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German Grammar Essentials

Updated: May 29, 2023

Want to speak real German from your first lesson? Get in touch with us start speaking German with confidence! Hi, welcome to Introduction to German. My name is Helena and in this lesson, you'll learn the basics of German grammar. Word order refers to the order in which words are structured to form a sentence in a given language. Consider the English sentence, I ate an apple. But first, let's remove the article, an, here for simplicity.

So we're just left with, I ate apple. The basic word order for English is subject-verb-object, or SVO for short. If we break down the English sentence, I ate apple, we can see that the subject I is presented first, followed by the verb ate, and then finally the object apple is positioned last. This is the basic word order for sentences in English. Now let's compare that same sentence, I ate an apple, in German. Ich esse einen Apfel. Like before, let's remove the article to keep it simple, so we're just left with the words. If we break down the German sentence, we get the subject ich, meaning I, then comes the verb esse, meaning eat, and finally we have the object Apfel, meaning apple. Ich esse Apfel. The basic word order for German then is subject, verb, object, or SVO for short. As you can see, English and German both have the same word order.

This essentially means that you can create basic German sentences by exchanging English words for German words. This isn't perfect, but it's a good place to get you started. Understanding basic word order will allow you to string together the few German words you've learned to create basic sentences and to start communicating in German. In the previous section, you learned that English and German both use the same SVO word order. Let's study this aspect in a little more detail. First, let's take a look at an example in English. She sees the boy every day. We can clearly see the SVO word structure used in English, even with the adverb attached at the very end there.

But what if we were to try and change the word order of this sentence? Let's swap the object and the subject around. Now we get, The boy sees she every day. As you can see, rearranging the word order of an English sentence actually changes the meaning of the sentence itself. The word order of German, on the other hand, is much more flexible than English. While German does follow an SVO word order like English, it's much less rigid, allowing us to move elements of the sentence around. Sie sieht den Jungen jeden Tag.

Den Jungen sieht sie jeden Tag. As you can see, swapping the object and the subject around in German doesn't change the core meaning of the sentence itself. Jeden Tag sieht sie den Jungen. In fact, all parts of the sentence can be rearranged, except the verb. As long as the verb is the second element in a sentence, you can generally rearrange the sentence however you wish. We've talked about basic sentences in English and German, but what if you wanted to give more detail to a sentence? Consider the following English sentence.

I like apples, because they taste good. Notice how there are two parts to this sentence. I like apples and because they taste good. We call the first part of this sentence the main clause and the second part of this sentence the dependent clause because it depends on the first part to make sense. If we break down the two parts, we can see that English sticks to the SVO word order once again. Now, let's compare the same sentence in German. Ich mag Äpfel, weil sie gut schmecken. The main clause has the verb as the second element, so this is fine.

The dependent clause, however, has the verb as the final element in the sentence, not as the second element. So in fact, German sentences will always have the verb as the second element, but if there is a dependent clause, the verb in that clause will always be moved to the final position. Ich mag Äpfel, weil sie gut schmecken. Negating basic sentences in German is easy compared to English. Simply add nicht, which means not, at the end of a German sentence. Ich schlafe. Ich schlafe nicht. If you want to show that you have zero sum of something, you would add kein, which can be translated to no, depending on the sentence.

Ich habe kein Geld. Ich habe keine Energie. This is a simplified way to negate basic sentences in German. Formulating questions in German is also easy. Simply swap the verb and the subject to make a sentence into a question. Sie ist hier. Ist sie hier? Sie ist Äpfel. Ist sie Äpfel? Just a quick swap makes this a question.

Well done! We've covered a lot of things in this lesson, so let's recap on what we've learned. In this lesson, you learned that the same word order as English can be used in German. German word order can be rearranged any which way, so long as the verb is the second element in the sentence. If there are dependent clauses, then the verb in that clause will appear at the end of the sentence. Simply add the word for not at the end of a sentence to make it negative. And to formulate a question, simply swap the subject and verb around. We've covered only the very basics of German grammar. If you're interested in learning more, get in touch with us, we teach you useful phrases while covering the fundamentals of German grammar.

See you in the next lesson. Bye! Bye!

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