What’s up with grammatical gender (grammatikalisches Geschlecht)?

What’s “grammatical gender” (das grammatikalische Geschlecht)?

Grammatical gender is an essential problem for every learner of German as a foreign language, and sometimes even for the Germans themselves.

The basics:

  1. If we talk about grammatical gender, we mean the gender of the word itself. This characteristic of German nouns has repercussions on how the noun has to be adapted during sentence formation.
  2. There are three different genders: male (männlich), feminine (weiblich) and neuter (neutral).
  3. We have to choose the correct definite (bestimmter Artikel) or indefinite article (unbestimmter Artikel) for each gender.
  4. We can use definite articles  – “der“(male),”die “(female) and “das” (neuter”) –  or
  5.  indefinite articles  – “ein” (male), “eine” (female) and “ein” (neuter).
  6. Articles are declinable. For more (free) information on the declension of German articles:

Unfortunately there’s no way around learning the gender along with the meaning of a noun. Why? Because the grammatical gender is not always logical.

Examples:

en: lamp – dt: die Lampe -> feminine! One could now think: Why is it femine? It’s a thing! So, shouldn’t a lamp be neuter?

en: house – dt: das Haus-> neuter! BUT

en: church – dt. die Kirche -> female!

Tränendes Herz
This flower is known as “Tränendes Herz”. It’s called  “ein Tränendes Herz” (neuter), but can also be addressed as “eine Pflanze” (plant) and “eine Blume” (flower) – both are female nouns.

Do Germans automatically know the grammatical gender of nouns?

Well, no. Although it’s often logical and you just know the gender, because you learned it along with the noun, there are some debatable cases.

One such case is butter, officially “die Butter”. Colloquially it’s sometimes called “der Butter” or “die Butter”. It all depends on whom you ask in which region of Germany.

Where do I get more information?

If you’re interested you can find more information about the grammatical gender of German nouns on the internet. I found (free) information on this topic on these websites:

 

daisy (Gänseblümchen)

Conjugation of verbs: gehen, rennen, sagen, sprechen

What I wrote before, is still true: an important part of knowing the basics of German is knowing the conjugation of common verbs, here demonstrated in the present indicative tense (in German: Indikativ Präsens). -> Meaning of this verb mode: something is happening in the present tense.

grammatical person gehen rennen sagen sprechen
1. Pers. Sing.
ich
gehe renne sage spreche
2. Pers. Sing.
du
gehst rennst sagst sprichst
3. Pers. Sing.
er/sie/es
geht rennt sagt spricht
1. Pers. Plur.
wir
gehen rennen sagen sprechen
2. Pers. Plur.
ihr
geht rennt sagt sprecht
3. Pers. Plur.
sie
gehen rennen sagen sprechen

Examples:

  1. Ich gehe zur Schule. – I’m going to school.
  2. Ich renne nach Hause. – I’m running home.
  3. Ich sage dir etwas. – I’m telling you something.
  4. Ich spreche mit dir. – I’m talking to you. / I’m speaking with you.

 

Spelling in German – Buchstabieren auf Deutsch

It’s often necessary to spell something. Possibly, because you don’t know how a word should be written, or someone asks you how they should write a word.

To do this efficiently in German, you need to know how the  letters are pronounced separately.

Alphabet: Pronunciation:
A  aa
B  be
C  tse
D  de
E  ee
F  ef
G  ge
H  ha
I  ii
J  iot
K  ka
L  el
M  em
N  en
O  oo
P  pe
Q  ku
R  er
S  es
T  te
U  uu
V  fau/fao
W  we
X  iks
Y  üpselon
Z  tset

Exercise: Try pronouncing the letters. Please repeat this exercise as often as necessary.

magnolia
Why don’t you try spelling magnolia? A magnolia (en) = eine Magnolie (dt)
lilac coloured flowers

Counting from 1 to 100 – von 1 bis 100 zählen

Whether you’re talking about your family or about groceries or simply about the time, you always need numbers. Well, at least if you’re talking about something that’s countable.

