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Basics 1 updated 2022-03-25 ^

Welcome to German :)

Welcome to the German course! We will provide you with tips and notes throughout the course. However, be aware that these are optional. Only read them when you feel stuck, or when you are interested in the details. You can use the course without them.

Often, it's best to just dive into the practice. See how it goes! You can always revisit the Notes section later on.

Capitalizing nouns

In German, all nouns are capitalized. For example, "my name" is mein Name, and "the apple" is der Apfel. This helps you identify which words are the nouns in a sentence.

German genders are strange

Nouns in German are either feminine, masculine or neuter. For example, Frau (woman) is feminine, Mann (man) is masculine, and Kind (child) is neuter.

While some nouns (Frau, Mann, …) have natural gender like in English (a woman is female, a man is male), most nouns have grammatical gender (depends on word ending, or seemingly random).

For example, Mädchen (girl) is neuter, because all words ending in -chen are neuter. Wasser (water) is neuter, but Cola is feminine, and Saft (juice) is masculine.

It is important to learn every noun along with its gender because parts of German sentences change depending on the gender of their nouns.

For now, just remember that the indefinite article (a/an) ein is used for masculine and neuter nouns, and eine is used for feminine nouns. Stay with us to find out how "cases" will later modify these.

gender indefinite article
masculine ein Mann
neuter ein Mädchen
feminine eine Frau

Verb conjugations

Conjugating regular verbs

Verb conjugation in German is more complex than in English. To conjugate a regular verb in the present tense, identify the stem of the verb and add the ending corresponding to any of the grammatical persons, which you can simply memorize. For now, here are the singular forms:

Example: trinken (to drink)

English person ending German example
I -e ich trinke
you (singular informal) -st du trinkst
he/she/it -t er/sie/es trinkt

Conjugations of the verb sein (to be)

Like in English, sein (to be) is completely irregular, and its conjugations simply need to be memorized. Again, you will learn the plural forms soon.

English German
I am ich bin
you (singular informal) are du bist
he/she/it is er/sie/es ist


Umlauts are letters (more specifically vowels) that have two dots above them and appear in some German words like Mädchen.

Literally, "Umlaut" means "around the sound," because its function is to change how the vowel sounds.

no umlaut umlaut
a ä
o ö
u ü

An umlaut change may change the meaning. That's why it's important not to ignore those little dots.

If you can't type these, a workaround is to type "oe" instead of "ö", for example.

No continuous aspect

In German, there's no continuous aspect. There are no separate forms for "I drink" and "I am drinking". There's only one form: Ich trinke.

There's no such thing as Ich bin trinke or Ich bin trinken!

When translating into English, how can I tell whether to use the simple (I drink) or the continuous form (I am drinking)?

Unless the context suggests otherwise, either form should be accepted.

Family updated 2022-03-25 ^

Modal verbs: Plural forms

In the previous lesson, you learned the singular forms of some modal verbs:

ich kann mag
du kannst magst
er/sie kann kann

In the plural, these verbs have regular endings. They often use a different vowel than the singular forms:

wir können mögen
sie können mögen

Infinitives, some plural forms

In German, every verb has an infinitive form (similar to "to learn" in English). The first and third person plural are always the same:

learn drive have
infinitive lernen fahren haben
wir lernen fahren haben
sie lernen fahren haben

Here is a revision of the singular forms:

learn drive have
ich lerne fahre habe
du lernst fährst hast
er/sie/es lernt fährt hat

More pronouns

Already known

So far, you learned how to say "my, your, his, her":

Engl. fem./pl. masc. Nom./neut. masc. Akk.
my meine mein meinen
your (sg.) deine dein deinen
his/its seine sein seinen
her/their ihre ihr ihren

Remember that the endings are the same as for "ein" and "kein":

Engl. fem./pl. masc. Nom./neut. masc. Akk.
a(n) eine ein einen
no keine kein keinen

"Their" is the same as "her" in German, and "its" the same as "his".

If you find these hard to remember, just keep practicing! Why not revisit some of the earlier skills, too?

