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Cognates in German and English .......................................................................... 5

German Vocabulary: How It Works..................................................................... 6
More on German vocabulary ................................................................................. 9
Guide to German Pronunciation ......................................................................... 14
Diphthongs ....................................................................................................................... 15
Consonants ....................................................................................................................... 15
Double consonants........................................................................................................... 16
German Pronunciation Practice .......................................................................... 17
German Nouns: Gender........................................................................................ 18
Using a German-English Dictionary: Nouns ...................................................... 18
Case......................................................................................................................... 19
Equivalents of Case in English............................................................................. 19
Against Idleness and Mischief........................................................................................ 20
How Doth the Little Crocodile ....................................................................................... 20
The Definite Article ............................................................................................... 21
The Indefinite Article............................................................................................ 21
Sample Regular German Nouns in the Singular: the Declensions ................... 22
Masculine nouns:............................................................................................................. 22
Feminine nouns: .............................................................................................................. 22
Neuter nouns:................................................................................................................... 22
The Plural......................................................................................................................... 24
Noun Declensions in German ............................................................................... 25
Compound Nouns.................................................................................................. 26
1: A very frequent form of compound noun combines two nouns into one:.............. 26
2: Another form of compound noun combines an adjective with a noun:................. 26
3: A very common form of compound noun combines a preposition with a noun:
........................................................................................................................................... 26
4. A less common form combines a verb element with a noun: ................................. 26
5. Triple noun compounds:............................................................................................. 26
Principles of compound noun formation ............................................................ 27
1. A German compound noun always has the gender of the last element.................. 27
2. The letter s is often used as a linking element. ......................................................... 27
3. A variety of possibilities exist for translating compound nouns into English. ...... 27
Compound nouns in dictionaries ................................................................................... 27
An important convention in the use of compound nouns.................................. 28
A Special Case: Weak Nouns ........................................................................... 29
Another Special Case: Mixed Nouns ................................................................ 30
Prepositions............................................................................................................ 31
Personal Pronouns in the Nominative Case........................................................ 32
Regular verbs in the present tense....................................................................... 33
More on Verbs in the Present Tense: Stems ending in -d and -t ...................... 34
Using a German-English Dictionary: Verbs....................................................... 35
Verbs with a Vowel Change in the Present Tense.............................................. 37
Three Sample Verbs with Stem-Vowel Changes .......................................................... 38
More on Verbs: Differences from English ......................................................... 39
Personal Pronouns................................................................................................. 40
Simple Da-Compounds ......................................................................................... 41
Haben und Sein...................................................................................................... 42
Haben oder Sein? ............................................................................................................. 42
Negation in German .............................................................................................. 43
Making Nouns from Other Parts of Speech ....................................................... 45
1. Turning verbs into nouns: Verbal nouns .................................................................. 45
2. Turning adjectives into nouns: General abstract categories, groups of people
........................................................................................................................................... 45
3. Other parts of speech as nouns .................................................................................. 46
Ein-Words: The Possessive Adjectives + kein ............................................ 47
Special-Category Verbs: The Modals.................................................................. 48
Dependent Infinitives and dependent infinitive word order............................. 49
Word Order in German sentences....................................................................... 50
Co-ordinating Conjunctions and Word Order in German............................... 51
Der-Words.......................................................................................................... 52
Interrogative Forms in German .......................................................................... 53
More on Verbs:...................................................................................................... 54
Tenses and Principal Parts, I: Weak or Regular Verbs .......................................... 54
Tenses and Principal Parts, II: Strong Verbs.............................................................. 55
Tenses and Principal Parts, III: Completely Irregular Verbs .................................... 56
Verbs that end in -ieren ........................................................................................ 57
Formation of Plurals for Foreign Loan Words in German .............................. 58
The Irregular Verbs werden and wissen.............................................................. 59
Some Common Adverbs ....................................................................................... 60
Adjectives used as adverbs ................................................................................... 61
Subordinating Conjunctions and Subordinate Clauses .................................... 62
More on Subordinating Conjunctions and Subordinate Clauses ............................... 63
More on verbs: Inseparable Prefixes.................................................................. 65
More on Inseparable Prefixes .............................................................................. 66
Some Important Words That Can Function as Articles/Adjectives or
Pronouns ...................................................................................................... 68
1. The indefinite article ein, eine, ein can also function as a pronoun, with
slightly different endings: ............................................................................................... 68
2. All the possessive adjectives and kein can also function as pronouns, with
slightly different endings: ............................................................................................... 68
3. The interrogative adjective welcher/welche/welches can function as a
pronoun as well:............................................................................................................... 68
4. The words viel and wenig mean much and little and can function as
both adjectives and pronouns......................................................................................... 68
5. Einige and andere mean some and others: ....................................................... 69
6. Alles is a pronoun meaning everything. It is singular and invariable................ 69
Einer and keiner as Indefinite Pronouns............................................................. 70
Indefinite Pronouns as Adjectives ....................................................................... 71
The Reflexive Pronoun: Sich ................................................................................ 72
More on Verbs: Reflexive Verbs.......................................................................... 73
A note on word order with reflexive verbs ......................................................... 74
The Compound Past Tenses: Perfect and Pluperfect (or Past Perfect) ...... 75
1) Formation: ................................................................................................................... 75
2) Rules for word order: ................................................................................................. 75
3) Usage ............................................................................................................................ 76
The use of sein as an auxiliary verb in compound past tenses.......................... 77
The Perfect Infinitive ............................................................................................ 78
The Passive Voice: Simple Tenses ....................................................................... 79
The Perfect Tense and Passive Voice in Context: Recognizing the Verb ........ 82
Weak Verbs...................................................................................................................... 82
Strong Verbs .................................................................................................................... 82
A Sample Chart of the verb tun, to do............................................................. 85
Principal parts: ...................................................................................................... 85
More on the Passive Voice: Genuine vs. False............................................ 86
The um . . . zu construction................................................................................... 88
Vocabulary: Working with Roots, Stems, Prefixes, and Suffixes..................... 89
Vocabulary: Fassen............................................................................................... 91
Adverbs, Verbal Complements, Prepositions, Separable Prefixes................... 93
More on verbs: Separable Prefixes..................................................................... 94
More on Separable Prefixes ................................................................................. 96
The Future Tense................................................................................................... 97
Dependent Infinitives with the Future Tense ..................................................... 98
The Future Tense in the Passive Voice.......................................................................... 98
The Verb Lassen : lassen, lie, gelassen .............................................................. 99
1) meaning to let, to permit, to allow ................................................................. 99
2) as a Causative Verb .................................................................................................... 99
3) lassen as a reflexive verb: sich lassen ...................................................................... 100
Relative Pronouns ............................................................................................... 102
A Special Case................................................................................................................ 104
The Placement of Relative Clauses in Sentences.............................................. 105
The Box Sentence........................................................................................................... 105
Impersonal Verb Constructions......................................................................... 106
Es gibt ............................................................................................................................. 106
1) Es geht um = The issue is . . ................................................................................. 106
2) Es handelt sich um = It is a matter of . . . .......................................................... 107
3) Es gilt (from the present-tense stem-change verb gelten) = It is important
to . . ............................................................................................................................... 107
4) Es lt sich = It can . . .......................................................................................... 107
5) Es lohnt sich = It is worth(while) . . . doing something [expressed by the
infinitive that follows] ................................................................................................... 107
A Special Case in the Construction of the Perfect Tenses: Modal Verbs
with Dependent Infinitives = Double Infinitive Constructions ........ 108
The ist . . . zu Construction ................................................................................. 109
Da- Compounds: The Extended Construction ................................................. 110
More on Extended Constructions with Da-Compounds ................................. 112
Adjectives ............................................................................................................. 113
Participles............................................................................................................. 115
Still More on Adjectives: Comparison ............................................................. 117
Conditional Sentences ......................................................................................... 120
The Subjunctive Mood I: The Conditional Tense............................................ 121
The Subjunctive Mood II: The Past Subjunctive............................................. 122
Hypothetical Conditions Using the Conditional and Past Subjunctive ......... 124
Further Uses of the Past Subjunctive and Conditional Tenses ...................... 126
Wishes are another use for these tenses. ..................................................................... 126
A third situation is in reference to situations unlikely to occur, e.g. after
expressions like ohne da.............................................................................................. 126
The Subjunctive Mood III: The Past Perfect Subjunctive and Past
Conditional Tenses.................................................................................... 127
Contrary-to-Fact Conditions: Using the Past Perfect Subjunctive................ 130
A Special Case: The Double Infinitive with the Past Subjunctive ................. 131
The Present and Present Perfect Subjunctive, and their Use ......................... 132
The Present Perfect Subjunctive........................................................................ 133
Use of the Present and Present Perfect Subjunctive........................................ 134
The Use of an Impersonal Es: ........................................................................ 136
Sentences with Two Subjects and Sentences with None .................................. 136
More on Prepositions .......................................................................................... 137
1. Prepositions that follow their object........................................................................ 137
2. Correlative Prepositions / Adverbs of Direction / Directional Prefixes ........... 138
The Extended Adjective Construction .............................................................. 139
More on the ist . . . zu Construction: When It Is Hidden in an Extended
Adjective Construction............................................................................. 141

Cognates in German and English

Cognates = words that are related because they stem from a common ancestral language.
Many words in modern German and English are related because Anglo-Saxon, the language
from which modern English derives, was a Germanic language brought to the British Isles by
invaders from the Continent. The similarities can help you greatly in learning to read German. Look
at the following list:

Mutter mother Vater father

Bruder brother Schwester sister
Haus house Kirche church
Tag day Nacht night
Gott god Teufel devil
Jung young alt old
Warm warm kalt cold
Hammer hammer Nagel nail
Kuh cow Kalb calf

Besides the fact that all nouns are capitalized in German, this list tells you that it is mostly
old and simple, basic everyday words in English that have a Germanic origin. (When modern words
are similar or identical, it is usually because German has adopted an English or international word,
e.g. Telefon, Cola, or the verbs surfen and mailen.)

There are certain typical consonant shifts, such as t d (Gott god, Teufel devil,
trinken to drink, tot dead). (You can find a list of them in the Grammar Handbook on p. 218.)
Awareness of them can be of great help in recognizing German words:

b often shifts to v or f: haben to have halb half

leben to live salben to salve, anoint

g often shifts to y: gestern yester(day)

der Tag day sagen to

ch often shifts to k or gh: wachen to wake die Nacht night

suchen to seek die Tochter daughter

s or ss often shifts to t: das, dass that essen to eat

der Fuss foot lassen to let

f of ff or pf often shifts to p: das Schiff ship hoffen to hope

tief deep der Apfel apple

Sometimes, of course, the meanings of cognates have drifted apart over the centuries. Tier,
for example, is cognate with deer. In German the word means animal, while in English the
meaning has narrowed to one particular kind of animal. In German the verb sterben, starb, means
to die, while the English cognate to starve has the narrower meaning to die of hunger. In
German, the verb schlagen, schlug, is a basic word meaning to hit or strike. In English, it no
longer functions as the basic word, but has instead become a colloquialism: to slug.

German Vocabulary: How It Works

German often seems harder to learn for native speakers of English than French or Spanish,
however, becausein addition to the matter of casesthere is less correspondence between English
and German in elevated, literary or academic language or on the level of abstractions.
Take the slogan of the French Revolution as an example:

French English German

Libert liberty Freiheit

galit equality Gleichheit
Fraternit fraternity Brderlichkeit

A good way to attack this difficulty is 1) to acquire some command of basic German vocabulary,
and 2) to learn to break down long German words into their component parts, which are often
prefix + stem + suffix or stem + suffix + suffix. The longest of the words above, Brderlichkeit,
consists of the stem Bruder- plus the adjective suffix -lich, which has survived in English as -ly, or
-like. Brderlich- thus means brotherly, or brotherlike, to which the abstract noun suffix -keit
is added. -Keit is equivalent to -ness. Brderlichkeit therefore is brother-like-ness, or
brotherliness, i.e. fraternity. Frei | heit is the adjective frei [cognate free] + another abstract
noun suffix, -heit = free-ness, i.e. liberty. Gleich | heit is the adjective gleich, equal +
-ness, = equalness, i.e. equality.

From now on, whenever you run into a capitalized word ending in heit or -keit, you should
realize that you are almost certainly dealing with an abstract noun constructed from a simpler
adjective: Huslichkeit, for example, is Haus + -lich + -keit = (house-li-ness) = domesticity, and
Gottheit = Gott + heit = deity or godhead.

The words fraternity, domesticity,and deity illustrate the tendency of English to shift
from Germanic to French (originally Latin) roots as it moves from simple to more complex words
and ideas, particularly abstractions. Native speakers of English are so used to this tendency that it
is important to remember that German does not have it to anywhere near the same degree. Even
as the level of abstraction grows, German tends to stick with Germanic roots. In the lists below,
note the points where English shifts to Latin roots.

Machen to make, to do
verb stem: mach-
die Macht might, power
noun stem: macht-

mchtig mighty, powerful

stem macht- [with umlaut added, a frequent occurrence]
+ adjective suffix -ig
die Mchtigkeit mighty-ness, i.e. might, power
stem macht- + adjective suffix -ig- + noun suffix -keit
machtlos might-less, i.e powerless
stem macht- + adjective suffix -los, less
die Machtlosigkeit powerlessness, impotence
stem macht- + adjective suffix -los- + suffix -ig- + noun suffix -keit
der Machthaber might-haver, i.e. ruler, dictator
stem macht + stem -hab- [from haben, to have] + suffix -er
die Allmacht all-might, i.e. omnipotence
prefix all- + stem -macht
allmchtig almighty, omnipotent
prefix all- + stem -macht- + adjective suffix -ig
der Allmchtige the Almighty

leuchten to shine
verb stem: leucht- or licht-
das Licht light
noun stem: licht-

erleuchten to light up, enlighten, illuminate

prefix er- + stem -leucht- plus suffix -en
die Erleuchtung illumination, enlightenment (as in Buddhism)
prefix er- + stem -leucht- plus noun suffix -ung
der Leuchtturm lighthouse (literally: light tower)
stem leucht- + stem turm (tower)
das Tageslicht daylight
stem Tag + stem Licht
das Mondlicht moonlight
stem Mond + stem Licht
das Lichtspiel play in light, i.e. film, movie
stem Licht- + Spiel [play, production]
das Lichtspieltheater movie theater, cinema

sehen to see
verb stem: seh-
die Sicht sight
noun stem: sicht- or seh-

der Seher seer, visionary

stem seh- + suffix -er
ansehen to look at
prefix an- + infinitive sehen
aussehento appear, seem, look
prefix aus- + infinitive sehen
vorsehen to foresee, anticipate; to provide for
prefix vor- + infinitive sehen
die Vorsicht care, caution,
prefix vor- + stem sicht
vorsichtig care-ish,fore-see-ish, i.e. careful, cautious
prefix vor- + stem sicht- + adjective suffix -ig
die Vorsehung Providence
prefix vor- + stem -seh- + noun suffix -ung
sichtbar see-able, i.e. visible
stem sicht- + adjective suffix -bar (= -able)
unsichtbar un-see-able, i.e. invisible
negative prefix un- + stem sicht- + adjective suffix -bar
die Sichtbarkeit see-able-ness, i.e. visibility
stem sicht- + adjective suffix -bar + noun suffix -keit
das Gesicht face, countenance
prefix ge- + stem sicht
die Absicht intent, intention
prefix ab- + stem -sicht
absichtlich intention-ly, i.e. intentional
prefix ab + stem -sicht- + adjective suffix -lich
unabsichtlich unintentional
prefix un- + prefix -ab- + stem -sicht- + adjective suffix -lich
durchsichtig through-see-ish, i.e. transparent
prefix durch- [= through] + stem -sicht- + adjective suffix -ig
die Durchsichtigkeit through-see-ish-ness, i.e. transparency
prefix durch- [= through] + stem -sicht- + adjective suffix -ig +
noun suffix -keit
undurchsichtig un-through-see-ish, i.e. opaque
die Undurchsichtigkeit un-through-see-ish-ness, i.e. opacity

More on German vocabulary

Although academic vocabulary in the romance languages bears a greater similarity to

English than German does, there are still a great many corresponding terms whose meaning is
immediately apparent. You can think of this as a free gift: a large German vocabulary that you
already possess. Many of these words are international. When German imports a verb from another
language (including Latin), the infinitive ends in -ieren, and because the word is of foreign origin,
the past participle does not add the ge- prefix typical of German verbs, i.e. akzeptieren, akzeptierte,

die Adresse (postal address) adressieren

die Akademie akademisch
akzeptieren (to accept) akzeptiert (accepted)
der Altar
die Analyse (analysis) analysieren
die Apokalypse apokalyptisch
archaisch (archaic)
das Argument argumentieren (to argue)
die Armee (army)
der Asket (ascetic)
die Assimiliation assimilieren (to assimilate)
die Assoziation assoziieren (to associate)
der Autor (male) die Autorin (female)
das Bier (beer)
die Biographie biorgraphisch
der Buddha, der Buddhismus buddhistisch (Buddhist)
der Calvinismus calvinistisch (Calvinist)
das Datum (date) die Daten (dates, data)
datieren (to date)
die Debatte (debate) debattieren
die Definition definieren (to define)
die Demokratie demokratisch
die Diskussion diskutieren (to discuss)
die Ethik (ethics) ethisch (ethical)
die Bioethik
evangelisch (Protestant, Lutheran)
evangelikal (evangelical)
der Experte
der Faktor
die Familie familial
der Fanatiker fanatisch
der Film
die Form formal
die Geographie geographisch
die Gruppe (group) gruppieren (to group)
die Harmonie harmonisch
die Hresie (heresy) hretisch (heretical)
der Historiker historisch
die Industrie ndustriell
industrialisieren die Industrialisierung
die Interpretation interpretieren (to interpret)
der Islam islamisch
die Isolation isolieren (to isolate)
der Kalendar
der Kantor
der Kaplan (chaplain)
die Kathedrale
der Katholik (male) die Katholikin (female)
die Kategorie kategorisch (catagorical)
klassisch (classic)
die Kombination kombinieren (to combine)
der Kommentar (commentary)
die Kompetenz kompetent
die Komplikation komplizieren (to complicate)
kompliziert (complicated)
der Konservatismus konservativ
das Konzil
korrekt inkorrekt
die Korrektur (correction)
korrespondieren die Korrespondenz
das Kruzifix
die Kultur kulturell
die Legende legendr (legendary)
das Lexikon
der Liberalismus liberal
die Linie (line) linear
die Literatur literarisch (literary)
die Liturgie liturgisch
die Logik logisch, unlogisch
(logical, illogical)
lutherisch (Lutheran)
das Manuskript
die Meditation meditieren
die Metapher metaphorisch (metaphorical)
die Metaphysik metaphysisch (metaphysical)
die Methode methodisch (methodical)
der Missionar die Missionarin (missionary)
monastisch (monastic)
die Moral (morality, morals) moralisch
multikulturell (multicultural)
das Museum
die Musik musikalisch
die Mystik (mysticism) mystisch (mystical)
der Mythos (myth) mythisch (mythical)
die Nation national
die Natur natrlich (natural)
der Nomade nomadisch
die Norm normal
die kologie (ecology) kologisch
der Optimist optimistisch
die Orthodoxie orthodox
der Patriarch patriarchalisch
der Pessimist pessimistisch
die Philologie philologisch (philological)
die Philosophie philosophisch
der Philosoph (philosopher)
die Politik politisch
die Praxis praktisch
das Problem problematisch
der Professor die Professorin
das Programm programmieren (to program)
der Prophet prophetisch
die Proportion proportional

der Protest protestieren (to protest)
der Protestant protestantisch
die Provinz provinzial
der Psalm der Psalter
das Publikum (the public) publik (opposite is privat)
der Radikalismus (radicalism) radikal
das Radio
die Reform reformieren (to reform)
die Reformation
die Religion religis (religious)
das Resultat (result) resultieren (to result)
die Rhetorik rhetorisch (retorical)
die Revolution revolutionr (revolutionary)
das Ritual
das Sakrament
die Sekte (sect)
spezifisch (specific)
die Struktur strukturell (structural)
die Symmetrie symmetrisch
die Asymmetrie asymmetrisch
die Synagoge
der Tempel
die Tendenz tendieren (to tend)
der Text
das Thema thematisch
die Theodizee
die Theokratie theokratisch
die Theorie theoretisch
die Toleranz tolerant
die Intoleranz intolerant
tolerieren (to tolerate)
die Universitt
die Zivilisation zivilisieren (to civilize)

Occasionally you have to be aware of what are called false friends, namely words that look just
like English words or look very similar, but have different meanings. Here are just a few:

also thus, so (not also)

Fall (m.) case, instance, matter, affair (not fall = autumn)
fast almost, nearly (not fast)
Gift (n) poison
gro tall, high; large, great, immense
hell clear, bright
weil because, since (not while)
wer who (not where)
wo where (not who)

Guide to German Pronunciation


A (long) aaah Brahms

usually followed by
one consonant or
h + consonant

(short) ah Johannes
usually followed by
two consonants

E (long) ay Beethoven

(short) eh Beethoven

I (long) ee Vienna

(short) ih Berlin

O (long) oh Mozart, Johannes

(short) aw on, Bonn

U (long) ooh tulip

(short) as in book Sigmund

(a umlaut = ae)
(long) ay Matthus (= Matthew)

(short) eh Mnner (=men)

(o umlaut = oe)
(long) as in French deux Rmer (=Romans), Goethe

(short) knnen (can, be able)

(u umlaut = ue)
(long) as in French tu Bcher (= books)

(short) Mnchen (= Munich)

fnf (=five)


AU ow Bauhaus

EI like y in why eins, zwei, drei; Einstein

IE like long e Friedrich Nietzsche

U / EU like oy Bume (= trees)

Sigmund Freud

B harder than in English when it ends a ab (= off)

syllable or a word, almost like p

D harder than in English when it ends a Lied (= song)

syllable or a word, almost like t

G lways hard, as in English finger Gen (= gene)

[never ginger]

J ike English y Johannes, ja (= yes)

Q(u) like kv Quelle (= source)

R is rolled in the throat,

sometimes (mostly in southern Germany)
with the tongue

S like English z at start of word or sechs, sieben (six, seven)

syllable Basel

A double s in German is Essen, Dsseldorf

pronounced like English s

V like English f vier (=four)

W like English v Richard Wagner, zwei (= two)

Z like ts in English cats Mozart, zwei, zehn (=ten)

Double consonants

CH like English k at the start of a word Christian

or syllable
guttural (in the throat) acht (=eight), J.S. Bach
after the vowels a, o, u
palatal (in the roof of the mouth) ich, mich (= I, me),
after the vowels i, e, umlauted vowels Paul Tillich
and consonants Kirche (= church)
KN, PF, PS both letters pronounced Knie (= knee), Pfeife (= pipe)
Psalm (= psalm),
Psyschologie (= pyschology)

NG always like English singer der Finger, der Hunger

[never finger]

SP, ST pronounced like schp and scht Stuttgart, Sturm (= storm)

at the start of a word or syllable sprechen (= speak)

SS = Sometimes a double s is written Ruland (= Russia)

as the letter , called es-tset die Strae (= street)

TH pronounced like t Goethe, Martin Luther,

Karl Barth

Glottal stops Unlike English, German does not link final consonants to
a vowel at the start of a new word. Compare:
Is he an Irishman? No, he is an Englishman.
Ist er Ire? Nein, er ist Englnder.

German Pronunciation Practice

1. The numbers from one to ten:

eins, zwei, drei, vier, fnf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, zehn

2. The sounds ie, ei, ich, and ach:

Friedrich Schleiermacher
Add the sound z:
Friedrich Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spake Zarathustra)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Die Zauberflte (The Magic Flute)

3. Umlauts:

The cities of Cologne, Munich, and Zurich: Kln, Mnchen, Zrich

in plurals like man, men = Mann, Mnner; book, books = Buch, Bcher;
brook, brooks = Bach, Bche; cook, cooks = Koch, Kche;
god, gods = Gott, Gtter
The brothers Grimm wrote down Hansel and Gretel =
Die Brder Grimm schrieben Hnsel und Gretel nieder.

4. Some theologians and religious scholars from German-speaking countries:

Martin Buber, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jrgen Moltmann, Paul Tillich, Dorothee Slle

5. Some German titles:

Karl Barth, Der Rmerbrief (The Epistle to the Romans)

Dogmatik im Grundriss (Dogmatics in Outline)
Rudolf Bultmann, Theologie des Neuen Testaments (Theology of the New Testament)
Diana Eck, Banaras: Stadt des Lichts (German translation of Banaras: City of Light)
Karl Rahner, Grundkurs des Glaubens (literal translation: Fundamental Course of the
Faith; title of published English translation: Foundations of the Faith)
Elisabeth Rosegger, Lebensweisheit aus dem Islam (Living Wisdom from Islam)
Gershom Scholem, Von der mystischen Gestalt der Gottheit (On the Mystical Shape of the
Hans Wolfgang Schumann, Der historische Buddha (The Historical Buddha)

German Nouns: Gender
There are three genders of German nouns: masculine = der, feminine = die, and neuter = das. Every
German noun has a gender, not only those which refer to people or animals, but also those which refer to
inanimate objects or abstractions, such as table and chair, or heaven and hell. The gender of a noun is
expressed in the definite article (the), the indefinite article (a or an), and in some instances by
endings added to the basic form of the word. For this reason you should memorize the definite article
together with a word when you learn it, e.g. not Bibel = Bible, but die Bibel - the Bible.

Using a German-English Dictionary: Nouns

The entry for a noun looks like this:

Grund 42.2, 44.1, 44.2, 53.2 M -(e)s, a (no pl) ground; soil b building plot, land c field d
bottom, (sea) bed e foundations, depths f reason, grounds aus diesem Grund(e) for this reason.

Grund, der; -[e]s: 1. ground, earth, soil, etc. in Grund und Boden, completely, entirely,
Grund, m. (-es) 1. ground, earth soil; (Naut.) auf den fahren, run aground;
2. land, (real) estate; 3. sediment, grounds, dregs; 4. bottom, base, foundation, basis; im -e, basically,
fundamentally, at bottom; 5. reason, cause, grounds.

These compact entries tell you:

1. The noun Grund is masculine. (Der is the nominative masculine definite article.)
2. The genitive singular is formed by adding the ending -es (Cassells). The HarperCollins and
Oxford-Duden entries say the -e in the genitive is optional, i.e. the genitive can be written either
des Grundes or des Grunds.
3. In the HarperCollins entry, the symbol tells you that the word occurs in basic or standard
phrases listed in the gray-bordered pages between the English-German and German-English
sections. The numbers that follow this symbol tell you where.

With this basic information from the dictionary listing you can construct all the forms of this noun,
i.e. singular and plural in all cases.

And futher:
4. This noun has several different meanings. It can mean something concrete like soil or the grounds
left over after making coffee, or something abstract, like the reason for doing something or the
foundation of an argument. Train yourself to look through all the meanings when translating, to find the
one which best suits the context.

5. This noun is used in idiomatic expressions, one of which is nautical. Dictionaries often give the most
common combinations, such as the most common verb or verbs that a noun is used with. Be on the lookout
for these entries; skim them to see if you can save having to look up several more words separately.


