Category Archives: grammar

Dilemma resolved: -s or -es in genitive singular?

Author: Jadranka Bokan

You probably already know that in German language masculine and neuter nouns get the suffix -s in Genitive Singular.

And you have most probably notices that sometimes it can be -es instead of -s.

“How can we know when to put -es and when just -s?” you might ask yourself. 

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Well, there are some scenarios when the nouns get the suffix -es:

  • nouns that end in -s, -ß, -x, -tsch, -tz, -z, -zt (e.g. das Glas – des Glases, der Fuß – des Fußes)
  • many monosyllabic nouns (e.g. das Kind – des Kindes, das Volk – des Volkes)
  • nouns that end in -nis and -us (e.g. das Ereignis – des Ereignisses, der Bonus – des Bonusses)

!! Please note that nouns that end in -us and -os do not get any suffix in Genitive Singular (e.g. das Epos – des Epos).

If you have some other dilemmas related to the German language,  check here, maybe you’ll find the answer.

Tips and tricks for memorising the noun gender in German

Author: Jadranka Bokan

As you may already know, there are some suffixes that can help you recognise the noun gender.

However, learning them by heart can be very difficult. For example, I can always remember that -ung, -schaft, -heit and -keit signal that the noun if feminine, but I am never sure what -tum signals – is it masculine or neuter?

Learning by heart signal suffixes for noun genders in German is very cumbersome

Even if you do manage to memorise all signal-suffixes, there will still be many other nouns which do not end with those suffixes. How can we learn their gender?

Some tips and tricks could be very helpful here.

1) You should make an effort to memorize noun gender only for those words which have different gender from the same nouns in your mother tongue. Examples: ‘Stuhl’ is masculine in German, but it is feminine in my mother tongue; ‘Tisch’ is masculine in both German and my mother tongue. Thus, I will put an effort into trying to memorise the gender of ‘Stuhl’, while I do not need to lose time for memorizing the gender of ‘Tisch’.

Are you making these most common mistakes?

2) You could visualise the noun gender. You can use colours when writing the nouns in your vocabulary book: you could for example write female nouns in red, masculine in blue and neuter in yellow or green.

Learning HOW TO LEARN noun gender in German is deliberating

3) You could imagine masculine nouns (objects) with a hat on them, feminine nouns with braids and neuter nouns with a diper.  You get the picture. Feel free to come up with any other similar system.

4) You could even put the nouns with the same gender in some mutual connection or context and create something like mental maps. Here is an example: I memorised a hill, a tree, a monkey and an apple all together. Since they are all masculine (der Berg, der Baum, der Apfel, der Affe), I imagined: the tree was on the top of the hill, a monkey sat on the tree and the apple was there too. This helped me remember their gender easier. Drawing on a piece of paper can help here too.

5) Children love using colourful threads. They write words on little pieces of paper and hang them to the appropriate thread: red for feminine, blue for masculine and yellow/green for neuter. The threads can be fixed to some wall or board and new words can be added to them at any time.

If you use some other tricks which you would like to share, please contact me here.

Visual grammar

If visualised a content can be better memorised. This is why I decided to collect images with visualised grammar rules which have been posted in several groups on Facebook.

German Plural – simplified

You have just learned that there is a noun gender in German (for example DER Mann, DIE Frau, DAS Kind) and that you have to learn them mostly by heart (although there are some rules that could help you determine the noun gender in German). However, the teacher now wants to ruin your good will to learn German by mentioning the noun plural in German (for example: der Mann – die MÄNNER; die Frau – die FRAUEN; das Kind – die KINDER). Don’t be mad at your teacher, because in order to have all important information about some German noun you will have to learn both their gender and plural form, otherwise you won’t be able to use nouns properly: DER Mann mit dem Hund lächelt mir zu; zwei andere MÄNNER sitzen im Cafe und trinken Kaffee. As you can see, we need those pieces of information.