More plural pronouns

In addition, you learn "our" and "your (plural)" here:

Engl. fem./pl. masc. Nom./neut. masc. Akk.
our unsere unser unseren
your (pl.) eure euer euren
their ihre ihr ihren

Notice that "euer" loses an "e" when it gets a suffix.

Again, instead of trying to memorize tables, it is best to just jump into practice, and use them until you get a feeling for them.

Numbers: 1-12

By now, you encountered the numbers from one to twelve:

1 eins 7 sieben
2 zwei 8 acht
3 drei 9 neun
4 vier 10 zehn
5 fünf 11 elf
6 sechs 12 zwölf

Notice that they are very similar to the numbers in English.

These numbers never change form, apart from number one. Eins is only used when nothing comes after it:

Basics 2 updated 2022-03-25 ^

German plurals are also strange :)

In English, making plurals out of singular nouns is typically as straightforward as adding -(e)s at the end of the word. In German, the transformation is more complex. You will learn details about this in a later lesson.

In some languages (such as French or Spanish), genders are also differentiated in the plural. In German, the plural form does not depend on what gender the singular form is.

Regardless of grammatical gender, all plural nouns take the definite article die (You will later learn how "cases" can modify this). This does not make them feminine. The grammatical gender of a word never changes. Like many other words, die is simply used for multiple purposes.

Just like in English, there's no plural indefinite article.

English German
a man ein Mann
men Männer

You, you and you

Most languages use different words to address one person, or several people.

In German, when addressing a single person, use du:

If you are talking to more than one person, use ihr:

Some English speakers would use "y'all" or "you guys" for this plural form of "you".

Note that these only work for people you are familiar with (friends, family, …). For others, you would use the formal "you", which we teach later in this course. So stay tuned :)

Ihr vs. er

If you're new to German, ihr and er may sound confusingly similar, but there is actually a difference. ihr sounds similar to the English word "ear", and er sounds similar to the English word "air" (imagine a British/RP accent).

Don't worry if you can't pick up on the difference at first. You may need some more listening practice before you can tell them apart. Also, try using headphones instead of speakers.

Learn the pronouns together with the verb endings. This will greatly reduce the amount of ambiguity.

Verb conjugation

Here is the complete table for conjugating regular verbs:

Example: trinken (to drink)

English person ending German example
I -e ich trinke
you (singular informal) -st du trinkst
he/she/it -t er/sie/es trinkt
we -en wir trinken
you (plural informal) -t ihr trinkt
they -en sie trinken

Notice that the first and the third person plural have the same ending.

And here's the complete table for the irregular verb sein (to be):

English German
I am ich bin
you (singular informal) are du bist
he/she/it is er/sie/es ist
we are wir sind
you (plural informal) are ihr seid
they are sie sind

You will learn about the distinction between "formal" and "informal" later (it's easy).

Restaurant updated 2022-03-25 ^

Polite "you"

Remember that German has two ways of expressing "you" (singular and plural)?

Surprise! There is a third form, usually used with people you don't know well. German just uses the third person plural for this (they):

person trinken
du trinkst
ihr trinkt
sie/Sie trinken

How to know whether the meaning is "they" or "you"? German writes the "you" forms in upper case.

Of course, at the beginning of the sentence, this does not work. It can then mean both:

When using the polite form, you usually combine it with the last name of a person, and Herr/Frau:

Noun endings

As mentioned earlier, sometimes a noun endings gives away the gender:

A common way to turn a verb into a noun is to add -ung to the word stem. These nouns will always be feminine:

Later on, you will learn more of these regular noun endings.

Cup of tea

In German, you just add the quantity before the noun:


Willkommen only means welcome as a greeting. It will not mean you're welcome.

Past tense

As in English, you can use the present tense to talk about the present and the future:

Also as in English, the past requires a different tense. Here, you learn how to say "I was":

The endings are like those of the modal verbs (müssen, können, …). But the stem never changes:

Person sein (to be) können (can)
ich war kann
du warst kannst
er/sie/es war kann
wir waren können
ihr wart könnt
sie/Sie waren können

I went to Ireland!

Many learners of German struggle with expressing where they went:

Germany is actually simpler here: it just uses ich war:

Hobbies updated 2022-03-25 ^

Im vs. ins

For now, think of im as "inside", and "ins" as "into":

Later on, you will see these are part of a larger pattern.