The use of cases is an organizing principle of the German language. This feature makes
German grammar noticeably different from English grammar, and it must be mastered in order to
understand the structure of German sentences. All languages consist of words and grammar; the
grammar is merely the set of conventions that enables listeners or readers to decipher what message
is being communicated: whether the dog bit the man or the man bit the dog.
English conveys the function of nouns mainly by word order. The sentence The dog bit
the man conveys one message, but if the word order is reversed to The man bit the dog, the
meaning is also reversed. German uses case to signal whether a noun is the subject or object of a
verb. English has lost almost all traces of case; it is preserved only in personal pronouns. We say,
He sees her and She sees him, i.e. one form must be used if the pronoun is the subject of the
verb (he, she) and another if the pronoun is the object of the verb (her, him). German uses this
distinction with all nouns as well as pronouns. The distinction is indicated by the form of the
article (either indefinite or definite) along with endings added to the noun itself in some instances.
Thus der Mann / ein Mann is the subject or nominative form of the masculine noun Mann.
The (direct) object or accusative form is den Mann / einen Mann. Hund (= dog; the English
cognate is hound) is also a masculine noun: der Hund / ein Hund in the nominative case, den
Hund / einen Hund in the accusative case. You can think of ein Mann as indicating a man (he)
and einen Mann as indicating a man (him).
The German sentence meaning The dog bit the man is Der Hund bi den Mann. But
note that you can reverse the word order in the German and the sentence still means the same
thing: Den Mann bi der Hund. The dog bit the man. The definite articles der and den indicate
the function in the sentence, not the word order as in English. To reverse the meaning of the
German sentence, you must reverse the cases: Der Mann bi den Hund; den Hund bi der Mann.
As you can see, German can use much freer word order than English, because word order does not
indicate function to nearly the same degree.

Equivalents of Case in English

Nominative case: Subject of a sentence or a clause

Accusative case: 1) direct object of a verb; 2) sometimes in German, object of a preposition
Dative case: 1) indirect object of a verb; 2) sometimes in German, object of a preposition
Genitive case: 1) possessive 2) sometimes in German, object of a preposition

Against Idleness and Mischief

How doth the little busy Bee

Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower! [From = von + dative case in German]
How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes. [With = mit + dative case in German]
In Works of Labour or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.
In Books, or Work, or healthful Play [In = in + dative case here in German]
Let my first Years be passed,
That I may give for every Day [for = fr + accusative case in German]
Some good Account at last.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

How Doth the Little Crocodile

How doth the little crocodile

Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale! [On = auf + accusative case here in German]

How cheerfully he seems to grin,

How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws! [With = mit + dative case in German

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

The Definite Article
= The
Masculine Feminine Neuter

Nominative der die das

Genitive des der des

Dative dem der dem

Accusative den die das

The Indefinite Article

= A, an

Masculine Feminine Neuter

Nominative ein eine ein

Genitive eines einer eines

Dative einem einer einem

Accusative einen eine ein

Sample Regular German Nouns in the Singular: the Declensions

Masculine: der Tag = the day

nom. der Tag

gen. des Tag(e)s
dat. dem Tag(e)
acc. den Tag

Masculine nouns: Add -s or -es in the genitive. Nouns of one syllable frequently
add -es and longer nouns add -es if it is necessary for pronunciation. Nouns of one
syllable can (but need not) add -e in the dative. The final -e is common in formal
written German and some standard expressions, e.g. das Haus, but zu Hause, at

Feminine: die Nacht = the night

nom. die Nacht

gen. der Nacht
dat. der Nacht
acc. die Nacht
Feminine nouns: do not add -s in the genitive, nor do they add an -e in the dative.
Note that the nominative and accusative forms are identical to one another, and so are
the genitive and dative forms. The case of a feminine noun in the singular must
therefore be determined from the context.

Neuter: das Kind = the child

nom. das Kind

gen. des Kind(e)s
dat. dem Kind(e)
acc. das Kind

Neuter nouns: Add -s or -es in the genitive. Neuter nouns can add -es if it is easier
or necessary for pronunciation. Nouns of one syllable can (but need not) add -e in
the dative. The nominative and accusative forms are identical.

The indefinite article: a day, a night, a child

nom. ein Tag a day (masculine)

gen. eines Tag(e)s
dat. einem Tag(e)
acc. einen Tag

nom. eine Nacht a night (feminine)

gen. einer Nacht
dat. einer Nacht
acc. eine Nacht

nom. ein Kind a child (neuter)

gen. eines Kind(e)s
dat. einem Kind(e)
acc. ein Kind

The Plural

Masculine Feminine Neuter

days nights children

Nom. die Tagedie die Nchte die Kinder

Gen. der Tage der Nchte der Kinder
Dat. den Tagen den Nchten den Kindern
Acc. die Tage die Nchte die Kinder
German nouns form their plurals in a variety of ways. These are limited but somewhat
unpredictable, so that the plural must be learned along with the singular form of every noun, or
looked up. Here Tag adds an -e; Nacht adds an umlaut to the stem vowel and a final -e, and Kind
adds the ending -er. Note that one letter can sometimes make the difference between singular and
plural, e.g. der Tag, die Tage the -e is the only difference between nominative singular and
nominative plural.

All nouns that do not already end in -n add one in the dative plural.

The articles are the same for all three genders in the plural.

Some nouns add only an umlaut, so that these two small dots become the only indicator
(along with a possible article) of whether a noun is singular or plural:

Singular Plural Singular Plural

Father Fathers Mother Mothers

Nom. der Vater die Vter die Mutter die Mtter

Gen. des Vaters der Vter der Mutter der Mtter

Dat. dem Vater den Vtern der Mutter den Mttern

Acc. den Vater die Vter die Mutter die Mtter

This internal vowel shift to indicate the plural has been retained in a few cognates in English, e.g.
der Mann, die Mnner = man, men; der Fu, die Fe = foot, feet; die Maus, die Muse = mouse,

Noun Declensions in German

Now that you have learned the plural of nouns, you can use the dictionary entry on a noun to
construct all the forms it can take. The grammatical name for a complete list of forms is declension.
A German-English dictionary will list the nominative singular of a noun, then
an indication of how it forms its genitive singular if it is masculine or neuter (no change to the
word itself in the feminine) and then either the full plural or an abbreviated version:

Grund M -(e)s, - e

Grund, der; -[e]s, Grnde

Grund, m. (-es, pl. - e)

These entries tell you that the plural of the noun adds an umlaut 1 to the vowel of the stem and a final
-e. From them you can construct the full declension, singular and plural

Der Grund ground, reason, bottom

Singular Plural

nominative der Grund die Grnde

genitive des Grund(e)s der Grnde

dative dem Grund(e) den Grnden

accusative den Grund die Grnde

There is no actual overlap of forms for this masculine noun, because while the nominative
singular and genitive plural have the same article, der, der Grund is clearly singular, and thus
nominative, and der Grnde is clearly plural, and thus genitive. Similarly, den Grund is singular,
and thus accusative, while den Grnden is plural, and thus dative.
There are some overlaps in feminine and neuter nouns that must be solved in context.

The German word Umlaut means sound change. Umlauts are used with the vowels a, o,
and u. The vowels e and i cannot take umlauts.
Compound Nouns

One notorious feature of German is its ability to form long compound nouns. The greater
length of words on a page of German makes it look quite different from English, and occasionally
daunting. Often, however, the only real difference between the two languages is that English writes
as two or more words what German writes as one. With practice it will become simpler to sort out
the elements.

1: A very frequent form of compound noun combines two nouns into one:
The nouns die Zeit = time and das Alter = age can combine in das Zeitalter = epoch, era.
There are many compounds with Zeit as the first element, including
Zeit + die Schrift = writing die Zeitschrift = periodical, journal, magazine
Zeit + die Tafel = chart, table die Zeittafel = time chart, chronological table
The nouns die Bildung = education and der Roman = novel can combine in
der Bildungsroman = novel of education
Some German noun compounds used in English include:
das Kind, die Kinder = child, children and der Garten = garden der Kindergarten
die Welt = world and die Anschauung = view, opinion, way of looking
die Weltanschauung = way of looking at the world, world view, philosophy

2: Another form of compound noun combines an adjective with a noun:

hinter = back + der Grund = ground der Hintergrund = background
vorder = front + der Grund der Vordergrund = foreground
voll = full + die Endung = ending die Vollendung = completion, culmination
leer = empty + die Taste = key die Leertaste = literally, empty key
= space bar (on a keyboard)

3: A very common form of compound noun combines a preposition with a noun:

mit = with + der Mensch = human being, person der Mitmensch = fellow man, fellow
human being
ab = down, away + der Gott = god der Abgott = idol
auf = up + der Bau = building, structure der Aufbau = construction

4. A less common form combines a verb element with a noun:

leiten = to lead + das Motiv = motif, theme das Leitmotiv = main or leading motif
folgen = to follow + die Erscheinung = appearance, occurrence die Folgeerscheinung
= consequence, result
5. Triple noun compounds:
Forms of this kind are less frequent but do occur. For instance,
die Zeitschrift can be combined with das Fach = subject, special field, speciality, to make
die Fachzeitschrift = scholarly periodical, scientific or trade journal
der Hintergrund can be combined with die Information to make
die Hintergrundinformation = background information

Principles of compound noun formation

1. A German compound noun always has the gender of the last element.
The final element determines both the gender and what the word actually denotes; the preceding
elements are limiting and descriptive. For example, das Bier means beer and das Fa means
keg or barrel. Ein Bierfa is thus a particular kind of keg, namely a beer keg (and not, say,
a powder keg). Ein Fabier, on the other hand, is a particular kind of beer, namely a keg beer, or
in the English idiom a draft beer (and not a bottled beer).

2. The letter s is often used as a linking element.

In the case of Bildungsroman, there is a linking -s- even though Bildung is a feminine noun that
does not add an -s to form the genitive when used on its own. The same is true of die
Arbeitshypothese, a working hypothesis.

3. A variety of possibilities exist for translating compound nouns into English.

Sometimes a compound noun can be translated literally and simply broken up into two words,
as in Bierfa beer keg, or into two words linked by a preposition, as in Bildungsroman
novel of education. The first element can often be rendered as an adjective, as in Kirchenmusik,
sacred music, or Kirchenjahr, ecclesiastical year. And sometimes the German compound has
its own particular equivalent in English, as in das Jahrhundert, which is literally year-hundred
and means century.

Compound nouns in dictionaries

1. The most common compound nouns will be listed in the dictionary, but less common
ones will not. This means that from the very beginning you will have to learn to break down long
compound formations into their component parts and look them up separately. This process will
get easier as you become familiar with basic vocabulary including prepositions and can recognize
the elements of which a long word is composed.

2. An element that begins many compound nouns will be listed in bold in Cassells with a
| after it, in the Duden with -: . Then the various second elements of the common compounds will
be listed after a hyphen. For instance, Glaubens | or Glaubens -: may be followed by
-bekenntnis, creed; -freiheit, freedom of religion; -lehre, doctrine. These entries indicate that
Glaubensbekenntnis means (religious) creed; Glaubensfreiheit means freedom of religion;
and Glaubenslehre means (religious) doctrine.

3. German-English dictionaries list words strictly alphabetically, letter by letter.

This means that if you are looking for the meaning of the word Grabstein, you will start by finding
Grab, which means grave (a cognate) or tomb. Then you must go past all the words beginning
with Graben (= trench), and past grabschen until you find Grab|
-spruch, . . . -sttte, . . . -stein, gravestone, tombstone. In both Cassells and the Duden the
listing for Grabstein is on the next page after the first entry for Grab.

An important convention in the use of compound nouns

When one element of compound nouns is shared by a pair or group, it is

customary to use a hyphen rather than to write it in full twice. You must notice
that the hyphen is there to be able to translate correctly.

For example, the phrase

Personen- und Ortsnamen is an abbreviated form of

Personennamen und Ortsnamen.

It uses the nouns die Person = person, individual; der Name = name; der Ort = place

The English translation is names of people and places.

If the first element of the compounds is the shared one, then the hyphen will appear before the
second noun, which will not be capitalized:

Bibellektre und -auslegung

Here the terms are die Bibel, die Lektre = reading, and die Auslegung = interpretation, exegesis,
and the English translation is

Bible reading and exegesis or reading and exegesis of the Bible.

A Special Case: Weak Nouns

German nouns are called weak when all the singular forms except for the nominative add an -n
or -en and all the plural forms add -en. (I.e., there is no strong genitive -s in masculine and neuter
nouns to indicate the case.) Nouns are called mixed when they have weak endings but add a
final -s in the genitive singular as well.

Some of the most important irregular or weak nouns

der Herr = lord, master; gentleman; Mr.

der Herr die Herren

des Herrn der Herren
dem Herrn den Herren
den Herrn die Herren

der Mensch = human being, person

der Mensch die Menschen

des Menschen der Menschen
dem Menschen den Menschen
den Menschen die Menschen

der Bauer = peasant

der Bauer die Bauern

des Bauern der Bauern
dem Bauern den Bauern
den Bauern die Bauern

Similar: der Student, der Prophet, der Experte, der Theologe

Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras, For all flesh, it is like grass,
und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschen and all magnificence of the human being
wie des Grases Blumen . . . like the flowers of the grass . . .
Aber des Herrn Wort bleibt in Ewigkeit. But the word of the Lord endures forever.
(NT: 1 Peter 1, 24)
text used by Johannes Brahms in his Requiem

Ein Ochse kennt seinen Herrn An ox knows its master

und ein Esel die Krippe seines Herrn. and a donkey the manger of its master.
(Isaiah 1, 3)

Another Special Case: Mixed Nouns

These nouns have some of the features of regular nouns, such as an -s in the genitive singular, but
otherwise the features of weak nouns.

der Friede(n) = peace

der Friede(n) (not normally used in the plural; a substitute would be

des Friedens Friedenszeiten = times of peace)
dem Frieden
den Frieden

der Glaube = faith, belief

der Glaube (not normally used in the plural;

des Glaubens substitutes would be die Religionen = religions;
dem Glauben die Konfessionen - denominations; or
den Glauben die Glaubensstze = articles of belief)

das Herz = heart

das Herz die Herzen

des Herzens der Herzen
dem Herzen den Herzen
das Herz die Herzen

der Name = name

der Name die Namen

des Namens der Namen
dem Namen den Namen
den Namen die Namen

Im Namen Allahs, des Allbarmherzigen! Lob und Preis* sei Allah, dem Herrn aller
Weltenbewohner! Der Koran, 1. Sure
In the name of Allah, the all-merciful! All praise be to Allah, the Lord of all inhabitants of the
*The words das Lob and der Preis are synonyms; they both mean praise (a cognate).

Wer wird auf des Herrn Berg gehen, und wer wird stehen an seiner heiligen Sttte?
Wer unschuldige Hnde hat und reinen Herzens ist. Psalm 24, 3-4
Who will go up the mountain of the Lord, and who will stand in his holy place?
(He) who has innocent hands and is of (a) pure heart.


Prepositions are words used in both English and German to place two things, usually nouns,
in some kind of relationship to one another. Frequently the relationship involves physical space, e.g.
The car is in the garage. The children are playing behind the house. The book is lying on the table.
Another frequent relationship involves time: That song was popular during the First World War.
Ill meet you at three oclock. We should review before the test. In other instances the relationship
is abstract rather than directly physical: The king believed he was above the law. I feel lost without
a map. Sometimes there is an idiomatic connection, when a verb is used with a particular
preposition: They both believe in the same God.
The objects of prepositions are nouns and pronouns. In German, prepositions are said to
govern a particular case. One group governs the genitive (see the list in the Grammar Handbook,
pp. 162, #1 and 164, #1); a second the dative (GH, p. 162, #2 and pp. 165-166); and a third the
accusative (GH, pp. 163, #3 and 167). The fourth and most complicated group governs both the
dative and the accusative cases; the choice depends on the context (GH, p. 163, # 4 and pp. 168-

There is a summary of prepositions and their cases on pp. 175-176 of the GH.

There are many prepositions in German; it is a good idea to memorize the most common
ones, in lists according to the case or cases they govern.

Genitive: anstatt, trotz, whrend, wegen

instead of, in spite of, during, because of
Dative: aus, auer, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu
out of, except, at, with, after, since, from, to
Accusative: durch, fr, gegen, ohne, um
through, for, against, without, around
Dative and Accusative: an, auf, in, vor, hinter, ber, unter, neben, zwischen
at, on, in, in front of, behind, over, under, next to, between

In this last group, the distinction between dative and accusative is very often based on
whether a situation is staticno motion is occurringor motion is occurring toward a particular
object. The rule is dative without motion, accusative with motion. We will practice this usage
when we get to sentences with verbs in them.
In addition, certain verbs not connected with motion simply require a particular preposition
followed by a particular case. These are idioms, and they are listed in dictionaries.

The idiomatic combination of a verb and preposition will often differ from the normal
English usage, e.g. to believe in = glauben an + accusative.

Certain prepositions frequently form contractions with the definite article. Study the list
on p. 9 of the Grammar Handbook.

Personal Pronouns in the Nominative Case

Like nouns, pronouns occur in four cases. But unlike nouns, personal pronouns occur in
three persons, singular and plural. You will need to become familiar with the nominative forms
of all three persons because they appear in verb tables as follows:

Singular Plural

First ich = I wir = we

Second du = you (thou) ihr = you (ye)

Sie = you (formal) Sie = you (formal)

Third er = he
sie = she sie = they
es = it

In poetic and Biblical German, du is used as the singular and ihr as the plural of the second
person. In modern spoken German there are three forms of you. Du is the intimate singular used
for family, close friends, and all children. Ihr is the intimate plural used when speaking to several
relatives, close friends, or groups of children. Sie (always written with a capital letter) is the polite
form of you used to adult strangers and people one does not know well in both the singular and
plural. Modern English has collapsed the older second person singular (thou) and plural (ye) into
one you. In the early seventeenth century, when the King James translation of the Bible was made,
the translators still observed the distinction between thou and ye.
The form of every verb for the polite you is always identical in form to the third person
plural they, and so it is not written separately in verb tables. The only difference between polite
you singular, polite you (plural), and they is the capitalization of the pronoun: Sie for you,
and sie for they. This distinction is very clear in writing, but since it cannot be heard, it can be a
source of confusion in spoken German. In order to avoid misunderstandings, Germans will often
use the pronoun die (like the plural definite article in the nominative) if they are speaking to a
stranger or a person they do not know well:

Not: Sie sind furchtbar betrunken. Ambiguous: They/you are terribly drunk.
But: Die sind furchtbar betrunken. Not ambiguous: They are terribly drunk.

The distinction between sie, she, and sie, they, is clear when followed by a verb, for sie/she
gets a singular verb, and sie/they gets a plural verb:

sie spricht deutsch = she speaks German

sie sprechen deutsch = they speak German

A complete chart of the personal pronouns can be found on p. 37 of the Grammar Handbook.

Regular verbs in the present tense

Verbsparts of speech that express an action, condition, or state of beingare listed in

dictionaries in the form considered most basic, the present infinitive: to go in English, gehen in
German. A German infinitive consists (in most instances) of a stem, such as geh-, plus the infinitive
ending -en. An infinitive is so called because it is not restricted to any particular time, in contrast
to finite verbs (e.g. she goes, they went, he will go), which refer to a specific time in the present, past,
or future. Whereas nouns are declined (forming a declension), verbs are conjugated. To conjugate
a verb means to run through all the forms it can take. We will start with conjugation of the present
tense of regular verbs. Look at the sample conjugations of the English verbs to be and to have
in the Grammar Handbook, pp. 92-93.
Regular German verbs are conjugated in the present tense by adding a set of endings to the
stem (which you get by taking away the -en ending from the infinitive). The endings are shown in
the GH, p. 84, #1 (left column). For the time being, we will be dealing with the indicative mood and
the active voice only. The present tense of the verb lernen, to learn, looks like this:

Stem: lern- Infinitive: lernen to learn

ich lern- + e = ich lerne = I learn wir lern- + en = wir lernen = we learn

du lern- + st = du lernst = you learn (sing.) ihr lern- + t = ihr lernt = you learn (pl.)

er/sie/es lern- + t = er/sie/es lernt sie lern- + en = sie lernen = they learn
he/she/it learns
(Sie lern- + en = Sie lernen = you learn)

Stem: hr- Infinitive: hren to hear

ich hre I hear wir hren we hear

du hrst thou hearest, you hear ihr hrt you hear

er/sie hrt he/she hears sie hren hey hear

Rede, Herr, denn dein Knecht hrt. 1. Samuel 3, 9

Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. 1 Samuel 3, 9 (King James version)

Ihr habt Ohren und hrt nicht? Markus 8, 18

You have ears, and do not hear? Mark 8, 18

More on Verbs in the Present Tense: Stems ending in -d and -t

Verbs whose stems end in -d and -t are a special case, because of the present tense endings in the
second person and the third person singular. Take the verb beten, to pray, as an example: The
stem is bet-, and if you add the third-person singular ending, you get bet-t, which is not
pronounceable. Such verbs require an additional -e- in order to make the endings clearly audible.

ich bete - I pray wir beten - we pray

du betest - you pray ihr betet - you pray
er/sie betet - he/she prays sie beten - they pray

Analogously, the conjugation of reden, to speak, to say, goes

ich rede - I speak wir reden - we speak

du redest - you speak ihr redet - you speak
er/sie redet - he/she speaks sie reden - they speak

The Grammar Handbook has a sample conjugation of a verb with such a

stem on p. 115; it uses the verb warten, to wait.

Ich aber bete zu dir, Herr. Psalm 69

But I pray to you, Lord.

Er weidet mich auf einer grnen Aue und fhrt mich zum frischen Wasser. Psalm 23
He pastures me in a green meadow and leads me to fresh water.

Der Meister redet nicht, er handelt. Tao Te King 17

The master does not speak, he acts.

Denn Allah leitet nicht ein unglubiges Volk. Der Koran, 9. Sure, Vers 37
For Allah does not lead an unbelieving people.

Using a German-English Dictionary: Verbs
The entry for a verb looks like this:

fhren VT a] to take, to lead; b] to lead, to head . . . f] to carry . . . g] to drive.
VI a] to be in the lead; b] to run.
VR to conduct oneself, to deport oneself.

This entry means: fhren is a transitive verb (abbreviated VT for verb, transitive). That
means it takes a direct object in the accusative case. It can also be an intransitive verb (abbreviated
VI), meaning that it appears without a direct object. Thirdly, it can be a reflexive verb (VR) = it is
used in combination with a reflexive pronoun. It is a regular or weak verb (because no entry
indicates it is irregular). It uses the normal auxiliary verb haben to form the past tenses (as in they
have led), because no entry indicates that it uses the other possibility, sein.

fahren The verb is set off in a gray box, indicating that it is basic and important. The past
indicative and past participle the two other principal parts are given right below the infinitive.
At the very top of the information under intransitives Verb appears the notation (aux sein),
meaning that sein is the auxiliary verb in compound tenses. The three possible usages as an
intransitive verb, a transitive verb, and a reflexive verb appear in three clearly marked sections. The
stem-vowel change in the present indicative singular is not specifically noted, but it appears in the

helfen This verb is not emphasized in a box. The past indicative and past participle are
listed immediately. It is VI, that is, an intransitive verb.
There follows the entry: to help (jdm sb). Jdm stands for jemandem, someone or somebody in
the dative case; the abbreviation sb stands for somebody. This entry tells you that helfen takes an
object in the dative case. (The abbreviation jdn = jemanden, in the accusative case.)

fhren, 1. tr.v. ( = transitives Verb) conduct, lead, guide.
fahren, 1. unr. itr. V. ( = unregelmssiges intransitives Verb = irregular intransitive verb): mit sein
( = with sein as its auxiliary verb) go, travel, ride. 2. tr.v. drive.
helfen, unr. itr. V. jmdm. , help or assist sb. jmdm bei etw. , help or assist sb. with sth.
The Dudens abbreviation for jemandem is jmdm.

fhren, 1. v.t. conduct, lead, guide. 2. v.r. conduct, comport oneself, behave. 3. v.i. lead, be ahead,
hold the lead.
fahren, 1. irr. v.i. (aux. s.) go, travel, ride. 2. v.t. drive.
helfen, irr. v.i. (Dat.) help, aid, assist. Ich kann mir nicht , I cant help it. Er wei sich zu , he
can take care of himself. So wahr mir Gott helfe, So help me God.

Cassells is a little easier to work with at first, since it uses English abbreviations, but all three
entries say the same thing:

The HarperCollins and the Duden go on to give the most common preposition used with this
verb: To help somebody with something = jemandem bei etwas helfen. (The abbreviation etw.
stands for etwas = something.) This is an extremely useful feature. Look for it when you are
looking up verbs. Note that dictionaries also often give the most common idioms used with this
verb. It is worth looking at a few of the other words in the sentence you are working on and
skimming the list of idioms to see if those words appear. Doing this can sometimes save you
considerable time and effort.

Verbs with a Vowel Change in the Present Tense

A fairly large group of German verbs can be difficult to look up if you encounter them in the
second or third person singular of the present tense. This is because they change their stem vowel
in these forms. If you encounter the form er sieht, for example, you will not find any verb [siehen].
This is an instance of stem vowel shift; the infinitive is sehen, to see, and er sieht means he sees.
sehen, to see: ich sehe - I see wir sehen - we see
du siehst - you see ihr seht - you see
er/sie sieht - he/she sees sie sehen - they see

If you look up the forms siehst and sieht, most German-English dictionaries will refer you to the
verb sehen. Dictionaries also usually contain, somewhere, a list of strong or irregular verbs with
these changes. The Grammar Handbook contains an overview of the types of stem vowel change in
the present tense on pp. 148-149, and a highly useful list of strong verbs on pp. 141-147. It may be
worth pasting a tab in the handbook at this place, since it is far quicker to look up a verb in this
short list than in a large dictionary.
There are five types of stem-vowel shift. Among the most basic verbs are

1: a fahren - to go, travel, ride er / sie fhrt - he / she goes, travels, rides
halten - to hold; stop er / sie hlt - he / she holds
lassen - to let, allow; cause er / sie lt - he / she lets
schlafen - to sleep er /sie schlft - he / she sleeps
tragen - to carry er / sie trgt - he / she carries

2. au u laufen - to run er / sie luft - he / she runs

3. o stoen - to push er / sie stt - he / she pushes

4. e ie befehlen - to command er / sie befiehlt - he / she/ commands

lesen - to read er / sie liest - he / she reads
sehen - to see er / sie sieht - he / she sees

5. e I essen - to eat [for people] er / sie it - he / she eats

fressen - to eat [for animals] er / sie frit - he / she eats
geben - to giveer / sie gibt - he / she gives
nehmen - to take er / sie nimmt - he / she takes
sprechen - to speak er / sie spricht - he / she takes
sterben - to die er / sie stirbt - he / she dies

Note: If a basic verb contains a stem vowel shift, then all its variations with different prefixes do
too. For example: er spricht, he speaks; er verspricht, he promises (versprechen); sie bespricht, she
discusses (besprechen); es entspricht, it corresponds (entsprechen).

