The German language has a worldwide reputation for being extremely difficult to learn. However, there are thousands of German learners all over the globe who have somehow managed to master this incredibly complicated language – maybe, because they didn’t let others mislead them and didn’t believe all the mysterious myths surrounding German?
Though German does have some tricky grammar aspects (and what language hasn’t?), it also has many simple rules that you can remember in a minute! Let’s have a look at what’s easy about German grammar. Discover the topics that are the easiest to master and get inspired to learn this wonderful and astonishingly logical language! Remember to download our FREE cheat sheets – just click the links at the end of the article.
Whenever we start learning a new language, we begin with its alphabet. The first surprise awaiting English native speakers and people speaking English as a second foreign language is that the German alphabet is absolutely the same as the English one! It consists of the same 26 letters. 5 letters (F, L, M, N, S) are even called the same in English and in German! As for the remaining 21 letters, they are called in a slightly different manner but sound very similar, which makes them easy to remember: B is pronounced like [be:] instead of [bi:], D is pronounced like [de:] instead of [di:], and so on.
As for the umlauts, there are only three of them — “ä”, “ö” and “ü” — and they are based on the normal vowels “a”, “o” and “u”. The “ß” is none other than a double “s” and it is gradually disappearing from the language. You won’t have any trouble dealing with just four new letters, will you? The more so if three of them look like normal vowels with two dots above.
Now you know that the German alphabet is as easy as ABC!
Not only the letters but also their sounds are in most cases identical in English and in German. If you are a native speaker of English or if you speak English fluently, you won’t have to bother much about pronunciation.
Both English and German have long and short vowels — as opposed to Slavic languages, for example. Many Slavic students find it difficult to distinguish between long and short sounds — and even more difficult to pronounce them correctly. Native speakers of English have an inborn ability to pronounce long and short vowels properly and needn’t work at it!
The same refers to aspirated consonants. [p], [t] and [k] are pronounced with some expulsion of air both in English and in German. The German sounds [d], [h] and [ŋ] cause difficulties with non-English speakers but are pronounced the same way as in English.
In fact, there are only three (!) sounds in German that are absent in English and that you will have to learn to pronounce correctly — the roaring [r], the mild [ç] (produced by the letter combination “ch”), and the [y] (produced by “y” and “ü”). Even the infamous glottal stops that occur mostly in German words starting with vowels actually exist in some of the English dialects.
Happily enough, German features no tones — as opposed to Chinese or Thai. And the German sounds are very easy on the ear!
English has pretty complicated spelling rules because in the course of its history it was influenced by the French language a lot. Fortunately, German wasn’t. You can learn to read and write in German in one day — right after you’ve mastered the German alphabet (which is as easy as ABC, as we already know).
German spelling and reading rules are pretty simple. German words are spelled exactly as they are pronounced (there are some exceptions from this rule but they are very few).
LIFEHACK: Just follow the WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") principle and pronounce a corresponding sound for each letter. Done!
Practically all learners hate boning up on vocabulary because it is boring and takes much time and effort. In many cases, a lack of motivation and self-discipline becomes the reason why many learners’ vocabulary remains scarce for a long time. As a result, even the learners who understand grammar well can’t speak the language fluently. This refers not only to German but to all other languages as well.
But have you ever noticed how quickly you remember a word that sounds similar to its equivalent in your mother language? Native speakers of English and foreigners speaking English as a second language will be astonished to know how many German words are similar to the English ones! Thus, in many cases learning German words will take you seconds!
Here is an example to convince you. Let’s consider a typical German sentence: “Ich finde diesen Film sehr interessant!” Even if you haven’t started learning German yet, you must have understood the overall meaning of this sentence. Try to translate it into English on your own! Now check your answer: “I find this film very interesting!” Easy, isn’t it?!
This simple sentence contains three words that are widely used in the German language and that resemble their English equivalents a lot: finden (English: to find), Film (English: film) and interessant (English: interesting). Luckily enough, such lexical matches are very abundant in German and English. Learning German words is mere entertainment — and for an English speaker, remembering them is as easy as a pie!
German articles are quite a tricky topic. This is especially true if your mother language has none.
Native speakers of English are lucky to have an inborn ability to distinguish between definite and indefinite articles and to decide whether an article is necessary at all.
LIFEHACK: Don’t bother about article type — just put the one you would use in English!
Have a look at the example below. The reasons for using the definite and the indefinite article are the same!
German: Das ist ein großes Gebäude. Das Gebäude hat fünf Etagen.
English: This is a large building. The building has five floors.
The trick is that German articles need to be declined, but we will tackle this problem later.
Many learners of German complain that German nouns have different genders and different plural forms which are difficult to remember. Let’s rebut this myth!
English nouns also used to have genders, and even nowadays you still replace the word “ship” with a female pronoun “she”, meaning that you — strangely enough — perceive ships as girls. Just admit it and let this acknowledgment make it easier for you to put up with the fact that German nouns are also gendered (though sometimes beyond any logic).