Im is also used for months and seasons:

Verb forms: you (plural)

So far, you learned these verb forms:

learn drive have
infinitive lernen fahren haben
ich lerne fahre habe
du (you sg.) lernst fährst hast
er/sie/es lernt fährt hat
wir lernen fahren haben
sie lernen fahren haben

Here you learn the form for the last person, "you (plural)".

This form always has a "-t" ending, and the stem of the verb will always be the same as the infinitive. Contrast with the third person singular, where there may be stem changes:

learn drive have
infinitive lernen fahren haben
er/sie/es lernt fährt hat
ihr (you pl.) lernt fahrt habt


In English, you can say:

Previously, you learned "mögen" means "to like":

However, this can only be used with nouns. For verbs, there is a structure that English does not use. It is therefore often confusing for beginners of German.

Gern is an adverb, not a verb. Literally, Germans say "I swim likingly." Here's a tip: If you know where in the sentence to put "oft" (often), you know where to put "gern":

Gern may be written/spoken as gerne, these two forms are exactly the same.

Questions updated 2022-03-25 ^

Yes/No Questions

Questions can be asked by switching the subject and verb. For instance, "Du verstehst das." (You understand this) becomes "Verstehst du das?" (Do you understand this?). These kinds of questions will generally just elicit yes/no answers. In English, the main verb "to be" follows the same principle. "I am hungry." becomes "Am I hungry?". In German, all verbs follow this principle. There's no do-support.

Asking a Question in German With a W-Word

Six W-questions - "Wer" (Who), "Was" (What), "Wo" (Where), "Wann" (When), "Warum" (Why) and "Wie" (How) - can be asked in German to elicit more than yes/no answers. Two of the six adverbs are declineable (i.e. change with the case), whereas four are not.

Wer (Who)

"Wer" is declinable and needs to adjust to the four cases. The adjustment depends on what the question is targeting.

  1. If you ask for the subject of a sentence (i.e. the nominative object), "wer" (who) remains as is: "Wer sitzt da?" (Who is sitting there?).
  2. If you ask for the direct (accusative) object in a sentence, "wer" changes to "wen" (who/whom). As a mnemonic, notice how "wen" sounds similar to "den" in "den Apfel." "Wen siehst du?" (Whom do you see?) - "Ich sehe den Sohn" (I see the son).
  3. If you ask for the indirect object, "wer" changes to "wem" (who/to whom) and adjusts to the dative case. You could ask "Wem hast du den Apfel gegeben?" (To whom did you give the apple?) and the answer could be "Dem Mann" (the man). Notice again how the declined form of "wer" ("wem") sounds like the definite article of all masculine and neuter nouns in the dative case (like "dem Mann" or "dem Kind").
  4. Lastly, asking about ownership (genitive case), changes "wer" to "wessen" (whose). "Wessen Schuhe sind das?" (Whose shoes are these?) - "Das sind die Schuhe des Jungen" (These are the boy’s shoes). And notice once again how "wessen" (of the) and "des" (of the) include a lot of s-sounds.

Was (What)

Similar to the changes made to "wer," "was" will decline depending on the four cases.

  1. For both the nominative and accusative cases, "was" remains the same. It is common to ask "Wer oder was?" (who or what?), if you want to know more about the nominative object and do not know if it is a person (who) or a thing (what). You ask "Wen oder was?" (who/whom or what?), if you want to know more about the accusative object.
  2. "Was" changes to "wessen" for questions about the genitive object as in "Wessen ist sie schuldig?" (What is she guilty of?).
  3. For the dative, "was" changes to a compount of "wo(r)" + preposition. For instance, if the verb takes the German preposition "an" (on/about) as in "an etwas denken," you would ask "Woran denkt er?" (About what is he thinking?). Likewise, "hingehen" is a verb composed of "gehen" + "hin" (go + to) and you would ask "Wohin geht sie?" (To where is she going?).