Three Sample Verbs with Stem-Vowel Changes

Fahren to go, to travel, to ride Example of a

ich fahre wir fahren

du fhrst ihr fahrt
er/sie fhrt sie fahren

halten 1) to hold; 2) to stop, halt Example of a

ich halte wir halten

du hltst ihr haltet
er/sie hlt sie halten

sprechen to speak Example of e i

ich spreche wir sprechen

du sprichst ihr sprecht
er/sie spricht sie sprechen

lesen to read Example of e ie

ich lese wir lesen

du liest ihr lest
er/sie liest sie lesen

. . . du fhrst auf den Wolken wie auf einem Wagen und gehst auf den Fittichen des Windes,
Psalm 104, 3.
Thou ridest on the clouds like on a chariot and walkest on the wings of the wind.

Ein guter Wissenschaftler . . . hlt seinen Geist offen fr das, was ist.
Tao Te King 27
A good scholar . . . holds his mind open for that which is.

More on Verbs: Differences from English

You should note that German verbs are based on a far simpler system than English verbs.
(Since German nouns, with cases and genders, are so much more complicated than English nouns,
this seems only fair.)
If you are a native speaker of English, you have probably not thought consciously about the
English verb system, you just use it correctly instinctively. English has three forms for every verb
in the present tense: the simple, the emphatic, and the progressive or continuous.
The simple form in the present tense consists of one word: he goes, she reads, they say.
The emphatic form uses do as an auxiliary: he does go, she does read, they do say.
As the name suggest, this form is used for emphasis, but it is also normally used in questions and
negative statements: Does he go? Does she read? They dont say.
(And not: Goes he? Reads she? They say not.)
The progressive form is used for an action in progress at a certain time: he is going, she is reading,
they are saying.

German verbs have only the simple form. Thus in the present tense German verbs consist
of only one word. Emphasis and the notion that an action is ongoing must thus be expressed in
different ways (usually by an adverb).

In other tenses German does use auxiliary verbs in a parallel way to English, for example
in the perfect tense: he has gone, she had read, they would say. In all these tenses German has no
progressive form, however, no equivalent to: he has been going, she had been reading, they would
be saying.
English uses three verbs as auxiliaries: 1) to have (for perfect or compound past tenses)
2) to be (for the passive voice as well as the progressive forms) 3) shall/will (for the future tense).
German also uses three verbs as auxiliaries 1) haben (which means to have as an
independent verb; 2) sein (means to be on its own); and 3) werden (to become when used

It is very important to memorize the forms of these three verbs haben, sein, and werden.

Personal Pronouns

There is a chart of all the personal pronouns on page 37 of the Grammar Handbook. You
have already encountered the nominative forms. It is essential to know the third person pronouns in
the in the dative and accusative cases, singular and plural. The genitive case is archaic and poetic,
and not in common use. To express that is a picture of them, modern German substitutes von +
the dative case for the genitive: Das ist ein Bild von ihnen.
Just like the definite article, personal pronouns have three forms in the singular
masculine, feminine, and neuterbut only one form for all three genders in the plural:
Singular Plural
Nom. er sie es sie
Dat. ihm ihr ihm ihnen
Acc. ihn sie es sie

As you can see, there is some overlap. Sie can be either feminine singular or plural, and
nominative or accusative. The case and number must be figured out in context. If sie is
nominative and the subject of a verb, of course, the form of the verb will indicate whether the
pronoun is singular or plural.
Native speakers of English are tempted to read sie and er as she and he all the time. But
these pronouns can refer equally to any noun that is grammatically masculine or feminine, and in
such cases must be translated as it:

der Geist er the spirit, it

die Welt sie the world, it
das Buch es the book, it

Simple Da-Compounds

The most noticeable difference between German and English use of pronouns is the
following feature: As a rule, the pronoun es (it) cannot be the object of a preposition, and normally
the pronouns er and sie are avoided if they refer to inanimate objects. Instead of the forms [mit ihm]
and [mit ihr], German uses the prefix da- plus the preposition: damit = with it. This is called a
da-compound. All prepositions can form them; if the preposition begins with a vowel, an -r- is
added: darin, darber. There is a list of such compounds in the Grammar Handbook, p. 154, #3.

I work with Bob. I like working with him. - Ich arbeite mit Bob. Ich arbeite gern mit ihm.

The word gern or gerne is an adverb meaning gladly. The last sentence translates literally
as I work gladly with him, or more idiomatically in English, I like working with him.

I work with Mary. I like working with her. - Ich arbeite mit Mary. Ich arbeite gern mit ihr.

I work with this book. - Ich arbeite mit diesem Buch.

I like working with it. - Ich arbeite gern damit.

Bob is writing a paper about the history of Buddhism. He is working on it now.

Bob schreibt ein Referat ber die Geschichte des Buddhismus. Er arbeitet jetzt daran.

Was halten sie von dem neuen Plan?

What do they think of the new plan?
(The German idiom says literally, What do they hold from it?)

Was halten sie davon?

What do they think of it? [or of it]

Mary ist dafr. Bob ist dagegen.

Mary is for it. Bob is against it.

Haben und Sein
As in most European languages, the most common verbs, to have and to be are extremely
irregular. Their forms must be memorized. The conjugations of haben = to have,and sein = to
be, are on pp. 96 and 94 of the Grammar Handbook.

ich habe - I have wir haben = we have

du hast - (thou hast) you have ihr habt = (ye have) you have
er/sie hat - he/she has sie haben = they have

ich bin = I am wir sind = we are

du bist = (thou art) you are ihr seid = (ye are) you are
er/sie/es ist = he/she/it is sie sind = they are
You can see that the English forms be and been are derived from the first-person singular of the
German present tense, rather than from the infinitive, a fairly uncommon development.

Haben oder Sein?

Erich Fromm was born in Germany. He began his studies at a yeshiva in Frankfurt, then
switched to law at Frankfurt University, and finally left law school to study sociology and
psychoanalysis. He emigrated to the United States in the 1930s, where he became noted as a
psychoanalyst and social philosopher. One of his books that became a classic was published in
English in 1976 as To Have or to Be?; its title in German was Haben oder Sein? The book explores
some of the values common to the major world religions.

Negation in German

Most forms of negation in German have English parallels and are easily translatable.

nicht = not
nie and niemals = never Opposite: immer = always; oft = often
niemand = no one Opposite: jemand = someone
nichts = nothing Opposite: alles = all, everything; etwas = something

Note that there is only one letter difference between not and nothing.

A few other negative forms are harder to identify, such as

nirgendwo, nirgends = nowhere Opposite: irgendwo = somewhere

The prefix un- in German has the same meaning as in English:

der Mensch = person, human being der Unmensch = brute, monster
menschlich = human unmenschlich = inhuman, monstrous
das Heil = well-being; salvation das Unheil = disaster, catastrophe

The prefix in- is not used in a negating sense with German roots, only in words of foreign origin,
e.g. inflexibel, inkompatibel, inkorrekt.

However, German has one form of negation without any parallel in English, namely
a negative article.
Kein, keine, kein is declined like the indefinite article ein and means
not a, not any, or no.

You must learn to be on the alert for it, since the addition of the one letter reverses the meaning of
the phrase or sentence.

ein Tag = a day kein Tag = no day, not any day

eine Lehre = a doctrine keine Lehre = no doctrine, not any doctrine
ein Buch = a book kein Buch = not a book, no book

German also has a special conjunction, sondern, that is used in positive/negative statements. It is
distinct from the conjunction aber and used differently, even though both are usually translated into
English as but. Sondern means but rather, but instead, while aber has the sense of

Ich habe Geburtstag nicht im Sommer, sondern im Winter.

My birthday is not in summer, but in winter [instead].

Ich habe Geburtstag im Winter, aber ich feiere ihn lieber im Sommer.

My birthday is in the winter, but/however, I prefer to celebrate it in the summer.

Making Nouns from Other Parts of Speech
German is remarkably flexible in its handling of nouns. In addition to ordinary nouns, you
will encounter the possibility in German of turning another part of speech into a noun by
capitalizing it and adding an article.

1. Turning verbs into nouns: Verbal nouns

The English language has a verbal noun called a gerund, which is used when an activity
must be referred to grammatically in the form of a noun. As Cecile Zorach notes, The verbal noun
ends in -ing and can function in a sentence in almost any way that a noun can. It can be a subject,
direct object, indirect object and an object of a preposition. Examples:
Swimming can be fun. [Gerund swimming, from the verb to swim, as subject of a sentence.]
I enjoy singing. [Gerund singing as direct object]
This summer you are learning about reading German. [Gerund reading as object of the
preposition about]

One major difference between German and English is that

German does not have a gerund.
German forms its verbal noun by taking the infinitive form of a verb,
capitalizing it, and adding the neuter article das:
das Schwimmen = swimming, das Singen = singing, das Lesen = reading.

2. Turning adjectives into nouns: General abstract categories, groups of people

English can take adjectives and turn them into general abstract categories: The beautiful
[That which is beautiful, as an abstract idea], the good, etc. German can do the same, using the
neuter definite article and putting endings on the basic form of the adjective. The resulting noun can
be declined through all cases: The good =
Nom. das Gute, Gen. des Guten, Dat. dem Guten, Acc. das Gute
English can also take use adjectives in the plural to describe groups: The young, the
old, the rich, the poor. German can do the same using plural forms:
Nom. die Armen (= the poor), Gen. der Armen, Dat. den Armen, Acc. die Armen

In a text from the Tao Te King, two such forms occur in a version of the sentence

Das Unnennbare ist das Wirkliche.

The adjective un | nenn | bar = un | name | able (from the verb nennen, to name) and the
noun translates as the unname-able, that which cannot be named. The adjective wirklich means

The unname-able is the real. What cannot be named is what is real.

This form is clearly the most abstract possible way to convey the meaning of an adjective in noun
form, and it is frequently used in German when an author wants to avoid specifying a more concrete
noun. In his theory of psychoanalysis, for instance, Sigmund Freud created the term das
Unbewusste, which is translated into English as the unconscious. Freud carefully avoided calling
it the unconscious area or the unconscious mechanism of the brain and used the vaguest
possible term instead, namely that (whatever it may be) which is not conscious.

Occasionally you will find adjective used without a definite article. They are recognizable in such
cases from the capital letter and added ending:
Gutes und Barmherzigkeit werden mir folgen mein Leben lang (Psalm 23)
[That which is good =] Goodness and mercy shall follow me my (whole) life long.

3. Other parts of speech as nouns

Odd as it may seem, German can even turn pronouns into nouns in the same manner.
Sigmund Freud coined the terms das Ich = the I, das berich = the over-I, and das Es = the
it. His first translators thought they sounded so strange rendered literally into English that they
resorted to Latin translations instead: the ego, the superego, and the id.

Ein-Words: The Possessive Adjectives + kein

There is a special class of adjectives which are declined like the indefinite article ein and the
negative article kein, and are thus known as ein-words. They are listed on p.12 of the Grammar
Handbook and consist of all the forms of possessive adjectives corresponding to the personal
pronouns. (Reminder: the declension table is on p. 11.)
Mein and dein look like my and thy; unser is our and euer is the cognate of English
your. For the purposes of reading German, however, by far the most important ein-words are the
forms corresponding to the third-person pronouns, singular and plural.

The adjective for er, he, is sein = his, or its referring to an inanimate object.
The adjective for sie, she, is ihr = her, or its.
The adjective for es, it, is sein = its.
The adjective for sie, they, is ihr = their.

Examples: Der Stift kostet vier Euro. Sein Preis ist vier Euro. Seine Farbe ist grn.
The pen costs four Euros. Its price is four Euros. Its color is green.
Die Zeitschrift kostet vier Euro. Ihr Preis ist vier Euro. Ihre Farbe ist blau.
The magazine costs four Euros. Its price is four Euros. Its color is blue.
Das Heft kostet vier Euro. Sein Preis ist vier Euro. Seine Farbe ist rot.
The notebook costs four Euros. Its price is four Euros. Its color is red.

The choice of which masculine, feminine, or neuter possessive adjective is used depends on
the gender of the noun the adjective refers back to (its antecedent). The choice of a masculine,
feminine, or neuter ending depends on the gender of the noun the adjective modifies.

Der Mann heit Herman. Sein Name ist Herman. Seine Tochter heit Inge.
The man is called Herman. His name is Herman. His daughter is called Inge.

Die Frau heit Greta. Ihr Name ist Greta. Ihre Tochter heit Inge.
The woman is called Greta. Her name is Greta. Her daughter is called Inge.

Die Schmidts heien Herman und Greta. Ihre Tochter heit Inge.
The Schmidts are called Herman and Greta. Their daughter is called Inge.

Die Schmidts kommen mit ihrer Tochter und ihrem Sohn.

The Schmidts are coming with their daughter and their son.

In English, one may omit a second their. In German this cannot be done if the genders change,
because different endings are required on the possessive adjective:

I always travel with my dog and cat. But:

Ich reise immer mit meinem Hund und meiner Katze.

Special-Category Verbs: The Modals

German has a special category of irregular verbs known as modal verbs, because they are
frequently used in combination with other verbs to express a mode of action, such as possibility,
willingness, desire, permission, etc. Most of them have English cognates and will therefore look
familiar, although some of their meanings have shifted from German to English. It is also difficult
to give one translation for each verb that applies to all instances where they occur, because they are
used in many idiomatic phrases and combinations. However, the Grammar Handbook gives useful
examples and sample sentences on pp. 103-113.
There are six German modal verbs, all of them highly irregular:

drfen = to be allowed to, may, have permission

knnen = can, be able
mgen = like to, would like
mssen = must, have to
sollen = be supposed to, shall, ought to
wollen = want to, will

Of these verbs, drfen is the only one without a clear English cognate. Knnen is cognate
with English can; mgen is cognate with English may, although drfen is closer to may in
meaning. Mssen and must correspond fairly closely. Sollen is cognate with English shall, and
wollen is cognate with will. However, sollen and wollen are not used to form the future tense in
German. The Ten Commandments are expressed in German with sollen, e.g. Du sollst nicht stehlen.
= Thou shalt not steal. The force of sollen is You are not supposed to steal, It is not right to
steal. Wollen is related to der Wille = will.

Modal verbs can sometimes take direct objects, e.g.

Herman mag Pizza. Er will Pizza. Greta mag keine Pizza. Sie will Spaghetti.
Herman likes pizza. He wants pizza. Greta doesnt like pizza. She wants spaghetti.

However, modals are often used in combination with dependent infinitives, e.g.
Herman will essen. Er kann viel Pizza essen, aber er soll nicht zuviel essen. Er mu seine
Dit halten.
Herman wants to eat. He can eat a lot of pizza, but he is not supposed to eat too much. He
must stick to (literally: hold, keep) his diet.

Perhaps the least familiar aspect of German modal verbs is that they are complete in
all tenses. In English the sets of cognate equivalents are incomplete; we can say I must but not
[I will must] or [I did must]. In translating it is thus frequently necessary to use an equivalent verb
phrase, e.g.

I can, I could, but I will be able to, I was able to, I have been able to.
They must, but they will have to, they had to, they have had to, etc.

Dependent Infinitives and dependent infinitive word order

One of the first grammatical features to crop up in longer sentenceslonger than just subject
+ verb + direct object (with perhaps an adverb or prepositional phrase)is the dependent infinitive.
A simple sentence is I dont need a dictionary. It can be expanded to I dont need to buy a
dictionary. Grammatically, the infinitive to buy is said to be dependent on the finite verb I
need. After most types of verbs, dependent infinitives are preceded by a zu. (This is cognate
with the to in English infinitives.) Modal verbs do not require a zu. This feature is the same for
English cognates of German modals, e.g.

Ich mu ein Wrterbuch kaufen. Sie braucht kein Wrterbuch zu kaufen.

I must buy a dictionary. She does not need to buy a dictionary.

The introduction of dependent infinitives brings us to another strict rule of German word
order that is different from English and takes some getting used to: A dependent infinitive
stands at the end of its clause. English keeps a finite verb and its dependent infinitive
together. German requires that the finite verb stand as the second element in a main clause and that
a dependent infinitive, if there is one, stand at the end of the clause. This means that if a clause has
many elements, the two parts of the verb may be widely separated. Native speakers of German
acquire an intuitive grasp of this structure and learn to anticipate that a crucial piece of information
may not come until the end of the sentence, especially if early on the sentence contains a verb
commonly associated with dependent infinitives, such as to need. Since you do not have this
intuitive knowledge, you must train yourself to skip to the end of a sentence and look for a
dependent infinitive. Dont assume you have the whole verb without checking.
Another unfamiliar aspect of this kind of sentence structure for readers used to English
word order is that objects will precede their verb.

1 2 3
Subject finite verb direct object
Ich brauche kein Wrterbuch.
I need no dictionary. = I dont need a dictionary.

1 2 3 4
Subject finite verb direct object dependent infinitive
Ich brauche kein Wrterbuch zu kaufen.

I need no dictionary to buy. = I dont need to buy a dictionary.

One can think of the two parts of the complete verb brauche zu kaufen as enclosing the rest of the
predicate; they function as brackets around it. The enclosed portion can grow quite long, remember:

I dont need to buy a big, ugly, heavy, and unfortunately also very expensive dictionary.
Ich brauche kein groes, hliches, schweres und leider auch sehr teures Wrterbuch
zu kaufen.

Word Order in German sentences

Thus far the subject of word order has not come up, except for brief mention of the fact that
word order in German sentences is generally freer than in English. However, German does have a
few strict rules for word order with which you need to be familiar. The finite or conjugated verb
(with a personal ending) must be the second element in a sentence. An element may be as short
as a personal pronouner or sie; it may be a whole prepositional phrase, or a word followed or
preceded by a great many modifiers. Short or long, it hangs together as a single unit. Such a first
unit must be followed by the finite verb. This is different from English usage.
Take the sentence Martin Luther visits Rome in the year 1510. This sentence contains
four elements.
1 2 3 4
Subject finite verb direct object prepositional phrase
Martin Luther besucht Rom im Jahr 1510.

The subject, a two-part name, counts as one element because it cannot be divided. In the year 1510
is a prepositional phrase and the words in it must also remain together as a unit. This phrase also
constitutes one element.
English has two possibilities for word order in this sentence. The first is as above; the
second is: In the year 1510 Martin Luther visits Rome. The sentence cannot begin with the verb,
because then it becomes a question rather than a statement. (The same is true for German.) And as
we have seen, the direct object cannot precede the subject in English, because that alters the
meaning. Notice that if the English sentence begins with the prepositional phrase, it places two
elements before the verb. German cannot do this. If we begin the German sentence with the
prepositional phrase, the verb must stand as the second element. It is then almost always
followed immediately by the subject:
1 2 3 4
Prepositional phrase finite verb subject direct object
Im Jahr 1510 besucht Martin Luther Rom.

German even has a third variation possible when extreme emphasis is desired for a contrast
1 2 3 4 5
Direct object finite verb subject Prepositional phrase adverbs
Rom besucht Martin Luther im Jahr 1510 .
Paris besucht er berhaupt nicht.=

Martin Luther visits Rome in the year 1510. Paris he doesnt visit at all.

Common to all these variants is the verb position. The only exceptions are yes-or-no questions and
commands, which begin with verbs:

Besucht Martin Luther Rom? Ja, im Jahr 1510.

Does Martin Luther visit Rome? Yes, in the year 1510.
Besuche Rom, Bruder Martin! / Visit Rome, Brother Martin!

Co-ordinating Conjunctions and Word Order in German

The main co-ordinating conjunctions in German are listed on p. 177. They are
und = and
aber = but (in the sense of however)
sondern = but (in the sense of instead, rather)
oder = or
denn = for, because, since [in a causative sense, not a temporal sense].

(Allein and doch occur rarely as conjunctions but appear frequently as adverbs.)
Aber is used when but has the sense of however: A is true, aber B is also true.
Sondern is used when but has the sense of but instead: Not A is true, sondern B.

Some common German phrases are

klein aber fein = small but nice (fine),

gro und stark = big and strong,
jetzt oder nie = now or never,
Kopf oder Zahl = heads or tails (literally: head or number; for tossing a coin).

Co-ordinating conjunctions are followed by regular word order,

i.e. the conjunction itself does not count as an element before a verb.

Martin Luther besucht Rom im Jahr 1510, aber er fhrt nie nach Paris.
Martin Luther visits Rome in the year 1510, but he never travels to Paris.

Das Laubhttenfest (Sukkot) kommt fnf Tage nach dem Feiertag Jom Kippur, und es
dauert eine Woche.
Sukkot comes five days after Yom Kippur, and it lasts a week.

The illustrative sentences on p. 177 of the Grammar Handbook are not translated. They run:
Es ist nicht schwer, aber man braucht leider Geduld.
It is not hard, but unfortunately one needs patience.
Ich gehe jetzt, denn es wird sonst zu spt.
Im going now, since otherwise it will get too late.
Entweder ist es wahr, oder es ist gut erfunden.
Either it is true, or it is well invented.
Bleibe im Lande und nhre dich redlich!
Stay in the country and eat well!
Ich mache das nicht jetzt, sondern lieber erst morgen.
I wont do that now, but rather tomorrow.


You have already learned the category known as ein-words, so called because they are declined like
the indefinite article ein. (That category includes the negative article kein and all the possessive
adjectives.) There is a further category known as der-words because they are declined like the
definite article der. There are six main ones; you should learn these forms, their meanings, and a
sample declension.

dieser = this jeder = each, every solcher = such (a)

jener = that mancher = many a, some welcher = which

Singular Plural
Masc. Fem. Neut. M, F, N
Nom. dieser diese dieses diese
Gen. dieses dieser dieses dieser
Dat. Diesem dieser diesem diesen
Acc. diesen diese dieses diese

Note that jener (that) and jeder (each) look very much alike! just one letter difference.

All der-words can be used both as adjectives and as pronouns, e.g.

Dieses Buch gefllt mir gut, aber jenes Buch gefllt mir besser.
I like this book, but I like that book better.
Beide Bcher sind gut. Dieses gefllt mir gut, aber jenes gefllt mir besser.
Both books are good. I like this one quite well, but I like that one better.
If a der-word is used as a pronoun, its ending will be masculine, feminine, or neuter depending on
the gender of the noun for which it is a substitute.
The neuter form of the definite article das can also be used as a demonstrative pronoun =
that: Das heit = that means, that is to say
Was soll das heien? = What is that supposed to mean?

Dieser and jener have an additional meaning in formal prose as the latter and the former. Their
usage may be somewhat counter-intuitive to English speakers. Dieser, this one, refers to the word
that stands closer, and thus means the latter. Jener, that one, refers to the word that comes first
in the sentence and thus stands further back, the former.
Karl Barth und Paul Tillich sind bekannte christliche Theologen des 20. Jahrhunderts.
Jener war Schweizer, dieser war Deutscher.
Karl Barth and Paul Tillich are well-known Christian theologians of the 20th century. The
former was a Swiss, the latter was a German.
Welcher functions as an interrogative adjective and pronoun, i.e. which? Which one?,
and also as a relative pronoun.

Interrogative Forms in German

Direct questions do not appear all that often in academic prose, but indirect questions are frequent.
Scholars tend not to write Why did X happen? However, they often write, In her recent article
Professor Z offers a new theory about why X happened. It is thus important to know the words
used to ask questions in German.

wann? when?
warum? why?
was? what?
was fr? [ + accusative] what kind of?
welcher, welche, welches who? which (one)?
wer? who?
weshalb? wherefore? why? for what reason?
wie? how?
wo? where?
woher? from where? whence?
wohin? to where? whither?

Note that wer = who? and wo = where? are counterintuitive! It is easy to mix them up, so try to
impress the meanings of these forms on your mind.

Note also that each of these interrogative forms has a matching declarative form:

wann? dann! when? then!

warum? darum! why? thats why! therefore! for this reason!
was? das! what? that!
welcher? dieser! jener! which one? this one! that one!
wer? der! die!* who? he/him! she/her!
weshalb? deshalb! wherefore? therefore! thus!
wie? so! how? so!
wo? da! dort! where? there!
woher? daher! from where? whence? hence!
wohin? dahin! to where? whither? thither!

* The forms of the definite articleder, die dascan also be used as (emphatic) demonstrative
pronouns. See the Grammar Handbook, pp. 35 and 38.
Wer sagt das? Der sagt es! Die sagt es! Who says that! He says it! She says it!
Using der and die makes these sentences much more emphatic than the equivalents with er and sie,
the personal pronouns.

More on Verbs:
Tenses and Principal Parts, I: Weak or Regular Verbs

Like all languages of European origin, English and German verbs have tenses, which
express whether an action is occurring in the present, occurred in the past, or will occur in the future.
German verb tenses are simpler than English in one respect, however, in that they do not have the
emphatic/interrogative (I do go) and continuous (I am going) forms in addition to the basic
ones (I go). Just as you need to know three forms of a German nounthe nominative singular,
genitive singular, and nominative pluralto use it in all cases, you need to know three forms of a
German verb to use it in all tenses. They are the infinitive, the simple past tense, and the past
participle. These three forms are known as the principal parts of a verb. This is the same as in
Both German and English have a simple past tense, e.g. I praised, and a compound past
tense (or perfect tense) formed with an auxiliary verb and the past participle, I have praised. The
principal parts of the English verb are thus praise, praised, praised. In this instance the simple
past and past participle are formed by adding endings to the verb stem, which remains invariable.
There are many such verbs in German and English; they are occasionally called regular verbs,
oras in the Grammar Handbookweak verbs.
For the simple past tense in German, weak verbs add a set of endings to a stem that is found
by taking away the -en suffix from the infinitive. The endings are given on p. 84 of the Grammar
Handbook, #2 a. The German verb to praise, loben, is also weak:

ich lob | te = I praised wir lob | ten = we praised

du lob | test = you praised ihr lob | tet = you praised
er/sie lob | te = he/she praised sie lob | ten = they praised

If the stem of a weak verb ends in -d or -t, an extra -e- must be added throughout the simple past to
make the endings audible. The verb frchten means to fear:

ich frchtete = I feared wir frchteten = we feared

du frchtetest = you feared ihr frchtetet = you feared
er/sie frchtete = he/she feared sie frchteten = they feared

For the past participle, weak verbs add the prefix ge- and the suffix -t to the stem:
gelobt (= praised in the combination to have praised).

The principal parts of loben are thus loben, lobte, gelobt.

Note that the sign of the past tense for weak verbs, a -t suffix, is usually in the middle of the
verb form, which otherwise looks like the present, e.g.
sie loben = they praise
sie lobten = they praised

You must look carefully at such verbs to recognize the tense.

Tenses and Principal Parts, II: Strong Verbs

Both English and German also have a class of verbs called strong verbs, which vary and
are thus sometimes referred to as irregular verbs. Whether a given verb is weak or strong is
entirely arbitrary. For the simple past tense, strong verbs alter the vowel in the stem: I write,
but I wrote. I sing, but I sang. The past participle may return to the original stem vowel
e.g., I have writtenor use a third vowel, e.g. I have sung.