This overview shows you in detail the numbers 1 to 100 in German.

Exercise: Read the numbers out loud.

Number Deutsch:
1 eins
2 zwei
3 drei
4 vier
5 fünf
6 sechs
7 sieben
8 acht
9 neun
10 zehn
11 elf
12 zwölf
13 dreizehn
14 vierzehn
15 fünfzehn
16 sechzehn
17 siebzehn
18 achtzehn
19 neunzehn
20 zwanzig
21 einundzwanzig
22 zweiundzwanzig
23 dreiundzwanzig
24 vierundzwanzig
25 fünfundzwanzig
26 sechsundzwanzig
27 siebenundzwanzig
28 achtundzwanzig
29 neunundzwanzig
30 dreißig
31 einunddreißig
32 zweiunddreißig
33 dreiunddreißig
34 vierunddreißig
35 fünfunddreißig
36 sechsunddreißig
37 siebenunddreißig
38 achtunddreißig
39 neununddreißig
40 vierzig
41 einundvierzig
42 zweiundvierzig
43 dreiundvierzig
44 vierundvierzig
45 fünfundvierzig
46 sechsundvierzig
47 siebenundvierzig
48 achtundvierzig
49 neunundvierzig
50 fünfzig
51 einundfünfzig
52 zweiundfünfzig
53 dreiundfünfzig
54 vierundfünfzig
55 fünfundfünzig
56 sechsundfünfzig
57 siebenundfünfzig
58 achtundfünfzig
59 neunundfünfzig
60 sechzig
61 einundsechzig
62 zweiundsechzig
63 dreiundsechzig
64 vierundsechzig
65 fünfundsechzig
66 sechsundsechzig
67 siebenundsechzig
68 achtundsechzig
69 neunundsechzig
70 siebzig
71 einundsiebzig
72 zweiundsiebzig
73 dreiundsiebzig
74 vierundsiebzig
75 fünfundsiebzig
76 sechsundsiebzig
77 siebenundsiebzig
78 achtundsiebzig
79 neunundsiebzig
80 achtzig
81 einundachtzig
82 zweiundachtzig
83 dreiundachtzig
84 vierundachtzig
85 fünfundachtzig
86 sechsundachtzig
87 siebenundachtzig
88 achtundachtzig
89 neunundachtzig
90 neunzig
91 einundneunzig
92 zweiundneunzig
93 dreiundneunzig
94 vierundneunzig
95 fünfundneunzig
96 sechsundneunzig
97 siebenundneunzig
98 achtundneunzig
99 neunundneunzig
100 hundert /
einhundert

 

spider plant (Grünlilie)
Can you count the leaves?

“Du” or “Sie” – What’s the difference?

“Du” and “Sie” are both translations of “you” and are used to address someone.

 

du/Du

If  you know a person well and  you  are in some way familiar with them,  or you’re maybe talking to a pet or to god, use “du” to address them.

If you’re writing to them, use “du” or “Du”, both is possible.

“Du” is generally seen as an informal way to address friends, family and people you have a close personal relationship with.

 

Sie

If you’re addressing someone you don’t know well, perhaps a business partner, your teacher, a doctor or any other acquaintance, use the formal “Sie”.

And if you’re not sure whether you should use “Sie” or “du”, use “Sie” to address the person and ask them whether you may use “du”. Please don’t be offended, if they decline your request.

People generally have very different opinions on whether or not they should be addressed with “du” or “Sie”.  As a different address can mean a shift in the relationship dynamics of a work or personal relationship, many people tend to carefully consider such a change.

 

 – Examples –

  • heißen:

Wie heißt du? (second person singular of “heißen”: [du] heißt)

Wie heißen Sie? (third person plural of “heißen”: [sie] heißen;

Beware: “Sie” can be used to address a single person or several persons)

  • sein:

Wo bist du? (second person singular of “sein”: [du] bist)

Wo sind Sie? (third person plural of “sein”: [sie] sind)

  • in den Zoo gehen – going to the zoo

Du gehst in den Zoo?  – You’re going to the zoo?