Wo (Where)

In German, you can inquire about locations in several ways. "Wo" (where) is the general question word, but if you are asking for a direction in which someone or something is moving, you may use "wohin" (where to). Look at: "Wo ist mein Schuh?" (Where is my shoe?) and "Wohin kommt dieser Wein?" (Where does this wine go?). Furthermore, "Wohin" is separable into "Wo" + "hin." For example, "Wo ist mein Schuh hin?" (Where did my shoe go?).

Note that the sound of "Wer" is similar to "Where" and that of "Wo" to "Who," but they must not be confused. In other words: the two German questions words "Wer" (Who) and "Wo" (Where) are false cognates to English. They mean the opposite of what an English speaker would think.

Wann (When)

"Wann" (when) does not change depending on the case. "Wann" can be used with conjunctions such as "seit" (since) or "bis" (till): "Seit wann haben Sie für Herrn Müller gearbeitet?" (Since when have you been working for Mr. Müller?) and "Bis wann geht der Film?" (Till when does the movie last?).

Warum (Why)

"Warum" (why) is also not declinable. "Wieso" and "Weshalb" can be used instead of "Warum." For an example, take "Warum ist das Auto so alt?" = "Wieso ist das Auto so alt?" = "Weshalb ist das Auto so alt?" (Why is that car so old?).

Market updated 2022-03-25 ^


For English every, German uses jeder. However, its ending changes like "der, die, das":

gender, case the every
masc. Nom. der jeder
neut. Nom/Akk. das jedes
fem. Nom./Akk. die jede
masc. Akk. den jeden
m/n Dativ dem jedem
fem. Dativ der jeder

Times are in accusative in German:

Leisure updated 2022-03-25 ^

Dative plural: "n" all the way!

Remember that the ending for articles, pronouns and adjectives is -n in dative plural:

In addition, plural nouns that do not end in -n already will also get an -n:

As you can see above, -s plural endings break this rule.

Shopping updated 2022-03-25 ^

Kaufen vs. einkaufen

Kaufen is normally used in the meaning of "to buy":

Einkaufen is normally used without an object, and often refers to shopping. It can be used in conjunction with gehen:

Verkaufen means "to sell". The prefix ver- is often associated with an "away" notion.

Laden, Geschäft

A variety of words exist for "shop". These are two common ones, with roughly exchangeable usage.

Travel updated 2022-03-25 ^


The word Sehenswürdigkeit (sight as in sightseeing) is made up of several meaningful parts: sehen + s + würdig + keit.

Let's look at each part and its meaning.

Part Meaning
sehen to see
-s- connecting element
würdig to be worthy
-keit noun suffix

Literally Sehenswürdigkeit means something which is worthy to see.

The connecting element -s- is used to link words together.

The ending -keit turns an adjective into a noun.

Often the ending of a compound noun is a good indicator for the gender of the noun. For example, if a noun ends in -keit, it will always be feminine (die).

Urlaub vs. Ferien

Just like in English there's "holidays" and "vacation", in German there are Ferien and Urlaub. They can be used interchangeably to some extent.

Ferien only exists as a plural noun:

Urlaub only exists as a singular noun:


In English, you need "a visa". In German, the singular is das Visum, Visa is the plural (as it is in Latin, the source language of this word).

Weg vs. weg

Der Weg (with a long -e-) roughly means "the path".

The word weg (with a short, open -e-) roughly means "away". Here are some examples:

People updated 2022-03-25 ^


In general, nouns have two forms, singular and plural:

In dative plural, all nouns that do not already have an -n ending get one:

In this skill, you encounter a special all-masculine noun group. These will have an -en ending in all forms, except for the nominative singular (the dictionary form):

This group includes:

Here is an example table for der Junge (the boy):

Case Singular Plural
Nominative der Junge die Jungen
Accusative den Jungen die Jungen
Dative dem Jungen den Jungen

Adjectival nouns

There is one last group of irregular nouns. These are actually adjectives that became nouns, but keep their rich set of adjective endings. As long as you know the adjective endings, these are straightforward to use:

Adjective Noun
ein deutscher Mann ein Deutscher
der deutsche Mann der Deutsche
eine deutsche Frau eine Deutsche
mit einer deutschen Frau mit einer Deutschen

Refer to the Clothes skill for an overview of the adjective endings.

