so happens that a lot of the time-related idioms and sayings that you already know in English have perfect, nearly word-for-word equivalents in German. These, for instance, work flawlessly:

  • Zeit ist Geld.

“Time is money.”

  • Der frühe Vogel fängt den Wurm.

“The early bird catches the worm.”

  • Besser spät als nie.

“Better late than never.”

However, there are some that we don’t have in English, common though they may be in German:

  • Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat.

“Time passes and advice comes.”

This could be considered a loose translation of “Good things come to those who wait.” However, Rat here is more like “advice” or “a solution,” and so this idiom is really telling you not to be hasty about solving your problems.

  • Er ist pünktlich wie die Maurer.

“He’s as punctual as a builder.”

English-speakers don’t typically stereotype construction workers as punctual. What gives?

This is actually based on the end of the work day. As the story goes, builders pay very close attention to the very last minute that they have to work, and as soon as that whistle blows, they’re off and away.

By the way, for more German idioms and expressions, check out Essential Idioms That Will Make You Sound Like a Native Speaker

8. Conclusion

By this point, we’ve really only scratched the surface of what’s possible in German when it comes to time and time expressions. Did you learn something new? Let us know in the comments!

The important thing to realize is that you can’t pick it all up from reading guides, and certainly not in English. Some of the examples in this article were taken from sources that are one hundred percent in German.

That’s the key—to actually use the language and learn things with German, not just about German.

And what better tool to help you on your way than GermanPod101? As you might expect, the podcast is our key feature, offering hundreds of lessons at a great price for any skill level.

You can also benefit from the vocabulary resources, grammar guides, and cultural articles like this one. There’s no time to lose. Sign up now and start your journey to German fluency! To begin, why not check out our article on reading dates on the German calendar?

Happy German learning! 🙂

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