For the simple past tense in German, strong verbs use a new stem plus the set of endings
given on p. 84 under #2b. The endings for strong verbs are different from the endings for weak
verbs in the simple past tense. (This is the same as in English, where a weak verb will always end
in a -d in the past, e.g. they danced, but a strong verb will usually end in the consonant of the stem,
e.g. they swam, they sang. But remember that the endings are the same for strong and weak
verbs in the present tense; that is why we didnt discuss the two categories until now.) The German
verb singen is also strong; its past stem is sang-:

ich sang | - = I sang wir sang | en = we sang

du sang | (e) st = you sang ihr sang | (e)t = you sang
er/sie sang | - = he/she sang sie sang | en = they sang

For the past participle, strong verbs add the prefix ge- and the suffix -en to a new stem:
e.g., gesungen.
The principal parts of singen are thus singen, sang, gesungen. Since the verb singen uses three
different stems, you have to learn three principal parts to use the verb in all tenses.

dictionary listings: In a German-English dictionary, no indication will be given if a verb is

weak. If a verb is strong, The Oxford-Duden dictionary will say unr. for unregelmig, irregular.
You must then look up the past and past participle forms in the table of German Irregular Verbs
on pp. 1681-1683 (or in the Grammar Handbook, pp. 141-147). Cassells contains the entry irr. (for
irregular). Remember to look up the basic form if you have a verb with a prefix, e.g. for besingen
you must look up singen.

For practical purposes, you will need to memorize the endings of weak verbs, so that
you can reconstruct the infinitive form in order to look up the verbs meaning. If you come across
the form lobte, say, you could take off the suffix -te, get the stem, add the infinitive suffix -en and
be able to look up the word: lob|te lob- lob|en = loben, to praise.
It is obviously more difficult to get to the infinitive from the past tense of a strong verb. If
you look up sang in your dictionary, you will find an entry referring you to singen. However, if you
look up besang you will find nothing. Clearly, the more basic strong verbs for which you learn the
principal parts by heart, the more you will save yourself time and effort spent flipping through the
dictionary. Also, you should spend some time studying the prefixes listed on pp. 132-133 of the
Grammar Handbook. Recognizing besingen (to extol, praise in song), mitsingen (to sing
along), and vorsingen (to lead the singing), as prefix verbs is an important skill.

Tenses and Principal Parts, III: Completely Irregular Verbs

Finally, there exists in German a third category of verbs that are neither weak nor
strong but completely irregular, such as haben, sein, werden and wissen. These verbs have an
unpredictable mixture of weak and strong features, and you should memorize the most
important ones.
This is also true in English, and for some reason it is the most common verbs that tend to be
the most irregular in both languages, such as be, was, been and go, went, gone in English.

ich habe wir haben ich hatte wir hatten

du hast ihr habt du hattest ihr hattet
er/sie/es hat sie haben er/sie/es hatte sie hatten

ich bin wir sind ich war wir waren

du bist ihr seid du warst ihr wart
er/sie/es ist sie sind er/sie/es war sie waren

Verbs that end in -ieren

You have already encountered a class of verbs that do not add the prefix ge- to form their past
participle, namely all verbs that begin with an inseparable prefix. Another such class of verbs
consists of those ending with -ieren. This is the ending added to borrowed foreign verbs to make
them into German infinitives, e.g. addieren, subtrahieren, multiplizieren, dividieren = to add,
subtract, multiply, and divide. Their past participles are addiert, subtrahiert, multipliziert, and
dividiert. All of these verbs are weak, i.e. they form regular past tenses: addieren, addierte, addiert.
The Grammar Handbook has a list of the most common verbs in -ieren on page 140.

Zu jener Zeit wurden keine religise Minderheiten toleriert.

At that time no religious minorities were tolerated.

Es war Martin Luthers ursprngliches Ziel, die katholische Kirche zu reformieren.

It was Martin Luthers original goal to reform the Catholic Church.

Nach 1689 wurden die Quker in England as legitime Konfession akzeptiert.

After 1689 the Quakers were accepted as a legitimate denomination in England.

Formation of Plurals for Foreign Loan Words in German

German tends to incorporate foreign words by adding mainly German-looking plurals, mostly
in -en, or English-looking plurals in -s. Occasionally foreign plurals are retained. Here are some

der Aphorismus, die Aphorismen - Sinnspruch in Prosa

der Buddha, die Buddhas 2) Grnder der buddhistischen Religion; 2) Verknder der Lehren
des historischen Buddha

der Chassid, die Chassidim - Mitglied einer frommen Bewegung innerhalb des Judaismus

das Dogma, die Dogmen - verbindliche, normative Glaubensaussage

das Epos, die Epen - erzhlende Versdichtung von groem Umfang

der Imam, die Imams - Gelehrter des Islams

der Kanon, die Kanons - Liste der biblischen Schriften

das Mantra, die Mantras - Wort oder Formel fr die Meditation

der Mythos, die Mythen - Dichtung, Sage, Erzhlung aus der Vorzeit eines Volkes

das Schisma, die Schismen - Spaltung innerhalb der Kirche

die Sure, die Suren - Kapitel des Korans

das Sutra, die Sutras 1) knapper Lehrsatz oder Aphorismus der indischen Literatur; 2) eine
Sammlung von solchen Aphorismen

das Thema, die Themen - Gegenstand eines Gesprchs oder Vortrags

der Veda, die Veden - die heiligen Schriften der altindischen Religion

The Irregular Verbs werden and wissen

Two more basic verbs in German are irregular and must be memorized.
Werden as an independent verb means to become, to grow, to get, to fall, in phrases such
as alt werden, to grow old; mde werden, to get tired; krank werden, to fall sick, to get sick;
berhmt werden, to become famous. This verb is also used as an auxiliary in both the future tense
and the passive voice, so it is extremely important.
Wissen means to know, in the sense of to know a fact. [Kennen means to know in the sense
of to be familiar with, be acquainted with.]
All tenses of these two verbs are listed in table form in the Grammar Handbook, pp. 98 and 117.

werden, wurden, geworden to become, became, become

ich werde I become wir werden we become
du wirst you become ihr werdet you become
er/sie wird he/she becomes sie werden they become

ich wurde I became wir wurden we became

du wurdest you became ihr wurdet you became
er/sie wurde he/she became sie wurden they became

wissen, wusste, gewusst to know, knew, known

ich weiss I know wir wissen we know
du weisst you know ihr wisst you know
er/sie weiss he/she knows sie wissen they know

ich wusste I knew wir wussten we knew

du wusstest you knew ihr wusstet you knew
er/sie wusste he/she knew sie wussten they knew

Some Common Adverbs

Adverbs in German are covered in the Grammar Handbook on pp. 150-161. This section
lists the main adverbs of time, manner, and place. You should read through this section and note
particularly paragraph 3 on p. 150, which points out that most adjectives can function as adverbs in
their basic predicate form, without adding an ending.
Adverbs are used to modify 1) verbs and 2) adjectives, e.g. to speak fluently, an
exceptionally talented novelist, a now familiar figure.

Some of the most important adverbs of time are

dann = then selten = seldom

damals = at that time, then noch = still
immer = always oft = often
jetzt = nowschon = already nie = never

Some of the most important adverbs of manner are

als = than (in comparisons) gern(e) = gladly wieder = again

auch = also kaum = hardly sehr = very
besonders = especially leider = unfortunately
immer wieder = again and again, over and over fast = almost
This adverb is used in German much like a particle in Greek; it often adds a flavor
to a sentence that cannot be translated into English by any single word. It expresses the idea
of contrary to expectation, surprisingly, or adds emphasis.

Sie sind doch hier. = They are here after all! (How surprising!)
Oh yes, they are here!

Some of the most important adverbs of place are

da = there her = hither, to here
dort = there hin = thither, to there
hier = here weg = away
oben = above unten = below
vor = forward, ahead zurck = back
diesseits (von)* = on this side (of), on the near side (of)
jenseits (von)* = on that/the far side (of), beyond

*As you can see, these adverbs derive from the phrases
auf dieser Seite = on this side auf jener Seite = on that side

Adjectives used as adverbs

Many adjectives can be used adverbially in both English and German. The adjective unusual, for
exampleas in that is an unusual problemcan become an adverb in the sentence
That is an unusually complicated problem
where it modifies the adjective complicated. English adds the suffix -ly to turn most adjectives
in adverbs. German adds no suffix and uses the basic dictionary form of the adjective.

Among the commonly used German adjective/adverbs of this sort are

gewhnlich = usual, ordinary, normal, common
ein gewhnliches Problem = a common problem
Im Sommer schliet die Bibliothek gewhnlich um sechs Uhr. = In summer the
library usually closes at six oclock.
ungewhnlich = unusual, uncommon
ein ungewhnlich kompliziertes Problem = an unusually complicated problem
auerordentlich = extraordinary
eine auerordentlich schwierige Frage = an extradordinarily difficult question
genau = exact, precise
die genaue Zahl = the exact number
Wir wissen nicht genau warum. = We dont know exactly why.
ungefhr = approximate, rough
eine ungefhre Zahl = an approximate number
Es gibt ungefhr 20 Fassungen = There exist approximately 20 versions.
ursprnglich = original
die ursprngliche Quelle = the original source
Der Stamm lebte ursprnglich in der Wste. = The tribe lived originally in the
vermutlich = presumable, presumed, probable
die vermutliche Ursache = the presumed cause
Dieser Text stammt vermutlich vom gleichen Autor. = This text presumably stems
from the same author.
wahrscheinlich = probable
die wahrscheinliche Ursache = the probable cause
Diese Theorie ist wahrscheinlich falsch. = This theory is probably wrong.

In addition, German can form many adverbs by adding the suffix -erweise to an adjective:
normal normalerweise = normally
blich (common) blicherweise = commonly, usually
merkwrdig (odd) merkwrdigerweise = oddly, strangely
The suffix -weise can also be added to nouns:
der Teil (part) teilweise = partly, partially
die Zeit (time) zeitweise = at times, now and then

Subordinating Conjunctions and Subordinate Clauses

In addition to the co-ordinating conjunctions such as und, oder, aber, and denn that can link
two main clauses, there is also a class of conjunctions that link a subordinate clause to a main
clause. Examples of such conjunctions in English are when, while, as, because, if, and although.
The Grammar Handbook has a list of subordinating conjunctions on pp. 180-181. For now, you
should learn
als when (with the past tense); as (cognate is as)
bis until
da since, because (da can also be an adverb = there, then)
damit so that, in order that
dass or da that
ob whether
obwohl although
weil because
wenn if; when, whenever

All the interrogative pronouns and adjectives may also introduce subordinate clauses, namely
indirect questions such as I want to know where the meeting is. (The direct question is Where
is the meeting?) She told me in which room the meeting would take place.

A clause introduced by any of the subordinating conjunctions or interrogative forms is known as a

subordinate clause. There is a special rule for word order in subordinate clauses:

In a subordinate clause in a German sentence, the finite verb must stand at the end of the

There is also a special rule for punctuation:

A subordinate clause is always set off from the main clause by a comma or commas.


Der Pharao sagte zu Mose und Aaron, da er ihren Gott nicht kannte.
The pharaoh said to Moses and Aaron that he did not know their God.

Als Jesus zum Jordan kam, taufte ihn Johannes.

When Jesus came to the Jordan, John baptized him.

More on Subordinating Conjunctions and Subordinate Clauses

1) In translating, whenever you encounter a subordinating conjunction, you will need to go to the
end of the clause, find the verb, and translate it before finishing the rest of the clause. Standard word
order for subordinate clauses is:

subordinating conjunction + subject + objects + verb

This means that you will often find two or more nouns one after the other within German
subordinate clauses, e.g.

Der Autor berichtet, da die Makkaber den Kampf fr einen unabhngigen Staat verloren.
The author reports that the Maccabees lost the struggle for an independent state.

The first is the subject of the (delayed) verb, here die Makkaber; the second noun with all its
modifiers, here den Kampf, is the object of the verb.

As in the case of dependent infinitives, in a subordinate clause an object will precede its

2) A further important rule about word order in sentences with subordinating conjunctions
is the following: If a sentence begins with a subordinate clause, this clause counts as the first
element of the sentence. The finite verb of the main clause will follow it immediately, to
conform to the rule that it must be the second element of the sentence.

Below are two examples of clause order. Note that the first example begins with the main clause.
The two verbs are very far apart, because the verb of the main clause stands in second position, and
the verb of the subordinate clause stands at the very end of the whole sentence. In the second
example, the subordinate clause comes first. The whole subordinate clause counts as the first
element of this sentence. Since the verb of the main clause must be the second element, two verbs
are next to each other, separated only by a comma.

Main clause: main verb verb of subordinate clause

Das Tao Te King sagt, da Farben das Auge blind machen.

The Tao Te Ching says that colors make the eye blind.

Subordinate clause:verb of subordinate clause / comma / main verb

Wenn die Meister die Welt beobachten, vertrauen sie ihrer inneren Sehkraft.
When the masters observe the world, they trust their inner power of sight.

3) When there is a dependent infinitive:
You have learned the rule that in main clauses a dependent infinitive must stand at the end
of the clause. In subordinate clauses, the rule that the finite verb must stand last takes precedence.
This means that a dependent infinitive, if there is one, will directly precede the finite verb. Then
the parts of the entire verb, if there are more than one, will occur in the reverse order from English.
To translate, you must go to the end and work backwards.

Main clause: Mose durfte das versprochene Land schauen.

Moses was permitted to see the Promised Land.
Subordinate clause: Die Bibel erzhlt, da Mose das versprochene Land schauen durfte.
The Bible recounts that Moses was permitted to see the Promised Land.

4) When the subordinating conjunction dass or da is omitted

Sometimesparticularly in informal writing and speechthe introductory conjunction
dass can be omitted (as its equivalent often is in English), e.g.
Peter says that he is reading the book now. Peter sagt, dass er das Buch gerade liest.
Peter says he is reading the book now. Peter sagt, er liest das Buch gerade.

When the dass is omitted, the clause uses main-clause word order. (GH, p. 189, #3 b.)

5) A further important rule about word order in sentences with subordinating conjunctions
is the following:
If a sentence begins with a subordinate clause, the finite main verb will follow it immediately.
The entire subordinate clause counts as the first element of the sentence.

Below are two examples of clause order. Note that the first example begins with the main clause.
The two verbs are very far apart, because the verb of the main clause stands in second position, and
the verb of the subordinate clause stands at the very end of the whole sentence. In the second
example, the subordinate clause comes first. The whole subordinate clause counts as the first
element of this sentence. Since the verb of the main clause must be the second element, two verbs
are next to each other, separated only by a comma.

Main clause first:

main verb many intervening words verb of subordinate clause

Der Mann hlt hier eine Predigt, weil er der Pfarrer ist.
The man is giving a sermon here because he is the pastor.

Subordinate clause first:

Verb of subordinate clause / comma / main verb

Weil er der Pfarrer ist, hlt der Mann hier eine Predigt.
Because he is the pastor, the man is giving a sermon here.

More on verbs: Inseparable Prefixes

A large number of German verbs contain an element known as an inseparable prefix. The
prefixes in this category are

be-, emp-, ent-, er-, ge-, mi-, ver-, and zer-.

This list and a long list of sample inseparable-prefix verbs can be found in the Grammar Handbook
on p. 132. Sometimes ber- and unter- can also function as inseparable prefixes. Both strong and
weak verbs can add inseparable prefixes.
There are at least two reasons why it is a good idea to memorize this list of prefixes.
First of all, those verbs with inseparable prefixes which are strong will not have their past
tense forms given separately in the dictionary.
If you look up the form gab in a dictionary, it will refer you to the infinitive geben. But there
are no such separate listings for begab, ergab, and vergab. In order to find the meaning of such
verbs, you must recognize that they consist of gab plus an inseparable prefix. Then you either know
that gab is the past tense of the strong verb geben, or you can look it up in one of the strong verb
lists (in your dictionary or in the Grammar Handbook). Once you have geben, you can look up
vergeben in the dictionary and get the meaning for vergab, namely forgave, from to forgive.
A second good reason for learning the inseparable prefixes is that they may help you to
ascertain the meaning of a word without having to look it up.
You have already encountered a number of inseparable-prefix verbs in your reading.

Two important rules:

Inseparable prefixes are never stressed in pronunciation
Verbs with inseparable prefixes form their past participles without adding an extra ge-,
no matter whether they are weak or strong.

folgen, folgte, gefolgt = to follow, but

verfolgen, verfolgte, verfolgt = persecute, persecuted, persecuted

bieten, bot, geboten = to offer, but

verbieten, verbot, verboten = forbid, forbade, forbidden

Note the nasty possibility for duplication of forms in the compound tenses if a verb exists in both
a simple form and a form with an inseparable prefix ge-:
bieten, bot, geboten = to offer /and/ gebieten, gebot, geboten = to command
Thus er hat geboten can mean either he has offered or he has commanded. You can tell which
is correct only from the context. Similarly,
hren, hrte, gehrt = to hear /and/ gehren, gehrte, gehrt = to belong

More on Inseparable Prefixes

be-, emp-, ent-, er-, ge-, mi-, ver-, and zer-.

It is not possible to give precise definitions of the meaning that these prefixes add to simple verbs
in all cases.
The easiest is mi-, which functions the same way that it does in English:

verstehen, verstand, verstanden to understand

miverstehen, miverstand, miverstanden to misunderstand
brauchen, brauchte, gebraucht to use
mibrauchen, mibrauchte, mibraucht to misuse, abuse

ent- often has the sense of away from, or that some action is reversed or removed:

die Waffe (die Waffen) = weapon, arms

entwaffnen, entwaffnete, entwaffnet to disarm
decken, deckte, gedeckt to cover
entdecken, entdeckte, entdeckt to discover
die Entdeckung (die Entdeckungen) discovery

er- can sometimes express a shift from the physical plane to the metaphysical or philosophical:

kennen, kannte, gekannt to know, be familiar with

die Kenntnis (die Kenntnisse) (practical) knowledge
gute Deutschkenntnisse a good knowledge of German
erkennen, erkannte, erkannt 1) to recognize; 2) to know in a philosophical
or spiritual sense
die Erkenntnis (die Erkenntnisse) knowledge, cognition; gnosis
der Baum der Erkenntnis the tree of knowledge of good
and evil (in the Garden of Eden)
aufstehen 1) to stand up (from a chair);
2) to get up (out of bed)
auferstehen to rise from the dead
die Auferstehung the resurrection

Ich glaube an die Auferstehung der Toten. - Das apostolische Glaubensbekenntnis

I believe in the resurrection of the dead. - The Apostles Creed

zer- usually adds the sense of apart as in something being physically broken down or
metaphorically falling apart:
klein small
zerkleinern, zerkleinerte, zerkleinert to chop, cut up in small pieces
legen, legte, gelegt to lay, set down, put
zerlegen, zerlegte, zerlegt to take apart, disassemble

ver- can express the idea of a process:

gro - big, large vergrern, to enlarge
klein - small, little verkleinern, to reduce

or the sense of something going wrong, similar to mi-, or adding a negative sense:

folgen, folgte, gefolgt to follow

verfolgen, verfolgte, verfolgt to persecute
die Verfolgung persecution

fhren, fhrte, gefhrtto lead

verfhren, verfhrte, verfhrt to mislead, seduce

lassen, lieen, gelassen to leave alone, let go, let be

verlassen, verlie, verlassen 1) to go away, depart; 2) to abandon, forsake

be- can serve to make an intransitive verb transitive:

sprechen, sprach, gesprochen to speak

ber etwas sprechen to speak about something
besprechen, besprach, besprochen 1) to discuss; 2) to review
etwas besprechen to discuss something
die Besprechung 1) discussion, conference; 2) review
Das Buch wurde gut besprochen. The book was well reviewed or received good

frei = free
befreien, befreite, befreit to make free, liberate
die Befreiungstheologie liberation theology

Wir leiden Verfolgung, aber wir werden nicht verlassen. 2 Korinther 4, 9

We suffer persecution, but we are not forsaken. 2 Corinthians 4, 9

Some Important Words That Can Function as Articles/Adjectives or Pronouns
There is an important group of German words that crop up all the time but can be a little
tricky to recognize, because they appear in two different guises. The Grammar Handbook lists the
Indefinite Pronouns on p. 36.

1. The indefinite article ein, eine, ein can also function as a pronoun, with slightly different
As an article: Sucht der Student ein Buch? Is the student looking for a book?
As a pronoun: Ja, er sucht eines. Yes, hes looking for one.
The indefinite pronoun einer/eine/eines is declined like meiner/meine/meines as shown in the table
on p. 40 of the GH. It matches in gender with its antecedent, for which it is standing in.

2. All the possessive adjectives and kein can also function as pronouns, with slightly different
As an adjective: Ist das deine Tasche? Is that your bag?
As a pronoun: Ja, das ist meine. Yes, its mine.
Ist das dein Porsche? Is that your Porsche?
Nein, ich habe keinen. No, I dont have one.

3. The interrogative adjective welcher/welche/welches can function as a pronoun as well:

As an adjective: Welche Bcher mssen die Studenten kaufen?
Which books must the students buy?
As a pronoun: Studenten brauchen meistens viele Bcher. Welche brauchst du?
Students usually need many books. Which [ones] do you need?

4. The words viel and wenig mean much and little and can function as both adjectives
and pronouns.
A) In the singular they are invariable:
As an adjective: Diese Studentin hat Ferien. Sie hat viel Zeit.
This student is on vacation. She has lots of/a lot of time.
Jene Studentin hat nchste Woche eine Prfung. Sie hat wenig Zeit.
That student has a test next week. She has little time.
As a pronoun: Dieser Student weiss nicht viel ber das Thema.
This student does not know much about the topic.
Eigentlich weiss er sehr wenig.
In fact he knows very little.
B) In the plural they are declined: viele, vieler, vielen, viele and wenige, weniger, wenigen,
wenige = many and few

As an adjective: Diese Studenten kennen wenige Leute in Boston.

These students know few people in Boston.
As a pronoun: Kennst du viele Leute hier? Nein, nicht viele.
Do you know many people here? No, not many.

5. Einige and andere mean some and others:

As an adjective: Wir kennen einige Leute hier. We know some people here.
As a pronoun: Aber andere kennen wir nicht. But others we dont know.

6. Alles is a pronoun meaning everything. It is singular and invariable.

The plural form, alle, can function as both an adjective and a pronoun, and is declined
alle, aller, allen, alle

As an adjective: Das ist wahr in fast allen Fllen.

That is true in almost all cases.
As a pronoun: Kennst du die Leute hier? Ja, fast alle.
Do you know the people here? Yes, almost all [of them].

Einer and keiner as Indefinite Pronouns

einer / eine / eines = one

As ein/eine/ein this is of course the indefinte article, which appears in the forms shown in the table on
page 11. The article has no -er ending in the masculine nominative, and no -es ending in the neuter
nominative. Sometimes, however, it can function as a pronoun, and then it takes the endings shown in
Table 1 on p. 44 of the Grammar Handbook. As a pronoun it must match in gender the word it is

Frank hat keinen Text. Er braucht einen.

Frank has no text. He needs one.
Inge hat kein Wrterbuch. Sie braucht eines.
Inge has no dictionary. She needs one.
Wo sind die Studenten? Im Augenblick ist nur einer hier.
Where are the students? At the moment only one is here.

keiner / keine / keines = none, no one, not any

Keiner, keine, keines works in a parallel manner and has parallel forms. As kein, keine, kein it
is the negative article. But as keiner, keine, keines it is a negative pronoun.

Helen hat einen Porsche, aber ich brauche keinen.

Helen has a Porsche, but I dont need one.

Robert mu viele Bcher lesen, aber er hat keine gefunden.

Robert needs to read many books, but he hasnt found any.

Keines der Bcher ist auf englisch erhltlich.

None of the books is available in English.

Indefinite Pronouns as Adjectives

Just to make matters confusing, a number of indefinite pronoun forms can also be used as adjectives:

some as an adjective can be expressed as etwas in the singular and as einige or ein paar in the
etwas Bier = some beer
einige Bcher = some books, a few books
ein paar [literally a pair] Fragen = some questions, a couple of
Ein paar is less formal and more colloquial than einige.

little / few as an adjective can be expressed as wenig in the singular [invariable] and wenige
[declined] in the plural:
wenig Bier = little beer, not much beer
wenige Bcher = few books
mit wenigen Bchern = with few books

much / many as an adjective can be expressed as viel in the singular [invariable] and viele
[declined] in the plural:
viel Bier = a lot of beer
viele Bcher = many books
mit vielen Bchern = with many books

The Reflexive Pronoun: Sich

In addition to the personal pronouns you have already learned, there is a set of reflexive pronouns.
They are used to refer back to the subject of the sentence and are equivalent to the English pronouns
ending in -self and -selves, such as myself, himself, herself, themselves, etc.
In standard modern German they occur only in the dative and accusative cases.

The forms for the first and second person, singular and plural, are identical to the personal pronouns:

Singular Plural
First Person: Dative mir uns
Accusative mich uns

Second Person Dative dir euch

Accusative dich euch

Ich sehe mich im Spiegel. Siehst du dich auch im Spiegel? = I see myself in the mirror. Do you
see yourself in the mirror, too?
Wir sehen uns im Spiegel. Seht ihr euch auch im Spiegel? = We see ourselves in the mirror. Do
you see yourselves in the mirror, too?

The third-person forms are new, but invariable:

Singular Plural
Third Person: Dative sich sich
Accusative sich sich

Examples of sich in the accusative case:

Er sieht sich im Spiegel. = He sees himself in the mirror.
Sie sieht sich im Spiegel. = She sees herself in the mirror.
Sie sehen sich im Spiegel. = They see themselves in the mirror.

Examples of sich in the dative case:

Er kaufte sich ein Buch. = He bought himself a book. (Or: He bought a book for himself.)
Sie kaufte sich ein Buch. = She bought herself a book.
Sie kauften sich Bcher. = They bought themselves books.

The reflexive pronoun can also occur as the object of prepositions, e.g.
Er hat einen langen Weg vor sich.
He has a long road ahead. [literally: He has a long road ahead of him(self).]
If the object of the preposition is the same as the subject of the sentence, sich is required.

More on Verbs: Reflexive Verbs

A number of German verbs are used reflexively, i.e. in combination with the reflexive pronouns. The
reflexive pronoun can be either in the dative or the accusative case. The case is idiomatic for each verb,
so it is necessary to note which case the reflex pronoun takes when looking up or learning a particular
verb. There are sample conjugations for reflexive verbs on pp. 119 and 120 of the Grammar Handbook,
and lists of common verbs of this type with their English meanings on pp. 138-140.
Most transitive verbs can take both the simple (non-reflexive) and reflexive form.