In this skill, you encounter:

Adjective Adj. noun (masc. sg.)
deutsch (German) Deutscher (German)
erwachsen (adult) Erwachsener (adult)
verwandt (related) Verwandter (relative)
bekannt (known) Bekannter (acquaintance)

Food updated 2022-03-25 ^

The German Preposition am

Most likely, food is being consumed at the table. The German preposition am is the contraction of an (at/on) and dem (the). For example, The man eats at the table is Der Mann isst am (an + dem) Tisch. Since an can translate to both at and on, am can translate to both at the and on the, depending on the context. For example an dem Tisch only translates to at the table (context: spatial relationship between things) and an dem Tag only translates to on that day (context: temporal).

The verb haben (to have)

In English, you can say "I'm having bread" when you really mean that you're eating or about to eat bread. This does not work in German. The verb haben refers to possession only. Hence, the sentence Ich habe Brot only translates to I have bread, not I'm having bread. Of course, the same applies to drinks. Ich habe Wasser only translates to I have water, not I'm having water.

Mittagessen - lunch or dinner?

We're aware that dinner is sometimes used synonymously with lunch, but for the purpose of this course, we're defining Frühstück as breakfast, Mittagessen as lunch, and dinner / supper as Abendessen / Abendbrot.

Compound words

A compound word is a word that consists of two or more words. These are written as one word (no spaces).

The gender of a compound noun is always determined by its last element. This shouldn't be too difficult to remember because the last element is always the most important one. All the previous elements merely describe the last element.

Sometimes, there's a connecting sound (Fugenlaut) between two elements. For instance, die Orange + der Saft becomes der Orangensaft, der Hund + das Futter becomes das Hundefutter, die Liebe + das Lied becomes das Liebeslied, and der Tag + das Gericht becomes das Tagesgericht.

Cute like sugar!

The word süß means sweet when referring to food, and cute when referring to living beings.

Party updated 2022-03-25 ^

And another adjective ending!

As described in earlier skills, the adjective ending for "das, der, die, eine" ist -e:

gender article adjective noun
fem. die alte Frau
fem. eine alte Frau
masc. der alte Mann
neut. das kleine Kind
pl. alte Männer

In the last skill, you learned that for neuter, either the article or the adjective (but not both!) need to have an -s ending:

gender article adjective noun
neut. das kleine Kind
neut. ein kleines Kind

The same logic applies to masculine forms. Either the article or the adjective end in -r:

gender article adjective noun
masc. der alte Mann
masc. ein alter Mann

Nominative and accusative are the same for neuter, feminine and plural.

Keep in mind that for masculine accusative, the articles and the adjective both get -en endings:

gender article adjective noun
masc. den alten Mann
masc. einen alten Mann

Now you can use all nominative and accusative forms, and also (in general) all dative forms (which so far all end in -en)!

Ordinal numbers

Ordinals are adjectives, and carry the same endings:

The general rule is that from one to nineteen, you add a -t- between number and adjective ending:

2. zweite
4. vierte
8. achte
10. zehnte
12. zwölfte
19. neunzehnte

Starting with twenty, you add -st- instead:

20. zwanzigste
42. zweiundvierzigste
100. hundertste
1000. tausendste

Only three forms are irregular:

1. erste
3. dritte
7. siebte

Note that in German, you just place a dot after a number to indicate it is an ordinal.

Overview pronouns

By now, you have encountered all the pronouns for all the three main cases:

Nom. Acc. Dat.
ich mich mir
du dich dir
er ihn ihm
es es ihm
sie sie ihr
wir uns uns
ihr euch euch
sie/Sie sie/Sie ihr/Ihr

The next table shows the possessive pronouns. Only two endings are given here:

Person Nom. masc./neut. Nom./Akk. fem./pl.
ich mein meine
du dein deine
er/es sein seine
sie ihr ihre
wir unser unsere
ihr euer eure
sie/Sie ihr/Ihr ihre/Ihre

Note that for euer, the last -e- of the word stem gets lost when adding an ending.

