Get 30% Off With The Epic Sale. Ends Soon!
Get 30% Off With The Epic Sale. Ends Soon!
GermanPod101.com Blog
Learn German with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

Archive for the 'Speak German' Category

Express Your Love in German: Go Beyond ‘Ich Liebe Dich…’

Thumbnail

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.

Makes sense, right?

When dating a German, it’s easy to get comfortable speaking to your partner in only English, especially as Germany classifies as one of the best non-native English-speaking countries.

While this can help you keep a good line of communication, it can easily start to feel a little superficial for your German-speaking partner. From time to time, your relationship could benefit from expressing your love in German, their mother tongue.

Speaking your partner’s native language will go right to their heart, and that will make it easier for you to build a connection with them in the long term…especially if that’s the language you flirt in. 😉

Convinced yet? Here are some German love phrases to get you started.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Confess Your Affection: Pick-Up Lines and More
  2. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More
  3. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More
  4. Endearment Terms
  5. Must-Know Love Quotes
  6. Conclusion

1. Confess Your Affection: Pick-Up Lines and More

Four People Making Heart Signs with Their Hands

All great things take time. But guess what? They probably won’t be handed to you on a silver platter, no matter how long you wait. Your best bet is to get out there and take chances. This especially applies to building (romantic) relationships. Below is a list of German love phrases to help you get your foot in the door. 

You are pretty.
Du bist hübsch.

This is a phrase I’ve always stumbled upon while scrolling through friendly comments on social media pictures. Want to let someone know they’re easy on your eyes? No word is better than hübsch.

You are attractive.
Du bist attraktiv.

If you’re looking for an easy way in, this is a simple one to remember due to its similarity to the English equivalent. 

Do you want to go out with me?
Willst du mit mir ausgehen? 

If you’re willing to go out on a date, this sentence is your best bet to get the other person onboard. 

Do you want to be my girlfriend / boyfriend?
Willst du mit mir gehen?

This phrase literally means, “Do you want to walk with me?” but it’s the perfect choice if you’re not sure whether you’ve achieved official relationship status with your crush.

Thank you for the great evening.
Danke für den tollen Abend. 

After a great date night, there’s no better way to end the evening than by expressing your gratitude towards your date. 

It was wonderful seeing you. 
Es war schön dich zu sehen.

This works perfectly for a short date, like a walk after work or after leaving a group of friends.

You mean so much to me. 
Du bedeutest mir so viel.

As you progress through the dating process and notice that there’s attraction between you two, feel free to throw in a romantic line like this one. It should be enough to get your date excited about getting to know you even more!

2. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More

A Couple Giving Cheers on a Date

If you’re dating a German, it may take quite some time to get to this stage, as Germans like to take their time to get to know their date. Your safest bet is to express your deeper emotions only after you’ve gotten enough signs from your partner that your relationship is more exclusive. Here are six romantic German phrases to take your relationship from “casual date” to “lover.”

I love you.
Ich liebe dich.

If you’re a German learner, you’ve probably already stumbled upon this sentence in a beginner’s textbook or on a language app. This one is enough to break the ice and announce to your partner that you’re ready to take things up a notch.

I love you.
Ich hab(e) dich lieb.

Unleashing your emotions to a beloved family member or close friend? Enters Ich hab’ dich lieb. Culturally, this expression is perceived as ambiguous when compared to Ich liebe dich

It’s worth noting that while this phrase could also be used with your date, it may be considered friendly rather than romantic.

I can’t stop thinking about you. 
Ich kann nicht aufhören an dich zu denken.

This is the perfect sentence to drop a hint to your partner, especially if you’re worried about having your initiative rejected. If your partner reciprocates or shows a positive sign after hearing this, you’re probably on the right track to something big!

I miss you.
Ich vermisse dich.

Thinking about another date? Use this expression to see if your partner wants to meet again. Who knows? Maybe your next date will be the stepping stone to a more serious relationship.

You are my only love.
Du bist meine einzige Liebe.

Germans love to be direct, and what better way to match that than to just drop your feelings on the table and let your date know how special they are to you?

You give meaning to my life. 
Du gibst meinem Leben einen Sinn.

If you’ve happened to gain more perspective on life after meeting your date, chances are they’re contributing well to that. Let them know!

3. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More

Smiling Couple

Now that your relationship has had time to evolve and you’ve spent many months or years together, why not just tie the knot already? Below are six love phrases in German to help you do just that.

Note: If you’re a man, it’s customary to ask a woman’s father for permission before you move forward with your marriage.

I want you to be my husband / wife.
Ich will, dass du mein/e Mann / Frau wirst.

This expression is perfect for making a short and sweet proposal to your partner. Be sure you have that ring in hand’s reach before saying this!

I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
Ich möchte den Rest meines Lebens mit dir verbringen.

Considering you’re about to marry a German, you probably already understand the power of directness in German culture. No better way to propose than to make it plain and clear who you want to spend the rest of your life with.

Will you marry me? 
Willst du mich heiraten?

If you’re planning to get down on one knee, this should be your go-to sentence.

I want to have grandchildren with you.
Ich möchte mit dir Enkelkinder haben.

You’re planning children with your partner? Why not take it a step further and show him/her that he or she is the one you’ll be with forever? 

I want to be with you forever. 
Ich will immer bei dir sein.

You are my one and only.
Du bist mein Ein und Alles.

We are destined for each other.
Wir sind füreinander bestimmt.

The last three expressions are ideal for use by women to hint at their enduring interest, as men are the party expected to propose.

4. Endearment Terms

Couple Cooking and Smiling

How better to keep that spark of romance (and fun!) alive than with an adorable pet name or two? Here are some cute and romantic German endearment terms you can consider: 

Darling 
Liebling

Not only can you use this term for your other half, but you can also use it for your children (or even pets)!

Sweetheart 
Schatz

This is the most common German endearment term. Its literal meaning is “treasure” and it’s popular among lovers of all ages. Other variations, like Schätzchen (diminutive of Schatz), could be used as well.

Little bear 
Bärchen

This is one of many German terms of endearment derived from animal names. It’s perfect for a cuddling session and can be used for both men and women. It’s the diminutive form of Bär (bear).

Bunny 
Hase

Another animal term, this one could be alternated with a diminutive as well: Häschen.

Mouse bear
Mausebär

This is a funny mix of “bear” and “mouse”—two animal names you could even use separately to flirt with your partner. 

Pearl 
Perle

Because this term isn’t popular throughout all of Germany, you’ll probably be the first one to ever use it with your partner.

5. Must-Know Love Quotes

A Man Looking at a Woman Romantically

Love conquers all.
Liebe überwindet alles.

Love is blind.
Liebe ist blind.

Jealousy is a passion that passionately seeks what causes pain. 
Eifersucht ist eine Leidenschaft, die mit Eifer sucht, was Leiden schafft.

When you sow love, joy will grow. 
Wo man Liebe sät, da wächst Freude.

Opposites attract.
Gegensätze ziehen sich an.