“There are NO endlessly many noun plural forms in German”

Once you start learning plural of every new German noun that you learn, you will most probably start asking yourself if there is some scheme or some rules which could simplify the learning process. The answer is affirmative, there are NO endlessly many noun plural forms that could appear in German. Actually there are some 5 groups of endings, take a look at the following list:


“There are rules which simplify the learning process”

1. -E:

1.1. most of the masculine (89 %) and neuter nouns: der Tag – die Tage (day – days); das Telefon – die Telefone (telephone – telephones). In order to make things easier, I will write only endings (and stem vowel umlauts) instead of the whole plural form: der Tag, e; das Telefon, e.

1.2. masculine nouns mostly take Umlaut  (when there is a stem-vowel a, o, u): der Stuhl, ü-e (chairs); der Koch, ö-e (cooks); *but: der Hund, e (no Umlaut) (dogs).

1.3. masculine nouns which end with -eur; -ich; -ier; -ig; -ling; -or: der Ingenieur, e; der Rettich, e (radishes); der Käfig, e (cages); der Lehrling, e (trainees); der Frisör, e (hairdressers).

1.4. many single-syllable feminine nouns (around 75 % of all feminine nouns, they always take the Umlaut): die Hand, ä-e (hands).

1.5. feminine nouns which end with -nis or -sal: die Kenntnis, se (skills).

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2. -(E)N:

2.1. most of the feminine nouns (mostly those which end with -e), many foreing words, all masculine nouns which end with -e, -ent, -and, -ant, -ist, -or; some other masculine nouns; a small number of neuter nouns: die Lampe, n (lamps); die Uhr, en (watches); der Deutsche, n (male Germans); der Student, -en (students); der Staat, en (states); das Bett, en (beds).

2.2. feminine nouns which end with -ion, -ik, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -tät, -ung: die Nation, en; die Fabrik, en; die Freundschaft, en (friendships); die Universität, en; die Bedeutung, en (meanings).

2.3. feminine nouns which end with -er, -el: die Regel, n (rules); die Leiter, n (ladders). *exceptions: die Mutter, ü-/ (mothers), die Tochter, ö-/ (daughters).

2.4. feminine nouns which end with -in: die Lehrerin, nen (female teachers); die Freundin, nen (female friends) (they always get the ending -nen in plural).

2.5. foreign words that end with -ma; -um; -us ->>> these endings are replaced with -en: das Thema – die Themen; das Museum -die Museen.


3. / (no ending):

3.1. masculine and neuter nouns which end with -el, -en, -er (they get the Umlaut when possible): der Stecker, / (plugs); das Messer, / (knives); der Apfel, Ä-/ (apples), der Garten, ä-/ (gardens).

3.2. neuter nouns which end with -chen, -lein (the so called diminutives): das Mädchen, / (girls); das Häuschen, / (little houses); das Tischlein, / (little tables).

3.3. all neuter nouns that begin with Ge-: das Gebäude, / (buildings).

4. -ER:

4.1. Note: feminine nouns never get the ending -er.

4.2. many single-syllable neuter nouns and rarely some masculine nouns: das Bild, -er (pictures); der Geist, er (ghosts, spirits).

4.3. these words always get Umlaut when possible: das Buch, ü-er (books); der Mann, ä-er (men); der Mund, ü-er (mouths).

5. -S:

5.1. nouns which end with -a; -i; -o, -u; abbreviations and foreign words that have been taken from English and French: der Opa, s (grandpas); das Foto, s (photos); der Lkw, s (trucks); das Team, s. *Exceptions: das Thema, die Themen; die Firma, die Firmen

6. Note:

Some nouns have only the plural form (pluralia tantum): die Leute (people), die Eltern (parents), die Ferien (vacation).

If you are still a beginner or an advanced learner who would like to check if the plural form that you know is correct, you can either use any of free online dictionaries or this specialised web page for the German plural (all you have to do is to type the word(s) in a box and press the Go button and the plural form will appear).

