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Rebecca: Hi everyone, and welcome to the Grammar portion of GermanPod101.com's All About Series!
Widar: Oh no, not grammar!
Rebecca: I'm sure some listeners are having that very same reaction right about now. But we're here to tell you there's nothing to worry about. We've made German grammar so simple that you'll wonder what the fuss was all about.
Widar: You'll be surprised to learn that in comparison with English or other foreign languages, some parts of German grammar are amazingly easy!
Rebecca: Easy, you say? How can that be possible?! Well, we're about to show you.
Widar: Okay, so let's get started!
Sentence Order SVO
Rebecca: First, what we want to do is take a look at English. If you think for a moment about how English works, you'll be able to see in what ways German is comparable or different.
Widar: For one thing, English is an SVO language! Rebecca, what does SVO stand for?
Rebecca: Subject-verb-object. That means that in an English sentence, the subject always comes first, followed by the verb, and then the object. That's how English sentences are put together.
Widar: Can we have an example?
Rebecca: "I eat ice cream." "I" is the subject, or the one doing the action. "Eat" is the verb, or the action taking place. And lastly, "ice cream" is the object that receives the action.
Widar: SVO…
Rebecca: "I read the newspaper" and "I watch TV"…these are all SVO sentences.
Widar: In German, word order is less rigid than in English – except for nouns. There are two common word orders…one for main clauses (independent clauses) and another for subordinate clauses (dependent clauses).
Rebecca: Yeah. While German is not an SVO language, SVO works for main clauses. As in the given examples, a German SVO sentence is "Ich esse Eis" ("I eat ice cream.").
Widar: The subject is at the beginning of the sentence, "ich" ("I"), followed by the verb in second position, "esse" ("eat"), and last but not least, the object at the end of the sentence, "Eis" ("ice cream").
Rebecca: SVO works perfectly fine for main clauses. This is somewhat different if we look at subordinate clauses. So we can add a subordinate clause to our main clause in the English example…"I eat ice cream because I like it."
Widar: Okay, first is the main clause, and second the subordinate clause.
Rebecca: Right. In English, subordinate clauses start with a conjunction – in this case, "because." This is followed by the subject "I," the verb "like," and the object "it." Again, SVO.
Widar: So the English rule is…main clause SVO, conjunction, subordinate clause SVO.
Rebecca: Yeah. In German it's different though. Here, the example would be "I eat ice cream, because I it like."
Widar: Main clause SVO, conjunction, and subordinate clause SOV. That's because in dependent clauses, German requires verbs to appear at the very end, as in "because I it like."
Rebecca: Okay. Let's sum this up. The rules are easy to remember. The structure of German main clauses follows their English counterparts – word order is SVO (subject-object-verb). Subordinate clauses differ from the English rule…they start with a conjunction, followed by SOV (subject-object-verb).
Rebecca: Okay, so German word order is a bit more complex than in English, but still in most sentences word order SVO works perfectly fine.
Widar: And it's no shame to make mistakes. The good thing about German is, even if you muddle up the word order, people will understand you. It might sound a bit strange, but you will deliver your message!
Rebecca: Yeah. In our accompanying PDF guide you will find more information on word order. Earlier we mentioned that there are a lot of areas of German grammar that are simpler than or equal to their English counterparts, right?
Widar: Now we'll go through and show you what some of them are.
Rebecca: What we've decided to do is compare German examples to English grammar examples so that you can really see the differences. The first one we'll talk about is tense.
Widar: Tense…well first, what is tense?
Rebecca: Good question! Tense refers to time – past, present, and future. There are tons of tenses in English with scary names like present perfect continuous and stuff.
Widar: I think they scare a lot of English learners.
Rebecca: Yes. While the German language knows six tenses, only four are mainly used. Luckily, there are no progressive tenses.
Widar: These six tenses are present, future, future perfect, preterit, perfect, and past perfect.
Rebecca: The present tense describes what is happening at this defining moment. The future tense describes what's going to happen, and the future perfect describes what will have happened in the future.
Widar: Yeah, and the other three tenses describe the past. Preterit expresses actions that took place in the past. Perfect is the past tense used to describe completed (thus "perfect") actions in the past, and past perfect refers to events that had been completed before another past action.
Rebecca: As we've told you, two tenses are rarely used…future perfect and past perfect. So for now we're going to concentrate on the other four tenses. So let's hear some examples. How about a simple sentence…
Widar: "Ich gehe zum Supermarkt." ("I go to the supermarket.") "Gehe" is the conjugated verb, and it means "go."
