An easy, fun way to learn German adjectives! A series of pictures by Delia Tello is so self-explanatory, no translations are needed.
An easy, fun way to learn German adjectives! A series of pictures by Delia Tello is so self-explanatory, no translations are needed.
Known for its precision and clarity of expression, German seems perfect for describing some of the conditions other nations may also be experiencing but couldn’t quite put a finger on it enough to give it a specific name.
“Wanderlust”. Fernweh is the opposite of homesickness. It is the longing for travel or the cabin fever, the desire to be away from home.
“Spring fatigue”. Is it from the change in the weather? Changing sunlight patterns? Hormone imbalance? As afflictions go, Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is much less fun that “spring fever” which is instead associated with increased energy and vigor.
“Werther’s fever”. An old-fashioned kind of miserable lovesickness named after Goethe’s character Werther from Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (published in 1774). Refers to a generation of sensitiveness young men who made Werthersfieber a fashionable affliction in the late 18th century.
“Foehn disorder”. Föhn is the name for a specific wind that cools air as it draws up one side of a mountain, and then warms it as it compresses coming down the other side. These winds are believed to cause headaches and other unpleasant sensations. Similar to the illness above, many genteel 19th century German ladies took to their fainting couches with a jar of smelling salts and a cold compress, suffering from Föhnkrankheit.
“Nostalgia for the old way of life in East Germany”. (“Ost” means East). If you miss your old Trabant and those weekly visits from the secret police, you may have Ostalgie.
“Circulatory collapse”. It might sound serious and if it happened to a person, it would mean certain death, but it’s used quite commonly and anticlimactically in Germany to mean something like “hypochondria“ or “feeling woozy”.
“World pain”. Weltschmerz is a feeling of despair brought on by a realization that life isn’t fair and the world cannot be the way you want it to be. It’s more emotional than pessimism, and is more publicly expressed than depression.
“Acute hearing loss”. A condition which in Germany is apparently frequently caused by stress. Curiously, while every German knows at least 5 people who have had a bout of Hörsturz, it is practically unheard of anywhere else.
At some point in the last couple of decades, parents in Germany started coming down with Kevinismus— a strange tendency to give their kids wholly un-German names like Justin, Mandy, Dennis, Chantal, Cindy, and Kevin. Kids with these names tend to be less successful and have more behavior problems in school. Studies of the Kevinismus phenomenon attribute these effects to a combination of teachers’ prejudices toward the names, and the lower social status of parents who choose names like Kevin.
“Cleaning obsession”. Apparently, some people in Germany are overly obsessed with cleaning. It is not unheard of outside of Germany, but elsewhere it is less culturally defined and, let’s face it, less fun to say.
“Life tiredness.” When someone does something stupidly dangerous, you might sarcastically ask, “What are you doing? Are you lebensmüde?!” Meaning, “are you suicidal”?
“Gate-closing panic”. Apparently the term dates back to the Middle Ages in reference to the panic medieval peasants might have experienced as they rushed to make it back inside the city gates before they closed at nightfall. Torschlusspanik is a feeling of time draining quickly and the realization that actually, you haven’t done very much with your life, and if you don’t act soon, you may miss out on more opportunities as time passes and the ‘gate closes’. You must remember, however, that Torschlusspanik is a bad advisor.
“Time sickness” or “illness of the time we live in.” It’s a general term for whatever the damaging mindset or preoccupations of a certain era are. Can also be described as the condition of the modern times, whose extreme consequences are clearest in the area of sexual identity, where, we are told, children should be allowed (if not encouraged) to select the gender of the bathroom they use, regardless of their sex at birth.
Ichschmerz is like Weltschmerz, but it is dissatisfaction with the self rather than the world. Which is probably what Weltschmerz really boils down to most of the time.
“Civilization sickness” is a set of consequences caused by the progress and generally living in the modern world. Stress, obesity, eating disorders, and diseases like type 2 diabetes are all examples.
