German Misc. Basics: Lesson 1

Note about the lessons: the grammar explanations are from assorted grammar manuals; the exercises, while original, were inspired from assorted language guides, both in print and from online. As I don’t see how it’s possible to provide citations for any random grammar rule, I left them out.

As for the translations, be careful not to take direct translations literally. For instance, grammar manuals often use the German conversational past to mean the simple past in English.

There is no guarantee for 100 percent accuracy, as a native German, someone who has native fluency, has yet to offer to review the lessons.

The word for to be is sein.

The word for it is es.

Sein is an irregular verb, thus the form of sein for es doesn’t look at all like sein. Es uses ist, which can be translated as is.

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(What is? It! ) Because it doesn’t specify who or what is existing, it is impersonal. In English we have it substitute for inanimate objects like rock, train, and flower. In German it will correspond to one of the three genders, making animate or inanimate objects irrelevant.

Another crucial irregular verb is haben, which means to have. Es uses hat. Hat can be translated as has.

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The word for the money is das Geld.

das in das Geld means the in the money

Every noun has a gender: masculine, feminine, and neuter. For now we are going to concentrate on the neuter, which uses das for the. In German das can have many different meanings, but for now just know that das is the for Geld.

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The word for he is er.

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Now, on to the easy verbs. These verbs are called easy because they are regular, as in no vowel or stem changes.

The first easy verb is sagen. Whenever I introduce a verb it will be in the infinitive, which always ends in -en, or sometimes in n.

The word for say for er, es is sagt

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Indeed, er and es use the ending t for present tense easy verbs.

In German the present tense means all three forms of the English present “ He says, He is saying, and He does say". Respectively: present, progressive, and the emphatic.

The word for nothing is nichts.

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Let’s also add she, which is sie.

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When Germans talk about the past, they often like to use the present perfect instead of the simple past. Verbs with no motion use haben as the auxiliary verb. Verbs with motion use sein as the auxiliary verb. Another necessary thing to know is that all easy verbs, which sagen is, are very easy to form not just the present, but also the present perfect. Sagen just adds a ge in front of er,es form of sagen, which is sagt. Thus, we get gesagt. The participle gesagt will go at the end of the clause.

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So it’s fairly simple for the easy verbs. Just remember to use the t ending for present, and make sure to use ge for the present perfect, which is what the Germans like to use when speaking about the past.

Now, there is one more thing to remember about the ge. If the verb, whether it’s easy or hard, has the inseparable prefix be, emp, er, ge, ver, zer, or if the verb ends in ieren, the participle will have no ge prefix. Yes, this is a lot to throw at you in the first lesson, but just be aware of it down the road.

The word for await/expect is erwarten.

Notice that there is the er inseparable prefix. I also must tell you that erwarten has a different conjugation from the typical t ending. The ending is et for erwarten for he/she/it. Why not use the t ending like sagen when it changes to sagt you might ask? Well, among other small rules, if the stem ends in t or d, erwarten, then the 3rd person singular retains the e, thus it becomes et. It’s still an easy verb!

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Yes, the 3rd person singular (he,she,it) present verbs are the same as the participle if the verb has one of the mentioned prefixes or if it ends in ieren. Don’t worry so much about remembering each of the prefixes, as you’ll become accustomed with them over time.

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For the next lesson I will add more verbs and pronouns; and in addition, talk about verbs of motion for the present perfect, which by the way use sein instead of haben for the auxiliary.

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