German pronunciation – basic rules

Sound is very important when you are producing a language. If you don’t pronounce words correctly, no one will understand you. German pronunciation is not very difficult. However, it contains some rules that you should adhere to. There aren’t many exceptions, so that if you learn those rules, you can be sure that you are pronouncing the words that you are learning correctly. I have tried to explain those rules by comparing them with the English pronunciation and I have used basic German words as examples which is very convenient if you are a beginner. For more useful tips, scroll to the bottom of the page.

“e” = sounds similar to English “e” in “help”  (Example: helfen = to  help)

“i” = sounds like “i” in “to live” (ich bin = I am)

“h” at the word beginning = h (Haus = house)

“s” at the word beginning (singen = to sing); “s” between 2 vowels (Hase = rabbit, Musik = music) = “z” like in English “zigzag”

“sch” = “sh” (Schule = school)

“tsch” = you get this if you say “t” and “sh” almost at the same time, just try to spell them one after another (i.e. “t” before “sh”) as quickly as you can (Deutsch = German)

vowel + “h” = long vowel (gehen = to go)

vowel + duplicate consonant = short vowel (Bett = bed; Sonne = sun)

ch = h (machen = to make)

ck = k (backen = to bake)

“z”, “tz” = try to say “t + s” at the same time and you should get that sound (tanzen = to dance)

German “r” does’t sound like English “r” . Learn more: R-pronunciation 

“ei” = “ai” (mein = my, sein = his, Eis = ice or ice-cream)

“ä” = sounds similar to “a” in “apple”  (Mädchen = girl)

“eu”, “äu” = “oi” (neu = new, träumen = to dream)

“ie” = long “i” which sounds like “e” in English “me” (sie = she, fliegen = to fly)

“v” at the word beginning = “f” (Vater = father)

“ü” = your lips are formed like you would like to say “u”, however, you don’t say “u”, but English “e” (like “e” in “me”) (München = Munich)

“ö” = your lips are formed like you would like to say “o”, however, you don’t say “o”, but English “a” (like “a” in “apples”) (Köln = Cologne)

“ss”, “ß” = s (essen = to eat; heiß = hot, Fuß = foot)

“st” at the word beginning = “sht” (Stunde = hour, Strand = beach)

“st” in the middle of a word = “st” (lustig = funny)

“sp” at the word beginning = “shp” (sprechen = speak, Sport = sports)

“-ig” at the end of the word = sounds like “ich” (lustig = funny , ruhig = quiet, calm)

Please bare in mind that all nouns should be written with a capital letter: Sport, Stunde, Strand, Mädchen, Vater, Bett, Sonne, Schule, Haus etc.

Those were the basic rules of German pronunciation. If you still feel uncomfortable with it and would like to be sure that you are pronouncing some German work correctly, feel free  to use these free online dictionaries with pronunciation. All you have to do is to find the word and click on the speaker icon.

How to name (a group of) people by an Adjective

It often occurs that we wish to use Adjectives as Nouns when we want to designate (a group of) people by one of their characteristics: jugendlich, bekannt etc. There are also many Past Participles which can be used in the same way: behindert, verwandt, angestellt, erwachsen etc.

This is totally OK if it is done correctly. What the secret in doing that correctly?

Well, apart from the fact that we will write all these adjectives with the capital first letters in order to suggest that they are now nouns, we should also learn another golden rule: treat and change these nouns in the exactly same way as they we still adjectives. Just pay attention to the word which is in front of them and pretend that there is a noun behind them.

For example, if we take the adjective “jugendlich” and make a masculine noun of it, it would look like this:
Jugendlicher / ein Jugendlicher / der Jugendliche (Nominative), eines Jugendlichen / des Jugendlichen (Genitive), einem Jugendlichen / dem Jugendlichen (Dative), einen Jugendlichen / den Jugendlichen (Accusative). If we build a female noun, it would sound like this: Jugendliche / eine Jugendliche / die Jugendliche (Nominative), einer Jugendlichen / der Jugendlichen (Genitive), einer Jugendlichen / der Jugendlichen (Dative), eine Jugendliche / die Jugendliche (Accusative); Plural would sound like this:  Jugendliche / die Jugendlichen (Nominative), Jugendlicher / der Jugendlichen (Genitive), Jugendlichen / den Jugendlichen (Dative), Jugendliche / die Jugendlichen (Accusative).

