German Grammar: Genitive

I did some cleaning and found my old German notes. Then I got bored and decided to give you all a refresher post on the genitive case. The explanation I gave of it before was inadequate anyway.

So anyway, the genitive in English works by either using an apostrophe after a noun (ex: “the Judge’s ruling” or “the dog’s fur in my pancakes”), or by using the word “of” with an article (ex: “the ruling of the Judge” or “the hair of the dog”).

(The hair of the dog… Haha! That reminds me of this old television show. I can’t recall the name of it now, but I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. Actually, ol’-what’s-his-face might have said it in the movie instead of the show. I’m not even sure what I was watching now.)

Possession can be shown multiple ways in German as well.

First: by use of the -s ending on a proper name. This one is similar to English, but no apostrophe is used. (ex: “Peters Auto” = “Peter’s car”)

Second: by use of the actual genitive case. In this case, -es is added to the end of most masculine and neuter nouns with only one syllable and -s is added to the end of the masculine and neuter nouns with more than one syllable. When you want to change a masculine noun ending in -e to the genitive case, you add an -n after the -e (ex: “das Auto des Jungen“).

There are no special genitive endings for feminine and plural nouns, but the articles or adjectives have the genitive -er ending. (ex: “das Auto der Lehrerin” or “das Auto meiner Mutter” taking note that the words “Lehrerin” and “Mutter” remain in their regular forms, not taking a special genitive ending while “die” changes to “der” and “meine” changes to “meiner“)

Third: with the von preposition and the dative case in colloquial German can also be used together to show possession.

Example 1:

Genitive: “Das ist das Auto meiner Mutter.”

Dative: “Das ist das Auto von meiner Mutter.”

Example 2:

Genitive: “Das ist das Auto meines Vaters.”

Dative: “Das ist das Auto von meinem Vater.”

Notice again how the word for “mother” does not take a special ending in the genitive case since it is a feminine noun, while the word for “father” takes a special -s ending in the genitive case because it is a masculine noun.

As a quick reminder: plural nouns don’t have special endings either (same as the feminine nouns). An example of this would be, “Hier ist das Haus meiner Eltern.” You can see “meine” change to “meiner” while “Eltern” stays the same because it is plural.

Another reminder: neuter nouns act like masculine nouns in the genitive case and take either the -s or the -es ending, so in the genitive case a phrase like “das Land” becomes “des Landes“.

German Verbs Part II: Commands, Irregulars, Mixed

Command form: in the “du” form, the verb has the same root as the present tense, but does not include the -st ending or umlauts. The “ihr” form is the same as the present tense “ihr” form, but the word “ihr” is absent from the sentence (same as the “du” form). The verbs in the “wir” and “Sie” forms stay the same, but the “wir” or “Sie” goes after the verb.

The irregular and mixed verbs are strong verbs that do not follow the same pattern as the weak verbs and which also do not fit into the normal verb classes. Since they do not follow the pattern, they must simply be memorized.

Here is a list of irregular German verbs – first in present tense, then in the imperfect past tense, and last in the perfect past tense: gehen ging gegangen, kommen kam gekommen, sein war gewesen, stehen stand gestanden, tun tat getan, werden wurde geworden.

Here is a list of mixed German verbs following the same order as the first list: bringen brachte gebracht, denken dachte gedacht, haben hatte gehabt, kennen kannte gekannt, nennen nannte genannt, rennen rannte gerannt, wissen wusste gewusst.

The modal verbs and different verb classes will be posted at a later date (probably not all at once).

German Grammar Practice

I was cleaning my closet last night and I found this nifty little piece of paper with links to some sites where one may practice German grammar stuff. The links are for the following…


Simple past tense verbs:

Perfect past tense verbs:

And a scatter game:

The links worked when I tested them. You can do word search stuff and card flipping things… You know – if you get bored. I’ll try to find more game links later.

German Nouns and Articles

As is customary, I shall start with the nominative case. As is even MORE customary, I shall now interrupt myself before even just starting to explain to mention that all nouns in German are capitalized. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the middle of a sentence. Also, “ich” isn’t capitalized unless it’s the first word in the sentence or being referred to as an object as in “the self” not as in “I”. Apart from those two exceptions, you don’t capitalize it. Just say no. And now we move back to the point.

Nominative case is for the subject of the sentence and has four articles: “der” for the masculine, “die” for the feminine, “das” for the neuter/neutral, and “die” for the formal “you” as well as the plural. Adjectives take different endings depending on the article of the noun to which they refer. That just makes it all the more important to memorize the articles of nouns when you write down vocabulary terms. You don’t want to be writing about a piece of “wichtiger Papier” when it should be “wichtiges” because paper is a neuter noun. As you may have noticed from that little side note, the adjective endings take the last bit of the “the” article of the noun with which they are paired. The nouns of the last category on the list are written in the plural form (ending in -en, may take umlauts) and the other nouns stay the same. And now for the Akkusativ.

The accusative case is used to indicate the direct object of the sentence. Once you have the nominative case memorized, this one is actually pretty easy. “Der” changes to “den” and the rest stay the same. Yes, that was another rhyme I learned in school to aid in the memorization process. The -er ending for masculine adjectives changes accordingly to reflect the new word, but the noun doesn’t change into the plural form just because the “the” ends in -en. Masculine accusative and plural nominative are totally different. Moving on to the Dativ…

The dative case indicates the indirect object of a sentence. It has been described as “the thing that’s getting thinged”. In other words it’s “to whom, for whom something is given, said or done”, and that’s directly out of my grammar book, so it’s probably right. Anyway, “der” becomes “dem”, “die” (feminine) becomes “der”, “das” becomes “dem”, and the other “die” becomes “den”. The adjective endings are again changed in accordance with the new articles. And now on with the thing hardly anyone uses anymore: Genitiv.

