Best Way to Learn German Grammar Topics to Focus On
Learning German grammar rules can be tricky — grammar is literally everywhere in a language. It’s what puts words together into sentences and connects the sentences together into speech or a text. That means, there are quite a lot of grammar rules! But don’t worry, you don’t have to learn them all at once, and you certainly don’t need to know them all before you can start speaking German and practicing what you know.
In fact, the best way to learn German grammar is by focusing on basic grammar rules that you can already use in basic conversation. That way, you can start using the German grammar you know right away and learn the grammar rules much more easily and quickly. In this article, we’ve put together five great tips for how to get started with German grammar so that you can immediately start putting it into use.
However, you must also learn German vocabulary, basic words and phrases at the same time otherwise you will have a hard time figuring things out.
#1: Complete List of All German Pronouns and Cases
By definition, German sentences all have subjects, and most of them have objects too. So it makes sense that one of the first aspects of German grammar you should learn are subject pronouns! German has four cases (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive) which all affect the form of the subject pronouns in German sentences. However, the genitive case only becomes useful at the more advanced levels, so you can just focus on the grammar rules of the first three cases for now.
The German nominative case is used when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence, like in “Ich bin zum Geschäft gegangen” (“I went to the store”) or “Sie ist sehr freundlich” (“She is very friendly”).
The German accusative case is comparable to direct object pronouns in English, where the pronoun in the accusative case is the “object” of the action done by the subject, or the pronoun in the nominative case. For example, “Ich habe sie gesehen” (“I saw her”: I = nominative/subject, her = accusative/direct object).
Lastly, the German dative case is used like indirect object pronouns in English, for example “Ich warf ihm den Ball zu” (“I threw the ball to him”) or “Ich habe ihr die Situation erklärt” (“I explained the situation to her”). In both these cases, the nominative case pronoun “I” is the subject who does the action of throwing or explaining. The objects of the actions, “the ball” and “the situation”, would be in the accusative case. The recipients of these actions are “him” or “her”, and these pronouns would therefore be in the dative case.
Do not forget that it is important to learn the basic rules of German pronunciation while you learn all these new pronouns and cases.
Try to study this aspect of grammar by building sentences with pronouns in different cases, so you can practise using all the words.
|Nominative (nom.)||Accusative (direct pronouns)||Dative (indirect pronouns)
|ich (I)||mich (me)||mir (me)
|du (you - singular informal)||dich (you - singular informal)||dir (you - singular informal)
|er (he)||ihn (him)||ihm (him)
|sie (she)||sie (her)||ihr (her)
|es (it)||es (it)||ihm (it)
|wir (we)||uns (us)||uns (us)
|ihr (you - plural informal)||euch (you - plural informal)||euch (you - plural informal)
|sie (they)||sie (them)||ihnen (them)
|Sie (you - singular or plural formal)||Sie (you- singular or plural formal)||Ihnen (you- singular or plural formal)
#2: Complete List of All German Possessive Adjectives
As we’ve seen in the first grammar rule above, cases are a very significant part of German grammar and affect many words in the German language. This includes German possessive adjectives, another common feature of German grammar that it is extremely useful to learn.
You can see an overview of the three main German cases in the cart below. Notice that all the possessive adjectives all have the same endings for each pronoun gender in a particular case. For example, the feminine or plural possessive adjectives in the nominative case take the ending “-e”.
| || ||ich||du||er||sie||es||wir||ihr||sie
Here is a simplified version of the chart which just shows you which endings you should add to each German possessive adjective in order to have the correct word for each case.
|Simplified Chart Of Possessive Adjectives
|Dativ||masculine / neuter||+em
|feminine / plural||+e
#3: What Are Prepositions and How Are They Used in German?
Learning the meaning of German prepositions is a rather easy part of learning German grammar. The tough part comes after the preposition… yes, you guessed it, German prepositions use cases too! Fortunately, there are usually clear rules that tell you which preposition uses which case. Then you just have to practice German noun declension so that you can put the other words into the correct case for that particular sentence.
Here is a chart that shows the most common German prepositions for the accusative case and the dative case.
|Accusative prepositions||Dative prepositions
|bis (by, to, until, up to)||aus (from, out of)
|durch (through, across)||bei (at, near)
|entlang (along, down)||mit (with)
|für (for)||nach (after, to)
|gegen (against, for)||seit (since, for)
|ohne (without)||von (from, of)
|um (at, around)||zu (to)
There’s one more thing you need to know about German prepositions: some of them can take either the accusative case or the dative case, depending on the context and the meaning of your sentence!
Basically, if you are talking about movement or direction towards a place, you use the accusative case. If you are talking about a location or a fixed position, you should use the dative case. Here are the most common two-way German prepositions.
|an (to, on)||Ich hänge die Gitarre an die Wand. (I’m hanging the guitar on the wall).||Die Gitarre hängt an der Wand. (The guitar is hanging on the wall)
|auf (on, upon)||Ich setze den Teller auf den Tisch. (I’m putting the plate on the table).||Der Teller steht auf dem Tisch. (The plate is on the table).
|hinter (behind)||Wir gehen hinter das Gebäude (We’re going behind the building).||Wir sind hinter dem Gebäude (We are behind the building).
|in (in, into)||Ich gehe ins (=in das) Fitnesscenter (I’m going into the gym).||Ich bin im (=in dem) Fitnesscenter (I’m at the gym).