Everyone is certainly familiar with short informal words that sprang up relatively recently across the English-speaking web, like LOL (“laugh out loud”), brb (“be right back”), idk (“I don’t know”), etc. German-speaking segment has lots of similar acronyms too:
8tung Achtung – watch out
ads alles deine Schuld – all your fault
akla? alles klar? – everything o.k?
aws auf Wiedersehen – good bye
bb bis bald – see you soon
bda bis dann – till then
bidunowa? Bist du noch wach? – Are you still awake?
braduhi? brauchst du Hilfe? – Do you need help?
bs bis später – till later
dad denke an dich – thinking of you
div danke im Voraus – thank you in advance
dubido du bist doof – you are dumb
ff Fortsetzung folgt – to be continued
g grinsen – smirk
g&k Gruß und Kuss – hug and kiss
gn8 gute Nacht – good night
hdl hab dich Lieb – love you
hegl herzlichen Glückwunsch – congratulations
ild ich liebe dich – I love you
jon jetzt oder nie – now or never
lg liebe Grüße – heartfelt regards
mamim a mail mir mal – e-mail me
mumidire muss mit dir reden – have to talk with you
n8 Nacht – night
nfd nur für dich – only for you
pg Pech gehabt – bad luck
rumian ruf mich an – call me
sfh Schluss für heute- enough for today
siw soweit ich weiß- as far as I know
sz schreib zurück – write back
vlg viele Grüße
vv viel Vergnügen – lots of fun
wamaduheu? was machst du heute? – What are you doing today?
Waudi warte auf dich – wait for you
We Wochenende – weekend
If there are only a few phrases you are willing to learn before your trip to Germany, it should be these. They could help you out if tight situations. If in a German speaking country the natives will also be more friendly and helpful even when only trying to speak in German. Talk to a person in his own language and you talk to his heart!
“Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system in the distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by heart. There is no other way. To do this one has to have a memory like a memorandum-book.”
– Mark Twain, The Awful German Language
Indeed, in German, there are two indefinite articles (ein, eine) and three definite articles for nouns in singular: der for masculine nouns, die for feminine nouns, and das for neutral nouns.
German native speakers know mostly intuitively what the article of each noun is. However, non-native speakers need to memorize the articles. It may seem at first that there is no system to German articles attribution, however there are several rules and guidelines determining the articles of some categories of nouns.
The following nouns have the article die:
The following categories of nouns have mainly the article die:
Furthermore, nouns with the suffixes below have the article die:
Foreign nouns with the suffixes below have the article die:
Most of the nouns with the following suffixes have the article die:
Tip: diminutives always have the article das: die Hand → das Händchen.
The following nouns have the article das:
The following categories of nouns have mainly the article das:
Furthermore, nouns with the suffixes below have the article das:
Most of nouns with the following suffixes have the article das:
Tip: this is applicable only to nouns in singular. All nouns in plural have the article die.
The following nouns have the article der:
The following categories of nouns have mainly the article der:
Furthermore, nouns with the suffixes below have the article der:
Most of the nouns with the following suffixes have the article der:
An essential part of learning to write in German is learning how to properly use German punctuation – a system of marks or signs that are placed in a text to clarify meaning and separate structural units. Luckily, German punctuation is similar to English punctuation in many respects.
However, four of these German punctuation marks – quotation marks, the apostrophe, the comma and the dash – differ from their English counterparts in terms of how they are used.
1. Anführungszeichen (Quotation Marks)
A. German uses two types of quotation marks in printing. “Chevron” style marks (French “guillemets”) are often used in modern books:
Er sagte: «Wir gehen am Dienstag.»
Er sagte: »Wir gehen am Dienstag.«
In writing, in newspapers, and in many printed documents German also uses quotation marks that are similar to English except that the opening quotation mark is below rather than above: Er sagte: „Wir gehen am Dienstag.” (Note that unlike English, German introduces a direct quotation with a colon rather than a comma.)
In email, on the Web, and in hand-written correspondence, German-speakers today often use normal international quotation marks (“ ”) or even single quote marks (‘ ’).
B. When ending a quotation with “he said” or “she asked,” German follows British-English style punctuation, placing the comma outside of the quotation mark rather than inside, as in American English: „Das war damals in Berlin”, sagte Paul.
„Kommst du mit?”, fragte Luisa.