Couples comprised of people from different backgrounds enjoy using this quote. It signifies how one can lead a successful relationship despite differences in culture, language, habits, and more. It’s great to use if you want to make sense of your relationship.

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Liebe geht durch den Magen.

Craving some homemade Bratwurst with a side of Sauerbraten? Your partner will probably not take long to get that (and more) for you after you use this quote.

6. Conclusion

Now that you’re all set with all sorts of German love phrases to impress your date, you can consider taking your German to the next level. Which phrase was your favorite? Are you ready to try it out on the love of your life?

It would sound even more native-like if you could use your chosen endearment terms and love phrases along with some prepositions. 

It would be even more impressive if you could create your own sentences, which you can easily do by learning some basic German verbs and just six personal pronouns to incorporate into your sentences.

Wondering where you can find the best resource to learn that and more about the German language? 

Enter GermanPod101.

With thousands of methodical audio, video, and text lessons, you’ll be able to interact in many real-life German conversations, whether it’s with your partner or with people in general.

All of this content is taught via a proven system using top learning techniques. You’ll have slowed-down audio to ease your understanding of new words, line-by-line breakdowns of texts, and voice recording tools to master pronunciation.

All of this and more comes with a free sign-up. No catch, no credit card.

Sign up now and get ready to impress your German date!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German

Negation in German: How to Form Negative Sentences

Thumbnail

Are you a people-pleaser? Someone who goes out of their way to make others happy and can’t say no to anyone? 

Of course, learning a language is all about developing new skills, embracing new experiences, and accepting challenges…so you’ll probably be saying yes quite a lot. Yet, you still need to know how to say no if you want to master the German language!

A Man Holding a Green Check Mark in One Hand and a Red X in the Other

In this article, we’ll look at negation in German. You’ll learn how to make negative sentences, how to answer a yes-or-no question correctly, and how to politely decline an offer or invitation…without making anyone upset.

Sure, saying no isn’t easy for some of us. But I assure you it will be (at least from a language-learning point of view!), after you’ve read this. 

Let’s waste no more time then, and look at how to form negatives in German!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Negative Sentences
  2. How to Answer with a No
  3. Other Useful Negative Expressions
  4. How Our Website Can Help

1. Negative Sentences

A negative sentence is one stating that something is false. In English, for example, we create these by adding the word “not” after a helping verb (do, have, be, etc.).

  • Dave is not happy. 
  • We did not go to work today. 

There are three main German negation words. The first one, as you might have guessed, is nein, which means “no.” To construct a negative sentence, however, we use two different words: nicht (not) and kein (not a / not… any / no).

Let’s have a look at how to negate sentences in German using these words.

A- When to Use Nicht

In German negation, nicht is used to negate verbs, nouns (including proper nouns like Maria, John, etc.), adjectives (including possessive adjectives), and adverbs. 

Have a look at the examples below:

  • With a VERB:
    Wir warten nicht.
    We are not waiting.
  • With a NOUN that has a definite article (der, die, or das – “the”):
    Ich kenne diesen Film nicht.
    I don’t know this movie.
  • With a PROPER NOUN:
    Sie heißt nicht Mikaela.
    Her name’s not Mikaela.
  • With an ADJECTIVE:
    Ich bin nicht fertig.
    I am not ready.
  • With a POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVE:
    Das ist nicht meine Tasche.
    That’s not my bag.
  • With an ADVERB:
    Er spielt nicht gut Fußball.
    He does not play football well.

B- Where to Put Nicht

As you’ve probably noticed, nicht does not always appear in the same place within a sentence. There are a couple of things to remember when using it, so as to make sure you place it correctly in relation to other elements. 

In a simple sentence, nicht goes at the end, after the verb.

  • Wir warten nicht.
    We are not waiting.

However, we rarely speak like that in everyday life, so let’s see how the behavior of nicht changes according to what you’re negating.

A Family Waiting Outside the Bathroom for Another Family Member

Get out of the bathroom, we are not waiting any longer.

It usually goes before an adjective or adverb, unless we’re talking about an adverb of time (e.g. später [later], früher [earlier], gestern [yesterday], morgen [tomorrow]), in which case nicht comes after the adverb.

  • Das Essen schmeckt nicht gut.
    The food doesn’t taste good.
  • Sie kann heute nicht kommen.
    She can’t come today.

We place nicht before prepositions:

  • Er kommt nicht aus Bamberg.
    He does not come from Bamberg.

C- When to Use Kein

Sometimes, you’ll have to use kein (instead of nicht) to form a negative sentence. Remember, kein can be translated as “not a…”, “not… any” or “no.”

Kein has to agree with the noun it describes, and it functions in the same way as the forms of the indefinite article ein

We use kein in two ways, always with nouns. You can use it to negate a noun that has an indefinite article, or to negate a noun that has no article: 

  • Ich habe keine Geschwister.
    I have no siblings.
  • Sie haben keine Hausaufgaben.
    They don’t have any homework. (Literally: They have no homework.)

2. How to Answer with a No

There are two types of questions: open-ended and close-ended. A close-ended question (Entscheidungsfragen in German) is usually one you can answer with a “yes” or a “no,” without having to give any other explanation. 

In English, we usually say: “Yes, I do.” / “No, I don’t.”

In German, you could just say ja (yes) or nein (no), but you can also learn some more expressions to make your speech sound more natural. It’s common, for example, to give an explanation of why you’re saying no. This is also true in English, of course, and it’s more a matter of common sense than one of grammar or language rules!

To go with your negative responses, you could learn expressions like: 

  • Tut mir Leid. (I am sorry.)
  • Leider (unfortunately / regrettably)

Another fun German way of saying “no” is the colloquial word nee, which is widely used at all levels of society. It’s a nice way of saying nein (which would sound quite rude on its own), without having to give any explanations!

A second alternative to the formal nein is the colloquial word . This would not sound rude to a German speaker, and it’s considered a friendly way to say “no.”

  • Triffst du dich heute mit Johannes? (Are you meeting Johannes today?)
    Nö. (Nope.)
A Man Who Ate Too Much at a Restaurant

A: Are you hungry? / B: Absolutely not.

On the other hand, you can use the following phrases to say “Absolutely not!”

  • Auf gar keinen Fall.
    Under no circumstance.
  • Überhaupt nicht.
    Definitely not.
  • Absolut nicht.
    Absolutely not.

Doch in German

Actually, there’s another way of answering close-ended questions in German that we haven’t mentioned yet: Doch.

While studying the language, you might have noticed that doch and ja both mean “yes” in German…but they’re used in different ways. As you know, ja is the usual word for “yes” and is the opposite of “no” (nein)

  • Kommst du mit? (Are you coming?)
    Ja. (Yes.)

When do we use doch, then? Doch is used when answering a negative question with a yes, or to contradict a negative statement: 

  • Kommst du nicht mit? (Aren’t you coming?)
    Doch! (Yes [on the contrary], I am!)
  • Du bist nicht intelligent. (You aren’t intelligent.)
    Doch. (Yes [on the contrary], I am.)