Rebecca: So that sentence is in the present tense. How do we change it to the past? "I went the supermarket."
Widar: If we use the preterit past, we say "Ich ging zum Supermarkt." "Ging" is the conjugated verb, and it means "went".
Rebecca: So that's preterit past. Both present and preterit are non-composed tenses, which means the verb is conjugated without any helping verb forms. So, now let's see how the perfect tense works.
Widar: "Ich bin zum Supermarkt gegangen." ("I was going to the supermarket.") Perfect is a composed tense; here, the verb is composed of the helping verb "bin" (first singular person of "to be") and the verb participle "gegangen" ("to go").
Rebecca: Now, how do we build the future tense? "I will go to the supermarket."
Widar: "Ich werde zum Supermarkt gehen." ("I will go to the supermarket.") Again, the future tense is composed of the helping verb "werde" ("will") and the verb "gehen" ("to go").
Rebecca: Maybe one more note on the future tense. Germans tend to avoid using the future tense because it can be unspecific. Instead of saying "Ich werde zum Supermarkt gehen" ("I will go to the supermarket"), they might say "Ich gehe morgen zum Supermarkt." ("Tomorrow, I go to the supermarket.")
Widar: Yes. It's more common to use the present tense and add words that indicate the future, like "morgen" ("tomorrow") or "nächste Woche" ("next week") than using the future tense.
Rebecca: Yeah. Let's recap here. German knows six tenses, of which four are commonly used…present, preterit, future, and perfect. The first two are uncomposed tenses, and the latter are composed of a helping verb (mainly forms of "to be" or "to have") and the infinite verb or participle at the end of the sentence.
Widar: It's as simple as that. Now, let's have a look at conjugation.
Rebecca: Now, in a lot of languages, the verb conjugates, or changes its form, according to who is doing the action. This is especially true for Romance languages, but we also see it in English…for example, "I go" versus "he goes." See how we change the verb? How about in German?
Widar: German verbs also conjugate according to the subject.
Rebecca: Can we hear some examples?
Widar: Sure. But one more note…the pronouns "ich," "du," "er/sie/es," "wir," "ihr," and "sie" symbolize the three persons (singular and plural). The subject, if specified, can easily be something other than these pronouns, but we use them for our examples.
Rebecca: Now don't worry about trying to catch every word. Just listen for the verb at the end. It's the same one we mentioned before…"gehen" ("to go").
Widar: "Ich gehe zum Supermarkt."
Rebecca: "I go to the supermarket."
Widar: "Er geht zum Supermarkt."
Rebecca: "He goes to the supermarket."
Widar: Did you hear this? The verb changes according to the person. The first person is "gehe" ("go"); the third person is "geht" ("goes").
Rebecca: German distinguishes between regular and irregular verb conjugation. The verb "gehen" is an example of regular conjugation.
Widar: There are a lot of different verb classes. The regular verbs, sometimes called weak verbs, are classified by their endings. For example, three groups of regular verbs end with "-en," like "lieben" ("to love"), "-n," like "handeln" ("to act"), and on "-ten," like "arbeiten" ("to work").
Rebecca: So they all follow the same regular conjugation mode?
Widar: Yes. I will show you this mode for the present tense, indicative. Let's take "lieben" ("to love") as our example. First for the three singular persons…
Widar: "ich liebe"
Rebecca: "I love"
Widar: "du liebst"
Rebecca: "you love"
Widar: "er/sie/es" "liebt"
Rebecca: "he/she/it loves"
Widar: And now the plural…
Widar: "wir lieben"
Rebecca: "we love"
Widar: "ihr liebt"
Rebecca: "you love"
Widar: "sie lieben"
Rebecca: "they love"
Widar: Great! Now, for "handeln" ("to act"), you need to scratch the "-n" at the end of the word and follow the same pattern as for "lieben" ("to love").
Rebecca: We don't have time to show you the different classes for irregular "strong" verb classes, but if you want to learn them, it's best to check out the charts for irregular verbs.
Rebecca: Next, let's also talk about singulars and plurals. For English, we learn that to make a plural, we add "-s" at the end, but when you think about it, there are tons of exceptions.
Widar: Yeah, like "knives," "geese," "mice"…
Rebecca: And let's not even go into the spelling rules.
Widar: The bad news is that German knows twelve different ways of forming the plural.
Rebecca: Twelve?! That's ridiculous.
Widar: Yeah, so it's best if you learn the plural for each new noun learned. The good news is that many feminine nouns are very regular in the formation of the plural.