Sie gehen in den Zoo? – You’re going to the zoo?

  • zum Arzt gehen – going to the doctor

Du gehst zum Arzt?  – You’re going to the doctor?

Sie gehen zum Arzt? – You’re going to the doctor?

Question words – Fragewörter

Learning German includes learning about questions words, the so-called “Fragewörter”. To my mind, that’s a good reason to take a closer look at some  question words:

Fragewort: Equivalent English words:
Wann… ? When… ?
Warum… ? Why… ?
Was… ? What… ?
Welcher… ?
Welche… ?
Welches… ?
Which… ?
What… ?
Wem… ? Whom…?
Who…to..?
To whom..?
Wen… ? Who… ?
Whom… ?
Wer.. ? Who… ?
Wessen… ? Whose… ?
Wie… ? How… ?
Wo… ? Where… ?
Woher… ? From where… ?
Wohin… ? Where…  ?
Whereto… ?

Conjugation of verbs: sein, heißen, kommen, herkommen

An important part of knowing the basics of German is knowing the conjugation of common verbs, here demonstrated in the present indicative tense (in German: Indikativ Präsens).

If you’re using this verb mode (Indikativ Präsens), you’re stating a fact and you’re talking about something that’s happening right now, in the present tense.

grammatical person sein heißen kommen herkommen
1. Pers. Sing.
ich
bin heiße komme komme her
2. Pers. Sing.
du
bist heißt kommst kommst her
3. Pers. Sing.
er/sie/es
ist heißt kommt kommt her
1. Pers. Plur.
wir
sind heißen kommen kommen her
2. Pers. Plur.
ihr
seid heißt kommt kommt her
3. Pers. Plur.
sie
sind heißen kommen kommen her

 

 

Personal pronouns (nominative) -Personalpronomen (im Nominativ)

Personal pronouns are, in German, called “Personalpronomen” or “persönliche Fürwörter”, meaning they can be used in a sentence construction to represent a person or a thing.

In German, these pronouns are declinable, this means they have a different form depending on whether you are using the nominative, genitive, dative or accusative.

For our step 1 (personal information – talking about yourself), you need to know more about the nominative. This means, if you ask questions concerning  “Who…?” (Wer…?) or “What..?” (Was…?), you can use one of these pronouns instead of using the name of a person or a thing in your answering sentence.

 

Some fictional examples:

-on a road-

Dennis asks a random person he doesn’t recognise:  “Who are you?”

The person answers: “I am your lawyer. You should know me by now!”

 

– in the zoo –

Anne asks her mother, while pointing at a big snake: “What is that?”

Her mother replies: ” She is an anaconda.”

 

In German this is called “der Nominativ”.

The question words are “Wer…?” or “Was…?”.

and these are the relevant personal pronouns (“persönliche Fürwörter /Pronomen”):

1. person singular 2. person singular 3. person singular
ich du er (male),
sie (female),
es (neutral)
1. person plural 2. person plural 3. person plural
wir ihr sie

This means, if someone asks  you : “Wer sind Sie?” Your answer will be: “Ich bin…”

And if you don’t remember who you are, and ask someone who should know about it: “Wer bin ich?” He or she will answer you: “Du bist… .” (or “Sie sind…. .” , if the person doesn’t know you well and wants to be polite.)

You see where I’m going with this…

If you ask someone about a third person the answer will be: “Er ist… .” or “Sie ist… .” or even “Es ist…”

 

The same pattern applies to plural forms:

You ask ” Wer… ?” or ” Was..?”

And the answers will start with

Wir sind… .”, (if the speaker is part of the group he/she is talking about)

Ihr seid…” or (if you are a part of the group the speaker is talking about)

Sie sind… “.  (if neither you nor the speaker are part of the group)