LIFEHACK: instead of learning unbelievably long word lists, learn a shortlist of gender-specific endings with their plurals! Less time spent — more profit gained!
For example, words ending with -tät are all — yes, absolutely all! — feminine and in plural they absolutely always get the ending -en. There are hundreds of such words in German:
- die Universität — die Universitäten
- die Fakultät — die Fakultäten
- die Souverenität — die Souverenitäten
Find more examples in our FREE cheat sheet at the end of the article!
The notorious German cases are one of the main reasons why most learners either give up studying German at an early stage or even never start. Unluckily, they are unaware of several obvious facts about the German cases that make life easier!
Let us tell you a secret: few learners are aware of the fact that the modern English language also has three cases, and German has just one case more!
The first and easiest German case is called Nominative. It presents the initial form of the word, thus causing no difficulties to learners.
Accusative is the second easiest case after Nominative because all the nouns in Accusative stay in the same form as they are in Nominative! (With the only exception of male nouns which get the ending “-n” in Accusative, but you can remember just one letter, can’t you?).
Next comes Dative and — yes, this is practically the only case you will have to struggle with. Follow our blog and you will discover the easiest way to learn and understand Dative!
Last, and maybe also least, comes Genitive. This case is gradually losing its positions and is expected to disappear from the language and get replaced by Dative according to some linguists’ forecasts.
When estimating the amount of information to be learned, remember: once you have understood one German case — you have understood all of them. Just follow the scheme and… enjoy declension!
The scheme is laconic and clear: 1) check which case you need; 2) add the necessary ending. Ready! Not sure how to choose the right case? In the near future, we will share with you several easy tricks helping to apply cases correctly. Subscribe to our blog if you don’t want to miss them!
8. Declension of Adjectives
Yes, German adjectives also have to be declined and yes, they have quite a number of different endings. So why include this topic into an article devoted to easy aspects of German grammar?
For example, the adjective lila stays in its initial form regardless of case or number:
Nominative: die lila Bluse / die lila Blusen
Genitive: der lila Bluse / der lila Blusen
Dative: der lila Bluse / den lila Blusen
Accusative: die lila Bluse / die lila Blusen
The same refers to the adjectives derived from city names. Just add -er to the city name (Berlin + er = Berliner) and decline!
Nominative: das Berliner Museum / die Berliner Museen
Genitive: des Berliner Museums / der Berliner Museen
Dative: dem Berliner Museum / den Berliner Museen
Accusative: das Berliner Museum / die Berliner Museen
Have we convinced you that even such a complicated topic as the declension of adjectives involves some aspects that are easy to master?
Find a full list of indeclinable German adjectives in our FREE cheat sheet at the end of the article. Eager to learn how to decline the adjectives that do change their endings? A post devoted to the declension of adjectives is going to appear in the Eurekly blog soon!
9. Compound Nouns
Still don’t like to decline nouns and adjectives? The German language offers another opportunity for shrewd learners who want to speak fluently and don’t want to lose time during the conversation thinking about which ending to choose.
LIFEHACK: Use compound nouns! Just take two or more nouns and connect them with the help of an “s” or an “n”. Ready!
For example, the word “season”, or “time of the year”, can be translated into German in two ways. You can either say “die Zeit des Jahres” and use the second word in the Genitive case or just “die Jahreszeit”.
Another example: if you need to translate “car repair shop” into German, you can either say “eine Werkstatt für Reparaturen von Fahrzeugen” and use one noun in Nominative, one in Accusative and one in Dative or just “Autoreparaturwerkstatt” — and no bothering about cases!
The Germans love compound nouns so much that they often unite three, four or even more words in one. The longest word ever composed in German is
meaning the “Association for Subordinate Officials of the Head Office Management of the Danube Steamboat Electrical Services”. It consists of 11 words and 80 letters!
The English system of tenses differs a lot from the German one. Being a native speaker of English or having a good knowledge of English is hardly going to help you when studying German tenses. However, you can breathe with relief: as opposed to English with its notorious 16 tenses, German has only 6. The fewer — the easier!
11. Passive Voice
The German passive voice is rather complicated to learn. The good news is that you can always — yes, absolutely always! — replace it with the so-called “man”-sentences that are very easy to use. Just say “man” instead of any subject and use the verb in the third person singular. That’s it!
English: The house was built very quickly.
German: Das Haus wurde sehr schnell gebaut. (Passive voice)
German: Man baute das Haus sehr schnell. ("man"-sentence)
Think it over!
Hopefully, now you have changed your mind and have no more prejudices against learning German! If you are a disciplined person and love order, you are definitely going to fall in love with this beautiful and logical language. You will enjoy building German sentences like kids enjoy playing a construction set!
As a result, your career opportunities will skyrocket because professional translators of the German language are few and far between! Get rid of your bias, find the right motivation and start learning German — with the help of our forthcoming super useful blog posts devoted to German grammar!
And now download your FREE BONUS – two PDF files with cheat sheets on German grammar!