A Man Flipping through Channels on TV and Talking on the Phone

The game is on. Aren’t you coming?

Doch can also be used with a similar meaning as the English word “indeed,” to stress a contrast or a certainty. 

  • Hast du das gemacht? (Did you do it?)
    Ich habe es doch gemacht. (Indeed, I did do it.)

3. Other Useful Negative Expressions

If you want to sound like a native, have a look at some of the most common expressions used in negative sentences.

Did you know, for example, that there are two ways of saying “never”? They are nie and niemals. These two words are interchangeable, but nie is more commonly used. If you use these words, you won’t need to use nicht or kein.

An Old Man Shrugging His Shoulders

I don’t understand anything.

Some other words that you’ll find useful in negative sentences are: 

  • A- Noch nicht

    This means “not yet” and can also be used for more emphasis:
    Ich bin noch nicht fertig.
    I’m not finished yet.
  • B- Nichts

    This means “nothing” or “not anything”:

    Ich verstehe nichts.
    I don’t understand anything. (Literally: I understand nothing.)
  • Niemand and Nirgendwo

    These respectively mean “no one” and “nowhere.” Niemand needs to change according to the case, while nirgendwo always stays the same.

    Niemand hat mir geholfen.
    No one helped me.

    Ich kann das Auto nirgendwo sehen.
    I can’t see the car anywhere.
  • C- Weder…noch

    This means “neither…nor” and it works the same way as in English:

    Er spricht weder Englisch noch Deutsch.
    He speaks neither English nor German.

Again, unlike in some other languages (like Italian), in German we do not do “double negation.” So if you use these words, you will not need to repeat the words nicht or kein. 

Here are the positive/negative pairs of the words we’ve just seen. Knowing how to recognize and use them correctly will be a big step in your language-learning journey

  • etwas / alles—nichts (something/everything—nothing)
  • jemand—niemand (somebody/anybody—nobody)
  • irgendwo—nirgendwo / nirgends (somewhere—nowhere)
  • immer / oft / manchmal—nie / niemals (always / often / sometimes—never)
  • mit—ohne (with—without)

4. How Our Website Can Help

If you want to learn more German vocabulary and grammar, make sure you check out GermanPod101.com. Here, you’ll find all the content you need to make your language learning journey as interesting and as pleasant as possible. 

Practice your listening skills with podcasts and audio lessons, build your vocabulary with word lists and key phrases, and learn useful strategies for learning German more efficiently. 

If you want to learn German in order to travel in Germany and other European countries, don’t miss our travel Survival Course. Knowing the language will help you be safe during your trip abroad, and being able to communicate with the locals in their native tongue will make your adventures even more unforgettable… 

I hope that you’ll be able to say YES! to all their invitations and offers…but, well, at least now you know how to say “no” properly without sounding rude!

And, if you’re studying German for work or study, make the commitment and start using our member-only features to gain access to the best available German content. The resources available will make learning German feel like a walk in the park, and you’ll be able to reach your language-learning goals in no time at all!

Before you go, we would love to hear from you. How did this article help you? Is there anything about negation in German you’re still unsure about? We’ll do our best to help!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German

Why learn German? Here are 10 great reasons.

Thumbnail

Maybe you’re interested in learning German, but need a little extra motivation to take your language learning to the next level. Or perhaps you’ve already started on your German language learning journey and want to know all the amazing things you’ll be able to do once you’re fluent…

Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

To many people, German might sound like an unlikely choice as far as foreign languages go. So why learn German? I assure you there are plenty of reasons why learning German will prove to be a great investment. 

Did you know, for example, that it’s the most widely spoken language in Europe? There, it has a stunning 100 million native speakers and it features as an official language in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and Belgium. It’s also recognized as a minority language in countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Namibia, and some parts of Brazil. And, as you may know, German-speaking minorities can also be found in Australia, South Africa, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina.

So let’s get to the point and look at the top 10 reasons to learn German. You won’t be disappointed!

The German Flag Against a White Background

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language
  2. Personal and Professional Benefits
  3. Is it Easy?
  4. The Fastest Way to Learn German

1. Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

Nowadays, it has been proven that there are countless benefits to learning a foreign language, and German is no exception. 

German is actually quite a challenging language to learn, but English speakers are in luck as the two languages have a lot in common! 

Anyway, regardless of the language you decide to learn, the challenge will certainly make you a better person, which is already a good enough motivation to start learning German!

Let’s have a look at the reasons why everyone should be learning a foreign language…and especially a complex one like German!

Reason 1: It changes the way you think.

A Man in Deep Thought about Something

Learning a foreign language opens your mind. 

I’m sure you’ve heard this countless times, and for a reason. The majority of language learners report actually changing and evolving as an individual in the process of learning a new language. 

Studying a second language will help you develop new skills that allow you to think about the world in different ways. You’ll acquire new tastes, and your attitudes and ways of interacting with the world around you will probably shift as well.

Obviously, these transformations are always for the best! They’ll allow you to add nuances and layers to your current personality, making you a more approachable, interesting, and open-minded person. 

Reason 2: It gives you access to a whole new world.

Another reason why you should learn the German language? Because being able to read in and understand a foreign language will also help you come to know the culture behind it. Not many people realize this when studying German, but it will give you access to the German lifestyle and culture on a whole new level: You’ll be able to experience it first-hand without having to go through the translations and opinions of others. 

Let’s say you’re a literature-lover, for instance…reading books in their original version will be priceless. There are countless German authors that have influenced the world, such as Goethe, Nietzsche, and nobel prize holder Günther Grass. Or, if you’re a cinema addict…imagine watching all the classics starring Christoph Waltz or Marlene Dietrich in German and actually being able to understand the actors. And you’ll have access to so much more content besides that which is translated or subtitled. 

You love cooking? There’s nothing like an authentic recipe for a Sauerbraten written by a German grandma! 

And the list goes on. Simply dive into what interests you most and get in touch with the amazing German culture. 

Reason 3: It can improve brain function.

Many studies have shown that learning a foreign language improves creativity, problem-solving abilities, and multitasking skills. And it doesn’t end there: Research has also shown that being bilingual can substantially delay the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A White Sketch of a Brain Against a Black Background

Do you want your brain to be healthy? It’s simple: Pick up a new language and practice! Multilingual people appear to be more logical, perceptive, and aware of their surroundings, and research is now proving that being able to think in more than one language increases the number of neural pathways in one’s brain—this means the brain is able to process information through a wider variety of channels.

So, what are you waiting for? Learning German will actually improve your brain function and make you more aware and creative! 

2. Personal and Professional Benefits

Of course, learning a foreign language will supposedly make your brain work better and all… But what about the actual concrete benefits of knowing how to speak a second language? And why should you learn German in particular? 

Reason 4: Knowing German will open up numerous travel opportunities.

It goes without saying: If you’re planning to travel in Germany or other European countries like Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and even Northern Italy, knowing how to speak German will make your experiences unforgettable.