The genitive case is the “of the”, a.k.a. the thing indicating the possession or relationship between things. An English example is “soup of the day” – auf Deutsch = <<Suppe des Tages>>, in which you can see the afore-mentioned “of the”. In this case “der” becomes “des”, “die” (feminine) becomes “der”, “das” becomes “des”, and the other “die” becomes “der”. As always: adjective endings, new articles, changing. Yes. But you don’t have to worry about this case very much because, as I mentioned earlier, hardly anyone uses it anymore. People would rather say “the man’s house” than “the house of the man”, and the equivalent naturally exists in German. Just leave out the apostrophe before the “s” being used to indicate possession and KAPOW! Instant genitive case substitute!

Before you go off becoming a skilled grasshopper all by yourself, I will give you a chart to make this lesson easier to remember. Yes, I took the notes for you. You’re welcome.

Nom: RESE  Akk: NESE
Dat: MRMN  Gen: SRSR

German Grammar: Present, Simple Past and Perfect Past Tense

I’ve looked into a few different language-learning methods (on the internet, audio CDs and in several classrooms in junior high and high school), and one thing I noticed about language lessons geared toward people with no foreign language experience is that two thirds of the time they initially skip out on verb conjugations, so I’ll start with that in the present tense. First person singular (“I” in English, “ich” in German) takes -e at the end of a verb instead of ending in the infinitive -en, e.g. “springen” becomes “springe”. Second person informal singular (“you” in English, “du” in German) takes -st instead, e.g. “springen” becomes “springst”. Third person singulat (“he, she, it” in English, “er, sie, es” in German) takes -t. First person plural (“we” in English, “wir” in German) has the -en ending like the infinitive form of the verb “springen”. Second person plural (“you guys” or “all of you” in English, “ihr” in German) takes -t like third person singular. Third person plural (“they” in English, “sie” in German) takes -en like first person plural, as does the formal version of “you”, which is “Sie” with a capital “S”. Notice that there are three sie’s: one means “she” and takes -t, one means “they” and takes -en, and the last one (used to address someone formally until you’ve known them long enough to use the informal form, like addressing someone as “Sir” or “Ma’am” in English – although it’s worth mentioning that children are addressed informally even when you first meet them) has a capital “S” and takes -en. When I was in school they taught us a song to help us remember how to conjugate our present tense verbs. It’s sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and goes like this: “ich” takes “e” and “du” “st” / “er, es, sie” / “t” all three / “wir” “en” and “ihr” takes “t” / “sie” and “Sie” “en”.

There are multiple kinds of past tense verb conjugations. The simple past tense has no helping verb, and the way the verb is conjugated depends on whether it is a strong or weak verb. The weak verbs follow the same pattern as the present tense except with an added “t”. This is the result: “ich” -> -te, “du” -> -test, “er, es, sie” -> -te, “wir” -> -ten, “ihr” -> -tet, “sie” and “Sie” -> -ten. Notice that the first and third person forms are the same. The strong verbs don’t follow the present tense ending pattern and change stems, e.g. the stem “spring” becomes “sprang”. The first person singular and third person singular have no ending (so “sprang” stays as “sprang”), and for the rest of the endings one need simply add the present tense ending to the changed stem, e.g. “du springst” becomes “du sprangst”. There are seven classes of strong verbs as well as a class of irregular verbs, a class of mixed verbs, and the list of modal verbs. I’ll come back to those another time, but they’re important to memorize so you know how to change the stem when using the simple past tense.

The Perfekt past tense uses a helping verb (either “haben” or “sein”). “Haben” is the more common of the two in the perfect past tense, while “sein” is used to indicate movement or a change of state/condition. The “full verb” (not the helping verb) goes to the end of the sentence, and the helping verb takes the second grammatical position. Example: “Ich bin nach da schon gefahren” in which “bin” is the helping verb in the second grammatical position. (This is different from the simple past tense, which keeps the verb in the second grammatical position like the present tense as in the sentences, “Ich gab dir die Welt. Du wolltest sie nicht…”) The helping verb is the one that’s conjugated. The perfect past tense does three things to “full verbs” depending on whether they’re strong, weak, or mixed. The strong verbs have a “ge”, then a stem change, and end in “en” (e.g. “gegangen”). The weak verbs have no stem changes in the participle, so they start with a “ge”, then have the stem of the verb, and end in “t” (e.g. “gespielt”). The mixed verbs start with “ge” and end with “t” and may or may not have a stem change. When a verb has a separable prefix, it is connected to the verb before the “ge” (for example, to say “depart” or “drive off” the separable prefix ab- is added before “fahren”, so in the perfect past tense “he has already departed” becomes “er ist schon abgefahren”, whereas in the present tense the separable prefix goes at the end of the sentence independent of the verb). Here’s a list of some separable prefixes: ab-, an-, auf-, aus-, ein- and vor-. There are also inseparable prefixes. These have no ge- prefix in the perfect past tense, so it’s just the inseparable prefix before the stem regardless of whether the stem changes or stays the same. Here is a list of inseparable prefixes: be-, ent-, er-, ge-, ver-, zer- and miss-. A few prefixes can be either separable or inseparable. It changes depending on the meaning of the verb, so do your best to memorize any exceptions such as this that you find.