By Tadas Rackauskas
Did you know that German is the most spoken language in Europe and one of the most spoken languages in the world? While German does come from its name-sake country of Germany, it is an official language in 6 nations: Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg & Liechtenstein. It is even official in the South Tyrol region of Italy, where more than 300,000 native speakers live. Even a semi-prominent population of Namibians speak German as their mother tongue. Considering how important German is globally, it is becoming increasingly important to learn. So, to get you started here is a quick dive into basic German grammar.
To start, what language family is German a part of?
Like the name, German is a part of the Germanic language family, which means that it is a not-so-distant relative of English. In fact, 26% of English’s vocab is Germanic, so it is common to see many words that feel remarkably like English. Take this sentence for example:
Ich habe das Buch I have the book
**note: -ch in German is pronounced like a -k in English
German is specifically part of the West Germanic language family, with its closest siblings being most likely Dutch & Luxembourgish.
However, with over 90 million native speakers, and 10 to 15 million second-language language speakers, there are several accents and dialects, with the two major ones being Hochdeutsch (High German) and Plattdeutsch (Low German). High and Low in this case refers to the geographic locations of the speakers, with High German being the more preferred and more spoken variation.
German is a gendered language, like Spanish or Russian, with three genders: Masculine (Der), Feminine (Die) & Neuter (Das) corresponding to agreeing articles. Sometimes you will have to memorize what gender a word has, but otherwise, you can find out the gender by the words’ ending:
You may have noticed, but every noun is capitalized in German, which can be seen in our previous example of Iche have das Buch, with Buch being the noun for book.
The word order of German is pretty similar to English, being SVO. This means that the verb position, typically the one relating to an action, comes after the subject, with two glaring exceptions. When asking a question, the verb comes first. Compare the following example:
Ich liebe dich I love you
Liebst du mich? Do you love me?
Like many other European languages, German also conjugates its verbs to match the speaker. But you are in luck because, unlike Spanish or Italian, German only has 6 major tenses, those being: present, past, & four compound tenses.
Ich habe I have
Iche hatte I had
Ich werde haben I will have
Ich habe gehabt I have had
Ich hatte gehabt I had had
What are Cases?
Cases change the ending of a noun based on its function in the sentence. Where English or another related language would have a specific word, German has a case to express the same idea, and usually multiple potential meanings. However, this is not such a foreign concept if you speak English. Even though English is separate grammatically from German, we still have a case left, being the ‘s ending to mark possession.
Adding -’s to dog adds possession and distinguishes it from the simple plural of dog.
What Cases does German Have?
German has four cases, and each has a straightforward usage.
Nominative: this case describes the subject of the sentence
Accusative: this case is used for the direct object of a sentence
Dative: this case describes the indirect object of a sentence
Genitive: this case shows possession
This is how the articles are conjugated:
LanguageBird Can Help You Get Started
If you’re excited about learning German but are slightly intimidated, we hope this helps give you an idea of what you’re in for! German is not an easy language to learn, but there’s no doubt that you can get there with patience, time and lots of practice! With your new language skills you will be able to talk to a large part of the EU. Contact Language Bird today to get started!