A Christmas Market in Munich, Germany

Not only will you be able to travel safely and avoid misunderstandings, but, by connecting to the locals in their native language, you’ll surely delight in unique exchanges and adventures. 

In addition to all these German-speaking countries, you’ll also benefit on your next trip to countries like Spain or Turkey, where the locals are more likely to speak German than English.

Reason 5: It’s great for business.

In Europe, Germany is one of the most influential countries and boasts one of the strongest economies. In fact, the country has established a reputation for pure excellence in a number of fields, such as engineering and the automotive industry, which are considered some of the best in the world.

People Discussing Something in a Business Meeting

Knowing how to understand and communicate in German is a great asset if you’re looking for a job there, or if you want to enter a business that trades with the European Union. Moreover, German is widely represented at the UN, even if it’s not one of its official languages

In short, fluency in German often proves to be fundamental when it comes to business success on the European continent.

Reason 6: It’s also great for science and research.

Another field the Germans excel in is science. Sure, nowadays the language of science is English, but if you are into academics and research—and especially if you live in Germany—speaking the language is a must. 

Knowledge of the German language will not only give you access to more information and papers, but it will also open up doors into the leading markets so that your research can reach a wider audience. 

Reason 7: You’ll get to know the German history and culture.

Are you passionate about German and European history and culture? Then knowing German can be a great tool to help you dive deeper into our complicated past and how it affects the present. 

As we mentioned earlier, Germany is—and has been—one of the leading European countries for centuries, and knowing its language will help you understand it better… 

Remember, learning a foreign language changes the way you look at the world, and it will certainly help you make sense of the history and culture of the people who speak it. 

3. Is it Easy?

According to the FSI (Foreign Service Institute), German is ranked as a Category II language. Considering that categories go up to IV, it’s not as difficult as you might have thought!

Actually, this makes me think of more reasons to learn German.

Reason 8: English speakers have a head start.

If you’re a native English speaker (or a non-native speaker who knows English quite well), German will be easier for you to learn. 

The two languages actually share a lot of vocabulary and, even if German grammar can be tough, it can be easily grasped by someone who already speaks a Germanic language (yes, English is one of them!). 

Reason 9: Life in European countries will be easier. 

If you’re planning to work or study in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland, then studying some German before applying for a visa and actually moving to the country can make a difference in your experience and day-to-day life. Also, it might make getting a scholarship or government help easier if you speak the language. 

Reason 10: Technology and the internet have made language learning easier.

A Woman Lying on the Grass with Headphones On

Imagine having to learn German even just 50 years ago. You’d have to go buy a massive coursebook, a grammar bible, and a 5kg English/German dictionary…and good luck finding original German films and music to listen to, or German speakers with whom to practice your speaking skills!

As you know, things are very different today. The internet and the development of technology in general have made learning a language easier than ever: virtual courses, online language classes and practice, endless internet content in all languages…you can even practice on the go with your smartphone. Not to mention how easy it is to find a language exchange partner!

All of this is absolutely incredible and learning German now is so much easier than it has ever been, so jump in! If not now, when?

4. The Fastest Way to Learn German

And, speaking of technology, make sure you check out GermanPod101.com for awesome language learning content. 

Here, you’ll find German lessons for all levels, from beginner to advanced and fluent, along with all of the online resources and materials you could wish for: key phrases lists, podcasts, videos, dictionaries, and more. 

If your plan is to travel around Germany (or Europe!), make sure you use our Survival Course and special travel-related vocab lists. Knowing some basic German during your adventures will not only make everything easier, but it will also make your experience abroad even more unforgettable.

If, on the other hand, you’re in for the long run and want to become fluent in German so you can study or live in the country, just make the commitment and start practicing every day with personalized lessons and practical language learning tips.

Before you go, we would love to hear from you. Are you any closer to making a decision about German, or do you have questions or concerns? We’ll do our best to help you out! And if you’re determined to take the plunge, we’re curious: Why would you like to learn German?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German

How Long Does it Take to Learn German?

Thumbnail

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!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German

30 German Proverbs and Idioms to Speak Like a Native

Thumbnail

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!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German

What’s with All The English Words in German?

Thumbnail

German learners often have to put up with native speakers who only ever speak English to them.

After all, if you go up to a stranger in Berlin and start speaking English only, there’s a good chance you’ll hear English in response – often quite fluent English at that!

But it’s not enough that you have to speak excellent German in order to get people to speak German with you at all.

You’ve got to speak the right amount of English as well. Hence, our English words in German list. 

You see, if you’re going to take part in German society at this point in the 21st century, you’ve got to reckon with the fact that Germans are international enough to already speak English at a high level.

German-speakers from Cologne to Zurich can even be found sprinkling choice English turns of phrase into their speech with other Germans! In fact, this is a phenomenon so widespread that it even has its own name: Denglish, from Deutsch + English.

Most media coverage of Denglish is either heavily critical of the whole concept or just goes over a couple of words you should be aware of. However, it’s not going away, and so it’s better to learn it well when you can!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Introduction to Denglish
  2. Denglish Examples
  3. Loan Words vs. Denglish
  4. How These Names are Said in German
  5. English Words Derived From German
  6. Conclusion

Introduction to Denglish

Many Different Books

German and English are, of course, related languages. They’re both part of the West Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, and there’s a ton of shared vocabulary between the two languages just by virtue of this part of their history. Adapting English words to German doesn’t often take a lot of mental gymnastics.

However, there’s a distinct difference between these “old roots” and new English borrowings into German. 

German was actually a really well-respected international language of science and philosophy for many centuries in Europe, surpassing the English language in popularity in many aspects. 

It wasn’t until around the 1960s to the 1980s that English started becoming the “international language” even in Germany. This took shape slowly, but by the time of the fall of the Berlin wall, many West Germans were regularly using English words in their conversations even with other Germans. After the wall fell, everyone started following suit. 

Today, English is still seen as quite prestigious in German culture. Many Germans take pride in the fact that a majority of the population can speak English well enough to get by – plus at least one other language thanks to the German primary and secondary education systems

That’s not even counting the influence of the Internet. Although German is well-represented on YouTube, the sheer amount of English-langauge content overpowers it on Youtube, Instagram, and other social media. Just from interacting with this kind of media, Germans get comfortable with plenty of English words and they even feel comfortable introducing them back into their own informal German use.

Today, a mixture of German and English (or Denglish) is no longer the mark of imperfect German or English that it once was. It’s a cultural marker. 

Denglish Examples

A Woman Looking Down at Her Cell Phone and Smiling

With all this adoption into the German language, you might expect that these words would be preserved in their original meanings as a mark of difference from German. Although that’s often the case, it also happens that the opposite occurs: a word comes originally from English but has shifted its meaning after being adopted into German. 

