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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

If you know these 10 things, you’re a German grammar master

Do you do all these things without thinking twice? Then you're either native or you have truly become a master of the German language.

If you know these 10 things, you're a German grammar master
Photo: DPA

1. Word Genders 

If you're consistently getting the genders of words right, even when using different cases, then you're onto a winner. Here's an unusual one for you though – what is the gender of the word Gebäude (building)? 

Tempted to say feminine due to the 'e' on the end? Gebäude is actually neuter. 

2. Subordinating conjunctions

What is wrong with the phrase weil ich liebe meine Katze (because I love my cat)? The verb isn't at the end of phrase as it should be, since weil is a subordinating conjunction. 

Admittedly, this one isn't so important when speaking, as native speakers sometimes don't bother popping the verb to the end, but a true grammar fanatic would know of the rule and make sure they used it in their written German at least. 

3. Knowing what verbs to use with sein in the perfect tense

Does saying ich bin gefahren come instinctively to you now? Do you wince a little if you hear someone say ich habe gegangen?

Getting the hang of which verbs to use with sein and which to use with haben in the perfect tense separates beginners from advanced learners of German. 

4. Possessive pronouns

A Russian blue cat. Photo: DPA

This just requires some memorization, but messing up can give you away as a non-native speaker. 

If it's feminine or plural, go for deren, if it's masculine or neutral, go for dessen. For example: Die Frau, deren Katze auf dem Boden lag (the woman, whose cat lay on the floor).

5. Nach or Nachdem? Vor or Bevor? 

If you've fully understood the difference between nach and nachdem or vor and bevor, then you're on your way to sounding native. 

As as rule of thumb, the preposition by itself is followed by a noun,  eg nach dem Film, whereas nachdem is followed by a phrase with a verb, for example nachdem ich den Film gesehen habe

6. Als or wenn? 

This can prove a tricky judgement call when describing past events, but you should use als for an event that happened only once in the past, and wenn for events that happened more than once in the past. 

7. The Passive 

Photo: DPA 

The passive in different tenses can prove to be a real head-scratcher, especially when you add in the element of modal verbs. 

Is saying Ihm konnte nicht geholfen werden (he couldn't be helped) a piece of cake? Then hats off to you. 

8. Knowing what verbs match with what prepositions

This truly marks out a native speaker from a German-learner. There's not really a rule for knowing which preposition aligns with which verb, you just have to learn it. 

A few useful ones are fahren nach (to travel to), warten auf (to wait for) and sich freuen auf (to look forward to). 

9. Adjective endings

No matter how well you think you have learned them, when talking or writing at speed, adjective endings always seem to trip you up. 

However, once you stop just hap-hazardly attaching an -en to the end of every adjective and start instinctively applying them properly, you can consider yourself pretty darned adept at German. 

10. Capitalizing nouns 

A classic rookie error is failing to give all nouns a capital letter. Once you've grasped it and you can scribble away in German without having to give it too much thought, then you know your language skills are just that tiny, little bit better than when you started.

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LEARNING GERMAN

Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

The German word 'Wanderlust' means "the desire to travel" and is used even in other languages. Here are some of the other words commonly used in Germany to describe the nation's love affair with travelling.

Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

Germans are very connected to nature and a lot of the activities they routinely do, even in winter, involve staying outdoors. So it’s no wonder the language also reflects that passion for walking, travelling, and spending time in nature.

Some of the German words that are most famous to speakers of other languages reference this passion. Perhaps most notably, the term “Wanderlust” which has made its way to other dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, with the definition “a strong longing for or impulse toward wandering”.

The word is composed of “wandern“, which means to hike or roam about and “lust“, meaning “pleasure or delight”.

READ ALSO: Holiday like a local: Five of the best camping regions in Germany

This is not the only unique expression the German language has related to travelling. Another of the hard to translate ones is “Fernweh“. It comes from “fern“, meaning “far”, and “Weh“, meaning “pain”. It is used to describe the longing for far-off places – in contrast to “Heimweh”, a feeling many immigrants might be very attuned to and could be translated to homesickness.

The German language also has several interesting and even funny expressions for walkers and travellers alike. The Local talked with German teacher and travel enthusiast Lutz Michaelis to collect a few of the best expressions.

“So weit dich deine/mich meine Füße tragen”

It literally means “as far as my feet will take me” (or alternatively, “as far as your feet will take you”). It is often said as an answer to the question, “where are you going?”.

READ ALSO: Waldeinsamkeit: Five of the best forest walks around Berlin

“Die Sieben-Meilen-Stiefel anhaben”

“To wear the seven-league boots”. This means being able to walk long distances fast. Lutz explains that it was actually based on a trope in French mythology, in which magical boots could help the wearer cover long distances in a short amount of time. Having been used in The Little Thumb by Charles Perrault, the term was brought into the German language by writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

“Wer rastet, der rostet”

The translation would be “he who rests, rusts”. It is used in the German language to say that being in motion is a good thing, not only with travelling but also to incentivise people to keep learning new things.

“Das Reisen kost’t Geld, Doch sieht man die Welt.”

It’s a very common rhyme used to show the downsides and benefits of travelling: “travelling costs money, but one sees the world”.

“Reisende soll man nicht aufhalten.”

It literally means that “travellers shouldn’t be stopped”. However, Lutz explains that the expression is not only used to refer to travellers but also to anyone that might be going through a transitional situation – such as someone wanting to change their jobs, for example.

Rhododendren park Bremen

Rhododendrons bloom in the Rhododendron Park in Bremen. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

“der Weg ist das Ziel.”

One of the most beautiful ones, and many languages have their own version of it. It translates to “the road is the destination”.

Of course, coming back home, especially for those suffering from Heimweh, can also be something beautiful. One common saying is “Wiedersehen macht Freude“, which means that to meet again brings happiness, used among those looking forward to seeing someone again after a long trip.

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

And one more…

In Germany, there is a common joke about finding German people abroad. The rhyme goes “Hüte dich vor Sturm und Wind, und Deutschen, die im Ausland sind“, which could be translated as “Be on your guard for storm and wind, and Germans in a foreign land”.

“It refers both to the bad behaviour of Germans on holidays or travels and a dark joke and a funny nod to the fact that German troops have invaded other countries”, Lutz, who is a German himself, explains.

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