Let’s try with Past participles: ein Bekannter (m.), eine Bekannte (f.), meine Bekannten (pl.) etc. ein Verwandter (m.), eine Verwandte (f.), Verwandte (pl.), meine Verwandten (pl.) etc.

If you take a closer look you will notice that the above nouns get the same endings as if they were still adjectives, just without any subsequent nouns: ein Verwandter Mann

Put more simply, you could just treat any of these nouns as the adjective schön (or any other simple adjective) and change them in the exact same way:

ein schöner … (masculine), eine schöne … (female), schöne … (plural), die schönen … (plural) etc.

Verbs with the same form for Past Participle and Infinitive (A2)

There are some verbs which have the same form for Past participle and Infinitive. This might be confusing for learners. They might try to build Past Participle for those verbs as if they would get the prefix ge- which is wrong. Take a look at them and you will notice that they begin with the prefixes be-, ge-, emp-, ent-, er-, ver-, zer and miß-. This means that their Past Participle won’t get the prefix ge-. Also, they are all irregular verbs – only under that circumstance could happen that their Past Participle ends with -en. Here are 11 of those verbs at the A2 level. Make sure that you remember them:

1. bekommen: ich habe eine Einladung bekommen.

2. gefallen: hat dir der Film gut gefallen?

3. vergessen: ich habe seinen Geburtstag vergessen.

4. verlassen: hat er sie verlassen?

5. erfahren: er hat alles erfahren.

6. erhalten: ich habe einen Brief erhalten.

7. beraten: der Steuerberater hat mich gut beraten.

8. sich verlaufen: sie hat sich in der Stadt verlaufen.

9. empfangen: wie hat dich deine Gastfamilie empfangen?

10. vertragen: ich vertrage kein Obst.

11. verraten: er hat mir seinen Plan verraten.

List of all irregular verbs at the A2 level – grouped by the vowel change

Irregular verbs – grouped by the vowel change in Präteritum und Perfekt (A2)

You don’t have to learn the whole list of irregular verbs in its alphabetical order. It’s hard to remember that way. You could learn irregular verbs sorted by the vowel change in Simple Past Tense (Imperfect) and Past Participle. For example, lesen, sehen and essen have the same vowel change: A-E. If you are asking yourself how you could remember these letters, take a look at the bellow list. Those are my personal suggestions, of course, feel free to use some other associations, something that will be easy for you to remember.

A-A (here is how you could remember these letters: ANNA)
stehen – steht – stand – hat gestanden
bringen – bringt – brachte – hat gebracht
denken – denkt – dachte – hat gedacht
kennen – kennt – kannte – hat gekannt
brennen – brennt – brannte – hat gebrannt
nennen – nennt – nannte – hat genannt
rennen – rennt – rannte – ist gerannt
tun – tut – tat – hat getan

A-E (here is how you could remember these letters: APFEL)
liegen – liegt – lag – hat gelegen
sitzen – sitzt – saß – hat gesessen
geben – gibt – gab – hat gegeben
lesen – liest – las – hat gelesen
sehen – sieht – sah – hat gesehen
essen – isst – aß – hat gegessen
fressen – frisst – fraß – hat gefressen
messen – misst – maß – hat gemessen
vergessen – vergisst – vergaß – hat vergessen