Probably the best-known example of that phenomenon is the word das Handy. This is clearly an English word in origin as German words don’t end in -y like that, but instead of an adjective meaning “useful,” this word is a noun meaning “mobile phone.” And it’s not like how in English people refer to your “phone,” your “cell phone,” or your “mobile” – it’s all Handy, all the time. Many Germans even insist to English speakers that the word must be the same in English too!

Up next is the word das or der Evergreen, meaning “classic song that never goes out of style.” The German word for “a tree that is green all year” is actually a direct translation of the English – immergrün.

In the same vein, the word der Oldtimer refers to a classic car, not an old person – that’s an alter Hase “old rabbit.”

This extends to verbs as well. Trampen means “to hitchhike,” which makes sense if you’re familiar with older literature about people riding the rails (probably where the term came from!) and anturnen does not mean to turn something on, but is a word meaning “to get hyped.”

Another common way of implementing English words into German is creating compound words out of an English and a German word. This might sound like creating a Frankenstein monster, although due to the relation between English and German, this works actually fine. An example of such a word is die Teamarbeit or “teamwork,” which consists from the English word “team,” and the German word Arbeit meaning “work.” 

Loan Words vs. Denglish

A Manager Smiling and Standing in Front of Some Office Workers

In German, there are also a ton of words borrowed directly from English, often with the English pronunciation kept totally intact. These loan words have the same meaning in German and English and would be understood by listeners even without any German knowledge.

And in fact, there are hundreds.

Plenty of them pop up in the business world as trendy alternatives to pure German words. One such example of an outdated word is die Besprechung which has been replaced in the business jargon by its English equivalent – “meeting.” 

In the same way, die Leitung has turned into der Manager

You can take a bunch of English verbs related to computers and e-mail and simply conjugate them as if they were German to begin with – so you’ll have googlen, forwarden, clicken, downloaden, and so on instead of what you might find in a dictionary. A lot of Germans find this really annoying, but it really does happen all the time. Just check out a couple of German YouTube channels to see how people talk about tech and software in German, since there’s not really any textbook that can help you with this kind of vocabulary.

How These Names are Said in German

Someone Playing a Playstation with a Blue Controller

Interestingly enough, most pop culture from other countries is dubbed into German instead of just coming with subtitles. Dubbing is a huge deal in German film culture, and usually one actor sticks with a single dubbing target for their entire career.

Because of this, movie and TV series titles are localized into German in their entirety, as it’d be a bit weird to have a whole cast and high-quality dubbing but with a foreign-language title.

Star Wars becomes Krieg der Sterne “War of the Stars” while Lord of the Rings is translated directly as Herr der Ringe. Many German learners have loved Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen “the Philosopher’s Stone,” in both book and movie formats.

Fun fact: Sometimes Germans tend also to keep English names, since it appears “cool,” but they would change the name for the German market. So in Germany you won’t find for example Marvels “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” but instead you can watch “The Return of the First Avenger.”

These cool-sounding German names are unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. For quite some time in the 1980s through the 2000s, German dubs came with totally different titles from the original films – so the Dreamworks Animation classic “A Bug’s Life” ended up as Das große Krabbeln “the big crawling!”

Brand names such as Starbucks, McDonalds, and Burger King are simply spoken as normal German words, with German accents of course. Sometimes, a brand like “Xbox One” will be said exactly as it is in English, but the “Playstation 4” would be pronounced as Playstation Vier. There’s not really a system to this; it’s just something you have to pick up over time.

English Words Derived From German

German Apple Strudel with a Scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream

The exchange of ideas and vocabulary didn’t just happen in one direction between the English and German languages. Thanks to a great deal of migration from Europe to the United States in the 19th century, many Americans can trace their roots back to the German Old Country, and with it their heritage languages as well.

Although there has been cultural exchange between Germans and residents of other English-speaking countries, Americans seem to have picked up the most words related to German food.

Therefore, everybody from New York to Los Angeles knows that a Strudel is a pastry with fruit filling, a Bratwurst is a barbecued sausage, a bagel is a round and chewy roll with a hole in the middle, a pretzel (originally Brezel) is a long and thin piece of sourdough tied in a knot, and a delicatessen is where you go to buy all of these things!

Philosophy and sociology have benefited from German terms as well, such as übermensch or “superman,” or wunderkind “gifted child.” Even the everyday word Kindergarten comes from German, literally meaning “child garden!”

Conclusion

Earlier in this article we said that there isn’t really a good way to study Denglish. And it’s true, you won’t find many resources that treat it seriously.

This is even a good thing, because anyone who compiles a serious dictionary at this point is going to regret it a few years later when dozens of terms have become outdated and dozens of new ones have entered the language.

The best way to keep on top of these trends, therefore, is to attain a good level in German with a high-quality and holistic German resource like GermanPod101.com.

In addition to providing helpful grammar guides and cultural notes, GermanPod101 will get you ready to tackle real-life German and real-life Denglish as well! Try it out today and see how accessible all forms of the language can be!

How many of these English words in German were you surprised to find on this list? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German

A Brief German Culture Overview

Thumbnail

“Culture” is a tricky word. It often comes up when talking about a foreign country, and all the different rituals and handicrafts immediately spring to mind. Woven baskets! Wooden shoes! Pretzels!

The truth is, you have just as much culture as anybody else in the world. Culture is all about what you perceive as normal and what your society expects as a baseline—and that can be surprisingly different from place to place.

We’ve created this guide to get you up to speed on the German culture basics and to give you a better understanding of life in German-speaking countries. Let’s dive in.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Values and Beliefs
  2. Religions in Germany
  3. Family and Work
  4. Art
  5. Food
  6. German Beer
  7. Traditional Holidays
  8. Conclusion

1. Values and Beliefs

Recycling Bags for Plastic, Paper, and Glass

In German culture, values and beliefs are at the core of society. Germans value the concepts of control, community, and privacy, and these cultural elements are the driving force behind the lives and work of much of the population.  

Germans prefer to live an organized life. This is where the stereotype of Germans absolutely needing to be on time comes from. If you arrange your day into time blocks for this and time blocks for that, and then a train is late or traffic prevents you from getting to lunch on time, it’s going to make you upset!

For this reason, it’s considered quite odd and even rude to just drop in on a friend or neighbor unannounced. Always give people time to work events into their own schedules.

Germans also put a lot of importance on the feeling of belonging to a community. In neighborhoods, people take care of their own gardens so that everyone’s garden will look nice and reflect positively on the community as a whole. Germans are also very careful about recycling and protecting the environment. If you don’t separate your garbage and recycling into several different bins, you’ll definitely get some ugly muttering and hateful looks.

Privacy is an extremely big deal in Germany (as well as Austria). You’re probably familiar with Google Street View, right? Did you know that there’s a big Germany- and Austria-shaped hole in the Street View map of Europe? This is a reflection of how unwilling Germans are to let corporations take hold of their private data, a characteristic that some people have linked to the totalitarian regimes of Germany’s past that filed away every little data point for future exploitation.

At the same time, though, Germans are quite comfortable with their own bodies. Public nudity is not seen as shameful or criminal, though it has declined in recent years (no doubt due to the rise of privacy-intruding technology). There are still many nude beaches in Germany and a large Freikörperkultur or “nudity culture.”