1) Sometimes the English translation requires a reflexive pronoun also, as in the case of sich sagen, to
say to oneself. Here the reflexive pronoun is in the dative:
ich sage mir etwas = I say something to myself wir sagen uns = we say to
du sagst dir etwas = you say something to yourself ihr sagt euch = you say to yourselves
er/sie sagt sich etwas = he/she says something sie sagen sich = they say to
to himself / herself

The verb sich wehren means to defend oneself. Here the reflextive pronoun is in the accusative:
ich wehre mich = I defend myself wir wehren uns = we defend ourselves
du wehrst dich = you defend yourself ihr wehrt euch = you defend yourselves
er/sie wehrt sich = he defends himself, sie wehren sich = they defend themselves
she defends herself

2) Frequently, however, the addition of a reflexive simply changes the translation of the simple verb in
a way that does not use a reflexive in English. An example is the inseparable-prefix verb unterwerfen
(unterwarf, unterworfen). It consists of the basic verb werfen (warf, geworfen), to throw, plus the
prefix unter, under. Literally to throw under, it means to subjugate, subdue, conquer. In the
reflexive form, literally to throw oneself under, it means to surrender, to capitulate, to submit, or to
yield. Werfen is a strong verb with a present-tense vowel shift; the reflexive pronoun is in the

ich unterwerfe mich = I submit wir unterwerfen uns = we submit

du unterwirfst dich = you submit ihr unterwerft euch = you submit
er/sie unterwirft sich = he/she submits sie unterwerfen sich = they submit

Note that you must be sure you are looking up the meaning of the reflexive verb form
in the dictionary, and not the simple form, in order to find the right translation. Many verbs
exist in both simple and reflexive form! Both the Oxford Duden and the Cassells Dictionary number
the entries for unterwerfen. The Duden has the entries 1. Unr. tr. V., abbreviations that stand for
unregelmiges transitives Verb, irregular transitive verb, followed by the meaning of unterwerfen,
and 2. Unr. refl. V., irregular reflexive verb, followed by the meaning of sich unterwerfen. Cassells
has 1. irr. v. t., for irregular verb transitive, for unterwerfen, and 2. irr. v. r., irregular verb
reflexive, for sich unterwerfen. The HarperCollins entry uses black boxes with abbreviations in them
to distinguish: First VT for verb, transitive, followed by VR for verb, reflexive.
A note on word order with reflexive verbs

As a rule, pronouns tend to stand near the beginning of a German sentence. This means that when a
reflexive verb appears as a dependent infinitive, the two parts of the verb may be widely separated. The
reflexive pronoun will appear at or near the front of the dependent infinitive clause, while the infinitive
itself will stand at the end:

Die Leute in der Stadt Bethulia wollten sich gegen den Angriff des Holofernes wehren.
The people in the town of Bethulia wanted to defend themselves against Holofernes attack.
Der Sufismus konnte sich von einer asketischen Bewegung in eine mystische verwandeln.
Sufism was able to transform itself from an ascetic movement into a mystical one.

Note that it is not the modal verb that is being used reflexively, even though the reflexive form
occurs right after it, but the dependent infinitive.

It is still important to recognize that you are dealing with a reflexive verb, however, especially in cases
where the reflexive form of a verb has a different meaning from the simple form, e.g.

Holofernes unterwarf viele Stdte und Vlker.

Holofernes conquered many cities and peoples.
In dieser Situation wollte sich die Bevlkerung der Stadt Bethulia jedoch nicht unterwerfen.
In this situation, however, the population of the town of Bethuliah did not want to submit.

The Compound Past Tenses: Perfect and Pluperfect (or Past Perfect)

So far you have learned one verb form for expressing action in the past: the simple past tense. German
has two more past tenses, the perfect and pluperfect. They are both compound tenses, meaning that
each finite verb form consists of two parts: a finite form of the auxiliary verb + the past participle. In the
great majority of cases, the auxiliary verb is haben. This makes the two German perfect tenses look
very much like their English equivalents.

er hat gelernt = he has learned

sie hat gesagt = she has said
sie haben gelesen = they have read

In order to form or recognize the perfect tense, you must know the third principal part of the verb, the
past participle. The perfect tenses are by far the most common use of the past participle in German.

1) Formation:
For most verbs, haben (in the present tense) is used as an auxiliary verb in combination with the
past participle to form the perfect tense:

Example of a weak verb:

ich habe gesagt = I have said wir haben gesagt = we have said
du hast gesagt = you have said ihr habt gesagt = you have said
er/sie hat gesagt = he/she has said sie haben gesagt = they have said
Example of a strong verb:
ich habe gerufen = I have called wir haben gerufen = we have called
du hast gerufen = you have called ihr habt gerufen = you have called
er/sie hat gerufen = he/she has called sie haben gerufen = they have called

The past perfect tense is formed using the simple past form of the auxiliary verb. When the auxiliary
verb is haben, this looks just like the English past perfect tense:

ich hatte gerufen = I had called wir hatten gerufen = we had called
du hattest gerufen = you had called ihr hattet gerufen = you had called
er/sie hatte gerufen = he/she had called sie hatten gerufen = they had called

2) Rules for word order:

The word order rules for the compound past tenses are similar to the rules for two-part verbs
consisting of finite verb + dependent infinitive. The finite auxiliary form goes in second position in
main clauses, i.e. the usual verb slot, and the past participle stands at the end of the main clause.
The two parts of the verb can thus be separated by a considerable distance; they bracket the entire
sentence except for the single element in first position:

Sie haben einen Text von Eduard Gorys ber das Leben des Heiligen Vitus gelesen.
They have read a text by Eduard Gorys about the life of Saint Vitus.

Diese Studentin hat noch nicht den Text ber Friedrich Schleiermacher und die Grndung der
Humboldt Universitt in Berlin gelesen.
This student has not yet read the text about Friedrich Schleiermacher and the founding of
Humboldt University in Berlin.

The most important point for you to observe is that you must never assume that haben is an
independent verb without checking the end of the clause. It may be an independent verb, but it may also
merely be functioning as an auxiliary in one of the perfect tenses. You must check for a past participle to
determine which is the case.

In subordinate clauses the situation is somewhat simpler: The finite verb, i.e. the auxiliary in this case, must stand
at the end of the clause, and so it is reunited with its past participle, which directly precedes it. The two parts
of the verb are thus reversed from the English order:
Wei er, da wir einen Text ber das Leben des Heiligen Vitus gelesen haben?
Does he know that we have read a text about the life of Saint Vitus?
Wer sagt, da diese Studentin noch nicht den Text ber Friedrich Schleiermacher und die Grndung
der Humboldt Universitt in Berlin gelesen hat?
Who says that this student has not yet read the text about Friedrich Schleiermacher and the founding of
Humboldt University in Berlin?

3) Usage

The use of the pluperfect tense in German is virtually identical to the use of its equivalent in English. The past
perfect tense is used to indicate that one action took place before another in the past:
Nachdem jemand Vitus als Christen erkannt hatte, brachte man ihn nach Rom.
After someone had recognized Vitus as a Christian, they took him to Rome.
Vitus floh mit seinem Lehrer, weil sein Vater ihn geprgelt hatte.
Vitus fled with his teacher because his father had beaten him.

The use of the perfect tense in German and English differs considerably, however. In English, the simple past
tense implies that an action or condition ended in the past:
Mike took the bus and got home at ten oclock.
Use of the perfect tenseor present perfect tense, as it is often known in Englishon the other hand implies that
the state of affairs continues up to the present time but may change:
Has Mike come home yet? No, he hasnt. (Implied: but he may turn up soon.)

German makes no such distinction. In German the simple past tense and present perfect tense are almost
interchangeable. The difference between the two tenses in German is that the simple past tense is
preferred in writing, the perfect tense in speaking. Sometimes a writer will use a perfect tense, but most of the
time it could be replaced by a simple past form and the meaning would remain the same. The use of the perfect
forms are mostly a matter of the authors intuitive choices for stylistic reasons. In translating, you will need to
rely on your own ear to decide when to translate a German verb form in the past into the English simple past, e.g.
he wrote, or the present perfect, e.g. he has written.

The use of sein as an auxiliary verb in compound past tenses

For a special class of verbs, mostly intransitive verbs of motion, the auxiliary verb of the perfect tenses
is sein. Verbs that cannot take a direct object are referred to as intransitive; verbs that can take a
direct object are transitive. Gehen (to go), werden, and sein itself also take sein as an auxiliary. There
is a list of the most common verbs of this type on p. 124 of the Grammar Handbook. Most of them are
intransitive verbs of motion or verbs indicating a change of condition, e.g. to go, to become, to die.
(For those of you who have learned French, this feature of German will seem familiar.) This makes the
perfect tense look different than what you are used to in English:

ich bin gegangen = I have gone wir sind gegangen = we have gone
du bist gegangen = you have gone ihr seid gegangen = you have gone
er/sie ist gegangen = he/she has gone sie sind gegangen = they have gone

ich bin gewesen = I have been wir sind gewesen = we have been
du bist gewesen = you have been ihr seid gewesen = you have been
er/sie ist gewesen = he/she has been sie sind gewesen = they have been

When the auxiliary verb is sein, the past perfect tense also looks less familiar:

ich war geworden = I had become wir waren geworden = we had become
du warst geworden = you had become ihr wart geworden = you had become
er/sie war geworden = he/she had become sie waren geworden = they had become

ich war gefahren = I had traveled wir waren gefahren = we had traveled
du warst gefahren = you had traveledi hr wart gefahren = you had traveled
er/sie war gefahren = he/she had traveled sie waren gefahren = they had traveled

In the entry for a verb, a German-English dictionary will indicate that it takes sein as its auxiliary in the
compound past tenses. If there is no note that a verb takes sein, it takes haben.

Just as you must go to the end of a main clause when you encounter a form of haben
as the verb, to see if it is a main verb or an auxiliary, so too must you check for a past participle
at the end of a main clause when you run into a form of sein.

Nebukadnezar ist zu der Zeit Knig der Assyrer gewesen.

Nebuchadnezzar was king of the Assyrians at that time.

Paul Tillich und seine Frau Hanna sind aus Deutschland emigriert.
Paul Tillich and his wife, Hanna, emigrated from Germany.

Note in the last sentence that the foreign verb emigrieren does not get the usual prefix ge- on its past
participle. All verbs borrowed from another language and ending in -ieren have no ge- in the past

The Perfect Infinitive

The perfect infinitive is formed by combining the past participle of a verb with the present infinitive of
the appropriate auxiliary, in the opposite order to English, e.g.

gesagt haben = to have said

gegangen sein = to have gone
sich unterworfen haben = to have submitted
appelliert haben = to have appealed

The perfect infinitive is frequently used after a modal verb, e.g.

Sie kann das nicht gesagt haben!

She cant have said that!
Du mut dich geirrt haben!
You must have made a mistake!
Sie sollen Theologie in Harvard studiert haben.
They are supposed/said to have studied theology at Harvard.

Other usages that occur are usually parallel to English.

When a perfect infinitive occurs as a dependent infinitive with a verb or other context that requires
a zu, the zu is placed between the two parts of the infinitive.

Ich freue mich sehr, Ihre Bekanntschaft gemacht zu haben.

I am very pleased to have made your acquaintance.

Fr eine bersetzerin ist es ein groer Vorteil, im Ausland gelebt zu haben.

For a translator it is a great advantage to have lived abroad.

Im Rckblick ist er froh, Arzt geworden zu sein.

In retrospect he is glad to have become a physician.

Sie bereut es sehr, nicht mit dem Zug gereist zu sein.

She regrets [it] very much not to have traveled by train.

The Passive Voice: Simple Tenses

German verbs have two voices: active and passive, as do English verbs. The passive voice is used to
indicate the action of the verb was performed on the subject, rather than the subject performing the
action, as is the case in the active voice.

Active Voice Passive Voice

My sister tells me I am told by my sister
The people elect the president The president is elected by the people

The person performing the action is known in grammar terminology as the agent. Agency is expressed
in English by the preposition by, or occasionally through.

Often the passive voice is used because the performer of the action is unimportant, or to avoid
This edition was published in 1960 (= passive voice), instead of
Someone published this edition in 1960 (= active voice), or
The publishers published this edition in 1960 (= active voice).

In English the passive voice is formed by using to be as the auxiliary verb + the past
participle, e.g. he was elected in 1995, she is called Greta.

In German, the passive voice is formed by using werden ( = auxiliary verb) + past
participle. The agent (performer) of the action is expressed by the preposition von. A non-living
agent or process is usually expressed by the preposition durch.

There is a table of a sample passive voice verb on page 121 of the Grammar Handbook. The active
infinitive is hren = to hear. The passive infinitive is gehrt werden = to be heard. The present
tense runs:

ich werde gehrt = I am heard wir werden gehrt = we are heard

du wirst gehrt = you are heard ihr werdet gehrt = you are heard
er/sie wird gehrt = he/she is heard sie werden gehrt = they are heard

You should note that in the passive voice, like all other compound verb forms, German word
order requires that the second part of the verbhere the past participlestand at the end of a
main clause. You have been alerted to the need to check the end of a sentence when you encounter a
finite form of haben or sein, in order to see whether it is an independent verb or part of a perfect tense.
When you encounter a finite form of werden, you must check the end of the sentence to see whether it
is an independent verb or part of a passsive construction.

The present tense of the passive voice is constructed by using the present tense of the auxiliary verb
werden + the past participle:

Der Spruch wird dem Propheten Muhammad zugeschrieben.

The saying is attributed to the Prophet Mohammed.
Ein Signal wird verwendet.
A signal is used.
Die Wahl eines neuen Papstes wird durch Rauchsignale bekanntgegeben.
The election of a new Pope is announced through smoke signals.

The simple past tense of the passive voice uses the simple past of werden + the past

Paul Tillich wurde 1886 im Nordosten Deutschlands geboren.

Paul Tillich was born in 1886 in northeastern Germany.
Judit wurde von assyrischen Wachen aufgegriffen und zu Holofernes gebracht.
Judith was seized by Assyrian guards and taken to Holofernes.
Judit wurde von den Brgern der Stadt Bethulia als Heldin gefeiert.
Judith was celebrated by the citizens of the town of Bethulia as a heroine.
Die Ansprache des Papstes wurde durch das Fernsehen bertragen.
The Popes address was broadcast on television. [literally: through television]

The passive voice is quite common in German academic prose, because conventions strongly suggest
avoidance of the first person singular, I. German scholars tend to use man = one, wir = we,
impersonal verbs, and the passive voice to avoid saying I. Thus you will find not

[Ich deute den Text wie folgt] = [I interpret the text as follows]
but rather
Der Text kann so gedeutet werden = The text can be interpreted thus

The Perfect Tense and Passive Voice in Context: Recognizing the Verb

When you encounter an unfamiliar verb in the perfect tense or passive voice in reading, you must be
able to reconstruct the infinitive from the past participle in order to look the verb up in the dictionary.

Weak Verbs
Missionare haben die christliche Lehre und Botschaft verbreitet.
The combination of the auxiliary verb haben and the past participle verbreitet indicates the present
perfect tense in the 3rd person plural. There is no ge- prefix on the past participle, making it slightly
harder to recognize. To translate you must remember that verbs with inseparable prefixes do not
add ge- to the past participle (probably because they already have one prefix.)
If you lop off the ending -et and add -en to the stem, you have the infinitive verbreiten, to spread.
Missionaries spread the Christian doctrine and message.

Der Aufstand wurde von Judas Makkabeus geleitet.

The combination wurde . . . geleitet shows you have an instance of the passive voice. Geleitet is the
past participle. The suffix -et (or -t) tells you it belongs to a weak or regular verb. If you lop off the
prefix ge- and the suffix, you have the verb stem leit-; add the infinitive suffix -en and you have
reconstructed the verb to look up: leiten, to lead.
The uprising was led by Judas Maccabeus.

Strong Verbs
1929 ist Paul Tillich Professor an der Universitt Frankfurt geworden.
It is important to remember that forms of sein, to be, can also function as the auxiliary verb in the
perfect tense. The past participle geworden is one that should be memorized, since it occurs so
frequently. The verb is werden, wurde, (ist) geworden. In translating you must recall that German
uses the simple past and perfect tenses interchangeably.
In 1929 Paul Tillich became a professor at the University of Frankfurt.

Abraham wurde gebeten, die Sterne zu zhlen.

Wurde gebeten is the passive-voice verb here. The suffix -en on the past participle indicates you have
encountered a strong or irregular verb, and that quite possibly the stem is not bet-. You can look up
gebeten and your dictionary will refer you to the infinitive. It is usually quicker to look down the past
participle column in the list of the principal parts of strong verbs in the Grammar Handbook or your
dictionary. It will tell you that gebeten is the third principal part of bitten, bat, gebeten.
Abraham was asked to count the stars.

The Passive Voice: Compound Tense

In English, the perfect and past perfect tenses of the passive voice are formed by using the auxiliary
verb in the perfect or past perfect tense + the past participle of the verb being conjugated, e.g.
1) (Present) Perfect Tense
They have been informed about the new situation.
have been = perfect tense of the English auxiliary to be
informed = past participle of the verb to inform.
2) Pluperfect or Past Perfect Tense
They had been informed about the new situation.
had been = pluperfect tense of the English auxiliary to be
informed = past participle of the verb to inform.

Note that the perfect tenses of the passive voice have three elements instead of two.

Simple Past Past Perfect

They were informed They have been informed

1) auxiliary 2) past participle 1) auxiliary 2) past participle 3) past participle
of auxiliary verb of main verb

The perfect tenses of the passive voice contain two past participles, that of the auxiliary verb (in
English to be) and that of the verb being conjugated (in this case to inform).

The construction is parallel in German: The compound tenses are formed by using the
auxiliary verb in the perfect or past perfect tense + the past participle of the verb being conjugated.
The auxiliary verb is werden, and werden is conjugated with sein in the compound tenses. There is one
modification: To avoid having two past participles beginning with ge-, werden drops its ge- prefix
when it is the auxiliary verb in compound tenses of the passive voice.

Sie wurden informiert. Sie sind informiert worden

1) auxiliary 2) past participle 1) auxiliary 2) past participle 3) special past participle
of main verb of auxiliary verb

The auxiliary verb for compound tenses of the passive tense is always sein, because werden takes
sein as its auxiliary.
Whenever you see the past participle geworden, you are dealing with werden as an independent
verb. Whenever you see the special form worden, you know you are dealing with a compound form of
the passive voice.

Here is a sample conjugation of informiert worden sein = to have been informed in the perfect and
pluperfect tenses. Just as there is always the double past participle been informed in English in
these tenses, so there is the parallel double past participle in reverse order in German, informiert
worden. The only changes occur in the present tense of sein:

ich bin informiert worden = I have been informed wir sind informiert worden = we have been informed
du bist informiert worden = you have been informed ihr seid informiert worden = you have been informed
er/sie ist informiert worden = he/she has been informed sie sind informiert worden = they have been informed

ich war informiert worden = I had been informed wir waren informiert worden = we had been informed
du warst informiert worden = you had been informed ihr wart informiert worden = you had been informed
er/sie war informiert worden = he/she had been informed sie waren informiert worden = they had been informed

And here is a comparative table of the active and passive voices for sagen, to say:

The Active Voice The Passive Voice

Present Tense
sie sagen = they say es wird gesagt = it is said

Past Tense
sie sagten = they said es wurde gesagt = it was said

Perfect Tense
sie haben gesagt = they have said es ist gesagt worden = it has been said

Pluperfect Tense
sie hatten gesagt = they had said es war gesagt worden = it had been said

Remember that there is a table of the sample passive verb gehrt werden on p. 121 of the
Grammar Handbook. If you look at the perfect tenses of that table, the form worden appears
throughout. Worden is the signal of a perfect or pluperfect passive construction.

A Sample Chart of the verb tun, to do

Principal parts: tun, tat, (hat) getan

Active Voice Passive Voice

er/sie tut sie tun es wird getan sie werden getan

he/she does they do it is being done they are (being) done
(e.g., the task) (e.g., the tasks)

er/sie tat sie taten es wurde getan sie wurden getan

he/she did they did it was done they were done

er/sie hat getan sie haben getan es ist getan worden sie sind getan worden
he/she has done they have done it has been done they have been done

er/sie hatte getan sie hatten getan es war getan worden sie waren getan worden
he/she had done they had done it had been done they had been done

Present infinitive: tun getan werden

to do to be done
Perfect infinitive: getan haben getan worden sein
to have done to have been done

More on the Passive Voice: Genuine vs. False

The Grammar Handbook discusses the difference between the genuine and false passive
voice on p. 122, in section 3. The essential difference is that the first describes a process and the section
an existing state.

1. In German, the process is expressed in the true passive voice, using the auxiliary verb werden +
the past participle of the particular verb, e.g.

Nachdem die Seiten gedruckt waren, wurden die Bcher gebunden.

After the pages were printed, the books were bound.

Die Hretiker wurden an Pfhle gebunden.

The heretics were tied to stakes.

Die zwei Computer wurden durch Kabeln verbunden.

The two computers were connected by cables.

In English the auxiliary verb of the passive voice is to be.

2. The state or condition that exists after the process has been completed is expressed by sein + the
past participle, which you can think of as being used like an adjective. English also frequently uses past
participles as adjectives.

Die wertvollsten Bcher bei der Versteigerung waren in Leder gebunden.

The most valuable books at the auction were bound in leather.

Israel war immer an seine Geschichte gebunden.

Israel was always bound/linked to its history.

Die zwei Probleme sind miteinander verbunden.

The two problems are connected with one another.

Wir sind ihnen sehr verbunden.

We are much obliged to you.

It may be helpful sometimes to realize that in German the state or condition (i.e. the false passive) is
the same as the process (i.e. the real passive) with the worden dropped off:


Die Bcher sind in Leder gebunden worden. = perfect passive

The books were bound in leather.
An action in the past, expressed in German in the perfect tense.


Diese Bcher sind in Leder gebunden. = present tense of sein + past participle = false passive
These books are bound in leather.
A condition existing in the present.


Die zwei Computer waren durch Kabeln verbunden worden. = past perfect passive
The two computers had been connected by cables.
An action in the remote past, expressed in the past perfect tense.


Die zwei Computer waren durch Kabeln verbunden. = simple past of sein + past participle
= false passive
The two computers were connected by cables.
A condition existing in the more recent past.

Because English uses to be as the auxiliary verb for constructing the passive voice, it does not really
have the difference between true and false passive. Only the context suggests the difference
between an action and a state or condition:

Action: The museum is closed every night at six oclock.

State: It is 7 p.m. The museum is closed now.

In order to emphasize that an action takes place, English must use a progressive verb form:
Action: The doors of the museum were being closed just as we arrived.

The um . . . zu construction

Um . . . zu

One important type of dependent infinitive clause you should become familiar with begins with um and
contains a zu. The combination means in order to:

Jesus ging zum Haus des Simon, um mit ihm zu essen.

Jesus went to Simons house in order to eat with him.
Paul Tillich ging an die Universitt, um Theologie und Philosophie zu studieren.
Paul Tillich went to university in order to study theology and philosophy.

The um . . . zu clause is set off from the rest of the sentence by commas. It begins with the word um, and
the zu stands directly in front of the concluding infinitive.

The two parts of the construction can thus be widely separated. The comma before the um is
one way to recognize that it is not simply a preposition, as in the sentence:

Paul Tillich ging an die Universitt um 1908.

Paul Tillich went to university around 1908.

Because um 1908 is a prepositional phrase, it is not set off by commas.

Another way to recognize um . . . zu is to note that the um is sometimes not followed by a noun or
pronoun, meaning that it is not functioning as a preposition:

Jesus ging zum Haus des Simon, um mit ihm zu essen.

An um . . . zu clause can also stand at the beginning of a sentence:

Um Geld zu sparen, gehen sie selten zum Essen aus.

In order to save money, they seldom go out to eat.

Vocabulary: Working with Roots, Stems, Prefixes, and Suffixes

One key to expanding your German vocabulary is learning to recognize stems, and the word families
built up on them by adding prefixes and suffixes.

The family of kenn-, know

The basic German verb kennen means to know in the sense of to be familiar with. It
consists of the stem kenn- plus the infinitive ending -en.

kennen = to know
der Kenner = expert, connoisseur
kenntlich = recognizable, distinguishable (adjective)
unkenntlich = unrecognizable
die Kenntnis = knowledge
die Unkenntnis = ignorance

Add the prefix be-, and the verb becomes be | kenn | en

bekennen = to profess; to confess, admit (guilt) (used in a legal context,
however, the verb normally used in the Roman Catholic Church is
beichten = to confess (ones sins), go to confession; die Beichte = confession)

das Bekenntnis = denomination; profession, avowal, affirmation

das Glaubensbekenntnis = profession of faith; creed
das apostolische Glaubensbekenntnis = the Apostles Creed
die Bekennende Kirche = the Confessing Church, an offshoot of the
German Lutheran Church that actively opposed National Socialism
during the Third Reich

Add the prefix er-, and the verb becomes er | kenn | en

erkennen = to recognize, perceive
die Erkenntnis = knowledge in a higher, philosophical or religious sense
In the German text of the Book of Genesis, the tree of knowledge is
der Baum der Erkenntnis.
Add the adjective suffix -bar, equivalent to English -ible or -able, and you get
erkennbar = recognizable
unerkennbar = unrecognizable

A related stem is kund, sometimes knd.
The verb kund | tun means to make known.

The noun die Kunde means knowledge of a subject, science or study of

as in
die Natur | kunde = nature study, study of nature, and
die Lebens | kunde = study of life
kundig = knowledgeable, well-informed
unkundig = ignorant
einer Sache unkundig sein = to be ignorant of something

This stem can be varied by adding a prefix and suffix. The verb

verknden = ver | knd | en means

to make known, proclaim. It occurs in one of the reading texts, as does the related noun
der Verknder = Ver | knd | er
in the phrase Muhammad, der Verknder des Islams,
Muhammad, the proclaimer of Islam, the person who makes something known.

A related verb is
verkndigen = ver | kndig | en, which means
to announce, and to preach.
In the Christian tradition, the related noun
die Verkndigung = Ver | knd | ig | ung means
the Annunciation.

The stem kenn- occurs as an element in many further noun compounds, e.g.
die Kennnummer* = know | number = code (number), as for an ATM machine
das Kennwort = know | word = password
das Kennzeichen = know | sign = license plate

* Note that the compound Kenn | nummer does have three Ns now! The recently reformed rules of
German spelling permit this phenomenon, which used to be corrected to a limit of 2 of the same
consonants in a row.

Vocabulary: Fassen

The family of fassen, to grasp, take hold of; put in words, express

The principal parts of the verb are fassen, fate, gefat. Note that the stem is written with a
double s before a vowel, but with before a consonant. The title of the book Islam kurz gefat
translates literally as Islam Expressed Briefly, more freely as Islam in Brief, or A Concise
Introduction to Islam.
Fass- is a basic stem that occurs in many compounds related to writing and written work.

Add the feminine suffix -ung and you get

die Fassung = version, form; composure
Add the adjective suffix -los, equivalent to English -less, and you have
fassungslos = astonished, amazed (having lost ones composure, composure-less)
Add the noun suffix -(ig)keit for
die Fassungslosigkeit = astonisment, amazement
Add a different adjective suffix for
falich = graspable, comprehensible, intelligible
The negative form, however is usually
unfabar = inconceivable, unimaginable

This term is used to refer to works which exists in a number of versions or manuscripts.

Eine revidierte Fassung = a revised version

Add the prefix ver- and you get

verfassen = to compose, write (a book)

der Verfasser = author (male)
die Verfasserin = author (female)
die Verfassung = constitution
das Verfassungsrecht = constitutional law

Add the prepositional prefix auf- for

auffassen = to regard or conceive (as), to take a view, hold an opinion

die Auffassung = view, opinion
nach meiner Auffassung or meiner Auffassung nach = in my view,
in my opinion

Add the prepositional prefix um- for

umfassen = to contain, include, span

Das Werk umfat sechs Bnde = The work contains/consists of six volumes.

umfassend (adjective) = extensive, comprehensive

eine umfassende Studie = a comprehensive study
ein umfassender Bericht = an extensive or comprehensive report

Add the prefix an- and you get

an|fassen = to touch

At a German museum you might see a sign that says

Nicht anfassen! Dont touch!

