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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 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.

What did Napoleon do for the German language?

Learn GermanDo you know what Gallicism means? Gallicisms are words from French that have found use in another language. When learning German you will come across a lot of Gallicisms. They found their way into German during the reign of Louis XIV who was revered across the German aristocracy. Amusement, fashion, cuisine, the military are all subjects that have words borrowed from French. For example das Ballett, das Turnier, der Chiffon, der Satin, die Frisur, das Kostüm, der Gobelin, das Dessert, die Kreme, der Kaffee, die Kantine, die Kolonne, der Veteran.

Other words are die Garantie, das Plädoyer, die Eleganz, die Garage, die Garderobe

Verbs ending in –ieren tend to be borrowed from French as well: abonnieren, arrangieren, revanchieren, engagieren, plädieren, frisieren.

Till the late eighteenth, lectures at German universities were in Latin and the German aristocracy spoke French and only plebeians, of which were many, spoke German. All that came to an end when Napoleon occupied large parts of German territory and people developed a national pride and a pride in their language. Gallicisms in the German language have been in decline since the Napoleonic wars. Who would have thought…

German words of Russian origin

WITH STORY Russia-Britain-EU FILE - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he addresses students during his visit to German Embassy school in Moscow, Russia. Putin has remained poker-faced during Britain's EU referendum vote to exit the European Union, but the shake-up could alter the status quo in Europe, and create new opportunities for Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)

When taking German lessons or attending a German course you’ll come across many German words of foreign origin. German, like other languages, borrows words typically from Latin, Greek, English and French. Less well known are Russian words that have made their way into the German language, often through the linguistic development of the part of Germany that lay behind the Iron Curtain.

There is the word der Kosmonaut, the counterpart to the English word Astronaut.

Kosmo- from Greek kosmos meaning outer space and naut from Greek nauta meaning navigator – therefore Kosmonaut is the one navigating the outer space.

Kreml (Kremlin) – meaning fort – nowadays the epicentre of power in Russia from where Mr Putin pulls the strings. Mammut (mammoth) – meaning tusk from the earth –usually what is left when one of these mammals is being excavated in the Russian steppe. There we have another German word of Russian origin, die Steppe – meaning treeless and barren land.

Die Troika from Russian tri meaning three – Troika – group of three. Are there any other German words of Russian origin that you know?