The complete endings set is the same as for ein:

Case + gender example poss. pronoun
Nom. m/n, Acc n mein
Acc m meinen
Nom/Acc f/pl meine
Dat m/n meinem
Dat f meiner
Dat pl meinen

Some irregular perfect participles

In this skill, you will encounter the following irregular perfect participles:

Infinitive Perfect participle
schlafen geschlafen
essen gegessen
singen gesungen
trinken getrunken
finden gefunden
helfen geholfen
gehen gegangen
verstehen verstanden

In addition, there is a small group of "mixed" verbs, that change the verb stem, but keep the -t ending:

Infinitive Perfect participle
rennen gerannt
brennen gebrannt
müssen gemusst

Food 2 updated 2022-03-25 ^

Küche vs. Kuchen

Die Küche (the kitchen) and der Kuchen (the cake) are often confused by learners. To German ears, they sound quite different. One reason is that in Küche, the vowel is short, while the vowel in Kuchen is long.

singular plural
die Küche die Küchen
der Kuchen die Kuchen

Kochen (to cook) also has a short vowel.


Schmecken is very similar to the English word "to taste":

In addition, schmecken can be used by itself:

Some popular food


Müsli originally refers to "Bircher Müesli", a Swiss breakfast dish, based on rolled oats and fresh or dried fruits.

Nowadays, people will use it for all kinds of cereals or granola, often with high sugar content.


Hähnchen usually refers to a chicken that has been turned into a dish. While derived from the word for "male chicken" (der Hahn), the only distinction today is that it is a food item.

Remember that words ending in -chen are always neuter: das Hähnchen.


Salat can refer to the dish, as well as to the green leaves (usually lettuce) that often go into it.

Pets updated 2022-03-25 ^

Fressen vs. essen

The German word for "to eat" is essen. However, many people use a different word for animals:

The forms of both verbs are the same:

person essen fressen
ich esse fresse
du isst frisst
er/sie/es isst frisst
wir essen fressen
ihr esst fresst
sie/Sie essen fressen
perf. part. gegessen gefressen

Natural vs. grammatical gender

Remember that for most nouns in German, the word determines the gender, not the meaning:

For animals, there is usually a general word with a certain grammatical gender. "Katze" is feminine. That does not mean that the specific cat is necessarily female!

German has specific male/female versions for some of these, but we do not teach them at this point.


Liebling means "darling":

When combined with other nouns, it means "favorite":

Note that German often glues an "s" or an "n" between two noun word parts.


Similar to helfen (to help), danken is part of a small number of verbs that only have a dative object:

Think of "giving help/thanks to" somebody, and you will get it right.

Angst haben

Instead of "to be afraid of", German says "I have fear of":

It is sometimes necessary to learn the preposition together with the verb. Vor takes the dative when used together with Angst haben.

Passport updated 2022-03-25 ^

Yes/No Questions

Questions can be asked by switching the subject and verb. For instance,


These kinds of questions will generally just elicit yes/no answers. In English, the main verb "to be" follows the same principle. "You are hungry." becomes "Are you hungry?".

In German, all verbs follow this principle. There's no do-support.

Asking a Question in German With a W-Word

There are seven W-questions in German:

English German
what was
who wer
where wo
when wann
how wie
why warum
which welcher

Don't mix up wer and wo, which are "switched" in English :)

Some of these will change according to case.

Was (what)

If you ask was with a preposition, the two normally turn into a new word, according to the following pattern:

English preposition wo-
for what für wofür
about what über worüber
with what mit womit

If the preposition starts with a vowel, there will be an extra -r- to make it easier to pronounce.

This wo- prefix does not mean "where".

Wer (who)

Wer is declinable and needs to adjust to the cases. The adjustment depends on what the question is targeting.

If you ask for the subject of a sentence (i.e. the nominative object), wer (who) remains as is:

If you ask for the direct (accusative) object in a sentence, wer changes to wen (who/whom). As a mnemonic, notice how wen rhymes with den in den Apfel.

You will soon learn about the Dative case. You have to use wem then. And there is a forth case in German (Genitive). You would use wessen here. This corresponds to English "whose".

The endings look like the endings of der (but don't change with gender/number):

case masc. Form of wer
nominative der wer
accusative den wen
dative dem wem

Welche(r/s) (which)

Welche- words are used to ask about for a specific item out of a group of items, such as "which car is yours?".