Adverbs, Verbal Complements, Prepositions, Separable Prefixes

In English common verbs may be accompanied by a number of adverbs or verbal

complements that shift the meaning or make it more specific. Often the adverbial complements
express a relation to physical space, and sometimes these complements are identical to prepositions.
We can say of people that they go or come up, go down, go in, go out, go forth, go back, or go over.
People can come along with someone else or go by a place. In, out, over, and by can function
in English as prepositions with objects in addition to being verbal complements at times.
In German, such verbal complements are also extremely common, but they are used
according to the strict rules of German two-part verb placement, and have come to be called
separable prefixes. In main clauses, since the finite verb itself has to stand as the second element
in the sentence, the verbal complement or separable prefix stands in the place you will have by
now come to expect: At the end of the clause, where a dependent infinitive or past participle would
also stand. Thus while the two parts of the verb are very similar to a number of English verbs, the
word order is noticeably different:

Die Studenten und Studentinnen kommen zurck

The students are coming back.

Die Studenten und Studentinnen kommen jetzt zurck.

The students are coming back now.

Die Studenten und Studentinnen kommen jetzt von der Vorleseung zurck.
The students are coming back from the lecture now.

Whereas English must keep a verb and its complement together, in German the complement
stands at the end of the main clause, like all non-finite parts of two-part verbs.

There is a further important difference in the way English and German handle such verbs with
complements. English always puts the complement after the verb, no matter what. In German,
however, such complements are treated like prefixes when the verb occurs as an infinitive, and the
order is reversed. Thus instead of to go in, to go out, to come through, or to come back,
you get in German
to in-go ein | gehen
to out-go aus | gehen
to through-come durch | kommen
to back-come zurck | kommen

When you encounter such a verb as a dependent infinitive, for example, it will be written as one
Die Studierenden sollen jetzt von der Vorlesung zurckkommen.
The students are supposed to come back from the lecture now.

More on verbs: Separable Prefixes

As the name suggests, separable prefixes are at times attached to a verb, but at times
separate from it and stand on their own. The challenge for the newcomer to German is learning how
to recognize a separable prefix when it has in fact separated, so that you look up the right verb. Just
as a common verb like gehen can have a number of inseparable prefixes added to it to form new
verbs, such as begehen and vergehen, so too can it add separable prefixes and acquire new
meanings: hingehen, to go there/thither, mitgehen, to go along, accompany, weggehen, to
go away, depart.
The two largest categories of separable prefixes are
1) words that can also be prepositions, e.g. an, auf, unter, and mit, and
2) words that can also be adverbs, e.g. hin, her, weg, and da.
The Grammar Handbook lists the most common on pp. 132-133.

The Oxford Duden dictionary places a vertical line between a prefix and a verb stem to
indicate that the prefix is separable, e.g. an | nehmen = (1) to accept; (2) to assume, but verfolgen
= to persecute (inseparable prefix). Separable prefix verbs are always pronounced with the accent
on the prefix. The HarperCollins dictionary uses a + (plus sign) to show that a prefix is separable,
and also writes sep afterwards: an + neh|men sep irreg. The vertical line in the HarperCollins is
simply indicating syllable division.
There are strict rules that govern the position of separable prefixes.

Rule #1: In main clauses containing a finite form of separable prefix verb in a simple tense
(i.e. present or past), the prefix stands at the end of the clause, i.e. the verb is treated as
having two parts, with the second part in final position (just like a past participle in one of the
perfect tenses):

Sie nehmen das Geschenk an.

They accept the gift.

Sie nahmen das Geschenk an.

They accepted the gift.

#1a: If there are two verbs connected by a coordinating conjunction, the prefix appears at the
end of the clause before the conjunction, e.g.

Sie nehmen das Geschenk an UND packen es aus.

[aus|packen = to unpack]
They accept the present and unpack it.

Sie nehmen das Geschenk nicht an SONDERN lehnen es ab.

[ab|lehnen = to refuse]
They do not accept the gift, but refuse it (instead).

Rule #2: If the verb appears as an infinitive (and not a finite form), the prefix and its verb are
written together as one word, just as in the dictionary entry:

Sie wollen das Geschenk annehmen. They want to accept the gift.
Sie drfen das Geschenk nicht annehmen sondern mssen es ablehnen.
They are not allowed to accept the gift, but must (rather) refuse it.

#2a: If the dependent infinitive is part of a construction that requires zu, the zu is inserted between
the prefix and the verb, and the three parts are written as one word:

Sie wnschen, das Geschenk anzunehmen.

They wish to accept the gift.

Clearly, native speakers of German acquire an intuitive sense that a clause may end with a
separable prefix, and often there are clues. Take the sentence
My co-workers often include me in their outings on weekends.
In German this is
Meine Arbeitskollegen schlieen mich in ihren Ausflgen am Wochenende oft ein.
Einschlieen is part of the series
schlieen = to close
ein|schlieen = (1) to shut in, lock up; (2) to include
aus|schlieen = (1) to shut out; (2) to exclude
When German speakers hear schlieen mich, they register that close me is nonsensical:
You can close a door or a shop, but not a person. They then automatically anticipate the separable
prefix that will say whether the co-workers include or exclude their colleague. In fact, native
speakers would anticipate include as soon as they hear the preposition in, because the verb to
exclude, ausschlieen, takes the preposition von:

Meine Arbeitskollegen schlieen mich von ihren Ausflgen am Wochenende oft aus.
My co-workers often exclude me from their outings on weekends.

The easiest way to distinguish a preposition from a separable prefix is to notice that a
preposition will be followed by an object, usually a noun, while a separable prefix will, when
separated from its verb, stand at the end of its clause alone and have nothing following it. If
you find such an orphaned preposition, it is usually safe to assume that it is a separable prefix. In the
sample sentences above you would not get far translating if you looked up the verb nehmen. It is
essential to recognize that the verb is an|nehmen and look that up.

Study the list of separable prefixes on pages 132-134 of the Grammar Handbook, especially
the first two categories, prepositions and adverbs used as prefixes.

More on Separable Prefixes

The rules about the behavior of separable prefixes continue:

#2b: If the main clause is followed by a subordinating conjunction and subordinate clause or
an infinitive clause with zu, the prefix appears at the end of the clause, i.e. before the new
clause begins:
Sie nehmen an, da alles in Ordnung ist.
They assume that everything is in order.
Sie haben vor, ein Geschenk zu kaufen. (vor|haben = to intend)
They intend to buy a present.

Rule #3: In subordinate clauses, the finite form must come last, and the prefix must
immediately precede it. Prefix and stem are written together again, as in the basic infinitive
form, e.g.
Der Politiker bekam Schwierigkeiten, weil er teure Geschenke annahm.
The politician got into difficulties, because he accepted expensive gifts.
Wenn sie das annimmt, hat sie sich geirrt.
If she assumes that, she has made a mistake.

Rule #4: The past participle is written with the -ge- inserted between the prefix and stem, as
one word, e.g.
Sie haben das Geschenk angenommen. They have accepted the gift.
Wir haben das nie angenommen. We never assumed that.
If you prefer, you can think of this as adding the prefix to the existing past participle of the simple

The case of separable prefixes that can be adverbs is not quite so critical for recognition
purposes as the category of prepositions. In fact, there is a shifting boundary for when a sentence
element is considered an adverb and when it is considered part of the verb and a separable prefix.
In the sentence
Die Frau nahm ein Glas mit Salbe und ging hin.
The woman took a jar of ointment and went there [to the house where Jesus was].
you could consider hin simply as an adverb, there,to that place. As an adverb, hin has its own
listing in the dictionary. But if you look in your dictionary, you will also see that hin- is one of the
most common separable prefixes. In this instance the combination should probably be read as an
example of the separable-prefix verb hin | gehen, to go to that place.

The Future Tense

The future tense in German is formed, like the passive voice, with the auxiliary verb werden. The
difference is that the

future tense consists of werden + infinitive

whereas the passive voice consists of werden + the past participle.

Sie wird rufen = she will call = future tense


Sie wird gerufen = she is called (= present tense of the passive voice)
= werden + past participle

The future tense is used a great deal in spoken German, of course, but is fairly rare in academic
writing. The passive voice is quite common, on the other hand, because it allows writers to
avoid using I, the first person singular; this is considered a breach of the formal style.

The conjugation of the verb gehen looks like this:

ich werde gehen = I shall/will go wir werden gehen = we shall/will go

du wirst gehen = you will go ihr werdet gehen = you will go
er/sie wird gehen = he/she will go sie werden gehen = they will go

The rules for word order in the future tense are the same as for all compound verb formations:
The finite form of the auxiliary verb stands in second position in main clauses, and in final
position in subordinate clauses. The second part of the verb, namely the infinitive for the
future tense, stands in final position for main clauses and in second-to-last position in
subordinate clauses (immediately preceding the finite verb form).

Main clause: Apokalypse heit: Die Welt wird zu einer vorbestimmten Zeit zugrundegehen.
2nd element end position
Apocalypse means: The world will end at a predestined time.
Subordinate clause:
Apokalypse heit, da die Welt zu einer vorbestimmten Zeit zugrundegehen wird.
next-to-last pos. end pos.
Apocalypse means that the world will end at a predestined time.

Dependent Infinitives with the Future Tense

Since we have added the future tense to the repertoire, you may now encounter two
infinitive forms at the end of a sentence. The components of the future tense enclose the other
parts of the sentence, so that the infinitive belonging to the conjugated verb comes last (in the
sample case below the modal wollen), directly preceded by the dependent infinitive. The rule for
the placement of the parts of the finite verb takes precedence over the rule that the dependent
infinitive comes last. In such a case it comes next to last.

Modal verb + dependent infinitive: Sie will jenes Buch lesen. / She wants to read that book.
2nd pos. last pos.

Future + dependent infinitive: Sie wird jenes Buch lesen wollen. / She will want to read that book.
2nd pos. next-to-last + last pos.

Note that the order of the verbs at the end is now the reverse of English: will . . . to read want
instead of will want to read.
To translate, you must first find the auxiliary and then go to the end of the sentence and
work backwards.

The Future Tense in the Passive Voice

Yes, theoretically the nightmare case can occur: The future tense of the passive voice uses werden
as a double auxiliary, once for the future and once for the passive, as in 1 Corinthians 15, 51:

Wir werden nicht alle entschlafen, wir werden aber alle verwandelt werden; und dasselbe
pltzlich, in einem Augenblick.
We will not all die, but we will all be changed, and that same [thing] suddenly, in the
twinkling of an eye.

In this instance werden, as the auxiliary for the future tense, is combined with the passive infinitive.
It is quite rare, however, so it is one of the grammatical phenomena that I would choose to worry
about last.

Remember there is a full conjugation of a sample verb in the passive voicein all tensesin the
Grammar Handbook on page 121: gehrt werden, to be heard.

The Verb Lassen : lassen, lie, gelassen

1) meaning to let, to permit, to allow

One of the most common meanings of the verb lassen is to let (its English cognate),
as in the sentences

Pharaoh lie das Volk Israel ziehen. / Pharaoh let the people of Israel go.
Die Mutter lt die Kinder drauen spielen. / The mother lets the children play outside.

When it has this meaning, lassen is usually followed by a dependent infinitive with a different
subject: Someone allows someone else to do something. Just as in the case of the English verb
to let, lassen takes a dependent infinitive without zu.

2) as a Causative Verb

In German lassen also functions as the basic causative verb, and can mean to cause some action
to be performed. In idiomatic English we cause something to be done or more commonly, have
something done by someone else. This kind of expression is used when the writer wishes to stress
the outcome but not the identity of the person or people performing the action. Sometimes the
identity is not known. Take the sentence

Sie lassen ihr Haus neu streichen.

Literally: They cause to paint new their house.
They are having their house repainted.
[They are causing their house to be repainted.]

This is preferable to saying They are having someone repaint their house or They are having
painters repaint their house.

Thus in causative sentences German uses lassen + an active infinitive, while English uses
to have plus a past participle.

Alternatively, English can use to cause plus a passive infinitive. In any case in German the house
is being painted and not painting anything, so the English translation must shift from an active to
a passive form. In the sentence above Haus is the object of the infinitive streichen, not the subject,
as in sentences of type 1 above.

Pharao lie Mose und Aaron rufen.

Pharaoh had Moses and Aaron summoned;
Pharaoh caused Moses and Aaron to be summoned.

Pharao lie Kriegswagen rsten.

Pharaoh had chariots of war made ready;
Pharaoh caused chariots of war to be made ready.

Distinguishing between the two ways that lassen is used should not be too difficult in practice if,
having tried to translate permit, allow and getting nothing that makes sense, you recall that the
verb also has a causative sense.

3) lassen as a reflexive verb: sich lassen

The verb lassen can be used reflexively in both of the above senses.

a) sich lassen in the sense of permit or allow oneself/itself again requires the
translation of an active German infinitive into a passive form to produce idiomatic English, e.g.:

Die Theorie lt sich nicht beweisen.

Literally: The theory lets itself not prove.
Slightly less literally: The theory does not allow itself to be proved.
Idiomatic: The theory can not be proved.

Often the best translation of sich lassen in such sentences is the corresponding form of can:

Die jdische Apokalyptik lt sich mit der Offenbarung des Johannes vergleichen.
Literal: Jewish apocalyptic literature allows itself to be compared with the Revelation of John.
Jewish apocalyptic literature can be compared with the Revelation of John.

Die Entstehung des Zen-Buddhismus lt sich auf den Stifter der Religion zurckfhren.
Literal: The origin of Zen Buddhism allows itself to be traced back to the founder of the religion.
The origin of Zen Buddhism can be traced back to the founder of the religion.

You can see that sich lassen in this sense is an equivalent to the passive voice and a good way
for a German writer to avoid using long passive forms. You will thus find it fairly frequently in
academic prose. The sample sentences above can all be rewritten with a passive infinitive and will
still mean the same thing, e.g.
Die jdische Apokalyptik kann mit der Offenbarung des Johannes verglichen werden.
Jewish apocalyptic literature can be compared with the Revelation of John.
Die Enstehung des Zen-Buddhismus kann auf den Stifter der Religion zurckgefhrt
The origin of Zen Buddhism can be traced back to the founder of the religion.
Many German writers like the sich lassen construction because it is shorter and avoids the passive

b) sich lassen in the sense of cause oneself to be, have oneself + past participle.
Like the simple (i.e., non-reflexive) use of lassen as a causative verb, this usage requires translation
of the German active infinitive into a past participle, e.g.

Viele Menschen lieen sich taufen.

Literal: Many people caused to baptize themselves.
Slightly less literal: Many people caused themselves to be baptized.
Idiomatic: Many people had themselves baptized.

More examples:

Knigin Victoria lie sich zur Kaiserin von Indien krnen.

Queen Victoria had herself crowned empress of India.

Die Theologiestudentin will sich ordinieren lassen.

Fairly literal: The theology student wants to have herself ordained.
Idiomatic: The theology student wants to be ordained.

Der Theologiestudent hat vor, sich ordinieren zu lassen.

The tehology student intends to have himself ordained.
The theology student intends to enter the ministry.
The theology student intends to take holy orders.

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses, an important type of subordinate clause.

Their forms are largely identical with the definite article, except for the genitive singular and plural
and the dative plural. They are given on p. 39 of the Grammar Handbook. An alternative but
incomplete relative pronoun is welcher (also on p. 39); it lacks the genitive case. Welcher can
also be an interrogative pronoun and adjective ( = which? Which one?). English has two cognate
forms of relative pronoun. You can think of the forms der/die/das as related to English that, and
welcher / welche / welches as related to English who/which.
The forms that differ from the definite article are shown in bold.

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural

Nom. der die das die

Gen. dessen deren dessen deren

Dat. dem der dem denen

Acc. den die das die

Nom. welcher welche welches welche

Gen. [dessen] [deren] [dessen] [deren]

Dat. welchem welcher welchem welchen

Acc. welchen welche welches welche

A relative pronoun refers back to a previous noun, which is called its antecedent.
Relative pronouns are a way of combining two simple sentences into one more complex one, e.g.

Schleiermacher legte ein Programm in seiner Kurzen Darstellung des theologischen Studiums vor.
Das Programm gliederte das Studium in drei Teile.
Schleiermacher presented a program in his Brief Outline of Theology as a Field of Study.
The program divided the course of study into three parts.

When two sentences contain the same word, they can be made into one by means of a relative
Schleiermacher legte ein Programm vor, das das Studium in drei Teile gliederte.
Schleiermacher presented a program that divided the course of study into three parts.
Das Programm, das Schleiermacher vorlegte, gliederte das Studium in drei Teile.
The program that Schleiermacher presented divided the course of study into three parts.

Note that informal English can omit the relative pronoun: The program [0] Schleiermacher
presented divided the course of study into three parts. German can never omit a relative pronoun
at the start of a relative clause in this manner.

Relative clauses are extremely common in both English and German. They are one of the
features that most distinguish the writing of children from that of adults, as they make
sentences denser. They pack more information into a single sentence. To read academic
German it is essential to master relatives clauses and learn to spot them.

Like all dependent clauses, relative clauses are set off by commas. When you see a form that
looks like a definite article but has no noun to go with it anywhere nearby, consider whether
you may be dealing with a relative pronoun. Look to see if the form introduces a clause ending
with a verb. Always keep in mind, however, that German articles and their nouns may be divided
by long adjectival constructions.

Inscribe on your hearts the rule: A relative pronoun agrees in gender and number with its
antecedent, but its case depends on its use in its own clause. A relative pronoun will often be in
a different case than its antecedent. In the sentence

Das Programm, das Schleiermacher vorlegte, gliederte das Studium in drei Teile
Antecedent relative pronoun

Das Programm is the subject. It is a neuter noun in the nominative singular. In the relative clause,
the relative pronoun is standing in for Programm as the object of the verb vorlegte: Er legte ein
Programm vor = He presented a program. The relative pronoun is therefore neuter singular to agree
with its antecedent, but in the accusative case because of its function in its own clause.

It is important to note that not all relative clauses begin with a relative pronoun. The pronoun may
also be the object of a preposition, e.g.
Goethe lebte am Ende einer Periode, in der der islamische Orient westliche Kultur
befruchtet hatte.
Goethe lived at the end of a period in which the Islamic East had enlivened western culture.
antecedent preposition + relative pronoun

In this example, the relative pronoun der is the object of the preposition in. Its antecedent, Periode,
is in the genitive case. The relative pronoun der is thus feminine singular to agree with its
antecedent, Periode, and in the dative as required by its function as object of a preposition in its
own clause.

One good indication that you are dealing with a relative pronoun in this sentence is the fact that
the word der, which could conceivably be a definite article, is followed immediately by a noun in
a different case, namely der Orient. When you run into this, you should notice that you have the
[comma] [preposition] + [form resembling a definite article without a matching noun =
relative pronoun] + [different article and noun] + . . . [verb] [comma or period].

In a German text on the Upanishads there is the following sentence:

Die Grundtatsache, von der diese Lehre ausgeht, ist die belebende Kraft des Wassers.
The basic fact from which this doctrine derives is the life-giving power of water.

Note that in informal English this sentence could run as follows:

The basic fact that this doctrine derives from is the life-giving power of water.

In this English version the relative pronoun follows directly after its antecedent but the preposition
is placed at the end of the relative clause. German cannot do this. If a relative pronoun is the
object of a preposition in German, the preposition must precede it.

A Special Case

In a few fixed expressions, the word was functions as a relative pronoun:

alles, was = everything that/which etwas, was = something that/which
nichts, was = nothing that/which das, was = that which/ what

German says nothing what, something what, and everything what, whereas English uses
nothing that, nothing which, etc.

Die Studenten haben fast alles, was der Professor sagte, verstanden.
The students understood almost everything (that) the professor said.

Ein guter Wissenschaftler hlt seinen Geist offen fr das, was ist. Tao Te King 27
A good scholar keeps his mind open for what (= that which) is.

Sie stellten viele Fragen zu dem, was sie nicht verstanden hatten.
They asked many questions about what (= that which) they hadnt understand.

In the last sentence the das appears in the dative case, dem, as the object of the preposition zu; was
is invariable.

The Placement of Relative Clauses in Sentences

There are two possibilities for placing relative clauses in sentences, just as there are in
English. In both languages decisions are probably made most of the time for parallel reasons.
A relative clause can follow its antecedent directly, or a writer may choose to complete the main
clause and then add the relative clause afterwards. The choice is usually made on the basis of how
much of the main clause remains to be completed:

Schleiermacher setzte sich fr eine theologische Fakultt ein. Sie sollte ein Teil der modernen
deutschen Universitt sein.
Schleiermacher argued in favor of a theological faculty. It was intended to be a part of the modern
German university.

We can combine these sentences in two ways

1) Immediately following the antecedent:

Schleiermacher setzte sich fr eine theologische Fakultt, die ein Teil der modernen
deutschen Universitt sein sollte, ein.

2) after the main clause is concluded:

Schleiermacher setzte sich fr eine theologische Fakultt ein, die ein Teil der modernen
deutschen Universitt sein sollte.

In this case, since only one syllable of the main clause is left, virtually every writer would opt for
version two. Especially in modern German, there is a tendency to avoid inserting long relative
clauses in between the two parts of a separable-prefix verb. Sometimes, however, once you have
recognized a relative clause, you may need to go back and search for the antecedent.

The Box Sentence

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth century, scholars often considered it a mark of elegant
style to place a subordinate clause within a main clause and then embed a second subordinate clause
within that. This kind of long sentence resembles one of those Russian dolls containing ever smaller
versions inside, or a set of nesting boxes. Germans thought of the latter (die Schachtel = box) and
termed such sentences Schachtelstze, box sentences. You are very unlikely to run into them in
modern German, but be prepared if you have to read older writers. The first sentence of Friedrich
Schleiermachers ber die Religion: Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verchtern (On Religion:
Addresses to the Educated Among Those Who Regard It with Contempt) from 1799 runs:
1 Es mag ein unerwartetes Unternehmen sein, und Ihr mgt Euch billig darber wundern,[2
da jemand gerade von denen, (3welche sich ber das Gemeine erhoben haben und von der
Weisheit des Jahrhunderts durchdrungen sind,3) Gehr verlangen kann fr einen von ihnen so
ganz vernachlssigten Gegenstand.2]1
1 It may be an unexpected undertaking, and you may properly be surprised [2 that one of the
very people (3 who have raised themselves above the commonplace and are permeated with the
wisdom of the century3) can request a hearing on a topic so neglected by you.2]1

Impersonal Verb Constructions

Like English, German has a number of verbs and verb constructions called impersonal, because
the it or es that serves as the subject does not refer to any specific agent. Most expressions about
the weather are impersonal in this sense, e.g.
Es regnet = Its raining
Es schneit = Its snowing.
They can occur in all tenses.

The Grammar Handbook lists impersonal verbs by category on pp. 126-127.

One of the most important is geben es gibt.

Es gibt
This expression is followed by the accusative case and means there is, there exists.
Es gibt keinen Grund zur Panik. = There is no reason to panic.
Solche Erscheinungen hat es immer gegeben. = Such phenomena have always existed.
On hearing some astonishing news, a German speaker may exclaim: Das gibt es nicht!
= literally, that does not exist; more freely: That cant be! Thats impossible!

There is a discussion of seven common idiomatic verbs, with many instances of impersonal use, on
pp. 128-131. We have already covered lassen. You should look at the first five on pp. 128-129. The
impersonal use of these verbs is discussed below. One reason these verbs are covered in detail is
that their usage is highly idiomatic, and thus they are hard to figure out when you come across them.
A second reason is that they are often used to introduce a complicated grammatical construction
that we will get to soon, the extended da-compound.

1) Es geht um = The issue is . . .

Es geht um is followed by the accusative and means The issue is, it is about.
Es geht hier um die Glaubwrdigkeit der Quellen.
= The issue here is the credibility/ reliability of the sources.
Worum ging es bei der Grndung des Sufismus?
= What was the founding of Sufism about? What were the issues involved in the founding of

A German speaker, arriving late at a discussion or presentation in progress, might ask,

Worum geht es?
which translates literally as Around what does it go?, i.e. What is at the center [of the
discussion]?, What is the issue? What are they talking about?

Similarly, a person making a comment thought to be irrelevant to a discussion may hear

Darum geht es nicht,
meaning literally It does not go around that, i.e. Thats not the point. Thats not the issue.

2) Es handelt sich um = It is a matter of . . .
Again the object of the preposition is in the accusative; the expression is very similar in
meaning to Es geht um.
Worum handelt es sich bei diesem Autor?
What is this authors point? What is this author getting at?
Bei Schleiermachers Kurzen Darstellung handelt es sich um eine neue Auffassung des
In Schleiermachers Brief Outline the main issue/point is a new conception of theological
Schleiermachers point in the Brief Outline was . . .

3) Es gilt (from the present-tense stem-change verb gelten) = It is important to . . .

This is usually followed by an infinitive clause, and means The aim is . . It is important
to . . .
Es gilt jetzt, die Identitt des Autors festzustellen.
The aim now is to establish the identity of the author.
Es galt, sich zu entscheiden.
It was important to make up ones mind. The important thing was to decide.

4) Es lt sich = It can . . .

The verb sich lassen in the sense of allow or permit also appears as an impersonal verb.
It is often best translated by can + the passive voice.

Es lt sich nicht mit Sicherheit sagen, wer der Autor war.

Literally, It does not allow itself to be said with certainty . . .
It cannot be said with certainty who the author was.

A further common impersonal expression is

5) Es lohnt sich = It is worth(while) . . . doing something [expressed by the infinitive that


Es lohnt sich hier, eine Stelle des Korans im vollen Wortlaut zu zitieren.
It is worth citing a passage of the Koran in full here.

A Special Case in the Construction of the Perfect Tenses: Modal Verbs with
Dependent Infinitives = Double Infinitive Constructions

When the six modal verbs are used without a dependent infinitive, they use the normal past
gedurft, gekonnt, gemocht, gemut, gesollt, gewollt.

e.g. Warum hat er das getan? Er hat gemut.

Why did he do that? He had to.
Ist das was du gewollt hast?
Is that what you wanted?

When the six modal verbs are used with dependent infinitives (i.e. most of the time) in all perfect
tenses, indicative and subjunctive, however, the normal past participles are replaced by forms
identical to the infinitive. This creates the so-called double infinitive construction at the end of a
main clause. See the Grammar Handbook, p. 100, # 2 and 3.

The same rule applies for the other main verbs that can take a dependent infinitive without zu,
namely lassen and the verbs of sensory perception, to hear, to see, etc. Thus you get

Hast du das gesehen? Did you see that?

Das habe ich kommen sehen.I saw that coming.