2. Religions in Germany

A Church in Germany during a Snowy Winter

The history of Germany is more or less the history of Europe, given that Germany is centrally located and in its various political incarnations has been massively influential in regional affairs.

European history experienced a massive shift when a particular German-speaker, a monk named Martin Luther, started the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century. His writings caused an enormous schism in the Church and set the stage for literally centuries of conflict between Protestants and Catholics.

As such, it may not surprise you to learn that in German culture, religious beliefs are predominantly Lutheran Christian!

There are also a number of Catholics (particularly in Southern Germany) as well as an increasing number of Muslims. Starting in the late twentieth century, there has been more and more immigration into Germany from Muslim countries, bringing the percentage of Muslims in Germany to 4.4 percent. Starting in 2015, there was a relatively large increase in the Muslim population (though it still represented just over one percent of the total population), and many Germans viewed this negatively.

This slight demographic shift has prompted a recent national conversation about heritage, faith, and immigration. Many Germans have more open-minded attitudes about these things now than they did before.

3. Family and Work

In German culture, family life is stable and families tend to be on the smaller side, with two parents raising one to three children. Most families in Germany live in relatively large houses in commuter towns and suburbs, though the city centers of the largest cities are packed with dense apartment blocks for students, singles, and younger couples.

Fewer and fewer women in Germany are choosing to marry and have children in the first place, actually, leading to a demographic crash that’s worrying many economic forecasters. This is due to women wanting to have more of a career for themselves instead of caring for children—though both the German and Austrian governments have mandated Mutterschafts (“maternity leave”) and Vaterschaftsurlaub (“paternity leave”).

Speaking of careers, what is German work culture like? 

When it comes to work, Germany remains an economic powerhouse in manufacturing, engineering, and technical innovation in general. All universities in Germany offer free tuition, so the workforce gets more and more educated every year.

Work culture in Germany is the envy of many other nations. Although business can still be quite formal, several weeks’ worth of vacation every year is considered the norm. And because of the German love for well-run societies, businesses that force their employees to work overtime are looked down upon as exploitative.

4. Art

The Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany

The art created by German-speaking people over the years is practically without peer. You’ve got your Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, and Bach to start with—and if you’re a classical music aficionado, you have literally hundreds more to choose from.

Architecture is also a big thing in Germany. A lot of the country’s architectural heritage was destroyed during the war, so what you have in many cities is a mixture of surviving pre-war buildings, twentieth-century utilitarian architecture, and new eco-conscious buildings from the twenty-first century.

Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss all share a love of art and an appreciation for music. Practically any city you go to has at least one museum open to the public for zero cost, and you can usually find just as many tourists as locals at the exhibits.

5. Food

A Plate of Bratwurst with Mashed Potatoes

German culture and food go hand in hand.

Although many Europeans have German relatives, you don’t tend to see a lot of German (or Austrian, or Swiss) restaurants in foreign countries. Too many people might go their whole lives without ever really knowing what “German cuisine” entails.

On the whole, German food is heavy with lots of meat and sauce. Meats are generally cured, pan-seared, or roasted (as opposed to fried or deep-fried). Germans also enjoy thick and rich black bread full of healthy grains.

In fact, the “healthy” part is really important.

Many Germans like organic food and are willing to pay a premium on Bio– whatever that prefix may apply to. Groceries are significantly cheaper in Germany compared to many other countries, with bread, cheese, vegetables, and meat all coming in at rates that make it easy to buy nutritious food at any income level.

Some famous German foods you might have heard of include Bratwurst (pan-fried sausages of all types), Brezel (“pretzels”), and Strudel (fruit-filled pastries).

There’s a local Berlin specialty called Currywurst as well, which is a simple bratwurst with curry-flavored sauce and french fries. It’s considered a local delicacy, and if you haven’t had one, most people would say you’ve never really been to Berlin!

Maybe you already knew this, but one of the most popular dishes worldwide originated in Berlin! In the 1960s, Germany invited many Gastarbeiter (“guest workers”) from other countries to help rebuild the nation after the war. Many of those guest workers were from Turkey, and since they had started to settle down in Germany, they also brought their regional dishes. One of those was the Döner Kebab. While the dish is originally of Turkish origin, the popular Döner sandwich is said to have been first sold in Berlin in the early 1970s by Turkish immigrants. Today, some of the world’s most famous Döner Kebab shops are localized in Germany.

As for German food culture, Germans don’t tip more than about ten percent for good service at restaurants, but they do tend to stay at restaurants for a while and enjoy their meals. People don’t eat family-style; they order one plate for themselves and share if needed. Germans love Italian food more than any other foreign cuisine, though sushi might be a close second.

Has this little taste of German food started to whet your appetite? Head over to our vocab lists and lessons about German food for more information and practical vocabulary:


6. German Beer

A German Woman Drinking a Beer during Oktoberfest

Actually, German beer deserves its own article, but since it’s an integral part of German culture, we just had to mention it here. 

Do you know of any other nation that has laws about how beer can be brewed? The Reinheitsgebot (literally, “purity order”) is a law that regulates which ingredients can be used for brewing beer, and its tradition goes back to the sixteenth century. 

The original Reinheitsgebot said that beer could only be brewed using Wasser, Gerste, und Hopfen (“water, barley, and hops”). Even though the law changed a bit over the centuries, you can find a regulation in modern legal texts which says that an alcoholic beverage which does not consist of the three previously mentioned ingredients, and was brewed in Germany, can’t be called Bier (“beer”). 

Saying that beer is an integral part of German culture isn’t an exaggeration. It’s the German’s favorite beverage, and there are even festivities dedicated to beer, such as the Oktoberfest (literally, “October celebration”). There are around 1600 breweries in Germany, many of them run by monks in cloisters. 

And one more fun fact for you: Did you know that the legal age to drink beer in Germany is sixteen?

7. Traditional Holidays

Several People Holding the German Flag

Germany was never colonized by a foreign power, so there’s not really a “German Independence Day” that gets celebrated.

However, Germany was split up into East and West Germany for pretty much the entire second half of the twentieth century. When the two halves reunited on October 3, 1990, it was cause for immense celebration. Every year, Germans commemorate Tag der deutschen Einheit (“German Unity Day”), on which a different German city hosts a special event by the German political leaders and holds festivities for everyone to take part in.

Austria’s equivalent is the Nationalfeiertag (“National Holiday”) on October 26 to mark a return to sovereignty in 1955. 

Also, in German-speaking regions, New Year’s Eve is celebrated as Silvester, a second religious holiday separate from New Year’s Day where people set off fireworks and celebrate with lucky pigs in Vienna—yes, really

    → For more information on a variety of German celebrations, visit the German Holidays section of our blog!

8. Conclusion

How much did you learn about German culture and traditions from reading this article? How does German culture compare with that of your country? Let us know in the comments! 