C. German uses quotation marks in some instances where English would use italics (Kursiv). Quotation marks are used in English for the titles of poems, articles, short stories, songs and TV shows. German expands this to the titles of books, novels, films, dramatic works and the names of newspapers or magazines, which would be italicized (or underlined in writing) in English:
„Fiesta” („The Sun Also Rises”) ist ein Roman von Ernest Hemingway. — Ich las den Artikel „Die Arbeitslosigkeit in Deutschland” in der „Berliner Morgenpost”.
D. German uses single quotation marks (halbe Anführungszeichen) for a quotation within a quotation in the same way English does:
„Das ist eine Zeile aus Goethes ,Erlkönig’”, sagte er.
Also see item 4B below for more about quotations in German.
2. Apostroph (Apostrophe)
A. German generally does not use an apostrophe to show genitive possession (Karls Haus, Marias Buch), but there is an exception to this rule when a name or noun ends in an s-sound (spelled -s, ss, -ß, -tz, -z, -x, -ce). In such cases, instead of adding an s, the possessive form ends with an apostrophe: Felix’ Auto, Aristoteles’ Werke, Alice’ Haus. – Note: There is a disturbing trend among less well-educated German-speakers not only to use apostrophes as in English, but even in situations in which they would not be used in English, such as anglicized plurals (die Callgirl’s).
B. Like English, German also uses the apostrophe to indicate missing letters in contractions, slang, dialect, idiomatic expressions or poetic phrases: der Ku’damm (Kurfürstendamm), ich hab’ (habe), in wen’gen Minuten (wenigen), wie geht’s? (geht es), Bitte, nehmen S’ (Sie) Platz!
But German does not use an apostrophe in some common contractions with definite articles: ins (in das), zum (zu dem).
3. Komma (Comma)
A. German often uses commas in the same way as English. However, German may use a comma to link two independent clauses without a conjunction (and, but, or), where English would require either a semicolon or a period: In dem alten Haus war es ganz still, ich stand angstvoll vor der Tür.But in German you also have the option of using a semicolon or a period in these situations.
B. While a comma is optional in English at the end of a series ending with and/or, it is never used in German: Hans, Julia und Frank kommen mit.
C. Under the reformed spelling rules (Rechtschreibreform), German uses far fewer commas than with the old rules. In many cases where a comma was formerly required, it is now optional. For instance, infinitive phrases that were previously always set off by a comma can now go without one: Er ging(,) ohne ein Wort zu sagen. In many other cases where English would use a comma, German does not.
D. In numerical expressions German uses a comma where English uses a decimal point: €19,95 (19.95 euros) In large numbers, German uses either a space or a decimal point to divide thousands: 8 540 000 or 8.540.000 = 8,540,000 (For more on prices, see item 4C below.)
4. Gedankenstrich (Dash, Long Dash)
A. German uses the dash or long dash in much the same way as English to indicate a pause, a delayed continuation or to indicate a contrast: Plötzlich — eine unheimliche Stille.
B. German uses a dash to indicate a change in the speaker when there are no quotation marks:Karl, komm bitte doch her! – Ja, ich komme sofort.
C. German uses a dash or long dash in prices where English uses double zero/naught: €5,— (5.00 euros)
Prepositions are words that link a noun to the rest of the sentence. They usually tell you about time, place and direction. Examples of English prepositions include on, out, under, from, with, about and until, but there are many more. They are those little words that you don’t even notice you’re using, but which completely change the meaning of the sentence.
In German, using prepositions is more complicated because of German’s case system. The thing about German prepositions is that they affect the case of the noun that follows them.
Which in many ways is great, because it stops you from having to worry about what function the noun is playing in the clause (Is it a direct object? An indirect object? etc.). Instead, all you have to do is look at the preposition.
For example, if you want to say that you’re going somewhere with your parents, you automatically know that Eltern (parents) must be in the dative because it’s preceded by mit (with).
Let’s look at the different types of preposition you might encounter.
