German SENTENCE STRUCTURE: Speak like Germans Do!

German SENTENCE STRUCTURE: Speak like Germans Do!

Die Jacke ist schön. Schön ist die Jacke. Die Jacke schön ist. (The jacket is pretty.) Which way do you build a sentence in German? What are the the different types of verbs or word agreements? Let’s learn it in this video. Ich bin Denisa von Spring German. Let’s start with the sentence structure.

1. SVO (Subject-Verb-Object)

VANESSA
Ich wohne jetzt in Berlin.
(I live in Berlin now.)

DENISA
Cool, ich auch. Willkommen im Club.
(Cool, me too. Welcome to the club.)

VANESSA
Danke. Ich will mir die Sehenswürdigkeiten ansehen. Kommst du mit?
(Thank you. I want to look at the sights. Are you coming along?)

DENISA
Klar. Sehr gerne.
(Sure. I’d love to.)

Chunk alert!

Willkommen im Club (Welcome to the club) is a chunk often used by native speakers. It’s always used when two people or more have something in common. No matter if it’s a jacket, a city, a problem … Du bist immer willkommen im Club. (You’re always welcome to the club.)

Chunks are phrases that are often used by native speakers and that you can learn as a whole without the grammar behind it. Click the link in the description to get our free essential German chunking kit.

Normally a sentence is formed like this: Subjekt-Verb-Objekt (subject-verb-object).

The main rule is that the subject and the verb can never be separated from each other and the verb has always to be on the second position in the sentence.

Here are some examples:

  • Ich wohne jetzt in Berlin. (I live in Berlin now.) Ich (I) is the subject and wohne (live) is the verb. They cannot be separated.
  • Du lernst Deutsch. (You learn German.)
  • Denisa unterrichtet Deutsch. (Denisa teaches German.)
  • Er geht zur Arbeit. (He goes to work.)

But questions start with the verb:

  • Geht er zur Arbeit? (Does he go to work?)
  • Lernst du Deutsch? (Do you learn German?)
  • Unterrichtet Denisa Deutsch? (Does Denisa teach German?)

Of course, there are also the so-called W-Fragen (W-questions). To learn more about asking questions, check this video here.

To answer the question from the beginning of this video:

Die Jacke ist schön (the jacket is pretty) is a correct sentence in German. You can also say Schön ist die Jacke (pretty is the jacket) if you want to emphasize that the Jacke (jacket) is schön (pretty).

2. Modalverben, trennbare Verben (Modal verbs, separable verbs)

There are different types of verbs in German. One type are modal verbs, which emphasize the intention.

VANESSA
Ich will heute Abend essen gehen. Hast du Zeit?
(I want to go out for dinner tonight. Do you have time?)

DENISA
Ich kann heute Abend nicht ausgehen. Ich muss morgen früh aufstehen.
(I can’t go out tonight. I have to get up early tomorrow.)

VANESSA
Du kannst nicht immer arbeiten. Du solltest auch mal entspannen.
(You can’t work all the time. You should relax sometimes, too.)

DENISA
Wo willst du hingehen?
(Where do you want to go?)

VANESSA
In eine Sushi Bar.
(To a sushi bar.)

DENISA
Ich mag Sushi.
(I like sushi.)

There are six modal verbs in the German language.

  • können (can)
  • wollen (want)
  • sollen (shall)
  • dürfen (may)
  • müssen (must)
  • mögen (like)

Of course there are also auxiliary verbs or main verbs. To learn more about them, check this video here.

Other verbs can be separated in German. They are called trennbare Verben (separable verbs) .

Some examples are:

  • einladen, like Meine Schwester lädt mich ein. (My sister invites me.)
  • anrufen, like Ich rufe dich später an. (I’ll call you later.)
  • einkaufen, like Mein Freund kauft Schokolade ein. (My boyfriend buys chocolate.)

Other prefixes that are separable are:

  • an-, as in anfangen (begin)
  • auf-, as in aufheben (pick up)
  • mit-, as in mitfahren (ride along)

There are also verbs that can’t be separated.