Culture is always hard to fully understand when you’re on the outside looking in. Are you wondering how to experience German culture and finally lift that veil? Learning how to speak excellent German is a great place to start!

When you study German with GermanPod101, you’ll get cultural notes in every lesson, plus extra information about cultural norms you’ve got to be aware of. And once you’re comfortable with the German language, it will be that much easier to deal with the culture because you’ll be seeing it through much more nuanced eyes.

Sign up today on GermanPod101.com and take the plunge into German culture!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German

Walpurgis in Germany: Ready to Have a Witchin’ Time?

Witches, sorcerers, costumes, tricks, and superstition…no, it’s not Halloween! We’re talking about Walpurgis night in Germany. 

While you might not associate the beginning of spring with witchcraft and sorcery, this correlation has some interesting roots in numerous European countries. In this article, you’ll learn about the origins of this mystical holiday and how it’s celebrated today. 

Let’s go!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German

1. What is Walpurgis Night?

Three Women Dressed as Witches Circled Around a Steaming Cauldron

Walpurgis is a festival that takes place each year, beginning on the night of April 30 and ending on May 1. This festival is also common in a number of other European nations, including Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia. 

Walpurgis Night is named after an eighth-century abbess named Saint Walpurgis (also known as Saint Walpurga). She was known for her effectiveness in spreading Christianity, as well as her supposed abilities to deflect witchcraft and heal a variety of ailments. After her passing, people would invoke her in their prayers in the hope that she would keep the witches at bay. 

You see, it was believed that witches and sorcerers would hold a Hexensabbat (Witches’ Sabbath) each year in the Harz Mountains atop Mount Brocken. They were thought to engage in crazy dances and conspire with demons—or even Satan himself—to harm Christians and cause other sorts of trouble. 

In addition to invocations of Saint Walpurga, people would light bonfires on the hillsides and create as much noise as possible to scare away witches. 

Over time, Walpurgis Day became less associated with actual witchcraft, and more and more people perceived this day as a time to reflect on the charms of such superstitions. Today, the holiday is mainly celebrated just for the fun of it, though the superstitions behind it are still strong in some places. 

    → Make sure you also brush up on your Religion vocabulary while you’re at it.

2. German Walpurgis Traditions

While this witch festival in Germany is celebrated in most regions, there are a few towns and regions that have larger celebrations than others: 

  • Thale
  • Goslar
  • Wernigerode
  • Brocken

These areas often have a variety of festivities going on for Walpurgistage (Walpurgis Day), such as dances, comedy shows, and juggling acts. Everyone will be dressed up in some sort of witch or sorcerer costume, broomsticks and all. There are also all kinds of fun stalls, from those selling tasty food to others showcasing arts and crafts. At night, there are fireworks. 

Wherever you go, there’s likely to be a Maifeuer (May bonfire). This is a large bonfire set at night, around which people dressed in costumes enjoy themselves with drinks and songs. A popular activity is called “May jumping,” and it involves couples jumping over parts of the fire that have started to die down. There’s a Christianized version of the bonfire called Easter bonfires. 

Walpurgis is commonly associated with the end of winter and the beginning of spring. People may enjoy taking in the scenery and the warmer weather, and it’s popular to sing a number of May- and spring-related songs. Drinking something called woodruff punch is another common activity; this is a special alcoholic beverage made using white wine, semi-sparkling wine, and a type of plant called woodruff

Walpurgisnacht in Germany is also a time to expect pranks from youngsters. Many of Germany’s youth seize the opportunity to hide personal belongings or spray paint public property. 

The day following the Walpurgisnacht witch festival is Maifeiertag (May Day), and this is when the maypole is erected in many German towns. In bigger cities, this often involves brass bands and even a city fair. Though this is less common nowadays, it’s worth noting that Walpurgis and May Day are associated with leftist riots as well. 

    → Spring Break might be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the rest of spring. 😉 Check out our list of the Top 15 Things to Do Over Spring Break for some inspiration.

3. Walpurgis in Literature and Theatre

Did you know that Walpurgis night in Germany features in famous pieces of literature and other art forms? Here are just a few examples: 

  • Faust by Goethe
  • The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

4. German Vocabulary You Should Know for Walpurgis

A Walpurgis Bonfire

Ready to expand your German vocabulary? Here are some of the words and phrases from this article, plus a few more: 

  • Mai / May
    • noun, masculine
  • Hexe / Witch
    • noun, feminine
  • Berg / Mountain
    • noun, masculine
  • Glocke / Bell
    • noun, feminine
  • Besen / Broom
    • noun, masculine
  • Tanz in den Mai / Dance into May
    • phrase, masculine
  • Heilige Walburga / Saint Walburga
    • phrase, feminine
  • Maifeiertag / May Day
    • noun, masculine
  • Maifeuer / May bonfire
    • phrase, neutral
  • Hexensabbat / Witches’ Sabbath 
    • phrase, masculine
  • Walpurgistage / Walpurgis day
    • noun, masculine
  • Aberglaube / Superstition
    • noun, masculine
  • Zauberer / Sorcerer 
    • noun, masculine
  • Maibaum / Maypole
    • noun, masculine

Make sure to visit our Walpurgis Night vocabulary list to hear and practice the pronunciation of each word! 

Final Thoughts

Walpurgis night is a fun holiday with some more serious background. What are your thoughts on this holiday? Is there a similar festival or celebration in your country? 

If you enjoyed this article and would like to continue learning about German culture and the language, then head over to the following pages on GermanPod101: 

If you would like to start making the most of your time studying with GermanPod101, create your free lifetime account today and gain access to tons of fun and practical lessons and materials. Learning German can be a challenge, but you don’t have to go it alone.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German

Delicious German Food to Complement Your Studies

Thumbnail

Maybe you weren’t fortunate enough to grow up with German restaurants nearby or German relatives in the family.

If not, you’ve missed out on some amazing food.

German food is soul food by any definition: rich, hearty, and packed with flavor. Anyone who’s been to Germany would probably agree that visiting restaurants was the highlight of their trip!

How well do you know your German food—and how well can you talk about it in German?

In this article, you’ll get to know some brand-new dishes as well as some that you’ve probably sampled before. All the while, pay attention to the words used to describe them and their German names. You might find yourself picking up some important German vocabulary!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in German Table of Contents
  1. Characteristics of German Food
  2. Must-Try Dishes in German Restaurants
  3. Authentic German Food vs. Overseas German Food
  4. Three Unique German Foods
  5. German Food Vocabulary
  6. Conclusion

1. Characteristics of German Food

Roast Pork with Sauerkraut

Although many people in the United States and England can trace their ancestry back to Germany, there aren’t a ton of German restaurants on the streets of Miami or Blackpool. These people might not even have a great idea of what Germans typically eat!

At this point, you just need two words: Fleisch (“meat”) and Brot (“bread”).

It’s not all they eat, but these two items make up a large part of the traditional German cuisine. Kartoffeln (“potatoes”) make a solid appearance as well, though these aren’t technically an ancient European food.