German Prepositions That Take the Accusative
There are many prepositions which are always followed by the accusative case. So it doesn’t matter where it comes in a sentence, the noun directly following these prepositions are automatically in the accusative. A list of these would look a lot like this:
German Prepositions That Take the Dative
Alongside prepositions that take the accusative, there are also those which only take the dative. These work exactly the same way as accusative prepositions, but (obviously) they are followed by the dative case. These include:
German Prepositions That Take the Genitive
Two-case German Prepositions
Now here’s where things get interesting! Wechselpräpositionen (two-case prepositions) are prepositions that can take either the dative or the accusative. Except, you can’t use them interchangeably. There’s a rule:
If you’re trying to express movement (direction), use the accusative.
If you’re trying to state where something is (position), use the dative.
Take the sentence “Ich hänge das Bild an die Wand” (I hang the picture on the wall). Here, the an implies movement: The picture wasn’t on the wall before, but it is now. It has moved. This expresses direction, and therefore takes the accusative: an die Wand.
On the other hand, the sentence “Das Bild hängt an der Wand” (the picture is hanging on the wall) expresses position: It tells the reader where the picture is, and implies no movement. In this case, the an takes the dative: an der Wand.
German idioms are an important part of everyday German. They come up all the time in both written and spoken German. Because idioms don’t always make sense literally, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the meaning and usage of each idiom. That may seem like a lot of work, but learning idioms is fun, especially when you compare German idioms to the idioms in your own language.
Sich freuen wie ein Schneekönig
Literally: to be as merry as a snow king
English equivalent: to be head over heels happy about something
Zu viele Köche verderben den Brei
Literally: too many cooks spoil the broth
English equivalent: if too many people are involved in a task or activity, it will not be done well
Nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben
Literally: not to have all cups in the cupboard
English equivalent: to be crazy
Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof
Literally: Life is not a pony farm.
English equivalent: Life isn’t fair.
Die Nase voll haben
Literally: to have a nose full of something
English equivalent: to be fed up with a particular situation
Hopfen und Malz ist verloren
Literally: hop and malt is lost
English equivalent: to give up hope
Es ist mir Wurst
Literally: It’s sausage to me.
English equivalent: It doesn’t matter to me.
Lügen haben kurze Beine
Literally: Lies have short legs.
English equivalent: Stretching the truth might work in the short term, but it won’t last.
When you first start learning about German pronunciation, it can be intimidating. There are a lot of myths about the German language. People talk about how difficult and ugly it is, and how different it is from languages like English. But many people don’t realize that English is actually a Germanic language! That’s why so many words and sounds are similar – our languages evolved from the same ancestor language as theirs.
The easiest and best place to start mastering German pronunciation is with the German alphabet.
When you know how each letter is pronounced, things get a lot easier. Just remember that that pronunciation changes a bit when any of these letters are paired! Start by listening to each of the letters and following along with the table below:
See, not bad at all. Moreover, the best thing is that German words are pronounced like they’re written, with little variation.
German really is famous for having words that are ridiculously long. The longest word in the language is Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (which refers to the “law for the delegation of monitoring beef labelling”). That’s a mouthful even for native speakers!
But despite how scary those compound words can look, they’re not hard to pronounce. Any long German word is more than likely several tiny German words strung together. It’s essentially the equivalent of saying “the gorgeousgracefulbutterfly” instead of “the gorgeous graceful butterfly”. So when you first encounter a long word in German, draw lines through each of the syllables to divide it into smaller chunks then work on pronouncing each chunk alone. Eventually, you’ll be able to combine the different syllables and pronounce the whole word together.
When it comes to mastering pronunciation in any language, the key is practice, practice, and more practice. As you work on your German, you’ll find that your understanding increases in waves. During the first month, you’ll learn a lot! But then things may plateau and you might not notice any more monumental changes until the six month or one-year mark.
The most important thing is to not give up and to constantly continue to try to improve your German pronunciation.
The German alphabet consists of 26 characters plus 3 umlauts: ä, ö and ü. The two dots above the letters do not indicate an accentuation or emphasis of the syllable (as for instance accent-bearing letters in Spanish or French). Umlauts are used as independent characters in the German language.
Whenever the use of umlauts is not possible (e.g. for technical reasons, in email addresses or names of websites), umlauts are indicated by the following combinations:
“ae” = ä, “oe”= ö, “ue” = ü.