This leads to sentences such as:

a) a modal verb in a perfect tense:

Friedrich Schleiermacher hat fr eine theologische Fakultt an der Universitt Berlin kmpfen
mssen. (instead of gemut)
Friedrich Schleiermacher had to fight for a theological faculty at the University of Berlin.

b) lassen in a perfect tense:

Das Ehepaar hat sich nicht scheiden lassen. (instead of gelassen).

The couple did not get a divorce.

c) a verb of sensory perception in a perfect tense:

Kennt er das Buch? Er hat er davon gehrt.

Does he know the book? He has heard of it.
Er hat mich davon reden hren.
He has heard me talk about it.

The ist . . . zu Construction

This idiomatic German construction uses an impersonal es ist followed by zu and an active
infinitive. The English equivalent is often can or must followed by a passive infinitive, e.g.

Es ist nicht zu ndern. Literally: It is not to change = It cant be changed.

Es ist noch viel zu tun. There is still much to do. There is still much to be done.

Several examples are given in the Grammar Handbook, p. 210, #11.

However, the construction can also appear with ordinary noun subjects, e.g.

Folgende Probleme sind noch zu besprechen.

The following problems must still be discussed. /or/ are still to be discussed.

Jene Methode ist gar nicht zu empfehlen.

That method is not to be recommended at all. /or/ cannot be recommended at all.

The active infinitive in German must usually be translated into a passive form in English:
Dieser Aufsatz ist bis zur nchsten Woche zu lesen.
This essay is to be read by next week.

The ist . . . zu construction can also be expressed in the passive voice in German. It is equivalent
in meaning to the sentence

Dieser Aufsatz soll bis zur nchsten Woche gelesen worden sein.
This essay is supposed to have been read by next week.

But you can see why Germans often prefer to use ist . . . zu instead of a bulky four-part verb
consisting of a modal plus the perfect passive infinitive: soll . . . gelesen worden sein. The perfect
passive infinitive is so rare that it would jar the ear and not roll easily off the tongue in ordinary

Da- Compounds: The Extended Construction

You have learned about simple da-compounds, which replace the [preposition + personal
pronoun] when the pronoun refers to an inanimate object. A related but more complicated
grammatical construction exists known as the extended da-compound. It consists of a simple
da-compound followed by an infinitive clause or a subordinate clause. It exists because German
cannot follow a preposition with a verb phrase or clause containing modifiers. English uses
the gerund in such cases, i.e. a verb form that functions as a noun:
This book is good (suitable) for learning.
German has no gerund or equivalent verb form; it has only the infinitive to work with, which it
turns into a noun by placing the article das in front of it: das Lernen, learning.
The phrase to be suitable for something is zu etwas geeignet sein in German. The
equivalent of the above sentence is
Dieses Buch ist zum Lernen geeignet.
Let us make the sentence more complicated by adding an object:
This book is suitable for learning German.
German can keep the above structure if the object can be incorporated into the (verbal) noun:
Dieses Buch ist zum Deutschlernen geeignet.
It can also keep the structure if the object can be turned into a genitive phrase dependent on the
(verbal) noun:
Dieses Buch ist zum Lernen der deutschen Sprache geeignet.
Literally: This book is suitable for the learning of the German language =
This book is suitable for learning the German language.
English can use the gerund construction with further modifiers, such as an adverb or prepositional
This book is suitable for learning German quickly.
This book is suitable for leaning German without a teacher.
Here the German construction has reached its limits, and must be replaced by an extended
da-compound. The da-compound uses the necessary preposition, which is then expanded in an
infinitive clause with a zu:

Dieses Buch ist dazu geeignet, deutsch schnell zu lernen.

This book is suitable for learning German quickly.
Dieses Buch ist dazu geeignet, deutsch ohne einen Lehrer zu lernen.
This book is suitable for learning German without a teacher.

One way to think of the extended da-compound in English is

This book is suitable for this [= da + preposition], (namely), to learn German without a
teacher. Once you have recognized the construction, you can then convert the English sentence to
one with a gerund:

This book is suitable for learning German without a teacher.

Such dependent infinitive clauses are used, both with and without da-compounds, when no
subject of the infinitive is named or the subject of the infinitive (the person performing the action)
is the same as the subject of the main verb. If the subject changes, however, both German and
English must use a subordinate clause introduced by da or that instead of an infinitive:
Mein Professor hat beschlossen, zur Konferenz zu gehen.
My professor has decided to go to the conference.
Mein Professor hat beschlossen, da ich zur Konferenz gehen werde.
My professor has decided that I will go to the conference.

The same rule applies to extended da-compounds.

The da-compound is extended by an infinitive clause if the verb in the clause has no subject
or if the subject is the same as the subject of the main verb:

Epikur entschied sich dafr, das Glck als das Wesentliche im menschlichen Leben
Epicurus decided to view happiness as the essential thing in human life. /or/
Epicurus decided in favor of viewing happiness as the essential thing in human life.

Die Stoiker legten Wert darauf, das Gttliche im Menschen selbst zu erkennen.
The Stoics placed value on recognizing the divine (element) in human beings themselves.

However, if the subject changes, the da-compound is extended by a subordinate clause

introduced by da.

Einiges spricht dafr, da Lao-tse keine historische Figur ist.

Lit.: Some[thing] speaks for this, that Lao-tse is not a historical figure.
There is some evidence that Lao-tse is not a historical figure.

Es besteht Einigkeit darber, da das Tao Te Ching ein wichtiger Text ist.
Lit.: There is agreement about this, that the Tao Te Ching is an important text.
There is agreement about the fact that the Tao Te Ching is an important text.

Paulus schreibt darber, da eine Gemeinde wie ein menschlicher Krper ist.
Lit.: Paul writes about this, that a congregation/community is like a human body.
Paul writes about the idea that a congregation is like a human body /or/
Paul writes about the idea of a congregation being like a human body.

There is a list of the usual da-compounds on p. 154 of the Grammar Handbook. When it says there
that these compounds can often be rendered as the fact that in English, or omitted, it means
when they are expanded in the above manner. The examples listed at the top of p. 155 include
infinitive-clause expansions, but no da-clause expansions. Both are possible, however.

More on Extended Constructions with Da-Compounds

The extended construction after a da-compound exists basically because German has no verbal
noun like the English gerund ending in -ing. Gerunds in English can function like nouns, as the
subject or object in a sentence, or as the object of a preposition:
Swimming is my favorite sport.
I like swimming in the ocean.
One ought to wait a few minutes after eating before swimming.
At the same time gerunds can take modifiers, such as adverbs, and even noun objects like a verb:
Swimming the backstroke is my specialty.
I like swimming lazily in the ocean.
After eating a large meal, one ought to wait before swimming strenuously.

Since the German language does not have this feature, it must use other constructions to say the
equivalent things.
Take the simple English statement
She preached about loving ones neighbor.

1) One option in German is to use one of the notorious noun compounds:

Sie predigte ber die Nchstenliebe.

Literally: She preached about the love of ones neighbor.

The lack of a gerund is a chief reason why German seems so heavy on nouns to English

2) A second option is to use a noun and expand it with an infinitive clause:

Sie predigte ber das Gebot, seinen Nchsten zu lieben.

Literally: She preached about the commandment to love ones neighbor.

3) A third option is to use a da-compound and extend it:

Sie predigte darber, da man seinen Nchsten lieben soll.

Literally: She preached about this, [namely] that one should love ones neighbor.
More freely (i.e., better English): She preached about loving ones neighbor.


You have already encountered the difference between predicate adjectives and attributive
adjectives in German. Predicate adjectives occur only with linking verbs such as to be or to
seem and stand after the noun they modify and usually after a verb, e.g.

Der Himmel war grau. Das Buch schien alt zu sein.

The sky was gray. The book appeared to be old.

Predicate adjectives occur in their basic form, without any additional endings. (Adverbs
resemble predicate adjectives in that they resemble the dictionary listing for adjectives and also
have no endings, but adverbs modify verbs of action or adjectives.)
Attributive adjectives stand in front of the noun they modify, e.g.

ein grauer Himmel ein altes Buch

a gray sky an old book

Attributive adjectives have endings attached to them, depending on the context in which they occur.
There are three different sets of declensions for attributive adjectives in German. While this
may seem like an unnecessary complication, it is in fact based on the principle of least
redundance and therefore to everyone but foreign students of the language least effort. The
principle of least redundance says that it is necessary to have only one clear or strong ending
indicating gender and case in a noun phrase with all its modifiers. All the other endings can then
be weak (non-distinctive). The Grammar Handbook has the three tables for adjective
endings on p. 66 and sample declensions on pp. 67-71.

Remember that you learned ein- and der- words separately for a good reason! Ein-
and der-words have their own sets of endings. These are not the same as the endings for
ordinary adjectives.

1) in a noun phrase with no introductory modifier (der- or ein- word), attributive adjectives
must take strong endings:

in alttestamentlicher Zeit = in the Old Testament era

the strong ending indicating feminine dative singular is required.

The only exceptions are the masculine and neuter genitive singular, where the final -s that must be
added to the noun indicates case sufficiently already

die Grenzen menschlichen Wissens = the limits of human knowledge

The genitive -s is sufficient indication of case.

2) in a noun phrase introduced by an ein-word, attributive adjectives take the weak endings
except in cases where the ein-word has no ending, namely the masculine nominative and the
neuter nominative and accusative. In the latter instances the strong ending is required to show
in einer bestimmten Folge = in a particular order
but ein allgemein gltiges Gesetz = a generally valid law
ein regelrechter Kreislauf des Wassers = a real circulation of water
Ein is ambiguous with regard to gender, so the strong ending is necessary.

3) in a noun phrase introduced by a der-word, attributive adjectives take the weak endings
in der hellenistischen Welt = in the Hellenistic world
das rabbinische Verstndnis des Gesetzes = the rabbinical understanding of the law
der eigentliche Trger des Lebens = the actual carrier of life

When adjectives appear in a series, they all take the same ending. Words without an ending are then
adverbs, e.g.
ein ausschlielich religiser und moralischer Wert =
an exclusively religious and moral value.


Participles are verb forms that cannot stand on their own like a finite verb and serve as the verb of
a main or subordinate clause. They always occur in sentences in combination with something else,
usually 1) as part of a two-part compound verb, with an auxiliary; or 2) modifying a noun, as a form
of adjective. German has two participle forms: the present participle and the past participle.

1) The past participle is by far the more common and important of the two. It is the third principal
part of each verb.
Past participles of weak verbs consist of the prefix ge-, the stem, and the suffix -t (or -et if the stem
ends in -d or -t):
sagen, sagte, gesagt (said) reden, redete, geredet (talked)
Past participles of strong verbs consist of the prefix ge-, the altered stem, and the suffix -en:
schreiben, schrieb, geschrieben (written) ziehen, zog, gezogen (pulled, moved)
Special case #1: Past participles of inseparable-prefix verbs do not add the prefix ge-:
erzhlen, erzhlte, erzhlt (told, recounted)
befehlen, befahl, befohlen (ordered, commanded)
Remember that inseparable-prefix verbs can be either weak or strong.
Special case #2: Verbs ending in -ieren (i.e., words of foreign origin that have been adopted in
German) also do not add the prefix ge-:
ordinieren, ordinierte, ordiniert (ordained)
All verbs ending in ieren are weak. You must thus distinguish between er studiert = he
studies, and er hat studiert = he has studied.
Special case #3: The prefix ge- of separable prefix verbs goes between the prefix and the stem:
ein| schlafen, schlief ein, eingeschlafen (fallen asleep)
Separable-prefix verbs can also be weak or strong.

The past participle has two main uses in German: as part of perfect tenses, and as an adjectival

Adjectival usage: The past participle on its own has mainly a passive sense.

The past participle of the verb erschpfen is erschpft = exhausted.

This can be used as a simple adjective, e.g.
Tillich irrte auf dem Schlachtfeld von Verdun herum, bis er erschpft war.
Tillich wandered around the battlefield of Verdun until he was exhausted.
Because a participle is a kind of verb form, however, it can also be used with objects and
complements, like a verb, e.g.
Erschpft von seinen Anstrengungen schlief Tillich auf dem Schlachtfeld ein.
Exhausted from his efforts, Tillich fell asleep on the battlefield.

2) The present participle occurs much less frequently in German than the past participle. It is
formed (with very few exceptions) by adding the suffix -d to the infinitive. It corresponds to the
English present participle, which ends in -ing, e.g.
reden + d = redend, speaking
liegen + d = liegend, lying (down)

(Note that both the gerund and the present participle in English end in -ing, but one functions as a
noun and one like an adjective. In the sentences I like swimming and Swimming is my favorite
sport, swimming is a gerund, or verbal noun. In the sentence I got a cramp (while) swimming
across the pool, swimming is a present participle.) One major use of the present participle in
English is in progressive tenses, e.g. She is swimming now. I have been swimming there often.
German does not have the equivalent tenses; that is one major reason why the present participle is
rarer in German than English.
The main use of the present participle in German is adjectival, a way in which present
participles are also used in English.

The present participle on its own has mainly an active sense.

Die Sufis sahen die Weltlichkeit als zunehmend.
The Sufis saw worldiness as increasing. Occasionally, a present participlebecause it
is an adjective in essencewill be used in German as an adverb, just as most German adjectives
can be. There is an instance of this in the text on Friedrich Schleiermacher:

emprend revolutionr = shockingly revolutionary, outrageously revolutionary.

3) a) When past and present participles are used as predicate adjectives, they take no
endings, like all German adjectives.
Der Mann (die Frau, das Buch) ist bekannt.
Dieser Faktor ist entscheidend.

b) When they are used attributively, they require the same endings as other adjectives.
ein bekannt|er Mann; eine bekannt|e Frau; ein bekannt|es Buch
der entscheidende Faktor = the deciding factor
der ordinierte Pfarrer = the ordained minister
die entgegengesetzten Ergebnisse = the opposite [lit. opposed] conclusions
das wachsend|e Gebiet = the growing region

Rabia lief durch Basra mit einer brennenden Fackel in der Hand.
Rabiah ran through Basra with a burning torch in her hand.
brennen = to burn, present participle brennend
Epikur gehrt zu den am meisten geschmhten Philosophen der Antike.
Epicurus numbers among the most despised philosophers of antiquity.
schmhen = to despise, past participle geschmht

Still More on Adjectives: Comparison

Like adjectives in English, German adjectives can be compared, as in big, bigger, biggest.
These three forms are known as the positive, comparative, and superlative degrees.The comparison
of adjectives is discussed in the Grammar Handbook on pp. 74-78.
The comparative and superlative forms of German adjectives are not difficult to recognize,
since the regular comparative is formed by adding the ending -er and the superlative by adding
-(e)st, just as in English. After these suffixes, German adjectives must add the appropriate ending
for case, number, and gender when they stand in attributive position. One of the few times difficulty
is likely to arise is thus when a nominative masculine form may appear comparative but in fact is

ein schwieriger Text = a difficult text (positive degree)

a more difficult text would be ein schwierigerer Text,
with one -er for the comparative and the second for the nom. sing. masc. ending.

ein kleiner Junge = a small boy

a smaller boy would be ein kleinerer Junge.

A second potential difficulty can be avoided by noting that many common adjectives add an umlaut
in the comparative and superlative degrees, e.g.

alt = old lter = older ltest- = oldest

jung = young jnger = younger jngst- = youngest.

You may therefore often encounter an adjective form with an umlaut, but the basic form in the
dictionary will be listed without one.

ein alter Text = an old text

ein lterer Text = an older text

There is one major difference between German and English in the comparison of adjectives:
the German superlative degree has two forms, one for the predicate position/adverb, and one for
the attributive position. The predicate adjective (also the adverb form) is constructed with am
and the superlative stem + -en:
Dieser Text ist schwierig = This text is difficult.
Aber jener Text ist schwieriger = But that text is more difficult.
predicate adjective in the superlative degree:
Der dritte Text ist am schwierigsten = The third text is most difficult
Anna liest deutsch gut. = Anna reads German well.
Sie liest spanisch besser. = She reads Spanish better.
adverb in the superlative degree:
Sie liest englisch am besten. = She reads English best.

The attributive form simply adds the appropriate ending for case, gender, and number to the
superlative stem:

Der dritte Text ist der schwierigste. = The third text is the most difficult (one).
Das beste Buch ist dieses hier. = The best book is this one here.

The adverbial form of the superlative is also used when an adverb modifies an adjective. In
such cases an adverbial superlative can appear between an article and its noun. This is the case
because the superlative is modifying the adjective, not the noun:
Hufig gestellte Fragen = frequently asked questions [positive degree]
Hufiger gestellte Fragen = more frequently / rather frequently asked questions
[comparative degree]
Die am hufigsten gestellten Fragen = the most frequently asked questions
[superlative degree]

Just as in English, most comparisons are regular, but a number of common adjectives have
irregular comparisons. The most important are listed in the Grammar Handbook on p. 75, #3.
You should also note bald, eher, am ehesten (das eheste), soon, sooner, soonest.

The Grammar Handbook lists the adverbs used in comparisons on p. 77, #5.
As . . . . as is expressed in German by so . . . wie
so gro wie = as big as, as tall as
Than is expressed by als
grer als = bigger than, taller than
The more . . . the more is expressed by je . . . desto or je . . . um so
je mehr, um so lustiger = the more the merrier
je eher, desto lieber = the sooner the better

The German way of expressing more and more or increasingly in the comparative degree is
with the adverb immer + the comparative form of the adjective or adverb:
Die Lesestcke werden immer schwieriger. = The readings are growing ever more
difficult / more and more difficult / increasingly difficult.
Die Schwierigkeiten werden immer grer. = The difficulties are getting ever larger /
bigger and bigger.
Ich verstehe jedoch immer mehr. = But I understand more and more.

The adjective hoch represents a special case. The letter c drops out in the attributive position in
the positive degree, e.g.
Der Preis ist dort hoch = The price is high there. /but/
der hohe Preis = the high price.
The comparative degree drops the c throughout: hher
Hier ist der Preis hher. = Here the price is higher.
der hhere Preis = the higher price.
The c returns in both forms of the superlative: am hchsten and das hchste.

The adjective viel, much, many, is invariable in the singular. It is regular in the plural, e.g.
viele Freunde = many friends, die vielen Bcher = the many books, in vielen Fllen = in many
cases. The comparative mehr is invariable. The superlative attributive form, der/die/das meiste,
die meisten, is regular:
Anna hat viel freie Zeit. = Anna has much/a lot of free time.
Birgit hat mehr freie Zeit. = Birgit has more free time.
Catherine hat die meiste freie Zeit. = Catherine has the most free time.

Conditional Sentences

Conditional sentences in English are sentences that establish conditions in a subordinate clause
beginning with if. The main clause often begins with an adverbial then.
The German equivalents are wenn . . . dann (or sometimes so).
Frequently such an if-condition is hypothetical or known to be contrary to fact, e.g. If I were
you. Such sentences require verbs in the subjunctive mood, the mood used for hypothetical or
non-real situations or actions, as opposed to the indicative mood we have been dealing with so far,
which describes facts.
However some conditions, called open conditions, do not require the subjunctive mood in either
English or German, because the condition may perfectly well be fulfilled:

Open condition: If the weather is nice on the week-end, [then] we will go to the beach.
Open condition in the past: If the weather was nice, we went to the beach.

English tends to use the present tense in the if-clause, and the future tense in the conclusion,
which is often called a result clause. German uses the future tense far less in general than English,
and less in such open conditions. Usually both parts of such an open condition are in the
present tense in German. The dann that may open a result clause in German is not considered a
violation of the finite verb as second element rule, since it is viewed as summing up the whole

Open condition: Wenn das Wetter am Wochende schn ist, [dann] gehen wir zum Strand.

There is a further important different between English and German usage in conditions:
German can omit the wenn and begin with the verb.

This is the only instance apart from commands and questions in which a German sentence
can start with a verb.
English can omit an if in a condition only in past-perfect contrary-to-fact conditions,
e.g. Had I only known that, I would never have agreed to the proposal.

This sentence is exactly equivalent to

If I had only known that, I would never have agreed to the proposal.

But German can say

Ist das Wetter am Wochenende schn, dann gehen wir zum Strand.
If the weather is nice on the weekend, then we will go to the beach.

Regnet es nicht, gehen wir zum Strand. Regnet es aber, dann bleiben wir zu Hause.
If it doesnt rain, we will go to the beach. If it rains, however, then we will stay home.

The Subjunctive Mood I: The Conditional Tense

Like other European languages, German has a special set of verbs used to describe
situations that are hypothetical or otherwise considered to have a degree of unreality or unreliability.
This set is known as the subjunctive mood. All the verbs you have learned so far are in the
indicative mood, the set used for actions or situations that are considered real or not impossible.
The Grammar Handbook discusses the subjunctive on pp. 196-201.
Before we discuss the German subjunctive, it will be helpful to review the ways in which
English expresses ideas that are in some way not real or factual. Lets start with conditional
sentences that involve hypothetical situations that might arise in the future.

The Meyers are thinking of taking some vacation time.

If they flew, they would have more time at their destination.
If they drove, they would see more of the country.
But if they stayed home, they would save money.

You can see that English uses the simple past tense in the if-clause of such sentences, and the
conditional tense in the result clause. The conditional tense is in effect an alteration of the definite
future tensee.g. they will save moneyto a less certain situation in the future dependent on a
certain condition being fulfilled (the if). This uncertainty is the hallmark of the subjunctive mood,
and the conditional is one of the tenses belonging to it.
German also has a conditional tense, and both English and German form the conditional
tense in a similar way. You can think of the conditional in German as taking the future
tenseformed by conjugating the present tense of the auxiliary werden and attaching the infinitive
of the particular verband making it less definite by using wrde, which corresponds to would.
The sentence They would save money thus becomes: Sie wrden Geld sparen. The whole
conjugation runs

ich wrde sparen wir wrden sparen

du wrdest sparen ihr wrdet sparen
er/sie wrde sparen sie wrden sparen

The conditional tense is relatively easy to recognize and also to use in German, because the changes
are limited to the auxiliary verb, a familiar one, and the particular verb is always expressed in the
basic infinitive form:

er/sie wrde sein he/she would be

er/sie wrde haben he/she would have
sie wrden knnen they would be able to
sie wrden mssen they would have to

The Grammar Handbook refers to this tense as the present conditional, even though in one sense
it refers to the future and is formed by varying the future tense.

The Subjunctive Mood II: The Past Subjunctive

If we return to our hypothetical family and their vacation plans, we can see that English uses
the simple past tense in the if-clause, e.g. flew, drove, and stayed:

The Meyers are thinking of taking some vacation time.

If they flew, they would have more time at their destination.
If they drove, they would see more of the country.
But if they stayed home, they would save money.

This is because English has virtually eliminated the subjunctive mood except for the conditional
tense. There is one instance where educated speakers may still use a past subjunctive form, and that
is when the verb to be occurs in the singular in an if-clause:

If he were here now, he would agree with us.

This is the last remnant in English of German usage, which can express the condition in the
if-clause in this kind of hypothetical sentence in the past tense of the subjunctive mood.

While it is not particularly logical to use a past tense in a conditional sentence referring to the future,
this is what both German and English do. The past subjunctive in German is disappearing fairly
rapidly, but as always, the written language is more conservative than the spoken language. It is
tending to disappear because the past subjunctive is an awkward tense in one major respect: It is
based on the simple past indicative and is therefore different for every verb. It is a unique form
that must be known for every verb, and therefore unpopular. It is easy to get it wrong, so German
speakers uncertain of their grammar avoid it. German scholars, however, use it proudly in their
writing and demonstrate their excellent command of it.

The endings for the past subjunctive are given on p. 84 of the Grammar Handbook. As is clear

the past indicative and past subjunctive for weak verbs are identical.
only strong verbs have a distinctive past subjunctive form.

Hence, as you can see, German is already half-way to English, because only some German verbs
have a clearly subjunctive form in the past tense. The rule for strong verbs is: Take the past stem,
umlaut the stem vowel if possible, and add the appropriate endings. For the verb fahren, for
example, the past stem is fuhr, umlaut is possible, and so you get

(wenn) ich fhr | e if I drove (wenn) wir fhr | en if we drove

(wenn) du fhr | est if you drove (wenn) ihr fhr | et if you drove
(wenn) er/sie fhr | e if he/she drove (wenn) sie fhr | en if they drove

Note that for many verbs an umlaut is the only difference between the indicative and the
subjunctive mood, e.g.

wir sprachen, we spoke vs. (wenn) wir sprchen, (if) we spoke

sie wuten, they knew vs. (wenn) sie wten, (if) they knew

This is particularly important for the set of modal verbs, which are frequently used in the

sie konnten they were able to (in the past)

wenn sie knnten if they could (in the future)

sie muten they had to, they were required to (in the past)
wenn sie mten if they had to, if they would have to (in the future)

Sollen and wollen are irregular in that they do not add umlauts in the past subjunctive. The past
indicative and subjunctive are thus identical for these two verbs.

The verb mgen forms the past subjunctive according to the regular rule:

sie mochten they liked

wenn sie mchten if they would like

The form mchte is very common in spoken German, because ich mchte, I would like,
is considered far more polite than ich will, I want.

You can now recognize that

the conditional tense is formed by using the past subjunctive of the auxiliary verb, werden,
plus the infinitive. It changes the future tense into the conditional:

er/sie wird sparen he/she will save

er/sie wrde sparen he/she would save

Hypothetical Conditions Using the Conditional and Past Subjunctive

We are now ready to construct the German equivalents to our sample English sentences:

The Meyers are thinking of taking some vacation time.

If they flew, they would have more time at their destination.
If they drove, they would see more of the country.
But if they stayed home, they would save money.

Die Meyers denken daran, Urlaub zu nehmen.

Wenn sie flgen, wrden sie mehr Zeit am Zielort haben.
Wenn sie mit dem Auto fhren, wrden sie mehr vom Lande sehen.
Aber wenn sie zu Hause blieben, wrden sie Geld sparen.

The conditional forms wrden haben, wrden sehen, and wrden sparen are straightforward.
More difficult are flgen and fhren; blieben is not so bad because the stem vowel can not take an
umlaut, and thus the past subjunctive is identical to the past indicative, even though bleiben is a
strong verb. Most dictionaries will list forms like flgen and fhren, and refer you to fliegen and
fahren respectively. However you can save time by learning to spot the resemblance between flog
(past indicative) and flge (past subjunctive), or fuhr (past indicative) and fhre (past subjunctive).
The table of strong verbs in the Grammar Handbook expects you to be able to deduce the second
from the first, because it lists past subjunctive forms only when they are irregular.

There is only one major problem remaining with regard to the German sentences above, namely
that most Germans would never produce them in this form. That is because they conform to English
rules for creating such sentences.

While German has the same two tenses, for practical purposes it employs them in
different ways.
English requires the past tense in the if-clause, and the conditional tense in the
result-clause. German uses both of its tenses, i.e. the past subjunctive and the conditional,
in both parts of conditional sentences freely. A speaker or writer is free to mix and match,
and the decision of which to use is made on the basis of the verb itself.
For a set of commonly used verbsincluding sein, haben, all the modals, and the most
common strong verbs such as kommen and gehenthe past subjunctives are preferred, because
they are shorter and simpler than their conditional equivalents, which are compound tenses. For less
common strong verbs, the conditional is preferred, because it is regular. It requires only the very
familiar auxiliary form of wrde and the familiar infinitive, and does not assault the ear with a
strange sound. For weak verbs, the conditional is also preferred in order to stress the unreality,
because the subjunctive shows no difference from the past indicative.