A-O (here is how you could remember these letters: HALLO)
beginnen – beginnt – begann – hat begonnen
kommen – kommt – kam – ist gekommen
schwimmen – schwimmt – schwamm – hat geschwommen
bewerben – bewirbt – bewarb – hat beworben
brechen – bricht – brach – hat gebrochen
erschecken – erschrickt – erschrak – ist erschrocken
helfen – hilft – half – hat geholfen
nehmen – nimmt – nahm – hat genommen
sprechen – spricht – sprach – hat gesprochen
stechen – sticht – stach – hat gestochen
sterben – stirbt – starb – ist gestorben
treffen – trifft – traf – hat getroffen
werfen – wirft – warf – hat geworfen
empfehlen – empfiehlt – empfahl – hat empfohlen
stehlen – stiehlt – stahl – hat gestohlen
gewinnen – gewinnt – gewann – hat gewonnen

A-U (here is how you could remember these letters: FAUL)
finden – findet – fand – hat gefunden
gelingen – gelingt – gelang – ist gelungen
singen – singt – sang – hat gesungen
sinken – sinkt – sank – ist gesunken
springen – springt – sprang – ist gesprungen
trinken – trinkt – trank – hat getrunken
verbinden – verbindet – verband – hat verbunden

I-A (here is how you could remember these letters: LILA)
gehen – geht – ging – ist gegangen
empfangen – empfängt – empfing – hat empfangen
fangen – fängt – fing – hat gefangen
hängen – hängt – hing – hat gehangen

IE-A (here is how you could remember these letters: SIENNA)

braten – brät – briet – hat gebraten                                                                  fallen – fällt – fiel – ist gefallen                                                                                          halten – hält – hielt – hat gehalten                                                                  lassen – lässt – ließ – hat gelassen
schlafen – schläft – schlief – hat geschlafen                                                              verraten – verrät – verriet – hat verraten                                                   laufen – läuft – lief – ist gelaufen

I-I (here is how you could remember these letters: IGITT)

reißen – reißt – riss – hat gerissen
schneiden – schneidet – schnitt – hat geschnitten
streichen – streicht – strich – hat gestrichen
streiten – streitet – stritt – hat gestritten
vergleichen -vergleicht – verglich – hat verglichen

IE-IE (here is how you could remember these letters: LIEB-LIEB)
beweisen – beweist – bewies – hat bewiesen
bleiben – bleibt – blieb – ist geblieben
entscheiden – entscheidet – entshied – hat entschieden
leihen – leiht – lieh – hat geliehen
scheinen – scheint – schien – hat geschienen
schreiben – schreibt – schrieb – hat geschrieben
schweigen – schweigt – schwieg – hat geschwiegen
steigen – steigt – stieg – ist gestiegen
verzeihen – verzeiht – verzieh – hat verziehen

stoßen -stößt – stieß – hat gestoßen

rufen – ruft – rief – hat gerufen

O-O (here is how you could remember these letters: DJ BOBO)
heben – hebt – hob – hat gehoben
lügen – lügt – log – hat gelogen
betrügen – betrügt – betrog – hat betrogen
biegen -biegt – bog – hat gebogen
bieten – bietet – bat – hat geboten
fliegen – fliegt – flog – ist geflogen
fließen – fließt – floss – ist geflossen
schieben – schiebt – schob – hat geschoben
wiegen – wiegt – wog – hat gewogen
schießen – schießt – schoss – hat geschossen
schließen – schließt – schloss – hat geschlossen
ziehen – zieht – zog – hat gezogen

U-A (here is how you could remember these letters: SCUBA)
einladen – lädt ein – lud ein – hat eingeladen
graben – gräbt – grub – hat gegraben
fahren – fährt -fuhr – ist gefahren
schlagen – schlägt – schlug – hat geschlagen
tragen – trägt – trug – hat getragen
wachsen – wächst – wuchs – hat gewachsen
waschen – wäscht – wusch – hat gewaschen

Source: textbook Delfin A2 plus my associations.

Reflexive verbs – with “sich” in Accusative and Dative

Author: Jadranka Bokan

There are 4 scenarios when we are talking about reflexive verbs in German:

1) real reflexive verbs appear always WITH the reflexive pronoun sich:

ich freue mich auf die Ferien; ich erinnere mich an meine Kindheit.

Other examples: sich bemühen, sich bewerben, sich ereignen etc.