This declines not only for case, but also for gender. The endings are the same as for definite articles:

article welch*
der welcher
das welches
die welche
die (pl.) welche
den welchen

Wo (where)

In German, you can inquire about locations in several ways.

Wo (where) is the general question word, but if you are asking for a direction in which someone or something is moving, you may use *wohin* (where to).

Consider these examples:

Furthermore, wohin is separable into wo + hin:

The same goes for woher (where from):

might become

English German
where wo
where to wohin
where from woher

Wann (when)

Wann (when) does not change depending on the case. Wann can be used with conjunctions such as seit (since) or bis (till):

Don't confuse wann with wenn which you learned in Conjunctions. Both translate to "when" in English, but they have different functions in German.

Warum (why)

Warum (why) is also not declinable. It will never change endings. Wieso, Weshalb, and Weswegen can be used instead of Warum. There's no difference in meaning.

Here is an example. All four following sentences mean "Why is the car so old?".

Wie viel vs. wie viele

Wie viel is used with uncountable or countable nouns (how much/how many), and wie viele is only used with countable nouns (how many). Some people think that "wie viel" can only be used with uncountable nouns, but that is not true.

Jobs 2 updated 2022-03-25 ^

Student or Schüler?

Ein Student is a university student and a Schüler is a pupil/student at a primary, secondary or high school. Students attending other types of schools such as language or dancing schools may also be called Schüler.

Dropping articles

When talking about your or someone else's profession in sentences such as I'm a teacher or She's a judge, German speakers usually drop the indefinite article (ein/eine).

It sounds more natural to say Ich bin Lehrer and Sie ist Richterin than Ich bin ein Lehrer and Sie ist eine Richterin. This rule also applies to students.

If you add an adjective, you can't drop the article. Er ist ein schlechter Arzt (He's a bad doctor) is correct, but Er ist schlechter Arzt is not.

Also note that you can't drop the definite article (der/die/das).

Male and female variants

The grammatical gender usually matches the biological sex of the person you're referring to.

So the word that refers to a male baker is grammatically masculine, and the word that refers to a female baker is grammatically feminine.

In the vast majority of cases, the female variant is formed by simply adding the suffix -in to the male variant, e.g. der Bäcker becomes die Bäckerin and der Schüler (the pupil) becomes die Schülerin.

The plural of the female variant is formed by adding the ending -innen to the singular of the male variant, e.g. die Bäckerinnen and die Schülerinnen.

Keep in mind that, in some cases, the plural comes with an umlauted stem vowel. This applies to the female variant as well.

singular plural
male der Koch die Köche
female die Köchin die Köchinnen

You learn one more word like this in this lesson:

Sie ist der Boss!

There are a few words for people where the grammatical and the natural gender differ. One of them is der Boss. There is no feminine version for it, although there are certainly female bosses.

Feelings updated 2022-03-25 ^

Long and short vowels

Which sounds are there?

In German, every vowel can be long or short. The short one often sounds more open than the long one.

The IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) is given for the geeks among you :) But you can also copy/paste one of these symbols into Wikipedia to get an in-depth explanation of it (with sound!).

vowel short IPA long IPA
a Mann /a/ Bahn /aː/
ä Bälle /ɛ/ Käse /ɛː/
e rennen /ɛ/ Beere /eː/
i Mitte /ɪ/ ziehen /iː/
o oft /ɔ/ ohne /oː/
ö Hölle /œ/ schön /øː/
u Mutter /ʊ/ Buch /uː/
ü Müll /ʏ/ Bücher /yː/

You can also google "german sounds" for a longer introduction to German sounds.

When is a vowel short or long?

German has a range of spelling convention which will clearly show whether a vowel is short or long:

A vowel before a double consonant will be short:

Note that instead of "zz" (which only occurs in the Italian "Pizza"), German uses tz. Instead of "kk", we use ck.

There are also some signals that clearly show the vowel is long.

Sometimes, the vowel will be doubled:

There might be a silent h behind the vowel:

Note that if you read the list above, you should not hear a single h sound. It is geh|en, not ge|hen.