In formal written German, however, less common subjunctive forms are more acceptable
than in spoken German. In reading academic prose, you will encounter many past
subjunctive forms.

Let us now return to our sample sentences and see how they would look according to the
preferences explained above.

Die Meyers denken daran, Urlaub zu nehmen.

1. Wenn sie flgen, wrden sie mehr Zeit am Zielort haben.
2. Wenn sie mit dem Auto fhren, wrden sie mehr vom Lande sehen.
3. Aber wenn sie zu Hause blieben, wrden sie Geld sparen.

1. The form flge is definitely too strange for spoken German, and would be avoided in writing by
most people. Haben on the other hand is such a common verb that the subjunctive would almost
always be preferred. Thus you would get the conditional and subjunctive forms reversed:

1. Wenn sie fliegen wrden, htten sie mehr Zeit am Zielort.

2. The form fhren would probably be avoided by most people in speaking, but scholars would not
hesitate to use it in writing. The case is similar with the verb sehen: subjunctive is OK for formal
writing but to be avoided in speaking. Thus you get:

2a (spoken version). Wenn sie mit dem Auto fahren wrden, wrden sie mehr vom
Lande sehen.
2b (written version). Wenn sie mit dem Auto fhren, shen sie mehr vom Lande.

3. This sentence would probably remain as it is in both speaking and writing. The past subjunctive
is identical to the past indicative, so there would be no unfamiliarity to the ear. Sparen is a weak
so the conditional would be preferable:

3a. Aber wenn sie zu Hause blieben, wrden sie Geld sparen.

Conceivably, some speakers might prefer:

3b. Aber wenn sie zu Hause bleiben wrden, wrden sie Geld sparen.

As you can see, it is perfectly possibleeven commonto have conditional sentences with two
past subjunctives, or with two conditional tenses. They are interchangeable in German writing.

When you run into conditional sentences of this type in German, you must therefore
translate into the English simple past or conditional tense as English rules demand for the
clause in question, and not as the German verbs appear.

Further Uses of the Past Subjunctive and Conditional Tenses

The past subjunctive and conditional tenses are also used in constructions stressing
unreality or uncertainty, such as as if = als ob or als wenn

They behave as if they were children.Sie benehmen sich, als wenn sie Kinder wren.
They look as if they knew the answer.Sie sehen aus, als ob sie die Antwort wten.

This type of sentence is mentioned in #7 on p.200, where there is a mistaken reference to the present
subjunctive. As all of the examples illustrate, such sentences use the past subjunctive.

Wishes are another use for these tenses.

In German the introductory verb is usually either wnschen or the reflexive form sich wnschen,
literally wish for oneself:

If only it werent so hot outside! Wenn es drauen nur nicht so hei wre!
I wish they could be here too! Ich wnschte,* sie knnten auch hier sein!
Ich wnschte mir, sie knnten auch hier sein!

* Note that German tends to put the introductory verb in the past subjunctive, too. It is equivalent
to I would wish (implied: if a genie appeared and gave me three wishes).

A third situation is in reference to situations unlikely to occur, e.g. after expressions like ohne

Wir knnten uns wegschleichen, ohne da uns jemand she.

We could sneak away without anyone seeing us. [literally: without that someone saw us]

The Subjunctive Mood III: The Past Perfect Subjunctive and Past Conditional

In the preceding sessions we covered wishes and hypothetical statements expressed in

present or future time by means of the past subjunctive and conditional tenses. For all of these
constructions there are parallel constructions for the expression of past time, e.g.

The Meyers went on vacation. They drove, and saw a lot of the country.
However, if they had flown, they would have had more time at their destination.
And if they had stayed home, they would have saved money.

This kind of sentence is called a contrary-to-fact condition, since it is not what actually happened.

And a grown-up Lucy might say to Schroeder,

I wish we had got married! You could have always done the cooking, and I would have
folded the napkins.

Sentences of this type use the past perfect tense and the past conditional tense in English.
An if-clause or wish contains the past perfect, and a result clause contains the past conditional. The
past perfect tense is formed in English by combining the past tense of the auxiliary verb to have
with the past participle:

past tense past perfect (or pluperfect) tense

If they stayed (home) If they had stayed (home)

The past conditional is formed analogously to the conditional tense, but substitutes the perfect
infinitive for the present infinitive, producing a three-part verb:

conditional tense past conditional tense

1 2 3
they would + save (money) they would + have saved

The past conditional tense in English is formed by using would like the conditional tense, but
instead of the infinitive it is followed by the perfect infinitive with the to omitted: [to] have
saved. Both of these tenses are constructed by manipulating the auxiliary verbs and adding either
the past participle (in the past perfect) or the perfect infinitive (in the past conditional). There are
thus no new verbs forms as such.

German constructs such sentences in a similar manner; the main difference is that German uses the
past perfect subjunctive in wishes and conditional sentences in past time, a tense that in English
has been collapsed with the past perfect indicative, so that they are identical. The German past
conditional is formed in a parallel way to the English past conditional.

The past perfect subjunctive is formed by using the past subjunctive of the auxiliary verb,
either haben or sein, + the past participle. Because it is a compound tense, it is relatively easy to
learn and to recognize, since only the auxiliary verb changes; the familiar past participle stays the
same throughout, e.g. Wenn sie zu Hause geblieben wren, If they had stayed at home.
The whole conjugation runs

(wenn) ich geblieben wre if I had stayed

(wenn) du geblieben wrest if you had stayed
(wenn) er/sie geblieben wre if he/she had stayed
(wenn) wir geblieben wren if we had stayed
(wenn) ihr geblieben wret if you had stayed
(wenn) sie geblieben wren if they had stayed

The verb heiraten, to marry, to get married takes the auxiliary verb haben in the
compound past tenses. The whole conjugation for Lucys wish, Wenn wir geheiratet htten runs

(wenn) ich geheiratet htte if I had married

(wenn) du geheiratet httest if you had married
(wenn) er/sie geheiratet htte if he/she had married
(wenn) wir geheiratet htten if we had married
(wenn) ihr geheiratet httet if you had married
(wenn) sie geheiratet htten if they had married

You can see that with both auxiliary verbs the umlauts are crucial. They are the only difference
between the past perfect indicative and the past perfect subjunctive:

sie waren geblieben = they had stayed vs. sie wren geblieben [if] they had stayed
sie hatten geheiratet = they had marriedvs. sie htten geheiratet [if] they had married

The past conditional is formed by using wrde, the past subjunctive of the auxiliary verb, + plus
the perfect infinitive (without to). Thus the phrase would have saved [money] looks like this
in the German conjugation:

ich wrde gespart haben I would have saved

du wrdest gespart haben you would have saved
er/sie wrde gespart haben he/she would have saved
wir wrden gespart haben we would have saved
ihr wrdet gespart haben you would have saved
sie wrden gespart haben they would have saved

If a verb takes sein as its auxiliary, then sein forms a part of its perfect infinitive. Hence the past
conditional of the verb fahren, to drive, looks like this:

ich wrde gefahren sein I would have driven

du wrdest gefahren sein you would have driven
er/sie wrde gefahren sein he/she would have driven
wir wrden gefahren sein we would have driven
ihr wrdet gefahren sein you would have driven
sie wrden gefahren sein they would have driven

These three-part past conditional verbs are accepted in English, because we have no
possible substitute. But German does have one. Since the conditional and past subjunctive tenses
have become interchangeable in German, they can be used equally in the if and then clauses in
hypothetical conditions. The same principle of interchangeability also applies to the past
conditional and past perfect subjunctive in contrary-to-fact conditions.
The past perfect subjunctive is not a difficult tense for the German ear, since it involves only
the very familiar forms of htte and wre. It is also shorter than the past conditional, as it has only
two parts rather than three.

Hence both parts of a contrary-to-fact condition are normally expressed in the past
subjunctive. The past conditional tense can be used, but it rarely is.

Contrary-to-Fact Conditions: Using the Past Perfect Subjunctive

We are now ready to construct our sample sentences as contrary-to-fact conditions in German.
They look like this:

The Meyers went on vacation. They drove, and saw a lot of the country.
However, if they had flown, they would have had more time at their destination.
And if they had stayed home, they would have saved money.

Die Meyers sind in Urlaub gefahren. Sie sind mit dem Auto gefahren und haben viel vom
Lande gesehen.
Wenn sie jedoch geflogen wren, htten sie mehr Zeit am Zielort gehabt.
Und wenn sie zu Hause geblieben wren, htten sie Geld gespart.

The Meyers went on vacation. They flew to their destination.

But they would have seen more of the country if they had driven/gone by car.

Die Meyers sind in Urlaub gefahren. Sie sind an ihren Zielort geflogen.
Sie htten aber mehr vom Lande gesehen, wenn sie mit dem Auto gefahren wren.
Sie wrden aber mehr vom Lande gesehen haben, wenn sie mit dem Auto gefahren wren.

Lucy could have said to Schroeder:

I wish we had got married! You would have always done the cooking, and I would have
folded the napkins.
Ich wnschte, wir htten geheiratet! Du httest immer gekocht, und ich htte die
Servietten gefaltet.

You should note two things about the way the wishes are expressed above.
One is that a da after the verb introducing the wish can be omitted or used, as the writer wishes.
Using the da changes the word order:

Ich wnschte, wir htten geheiratet!

Ich wnschte, da wir geheiratet htten!

A Special Case: The Double Infinitive with the Past Subjunctive

Remember that any time you have a two-part modal verb in a past tense with a dependent infinitive,
the double infinitive rule applies: The second (i.e. non-conjugated) part of the modal becomes not
the past participle, but the infinitive.

If Lucy were to say to Schroeder not You would have done the cooking but You could have
done the cooking, adding the need for knnen in German, the sentence would run

Ich wnschte, dass wir geheiratet htten! Du httest immer kochen knnen.
I wish that we had got married! You could always have cooked / done the cooking.

The Present and Present Perfect Subjunctive, and their Use

As you know, the present subjunctive sometimes occurs on its own, as a way to express
commands (the so-called hortatory subjunctive) or in prayer as a wish that something may occur.
You are likely to encounter this usage mainly in older or Biblical German:
Und Gott sprach: Es werde Licht! und es wurde Licht. 1. Mose 1. 4.
And God said: Let there be light! and there was light. Genesis 1, 4.
Und Gott sprach: Es sammele sich das Wasser unter dem Himmel an besondere rter, da
man das Trockene sehe. 1. Mose 1. 9.
And God said: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place, and let
the dry land appear. Genesis 1, 9.
(More literally: Let the water under the heaven collect itself in particular places, (so)
that one may see that which is dry.)
The Lords Prayer contains present subjunctive forms in both English and German:
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. (= May thy kingdom come; may thy will be done.)
Dein Reich komme. Dein Wille geschehe.

However, there is an entirely separate use of these two subjunctive tenses which is common in
academic prosenamely for reported speech.

The endings for the present subjunctive are given on p. 84 of the Grammar Handbook. For practical
purposes you need be concerned only with the third person, singular and plural. The ending of the
third-person singular is -e, as opposed to -t for the indicative. The third-person plural endings are
the same for both indicative and subjunctive (a fact of some importance to which we will return).
er geht, sie gehen (indicative) become (da) er gehe,(da) sie gehen
sie schreibt, sie schreiben become (da) sie schreibe, (da) sie schreiben
er glaubt, sie glauben become (da) er glaube, (da) sie glauben.

The subjunctive endings are added to the infinitive stem, and the irregularities common in
the indicative, such as added umlauts or stem-vowel changes in the second and third person
singular, usually disappear. Thus

sie liest (she reads, from lesen) becomes (da) sie lese
er spricht (he speaks, from sprechen) becomes (da) er spreche
sie will (she wants, from wollen) becomes (da) sie wolle
er mu (he must, from mssen) becomes (da) er msse
es wird (it becomes, from werden) becomes (da) es werde

The only verb with an irregular present subjunctive is sein: er/sie/es sei, sie seien. See the
Grammar Handbook, p. 96, for the complete conjugation.

The Present Perfect Subjunctive

This tense is formed analogously to the indicative. Verbs that take haben as their auxiliary use the
present subjunctive of haben plus the past participle; verbs conjugated with sein form the perfect
subjunctive with the present subjunctive of sein plus the past participle.

The present subjunctive of haben is regular: (da) er/sie/es habe, (da) sie haben.
The present subjunctive of sein is irregular: (da) er/sie/es sei, (da) sie seien.

Thus er hat gesagt (indicative; he has said) becomes er habe gesagt

sie haben gesagt remains sie haben gesagt
sie ist gegangen (indicative; she has gone) becomes sie sei gegangen
sie sind gegangen becomes sie seien gegangen
er hat gehabt becomes er habe gehabt
sie haben gehabt remains sie haben gehabt
es ist gewesen becomes es sei gewesen
sie sind gewesen becomes sie seien gewesen

Use of the Present and Present Perfect Subjunctive

Modern German tends to reserve these tenses of the subjunctive for a particular use, namely
reported speech. The subjunctive conveys the idea that the speaker or writer is reporting what
someone else said. It may place a certain distance between the speaker/writer and the message,
serving as a caution to the listener/reader that the reporter takes no personal responsibility for its
truth or correspondence to actual fact. However, it is frequently used even when the writers intends
to express no doubt about accuracy. It is standard procedure, for instance, for a paragraph of a
German newscast or newspaper to begin: The chancellor reported today that . . . All the verbs that
follow and summarize the speech will be in the present or present perfect subjunctive. The use of
these subjunctive forms in independent sentences indicate that the report continues; a new
introductory verb need not be used. In scholarly writing these tenses are used extensively in review
articles, when the argument of a book is summed up, or when a scholar refers to another scholars
conclusions. Because the subjunctive verb form makes it clear that someones else words are being
reported, the introductory da can be omitted. When it is omitted the reported words occur in
main-clause word order, with the verb second:

Der Autor betont, da Lao-tse keine historische Figur sei.

Der Autor betont, Lao-tse sei keine historische Figur.
The author stresses that [in his opinion] Lao-tse is not a historical figure.

Die Autorin betont, da die richtige Lsung noch gesucht werden msse.
Die Autorin betont, die richtige Lsung msse noch gesucht werden.
The author stresses that the correct solution must still be sought.

Prof. XY berichtet in diesem Aufsatz, da sie die richtige Lsung gefunden habe.
Prof. XY reports in this article that she has found the correct solution.

As you can see from these examples, it is usually not necessary to translate the present and perfect
German subjunctive into subjunctive forms in English. English does not have a parallel use of
the subjunctive mood in reported speech. For purposes of reading and translating, all that is
necessary is that you recognize why subjunctive forms are being used in German.
There is one potential problem that occasionally prompts German writers to deviate from
this scheme, namely the fact that the plural forms of many present and present perfect subjunctive
verbs are not distinctive. In the sentence

Prof. X und Prof. Y berichten in ihrem Aufsatz, da sie die richtige Lsung gefunden haben.
Prof. X and Prof. Y report in their article that they have found the correct solution.
for example, the present perfect subjunctive is indistinguishable from the present perfect indicative.
In such cases, if reviewers wish to stress the subjective nature of the statement, or to distance
themselves from it, they will often fall back on the past subjunctive or past perfect subjunctive as
an alternative when these forms are distinctive and thus clearly recognizable as subjunctives:
Prof. X und Prof. Y berichten in ihrem Aufsatz, sie htten die richtige Lsung gefunden.
Prof. X und Prof. Y berichten in ihrem Aufsatz, da sie die richtige Lsung gefunden htten.

If the introductory verb is in the past tense, the perfect subjunctive is often used. English
would use either the simple past tense or the past perfect, depending on which fits the context

Eduard Lohse schrieb in seiner Paulus-Biographie, da der Rmerbrief wahrscheinlich das letzte
Schreiben des Paulus gewesen sei.
Eduard Lohse wrote in his biography of Paul that the Epistle to the Romans was probably the last
thing he wrote.

Paulus schrieb der Gemeinde in Thessalonich, da man ihn und Silas in Philippi schlecht
behandelt habe.
Paul wrote to the community in Thessalonica that the Philippians had treated him and Silas badly.

The Use of an Impersonal Es:
Sentences with Two Subjects and Sentences with None

1) An impersonal es is sometimes used as a place holderand extra subject when sentence

construction suggests it.
A frequent case is a subject accompanied by long modifiers such as a relative clause or other kind
of subordinate clause, especially if the main clause is short, e.g.
Und es waren Hirten in derselben Gegend auf dem Felde, die in der Nacht ihre
Herde hteten. (Lukas 2, 8)
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over
their flock by nicht. (more literally: who were guarding their herds in the night)
The sentence looks as if it has two subjects, es and Hirten. You need to be able to recognize that the
es is only a filler or place holder.
Es It is often best translated as there.
Es is used even if the delayed real subject is plural.
This is always a tipoff of a double subject.

2) On p. 123 (#5), the Grammar Handbook discusses an idiomatic use of an impersonal es with the
passive voice. As noted before, this is a way of avoiding a personal statement.

Es wurde gem dem Charakter der Reihe auf Funoten verzichtet.

In keeping with the character of the series (i.e. that it is intended for general readers rather
than scholars) it was dispensed with footnotes.

Idiomatically: footnotes have been dispensed with, footnotes have not been used.
This is considered preferable to
[Ich habe gem dem Charakter der Reihe auf Funoten verzichtet.]
I have dispensed with footnotes in keeping with the character of the series.

Now, in a phenomenon that seems odd to native speakers of Englishcall it

unfamiliarGerman can and will drop the es subject if the sentence begins with another element,
such as an adverb or prepositional phrase:
Gem dem Charakter der Reihe wurde auf Funoten verzichtet.
In keeping with the character of the series, footnotes have been dispensed with.

The sentence then has no subject. To translate you will need to reinstate the dropped es in your
own mind.

More on Prepositions

1. Prepositions that follow their object

The Grammar Handbook notes on pp. 162-163 that a few of the less common prepositions
may follow their object instead of preceding it:

entgegen (+ dative) = 1) towards2) against

gegenber (+ dative)= across from, opposite
voran (+ dative)= at the head of, first
wegen (+ genitive or dative) = for the sake of, on account of
zufolge (+ dative)= according to
zuwider (+ dative)= contrary to, in violation of

Keeping this possibility in mind can help you to recognize the sentence structure some cases.

Das Studentenwohnheim liegt der Bibliothek gegenber.

Studenten | wohn | heim = students living home = students residence = dormitory
The dormitory lies/is situated opposite the library.

Er ging frh in Rente seiner schlechten Gesundheit wegen.

He went into retirement / retired early on account of his poor health.

This is sometimes a gray area grammatically, however, because often these prepositions can be
considered as separable prefixes. In the following two examples, you can think of the groups
either as possibility 1: an object followed by preposition + a simple verb or
possibility 2: a dative object of a separable-prefix verb.
If the preposition and verb are written separately, you have an instance of case 1. If they are written
together, then you have case 2. For translation purposes, both readings are the same:

1) Wenn ihr mir zuwider handelt und nicht auf mich hren wollt, werde ich noch weitere Schlge
ber euch kommen lassen . . .
2) Wenn ihr mir zuwiderhandelt . . .
But if you act contrary to me and do not want to obey me, I will cause still further blows
to come upon you . . .
Leviticus 26, verse 27

1. Die Leute aber, die ihm voran gingen und die ihm folgten, riefen: Hosanna dem Sohn Davids!
Gesegnet sei er, der im Namen des Herrn kommt.
2. Die Leute aber, die ihm vorangingen . . .
But the people who went ahead of him and who followed him called out: Hosanna to the
Son of David! Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord. Matthew 21, 9

1. Dann wird das Himmelreich sein wie zehn Jungfrauen, die ihre Lampen nahmen und dem
Brutigam entgegen gingen.
2. . . . . zehn Jungfrauen, die . . . dem Brutigam entgegengingen.
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids, who took their lamps and went
toward (= went to meet) the bridegroom. Matthew 25, verse 1

2. Correlative Prepositions / Adverbs of Direction / Directional Prefixes

A similar case exists with what the Grammar Handbook calls correlative prepositions, meaning
prepositions with two parts (bottom of p. 163). The second parts are almost always adverbial and
show some kind of direction. In this analysis the prepositions are considered to be combined with
adverbs of direction that show, in the manner so typical of German, in what direction motion is
occurring: either toward the speaker or away from the speaker. Toward = her. Away = hin.

Der Herr sprach zu Mose: Komm zu mir auf den Berg herauf und bleib hier! Ich will dir die
Steintafeln bergeben, die Weisung und die Gebote, die ich aufgeschrieben habe . . .
Mose ging in die Wolke hinein und stieg auf den Berg hinauf. Vierzig Tage und vierzig Nchte
blieb Mose auf dem Berg.
The Lord said to Moses, Come up to me on the mountain and remain here. I want to give
you the stone tablets, the law and the commandments, which I have written down . . .
Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. Moses remained on the mountain
forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24, verses 12 and 18

In the cases above, you can look at the sentence as either

1) (auf den Berg hinauf) + kommen = a correlative preposition with a simple verb, or
2) (auf den Berg) + hinaufkommen = a simple preposition with a separable-prefix verb.
Similarly: (in die Wolke hinein) gehen or (in die Wolke) + hineingehen
(auf den Berg hinauf) + gehen or (auf den Berg) + hinaufgehen

Directional adverbs can be used in combination with all kinds of verbs of motion, e.g. if one were
speaking to a group of children:

Kommt her! Come here! Lauft hin! Run (over) there!

Kommt herauf! Come up here ! Kommt herein! Come in here!
Kommt herunter! Come down here! Kommt heraus! Come out here!
Geht in das Haus hinein! Go inside the house.
Steigt aus dem Auto hinaus! Get out of the car.

In context they can be variously considered as adverbs, separable prefixes, or as elements of

correlative prepositions.

The Extended Adjective Construction

This grammatical feature of German is discussed in the Grammar Handbook on pp. 210-211.
English, like German, can use present and past participles of verbs as adjectives, e.g. the
falling snow, the celebrated writer. What English cannot do is add a number of modifiers to such
semi-verbal parts of speech between an indefinite or definite article and its accompanying noun, i.e.
in attributive position:
the on a cold January evening falling snow, or
the in his own country celebrated writer.
German can do this, and the result is called an extended adjective. It is perhaps this feature of
German more than any other that makes German prose appear extremely dense to readers more
accustomed to English, and causes problems of comprehension to learners. Unfortunately for you,
this construction is common in writing (though not in spoken German), and most common in
academic writing, where it is a way of packing lots of information into one sentence. It produces
very dense prose, and German academics love it.
The way English deals with this phenomenon is to place the whole participial phrase after
the noun it modifies, in contrast to the normal rule that adjectives precede their nouns in English:
the snow falling on a cold January evening,
the writer celebrated in his own country.
You may find it helpful to think of extended adjective constructions as similar to German
sentence structure when a verb has two or more parts. Just as the parts of the verb surround and
enclose all the elements of the sentence except one (the first), here the article and its noun surround
all the modifiers.
When you encounter a form that looks like a definite or indefinite article with no noun
immediately or closely following, you should consider two possibilities: 1) a relative clause
introduced by a relative pronoun, and 2) an extended adjective construction. A relative
pronoun will introduce a subordinate clause set off from the rest of the sentence by one or more
commas, and it will end with a verb. If you dont have that situation, you have a candidate for an
extended adjective construction, and you can proceed as follows. Step one: Look for a noun that
could go with the article. Step two: Try to translate the sentence leaving out everything in between
the article and noun. Does it make sense? Do the remaining words consist of a participle plus
modifiers? Step three: See if the words in between the article and noun can be translated as an
extended phrase that will fit after the noun in English. In these cases English must place the
extended adjectival phrase after the noun, and this is how you should usually translate the German

Nach der in der Apostelgeschichte gegebenen Darstellung ging Paulus zunchst in die
Synagoge und predigte.

You can attack this sentence by noticing first that der is followed by in der, in other words, an article
is followed by a second article before there is any noun or adjective with a noun ending. There is no nearby
noun to go with the first der. You can eliminate the possibility of a relative clause, however, since there are
no commas in this sentence, no subordinate clause, and only two main verbs: ging and predigte. If you now
notice that gegebenen is a past participle (+ an adjective ending), you have solved the puzzle: Nach der
Darstellung (according to the account) is the basic construction. The noun Darstellung is modified by the
past participle gegebenen (given) used attributively, and the phrase in der Apostelgeschichte goes with the
participle; it is a prepositional phrase and provides the information where this account is given:

According to the account given in Acts, Paul first went to the synagogue and preached.

Notice that in this example, the word order in the English translation after the definite article
is exactly the reverse of the German:

der in der Apostelgeschichte gegebenen Darstellung

1) article 2) prepositional phrase 3) adjective/ 4) noun
past participle

the account given in The Acts of the Apostles

1) article 4) noun 3) adjective/ 2) prepositional phrase
past participle

This can be helpful as a translation technique. If you think you have an extended adjective
construction before a noun, skip right to the noun and work backwards to its article.

Notice that nach der in der Apostelgeschichte gegebenen Darstellung is another way of saying
nach der Darstellung, die in der Apostelgeschichte gegeben wird . . . (= According to the account
that is given in Acts . . .). An extended adjective construction is often a way for a German writer
to avoid a relative clause, especially if the sentence already has one.

More on the ist . . . zu Construction: When It Is Hidden in an Extended
Adjective Construction

You have learned the most common way in which the ist . . . zuconstruction occurs, and that
the active infinitive in German is usually best rendered by a passive infinitive in English. The
construction can occur in many tenses, in the indicative and subjunctive moods, and in main or
subordinate clauses. It is harder to spot when the ist has become sind, war, or even sei:

Im Edikt von Nantes heit es, da Protestanten zu tolerieren sind.

In the Edict of Nantes it says that Protestants are to be tolerated.

Es war nicht unbedingt zu erwarten, da zu der Zeit Religionsfreiheit herrschen wrde.

It was not necessarily to be expected that religious freedom would prevail at that time.

Der Autor schreibt, da Friedrich Schleiermacher als der Vater der modernen deutschen
Universittstheologie zu betrachten sei.
The author writes that Friedrich Schleiermacher is to be regarded as the father of modern
German university theology.

The most difficult variation to spot occurs when the ist or other form of sein omitted! In such
instances the construction appears simply as a present participle preceded by zu in an extended
adjective construction. The appearance of the zu is your clue to the construction:

Als noch zu besprechende Probleme bleiben A, B und C.

Literally: As still to be discussed problems remain A, B, and C.
A, B, and C remain as problems still to be discussed.

Die Frage ist schwer zu beantworten

This question is hard to answer
can become
Dies ist eine schwer zu beantwortende Frage.
This is a hard (-to-answer) question.
This question is hard to answer. This question is one that is hard to answer.

Wir mchten nun diese schwer zu beantwortende Frage besprechen.

We would like now to discuss this question, which is hard to answer.

XY hat einen wertvollen Beitrag zu der Errterung dieser schwer zu beantwortenden

Frage geleistet.
XY has made a valuable contribution to the discussion of this question, which is difficult to