Grammar Terms for German Students

Grammar Terms for German Students

Here are the most important grammar terms for learning German.

Adjectives-there are two kinds of adjectives: limiting adjectives and descriptive adjectives. Both kinds describe nouns. Limiting adjectives give some sense of number. Words such as some, few and four are examples of limiting adjectives. Descriptive adjective examples include: beautiful, yellow, big etc.

Adverbs-adverbs are words that tell you something about a verb, adjective or another adverb. In English, many adverbs have the ending -ly. German has lost many distinct adverb forms: good/well = ‘gut’ but sometimes we add: -erweise

Affirmative-affirmative sentences make statements that are not negative. For example, she is always happy rather than she is never happy.

Articles-there are two kinds of articles: indefinite (a, an) and definite (the). Indefinite articles refer to unspecified items whereas definite articles refer to something specific. For example, I saw a man vs. I saw the man.

Auxiliary verbs– Auxiliary verbs couple with other verb forms to create tenses. Have is a common auxiliary verb. For example, I have eaten, Ich habe gegessen.

Cognates– Words that are similar in spelling and meaning between two languages.

Conjugating-to conjugate is to take the base form of a verb and to add the appropriate ending for each person. Example, I eat but he eats. Ich esse, wir essen

Demonstratives-these words indicate proximity. Examples are: this or dieser

Gender– English does not generally have gender for inanimate objects. All German nouns however are feminine, masculine or neuter!

Imperative-imperatives are commands. For example, Get up!

Infinitives- the infinitive is the non-conjugated form of a verb. In English infinitives require the proposition ‘to’. For example: to eat, to study. In German, an infinitive always ends in -en or -n: essen, spielen.

Interrogatives-Interrogatives are question words: who, what or wer, wo etc.

Nouns-nouns are people, things, animals and concepts. For example, table, beauty and freedom. German nouns are always capitalized: Tisch, Freiheit.

Objects-there are two kinds of objects: direct and indirect. A direct object receives the action of the verb whereas the indirect object usually answers the question to/for whom something is done. For example, Tony bought a car for Maria. In this example, ‘car’ is the direct object and ‘Maria’ is the indirect object.

Object pronouns-these words take the place of a noun functioning as an object. For example, I read the book becomes I read it. The book is replaced by ‘it’ and therefore avoids repetition.

Past participles-a past participle is the part of the verb used to form a compound tense. For example, we have finished. In German, the majority of past participles are formed by taking the root of the verb and adding ge- to the beginning and –t to the end: gespielt. About 20% of past participles are irregular: gebracht.

Possessives-possessives indicate to whom something belongs. For example, it’s mine, our books. In German, possessive pronouns must agree in gender and case with the item being possessed: mein, deinem etc.

Predicate-the predicate tells you something about the subject. The predicate can be a noun, adverb or adjective. For example, he is a man or he is tall. Man and tall refer back to the subject.

Prepositions-prepositions give information such as location, time and direction. Examples: towards, with, in, under, between or mit, unter, ohne etc.

Pronouns-pronouns take the place of nouns. For example, Terry runs well. He runs well. ‘He’ is a pronoun. German examples: ich, er, sie etc. Pronouns help us to avoid repeating the names of people and things!

Reflexives-reflexive verbs use object pronouns that refer back to the subject. In English we accomplish this by saying -self. For example, I wash myself. He gave himself a massage. English does not use reflexives as much as German. Many verbs in German can be used both reflexively and not reflexively with different meanings. Ich wasche das Auto vs. Ich wasche mich.

Subject-the subject is the person(s) or thing(s) performing the action in a given. sentence. For example, He is eating the bread. Er isst das Brot.

Superlatives-formed in English with the ending ‘the -est’. For example, he is the oldest man in the village. In German, the superlative is formed by using ‘am -sten’.

Tenses-tenses are verb forms that refer to different planes of time. For example, the present, future and past.

Verbs-verbs show actions, states of being or transformations. For example, I worked. I was happy. It began to rain.

Voice-there are two kinds of voice: active and passive. In an active sentence, the doer of the action is emphasized whereas in a passive sentence it is the receiver of the action that is emphasized. For example, active: She ran over the cat. Passive: The cat was run over by her. Passive voice is commonly used in the news.


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