The above verbs cannot be used without “sich” because that would be grammatically incorrect: ich freue ihn.

“sich freuen” is a real reflexive verb because it cannot be used without “sich”

2) unreal reflexive verbs can be used WITH or WITHOUT sich

ich kämme mein Kind / ich kämme mich.

Other examples: sich setzen, sich rasieren, sich verstecken etc.

Notice that the reflexive pronoun SICH is given in ACCUSATIVE – for both scenarios:

ich freue/kämme MICH
du freust/kämmst DICH
er freut/kämmt SICH

wir freuen/kämmen UNS
ihr freut/kämmt EUCH
sie/Sie freuen/kämmen SICH

As you can see, the reflexive pronoun in Accusative looks exactly the same as the Accusative form of personal pronouns ich – mich, du – dich, wir – uns, ihr – euch. Be cautios: It only differs from the Accusative of the personal pronoun only for er/sie/es and sie (Plural): sich.

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“sich rasieren” is an unreal reflexive verb because it can be used with or without “sich” – you can either shave yourself or some one else

3) On the other hand, there are some verbs which require reflexive pronoun SICH in DATIVE. This scenario requires additionally some other object in Accusative.

Look closer at these examples:

ich wünsche MIR ein Auto; du kannst DIR ein neues Haus leisten.

“ein Auto” and “ein neues Haus” are Objects in Accusative, while the reflexive pronoun appears in Dative:

ich wünsche MIR etwas
du wünschst DIR etwas
er wünscht SICH etwas

wir wünschen UNS etwas
ihr wünscht EUCH etwas
sie/Sie wünschen SICH etwas

If you compare the reflexive pronoun in Accusative (look far above) and Dative, you will see that they differ only in the form for ich and du.

Here is a list of verbs which require reflexive pronoun in Dative:

sich etwas wünschen
sich etwas kaufen
sich etwas vorstellen
sich etwas merken
sich etwas leisten
sich etwas anschauen

“sich kaufen” implies that you are buying SOMETHING – that object signalises that SICH will be in Dative

4) it can happen sometimes that we are talking about a mutual action between at least 2 subjects. In that case the subject in the sentence is always in Plural and we are talking about reciprocal verbs:

sie haben sich in Belgrad kennen gelernt (er hat sie und sie hat ihn kennen gelernt); sie treffen sich immer um 5 Uhr (er trifft sie und sie trifft ihn); sie haben sich umarmt etc.

When this scenario occurs with verbs which are normally regular transitive verbs (which means that they require one Object in Accusative), then we use the reflexive pronoun sich (like in above examples).

In case that we have a mutual action with verbs which normally require some prepositional object, in that case we use that preposition + einander:

sie sprechen miteinander; sie denken aneinander etc.

“sich treffen” expresses a mutual action


Look at these interesting examples: er kauft sich ein Haus = he buys a house for himself, er kauft ihm ein Haus = he buys a house for his friend, father, brother or someone else. Both sentences are grammatically correct.


Not sure where to put sich in a sentence? Click here.

When should I use Dative?

You should put a noun or a pronoun in Dative

1. after these verbs:

wie geht es…?: wie geht es Ihnen?
gehören: die Stadt gehört uns.
gefallen: der Film gefällt mir gut.
helfen: ich helfe meiner Mutter.
danken: ich danke dir.                                                                                                         gratulieren: ich gratuliere dir zum Geburtstag.                                                   weh tun: mir tut das Bein weh.                                                                                       stehen: das T-Shirt steht dir gut.                                                                         geben (+Akk): ich geben ihm mein Fahrrad.                                                         schicken (+Akk): er schickt ihr Blumen.                                                                     schenken (+ Akk): er hat seiner Frau ein Auto geschenkt.

2. after these prepositions:

bei, mit, nach, von, zu: ich komme morgen zu dir.

in, an, auf, hinter, vor, neben, zwischen, über, unter only when it answers to the question “wo?”: der Teller steht auf dem Tisch.