Here are 8 facts you should know about the umlaut:
1. The word “umlaut” comes from one of the Grimm Brothers.
Jacob Grimm was not only a collector of fairy tales (along with his brother Wilhelm), but also one of the most famous linguists ever. In 1819 he described a sound-change process that affected the historical development of German. He called it umlaut from um (around) + laut (sound).
2. “Umlaut” is originally the name for a specific kind of vowel mutation.
Technically, “umlaut” doesn’t refer to the dots, but to the process where, historically, a vowel got pulled into a different position because of influence from another, upcoming vowel.
3. Mimicking that mutation process is a great way to learn to pronounce the umlaut.
Try this: make a u sound (an “oo”). Now imagine there’s an i-sound (an “ee”) coming up. Keep your lips completely frozen in u position while you try to say “ee” with the rest of your mouth. You should feel the body of your tongue move forward and up in your mouth. Hold that u sound with your lips though! Good. That’s an ü.
Not working? Trying pinging back and forth: oo-ee-oo-ee-oo-ee-oo-ee … now freeze your tongue position in “ee” and only move your lips back to “oo.”
(Start with “ah” for ä and “oh” for ö.)
4. English was also affected by the umlaut mutation.
Ever wonder why the plural of “mouse” is “mice”? Blame umlaut. Way, way back in a time before English had branched off from other Germanic languages, plurals were formed with an –i ending. So mouse was “mus”, and mice was “musi”. That plural –i pulled the u forward into umlaut. Later, the –i plural ending disappeared and a whole bunch of other sound changes happened, but we are left with the echo of that mutated vowel in mouse/mice, as well as in foot/feet, tooth/teeth, and other irregular pairs.
5. Umlauts weren’t always written as dots above a vowel.
Since the Middle Ages, umlauted vowels have been indicated in various ways in German. Before the two-dot version became the standard in the 19th century, it was usually written as a tiny “e” above the vowel.
It is still sometimes written with an e next to the vowel, for example, Muenchen for München, or schoen for schön.
6. An artificial language full of umlauts became hugely popular in the 1880s.
A German priest named Johann Schleyer invented a universal language he called Volapük. It was based on simplified European roots and was meant to be logical and easy to learn. It was chock-full of umlauts: “love” was löf, “smile” was smül, and “speak” was pük. Many people did learn it, and by 1889 there were over 200 Volapük clubs around the world and 25 Volapük journals. Even people who didn’t learn it had heard of it. But supporters thought it would have a better chance of succeeding internationally if it lost the umlauts. Schleyer refused. He said that “a language without umlauts sounds monotonous, harsh, and boring.” Infighting over umlauts and other proposed reforms led to a schism and, ultimately, to the decline of Volapük.
7. Heavy Metal Umlauts don’t look so heavy metal to umlaut users.
Beginning with Blue Öyster Cult in the early ’70s, heavy metal bands started using the umlaut to signal a badass hard rock attitude. To Americans the umlaut had a harsh, Teutonic look to it and Mötley Crüe, Motörhead, Queensrÿche, and dozens of other bands (listed on the Metal Umlaut Wikipedia page) tried to impart a little gothic scariness through randomly scattered pairs of dots. The dots didn’t have quite the same effect in umlaut-using countries, where the umlaut signifies vowel qualities of softness, highness, lightness and roundedness.
8. Typing Umlauts on a PC and Mac is easy.
On a PC (Windows):
The fail-safe method using the ALT-key:
• Number Lock should be ON
• Use the left-side ALT key (for most keyboards; try the right if it doesn’t work)
• Hold down the ALT key and type a number on the number pad as follows (while holding the ALT key down). When you release the ALT key, you will have the following character:
ALT 0223 = ß
ALT 0228 = ä
ALT 0246 = ö
ALT 0252 = ü
ALT 0196 = Ä
ALT 0214 = Ö
ALT 0220 = Ü
On a Mac:
• Use the OPTION key. Hold down OPTION and push ‘s’ to get ß.
• For the umlauted characters, hold down OPTION and push ‘u’. Release OPTION, then type the desired base letter (a, o, u, A, O, or U). The umlaut will appear over the letter you typed.
• (So to type ü, you should hold down OPTION, press u, then release OPTION and press u again.)