Germans tend to avoid eating spicy food—they use pepper and vinegar sparingly, and rarely add sauces other than meat gravies. Slowly stewed meats and breaded cutlets often appear on German plates.

Sausages, of course, play a strong role in German cooking. Any German meat market will have more types of sausage available than you knew existed.

As for beverages, Germans don’t have a particularly strong tea or coffee culture, though beer, wine, and cider all flow freely at German restaurants. 

Speaking of which, if you found yourself in a German restaurant right now, would you know what to order? There are quite a few types of German food you need to try!

2. Must-Try Dishes in German Restaurants

German Black Forest Cake

We’ll start off with a Southern German and Austrian specialty known as Spätzle. This is an egg noodle dish usually served with a hearty meat sauce. Once the dough for the noodles is ready, it’s held over boiling water and the drops of noodles are quickly sliced off, cooking nearly instantly as they become submerged.

Ready for dessert already? Some of the most famous German foods are desserts, like the Apfelkuchen (“apple cake”). You can find several variations of this sweet delicacy, such as the Gedeckter Apfelkuchen  (“covered” with graham cracker crumbs and oats) or the Versunkener Apfelkuchen (with the apple bits “sunken” into a rich, spongy dough).

Again from Austria, next up we have the famous Strudel. This is a sort of turnover pie, normally baked with apples and raisins. The secret is to use absolutely paper-thin dough known as phylo, and to brush the whole thing with a small amount of butter before cooking.

You’ve heard of long German words—how about Schwarzwälderkirschtorte? Breaking this down, you can see what it really means: “black-forest-cherry-cake.” This thick, luxurious black cake is a centerpiece at many European bakeries, and that place of honor is well-deserved. For a true Black Forest cake, you need to make the cherry sauce and whipped cream by hand.

3. Authentic German Food vs. Overseas German Food

A German Pretzel

With so many Germans influencing culture the world over, it’s no surprise that lots of people are passingly familiar with German food. The key word is “passingly,” though. Plenty of things have gotten lost in translation as recipes have been handed down from generation to generation over the years. 

So the question remains: What is traditional German cuisine and how does it compare to overseas varieties?

Chief among the foods in question might be the Brezel, or the German pretzel. In Germany, these are huge, curled knots of dough served piping hot with a dip of fresh mustard and sometimes topped with big flakes of rock salt. You don’t see a lot of those overseas, though. The typical “pretzel” that an American knows today is a tiny dried snack that comes out of a bag like a potato chip, baked into a hard crisp.

A schnitzel is another thing that looks a bit different overseas. According to culinary authorities in Austria and Germany, a Wienerschnitzel or Schnitzel Wiener Art (“schnitzel in the Viennese style”) must be made of veal—not pork or chicken. Since veal is about twice as expensive on average as pork and chicken, it’s no wonder people are cutting costs abroad! It should also be served in a light vinaigrette, not the heavy gravy that so many restaurants add.

Sauerkraut has been a popular stereotype of German cooking for generations, even lending its name to a not-very-polite epithet during the war years. It’s actually not a wholly German dish, originating in the Middle Ages from Eastern traders. Today, you can buy sauerkraut by the box in grocery stores all over the world, but few people keep to the simplicity of real German sauerkraut—it’s simply cabbage and salt, aged to perfection with no additives.

Finally, the Kartoffelsalat, or “potato salad,” is a beloved dish at picnics and get-togethers across the United States. It also differs quite significantly from what’s found in actual German restaurants, though. German potatoes tend to be smoother and more golden than potatoes in the Americas, and in preparing Kartoffelsalat, they’re boiled with beef broth for an extremely rich flavor.

4. Three Unique German Foods

German Curried Sausage Meal

Even though some popular German foods have been exported with differences from their original forms, there are still plenty more dishes to be discovered in German-speaking countries. Here are a couple of foods that are pretty hard to find elsewhere!

1.       Weißwurst: Literally “white sausage,” this is a sausage made of veal and bacon, and it’s associated strongly with Southern Germany. It’s quite perishable and usually eaten as a breakfast or lunch food. The most interesting thing is the way it’s served—it’s brought to the table in the water used to cook it!

2.       Sauerbraten: Just as the Wienerschnitzel mentioned above is usually served with vinegar, so too is this marinated roast. The meat is marinated for days at a time in vinegar and wine, and this marinade is later turned into a rich gravy. The whole thing is served with potatoes and red cabbage.

3.       Currywurst: Perhaps you’ve already guessed what the name means after comparing it with Weißwurst above—it’s a curry-flavored sausage! Gastronomically speaking, a currywurst isn’t particularly gourmet. It’s a standard German bratwurst served with a mixture of ketchup and curry powder, often paired with french fries. However, it’s an absolutely beloved fixture of Berlin, and if you ever mention to a Berliner that you’ve never had one, expect to be marched to the nearest Imbiss immediately!

5. German Food Vocabulary

A Group of Friends Eating Out Together

Now that you’re nice and hungry, it’s time for a bit of language practice. Do you know the right way to order food in German?

Believe it or not, when you go to a German café or bakery, the typical way to order is to simply count the things you want.

  • Einmal Kaffee mit Zucker, zweimal Kekse bitte. / “One coffee with sugar, two cookies please.”

The word einmal literally means “once,” so you’re not ordering “one coffee” but “once coffee.” This is just a quirky turn of phrase. If you’re nervous about using it incorrectly, wait for someone else to order and confirm that you’ve got it right.

Although lots of the dishes mentioned in this article so far have been thick with meats and sauces, plenty of Germans are vegetarians. If you are too, it’s good to know how to ask about it.

  • Haben Sie vegetarische Gerichte? / “Do you have vegetarian dishes?”

Although many German words sound a lot like English words, be careful of the false friend Menü. That’s the word for a “set meal,” while the paper with all the foods listed on it is a Spiesekarte.

  • Können Sie etwas empfehlen? / “Do you have anything to recommend?”

And finally, at the end of the meal, it’s always a good idea to mention how good it was.

  • Alles war fantastisch! / “Everything was fantastic!”

6. Conclusion

Has learning about German food gotten you hungry for more knowledge?

Ordering in a German restaurant can be a bit intimidating, but not if you’ve got the right practice materials. The best way to avoid having Germans speak English with you in restaurants is to be confident and speak clearly without stuttering. The more you show that you’re comfortable with the language, the more you’ll be accepted as a proficient German speaker.

And the best way to get there?

Naturally, by having a great resource at your fingertips! At GermanPod101.com, you can follow along with our high-quality podcasts. Our lessons range from those for learners at the raw beginner level to those for more advanced speakers of German. As you learn, you’ll naturally pick up grammar and vocabulary, and then have access to high-quality guides and interesting articles like this one to keep you motivated.

The sooner you start seriously learning German, the sooner you’ll master it. Much like cooking, practice makes perfect. Start today and add German to your chef’s repertoire!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in German

What’s German Grammar All About?

Thumbnail

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!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German