Tag Archives: german grammar

Grammar terminology (part 4)

Grammatical gender of nouns is indicated by the definite articles. Der – masculine noun, die – feminine noun, das – neutral noun. Grammatical and biological gender ought not to be mixed up. However, with people, grammatical gender coincides with biological gender.

Tenses are forms of verbs indicating when something is taking place, has taken place or will be taking place. For example, the present tense (das Präsens) is used to describe something that is in the process of happening, to describe facts or the eternal truth. The perfect tense (das Perfekt) describes events that are completed or happened in the past.

A relative pronoun is used to introduce a relative clause to explain the antecedent of the previous clause in more detail. In German, the finite verb is moved to the end in a relative clause.

A modal verb is used to modify a main verb to indicate that something may, can, must, or is allowed to happen. Modal verbs are conjugated and used together with an infinite that is placed at the end of a sentence.

The subjunctive is used to describe something that is not real, wishful thinking or attached to conditions. Sometimes in laymen terms it is referred to as the conditional.

That brings us to the end of our 4 weekly instalments, which explain German grammar in more details. Please get in touch if you are interested in learning or improving your German.

Grammar terminology (part 3)

Possessive articles indicate to whom or what something belongs. For example: Is this your pen? No, this is my pen.

A conjunction joins words or groups of words. Some conjunctions in German are und (and), oder (or), aber (but), weil (because), and dass (that).

An infinitive is the base form of a verb, which has not been changed to show tense or given any endings. In German, an infinitive always ends in -en or -n, and is the form of the verb found in the dictionary (e.g. machen, gehen).

Conjugation simply refers to a set of endings (and sometimes vowel changes) for verbs which help to mark person and tense. For example, “to be” = I am, you are; sein = ich bin, du bist, etc.

Declension refers to the change of article, adjective or noun depending on case. For example: Der nette Mann kauft der jungen Frau einen schönen Blumenstrauß.

Cases indicate the function of a noun in a sentence. In German, the subject of a sentence is in the Nominative case, the direct object in the accusative case and the indirect object in the Dative case. For example: Der nette Mann kauft der jungen Frau einen schönen Blumenstrauß.

Instalment 4 is due net week.

Grammar terminology (part 2)

A definite article (“the” in English) refers to a particular, specific noun. In German, these are die, der and das, and all their various case and gender forms (dem, den, des, das, der, die etc.). 

An indefinite article (“a” or “an” in English) refers to a noun whose exact identity is not specified; not the bird, not that bird, but a bird. In German, this is ein(e) and its various forms. 

Other types of articles, such as demonstrative articles like “this” and “that”, function in a similar specifying manner.

Dieser, mancher, jeder, etc. are demonstrative articles in German, and follow the same rules as definite articles. 

An adjective describes a noun or pronoun by answering ‘what kind?’ or ‘which one?’ For example: the fast car, das schnelle Auto.

An adverb describes a verb by answering ‘how?’ ‘when?’ ‘where?’ or ‘to what extent?’ In German, adjectives and adverbs look the same in their base forms (e.g. schön can mean “nice” or “nicely”); however, adjectives have endings when they precede a noun — adverbs never have endings.

A preposition shows the position of one noun or pronoun in relation to another. Example: He is sitting on the sofa.

Prepositions answer the same types of questions as adverbs. A preposition is used with a noun to form a prepositional phrase: on the sofa

Instalment 3 is due next week.

Grammar terminology (part 1)

Being able to understand grammar terminology is crucial. But many people learning German find it difficult to come to grips with it. In 4 weekly instalments we are explaining in simple terms the most important terminology that you may want know before attending German lessons or classes:

A noun is a person, place, thing or idea. In German, all nouns are capitalised. If something in the middle of a sentence is capitalised, it is a noun or a word acting as a noun (i.e. a name). 

A pronoun replaces a noun in a sentence and refers back to a noun that was previously mentioned (e.g. when we are talking about John, we can say “he” or “him” instead of using his name again). It does the same job in a sentence as a noun, and can be the subject, direct object, indirect object or the object in a prepositional phrase.

The subject of a sentence is always a noun or pronoun. It is the person or thing that does the action of the verb in the sentence. 

The verb is the action word of the sentence and describes what is being done. In German, the conjugated verb takes second position in a simple sentence or main clause. In other clauses (with subordinating conjunctions like dass or weil), the verb will be at the end of that clause. 

The direct object is the “do-ee” of the sentence, meaning the object to which something is being done. It too is always a noun or pronoun. 

The indirect object is a noun or pronoun that answers the question ‘to whom’ or ‘for whom’ something is being done – the beneficiary of the verb.

Instalment 2 is due next week.