|neben (next to)||Ich setzte mich neben ihn. (I sat down next to him).||Ich stehe neben der Wand. (I’m standing next to the wall).
|entlang||Wir gehen dieser Straße entlang. (We’re walking down this street).||Es gibt viele Bäume entlang dieser Straße. (There are many trees along this street).
|über||Ich hänge das Bild über das Bett. (I’m hanging the picture above the bed).||Das Bild hängt über dem Bett. (The picture is hanging above the bed).
|unter||Das Mädchen kroch unter den Tisch. (The girl crawled under the table).||Das Mädchen versteckt sich unter dem tisch. (The girl is hiding under the table).
|vor||Sie stellt ihr Fahrrad vor das Haus. (She’s putting her bike in front of the house).||Das Fahrrad steht vor dem Haus. (The bike is in front of the house).
|zwischen||Wir fahren zwischen zwei kleine Seen. (We’re driving between two small lakes).||Die Stadt liegt zwischen zwei kleinen Seen. (The city is located between two small lakes).
#4: Short List of the Most Frequent Adverbs in German
When language learners hear the word “adverb”, most of us first think of words like “quickly”, “carefully”, “slowly”, etc. But in fact, words like “today”, “here”, and “often “ are also adverbs! We’re talking about adverbs of place (where is something done?), adverbs of time (when is something done?), and adverbs of frequency (how often is something done?). The words mentioned earlier would fall into the category of adverbs of manner — how exactly is something done? As you’ve probably guessed, adverbs are basically any words that can modify a verb.
Below is a chart that summarizes the most common and useful German adverbs, divided into the four categories mentioned above. Like in English, German adverbs can have a quite flexible position in sentences. As you study German, notice where these adverbs are placed in different sentences in relation to the other words and the verb in order to start to get a feel for how they are naturally used by native German speakers.
(adverbs of place)
(adverbs of time)
(adverbs of frequency)
|Adverbs of manner
|hier (here)||heute (today)||manchmal (sometimes)||allein(e) (alone)
|dort (there)||jetzt (now)||regelmäßig (regularly)||zusammen (together)
|links (to the left)||morgen (tomorrow)||immer / stets (always)||lange (long)
|rechts (to the right)||gestern (yesterday)||oft (often)||langsam (slowly)
|unten (below)||gerade (right now)||fast nie (almost never)||sicherlich (surely)
|oben (above)||gleich (in a minute)||häufig (frequently)||genau (exactly)
|herein ((to come) in)||kürzlich (recently)||nie / niemals (never)||gern(e) (gladly)
|nirgends (nowhere)||eben (just now)||ab und zu (every once in a while)||kurze (briefly)
|drauβen (outside)||damals (back then)||unregelmäßig (irregularly)||lieber (rather)
|irgendwo (somewhere)||schließlich (finally)||ständig (constantly)||hoffentlich (hopefully)
|überall (everywhere)||sofort (immediately)||selten (seldom)||eventuell (possibly)
|weg (away)||zuletzt (in the end)||mehrmals (repeatedly)||zufällig (per chance)
|nahe (near)||zukünftig (in the future)||einmal (one time)||wirklich (really)
#5: German Verbs and Main German Verb Conjugations
Verbs are often one of the first aspects of German grammar that students start to study — there are a lot of them, after all! Though learning the grammar rules for German verb conjugation may seem tough, there are a few simple tips that can make learning the rules much easier.
Before you start using verbs in the past or verbs in hypothetical situations, you have to be able to use verbs to describe the present. Since German doesn’t have a separate present continuous verb conjugation, you are basically learning two verb tenses in one!
When you study basic German grammar in textbooks or through a course, you’ll notice that there are several grammar rules that tell you how to conjugate different types of German verbs. These are useful to learn, and eventually, German learners should feel comfortable with these verb conjugation rules. However, the best way to start to learn basic German grammar is to just memorize a few very common verbs so that you can start practicing and using them immediately while you keep learning the grammar rules. After all, it doesn’t make sense to first spend several weeks just studying grammar books before you open your mouth and start practicing your German skills!
Below are twenty of the most common German verbs and their conjugations. We recommend that you practice making sentences with the different subjects in order to get used to using them. See if you can use them in your next German conversation!
(to be able to)
|ich werde |
er, sie, es wird
sie, Sie werden
er, sie, es hat
sie, Sie haben
er, sie, es ist
sie, Sie sind
er, sie, es kann
sie, Sie können
er, sie, es muss
sie, Sie müssen
|sollen (to be supposed to)||sagen |
er, sie, es soll
sie, Sie sollen
er, sie, es sagt
sie, Sie sagen
er, sie, es gibt
sie, Sie geben
er, sie, es kommt
sie, Sie kommen
er, sie, es will
sie, Sie wollen
(to go, to walk)
(to be called)
er, sie, es macht
sie, Sie machen
er, sie, es geht
sie, Sie gehen
er, sie, es heißt
sie, Sie heißen
er, sie, es weiß
sie, Sie wissen
er, sie, es sieht
sie, Sie sehen
|dürfen (to be allowed to)||fahren
er, sie, es findet
sie, Sie finden
er, sie, es bleibt
sie, Sie bleiben
er, sie, es mag
sie, Sie mögen
er, sie, es darf
sie, Sie dürfen
er, sie, es fährt
sie, Sie fahren
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