For i, it is more common to have an -e after it (sometimes even -eh):

Again, the h will be silent: Be|zieh|ung, not Be|zie|hung.

But sometimes, there will not be a signal.

The following examples have an unmarked long vowel:

And here are some short ones:

For these, you just have to trust your language feeling, it will normally not be a big problem :)

Friends updated 2022-03-25 ^

The third case.

German has four cases. You already learned two so far, nominative and accusative.

Nominative is used for sentence subjects.

Accusative is mostly used for sentence objects. Some prepositions will use accusative, too.

The third important case is "dative".

Dative pronouns

Here are the first three dative pronouns for you, together with the nominative and accusative counterparts:

Nom. Akk. Dat.
ich mich mir
du dich dir
sie (fem.) sie ihr

What is dative for?

As the accusative, the dative case has several functions.

Some prepositions go with dative:

For most verbs, the object is in the accusative case:

A few verbs use the dative instead:

Some verbs have two objects. The one identifying the "other person involved in a transaction" will also be in dative:

These three cases will appear in most sentences, so take your time to get a feeling for them.

There is a fourth case (genitive), but it is not used a lot.

Telling the time

Germans mostly use a system similar to English. There is one important and confusing difference: While English uses "half past seven", German will say "half eight".

10:00 zehn (Uhr)
10:05 fünf nach zehn
10:15 viertel nach zehn
10:30 halb elf
10:45 viertel vor elf
10:55 fünf vor elf

In addition, the 25 and 35 minutes will refer to the half hour:

10:25 fünf vor halb elf
10:35 fünf nach halb elf

This colloquial system only uses hours from one to twelve.

German official time uses hours from zero to 24:

10:12 zehn Uhr zwölf
22:50 zweiundzwanzig Uhr fünfzig


Similar to English, the imperative omits the pronoun. You will learn more about this later. For now, just remember that to say "Come (on)!", German uses Komm! (not kommst, as you might have suspected).

University updated 2022-03-25 ^


The comparative for short words in English is commonly formed by adding -er to the adjective:

German works in the same way. Of course, you then have to add the correct adjective ending to the whole thing:

For longer adjectives, English uses "more" instead. German does not do that.

Short adjectives usually get an umlaut change, though:

Remember that gern is an adverb. German uses it to describe things it likes. It has the comparative lieber:


In English, you can say:

In German, you would instead say:

First, as it is still ongoing, the present tense is used.

Second, German uses seit for stretches of time that reach into the present. That means you can only use it for things that are still ongoing.

If seit is combined with a noun, it takes the dative. Remember that in dative plural, the noun gets an extra -n:

Anfang, Mitte, Ende

In English, "early, mid, late" refers to positions in a day, month, or year:

In German, Anfang, Mitte, Ende can be used like this:

These can also be used for age:

Cooking updated 2022-03-25 ^

Zu Mittag, zu Abend

In some combinations, prepositions are not grammatical. Just learn the whole phrase like a word:

German English
zu Fuß on foot
zu Mittag for lunch
zu Abend for dinner
zu Hause at home
nach Hause towards home

Especially zu Hause is often confusing, as in regular use, zu often means towards.


Geben (to give) is one of several verbs that describe a transaction. These generally have two objects:

As in English, the dative "indirect" object comes before the accusative "direct" object.

English can also use "to": "I gave an apple to a child." — this is not possible in German.

Geben is a strong (slightly irregular) verb, here are its forms:

Person geben
ich gebe
du gibst
er/sie/es gibt
wir geben
ihr gebt
sie/Sie geben
perf. part. gegeben

Café updated 2022-03-25 ^


Here is an overview of time spans:

10 zehn Minuten
15 eine Viertelstunde
30 eine halbe Stunde
45 eine Dreiviertelstunde
60 eine Stunde
90 eineinhalb Stunden
120 zwei Stunden
150 zweieinhalb Stunden

When speaking, pay attention to the endings (marked in bold) of eine halbe Stunde and eineinhalb Stunden. If you mix these up, people will think you mean the other one.

Eineinhalb literally means "one, one half" (60+30). Some people use anderthalb instead.


Just as with gern(e), alleine can omit the -e, without a change in meaning.

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