Prefixes that can’t be seperated from the verb are for example:

  • ge-, Das gehört mir (That belongs to me)
  • be-, like Ich bestelle Kaffee (I order coffee)
  • ver-, like Ich verreise heute (I’m traveling today)

A fun example is umfahren (drive around / knock down). It has two different meanings:

  • Ich umfahre das Auto. (I drive around the car.) vs.
  • Ich fahre den Baum um. (I knock down the tree.)

If you don’t separate it, it means that you’re driving around the car. If you use the separable word umfahren (drive around/knock over), you’re knocking the tree down. So be careful when using the verb umfahren (drive around / knock over).

3. Anpassung der Wörter (Word agreement)

VANESSA
Du hast ein schön Kleid.
(You have a pretty dress.)

DENISA
Danke. Aber es heißt: ein schönes Kleid.
(Thank you. But it’s: a pretty dress.)

Be careful when using adjectives because they have to agree to the noun.

If the noun has the article das (the (neuter)) and the indefinite article ein (a / an), the adjective has to have a -S at the end.

Here are a few examples:

  • ein blaues Auto (a blue car)
  • ein kleines Kind (a small kid)
  • ein schönes Haus (a pretty house)

If the noun has the article der (the (masculine)) or the indefinite article ein (a / an), the adjective has a -R at the end.

  • ein junger Mann (a young man)
  • ein großer Hund (a big dog)
  • ein dicker Baum (a thick tree)

If the noun has the article die (the (feminine)) or the indefinite article eine (a / an) the adjective ends with an -E.

  • die kleine Tasche (the small bag)
  • eine schöne Hose (a pretty pair of pants)
  • die gelbe Blume (a yellow flower)

Attention!

You only need the adjective agreement with the indefinite article ein (a / an) here. So the definite articles der (the(masculine)) and das (the(neuter)) don’t need an agreement. The only definite article that needs an agreement is die (the (feminine)).

An example would be:

der junger Mann (the young man) vs. ein junger Mann (a young man)

So here the agreement is only necessary with ein (a / an).

die junge Frau (the young woman) vs. eine junge Frau (a young woman)

Here the agreement is necessary with both die (the(feminine)) and eine (a / an).

Also, the sentences have to agree depending on the case of the sentence. In German, there are vier Fälle (4 cases) but we will talk about them in an extra video.

4. Hauptsatz, Nebensatz (main clause, subordinate clause)

Hauptsatz (main clause) is the main clause that you already know from the beginning of the video. Here you have the subject first, the verb second and then the rest of the sentence.

Let’s talk about the Nebensätze (subordinate clauses)

DENISA
Ich gehe zur Arbeit, obwohl ich müde bin.
(I’m going to work even tough I’m tired.)

VANESSA
Hast du gestern nicht geschlafen?
(Didn’t you sleep yesterday?)

DENISA
Nein nicht wirklich, weil ich meinen Geburtstag gefeiert habe.
(No not really, because I celebrated my birthday.)

Many Germans would use weil ich habe meinen Geburtstag gefeiert (because I celebrated my birthday), even though it’s wrong but it’s still very common in spoken German. So don’t get confused.

Nebensätze (subordinate clauses) are sentences that:

  • are introduced with a comma
  • often start with a Konjuktion (conjunction)
  • end with the verb

Konjunktionen (conjugations) introduce subordinate clauses. For example:

  • weil (because)
  • obwohl (even though)
  • dass (that)

Here are some examples:

  • Ich gehe zur Arbeit, obwohl ich müde bin. (I go to work even though I’m tired.)
  • Ich habe nicht geschlafen, weil ich meinen Geburtstag gefeiert habe. (I didn’t sleep because I celebrated my birthday.)
  • Ich weiß, dass du ins Kino gehst. (I know that you’ll go to the cinema.)

Did you notice the question in the last dialogue?

VANESSA
Hast du gestern nicht geschlafen?
(Didn’t you sleep yesterday?)

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