Rebecca: The plural of feminine nouns are built by adding "-n" or "-en" at the end of the noun; for example, "die Tür" – "die Türen" ("the door" – "the doors") and "die Dame" – "die Damen" ("the lady" – "the ladies").
Widar: There are no such rules for masculine and neuter nouns, but endings with "-e", "-er," and "-en" are common, and the plural for many loan words is "-s," such as "das Restaurant" – "die Restaurants."
Widar: An important part of German grammar is pronouns.
Rebecca: What is a pronoun?
Widar: The grammatical term pronoun refers to a form that substitutes for a noun. And here's one fine example…instead of saying "Amy gave the coat to Peter," you can replace all three nouns with pronouns and say "She gave it to him." If Amy, the coat, and Peter have been mentioned before, the listener can deduce what the pronouns "he," "it," and "him" refer to and therefore understand the meaning of the sentence.
Rebecca: Now the good news is that these rules also apply for German pronouns.
Widar: German pronouns of the first person refer to the speaker. Pronouns of the second person refer to an addressed person. Pronouns of the third person obviously refer to third persons.
Rebecca: Okay. Let's check this for the most common pronouns – the personal pronouns.
Widar: All right! "Ich" ("I") (singular) or "wir" ("we") (plural) indicates the speaker; "du" ("you") (singular) and "ihr" ("you") (plural) refer to an addressed person. For example…"Schaust du Fernsehen?" ("Do you watch TV?") And third person is "er/sie/es" ("he/she/it") (singular), and "sie" ("they") (plural). For example…
Rebecca: "Sie geht einkaufen." ("She goes shopping.") (singular) or "Sie gehen einkaufen." ("They go shopping.")
Rebecca: Now let's talk about genders for a second. The German language, like many of the Romance languages, uses all of the three genders…masculine, feminine, and neuter.
Widar: German nouns can't indicate gender. Gender is expressed by their corresponding definite articles.
Rebecca: And that's really unique about German.
Widar: You mean this extensive use of articles… "Der" indicates masculine gender, "die" feminine, and "das" neuter. Every German noun takes one of these genders, though the grammatical gender of a German noun is not necessarily the actual gender of the corresponding real-life object.
Rebecca: Can you explain this?
Widar: Sure. The actual gender of "die Frau" ("woman") is feminine as is the grammatical gender. You can also use the diminutive "das Fräulein" ("miss"). In this case, the grammatical gender (expressed with the definite article) changes to neuter, whereas the actual gender remains feminine. But don't worry, most nouns that signify a person take the grammatical gender corresponding to their sex.
Rebecca: German also assigns gender to nouns without natural gender. Let me explain this with three common pieces of cutlery…"das Messer" ("knife") is neuter, "die Gabel" ("fork") is feminine, and "der Löffel" ("spoon") is masculine.
Widar: The German language needs to assign gender to every noun, even if there is no natural gender.
Rebecca: So that's why it's best to learn German nouns with their accompanying definite article, as the definite article corresponds to the gender of the noun.
Widar: But this means you have to learn all German nouns.
Rebecca: Probably. To be honest, you don't have to do this. There are some factors that indicate the gender. The ending of a noun can be used to recognize about eighty percent of noun genders.
Widar: Most nouns ending in "–e" are likely to be feminine, though there are exceptions…for example, "die Liebe" ("love") is feminine, but "das Ende" ("end") is neuter. Nouns ending in "–er" indicate masculine gender...for example "der Arbeiter" ("worker") and "der Computer" ("computer"), but "das Wasser" ("water") is neuter.
Rebecca: Nice. Check out our accompanying PDF guide for more clues on articles in general and how to recognize gender.
Widar: All right, well, I think that just about does it for our overview of German grammar!
Rebecca: We hope that this overview has given you a good idea of some of the most unique characteristics of German. Keeping these in mind will give you an idea of what to look out for and will prepare you as you dive further into the world of German grammar!
Widar: Keep up with GermanPod101.com for more lessons that will teach you German the easy and fun way.


Widar: Ready to test what you just learned?
Rebecca: Make this lesson's vocabulary stick by using lesson specific flashcards in the learning center.
Widar: There is a reason everyone uses flashcards...
Rebecca: They work...
Widar: They really do help memorization.
Rebecca: You can get the flashcards for this lesson at
Widar: GermanPod101.com.
Rebecca: Ok! Thanks for listening!
Widar: Bis bald.
Rebecca: See you soon!