German Basic Grammar Rules You Should Know


  1. One fundamental fact is that German, other than English, has grammatical cases.

Consider the following:

Der Lehrer – the teacher

Der Vater – the father

Der Student – the student

Der Brief – the letter (ein Brief – a letter)

You might want to construct a sentence: The teacher sent a letter to the student’s father. In German, the article is “declined” in dependency of the case:

Der Lehrer schickte dem Vater des Studenten einen Brief.

That means, words, mostly articles, but also nouns and adjectives, are changed by the context they are used.

  1. German has different grammatical genders.

For example, in English you only have neuter (i.e. “the” man, “the” woman, “the” horse), but in German, you have three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter (“der” Mann, “die” Frau”, “das” Pferd).

  1. Sentence construction
  • In sentence construction, the modal verb is always conjugated and the rest of the verbs are pushed to the end.  The modal verbs are können, müssen, dürfen, mögen, wollen, and sollen.

Ex: Ich kann Deutsch sprechen. | Ich muss jetzt essen. | Darf ich rauchen?

I can speak German | I must eat now | May I smoke?

  • Always remember the order of the sentence : TeKaMoLo (Temporal, Kausal, Modal, Local) or Wann – Warum – Wie – Wo

Ex: Josh hat gestern aus Rücksicht auf seine Oma sehr laut am Küchentisch gesprochen.

Josh spoke yesterday out of consideration for his grandmother loudly at the kitchen table. (crude sentence)

Temporal : yesterday; Kausal : out of consideration… ; Modal: loudly ; Local : at the kitchen table.

  • Trennbare Verben are essentially verbs which have a prefix and that are separable. For example: ausmachen, einziehen, aufheben, mitmachen etc. When these verbs are used in a sentence, the actual verb is conjugated and put in the second place while the prefix is pushed to the last.

Ex: Ich mache das Licht aus.

But when the modal verbs are also used in the sentence, they have to be conjugated and the whole trennbares verb is pushed to the last place.

Ex: Ich muss das Licht ausmachen.

CAVEAT: Not all prefixes amount to trennbare verben. There are some prefixes which are used and the verb as a whole is considered as a single entity and must NOT be split. These prefixes are: ent-, be-, ver-, er-, ge-, miss-, zer-

Ex: Ich verstehe dich.

  • When the words like wenn, weil, dass (if, because, that) etc come, the conjugated modal verb goes to the last place and the other verb(s) are placed just before that.

Ex: Ich freue mich, dass du heute da bist. | Ich dachte, dass wir zu seiner Veranstaltung gehen könnten.

I am happy that you are here | I thought that we could go for his event.

  • In a sentence, Dativ always comes before Akkusativ unless personal pronouns are used.

Ex: Er schickte dem Professor den Bericht  (but) Er schickte ihn ihm.

  • One can use um…zu construction to explain the action further of the same subject. (um…zu = in order to)

Ex: Ich arbeite lange Stunden, um mehr Geld zu verdienen (or) Ich arbeite lange Stunden, um mehr Geld verdienen zu können.

  • One can use the damit construction to explain the action further when the subjects are different. (damit = so that)

Ex: Ich lerne Deutsch, damit meine Freundin mich besser verstehen kann.

I am learning German so that my girlfriend can understand me better.

  1. Prepositions and declensions

Aus, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu (out, by/at, with, after/to, since, of/from, to/at) always have Dativ after them.

Bis, durch, ohne, für, gegen, um, and außer (until/to/by, through/by, without, for, against, around, except) always have Akkusativ after them.

Auf, über, unter, an, neben, in, hinter, vor, zwischen (on, over, under, at, nearby, in, behind, in front of, between) have Dativ (if the object is at rest) or Akkusativ (if the object is in motion).

  1. Haben or sein?

If the verb that is being used indicates a change of state or a movement, then one must use sein. If the verb does not indicate that, one must use haben.

Ex: Ich bin nach Deutschland geflogen | Ich bin eingeschlafen.

I flew to Germany | I fell asleep.

Ex: Ich habe gegessen | Ich habe das gelernt.

I have eaten | I have learnt that.

  1. Verbs which take Dativ

There is no trick to learn the verbs and the following case declensions. Some verbs are followed by Dativ declension and some verbs by Akkusativ. Hereis list of some of the verbs which are followed by Dativ.

antworten (to answer); ausweichen (to avoid / be evasive);  begegnen (to meet); danken (to thank); dienen  (to serve); droben (to threaten); fehlen (to be lacking); folgen (to follow); gefallen (to be pleasing); gehorchen (to obey); gehören (to belong); gelingen (to succeed); genügen (to suffice / be enough); gleichen (to resemble); gratulieren (to congratuate); helfen (to help); nutzen (to be of use/ utilize); passen (to fit); raten (to advise); schaden (to be harmful); trotzen (to defy); vertrauen (to trust); verzeihen (to excuse); weh tun (to hurt); widersprechen (to contradict); zustimmen (to agree to).



One thought on “German Basic Grammar Rules You Should Know

  • December 17, 2016 at 5:44 am

    If only there were more clveer people like you!


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: