Category Archives: Learn German

Lesson 2: Basic Sentences & Phrases

This lesson will give you some more basic sentences and phrases to become familiar with. Take a look at the sample conversations below.

Conversation #1:

A: Hallo! Wie geht es dir? (Hello! How are you?)

B: Guten Tag. Mir geht es gut. Wie geht es dir? (Good day/hello. I am fine. How are you?)

A: Mir geht es nicht so gut.  (I am not so fine.)

B: Warum geht es dir nicht so gut? (Why are you not fine?)

A: Ich bin sehr müde. (I am very tired.)

B: Es tut mir leid. (I’m sorry.)

Conversation #2:

A: Wie alt bist du? (How old are you?)

B: Ich bin zwanzig Jahre alt. Und du? (I am 20 years old. And you?)

A: Ich bin dreiundzwanzig Jahre alt. (I am 23 years old.)

In the first conversation, person A is replying that he or she does not feel well. You could also say, in this situation, “Ich bin nicht gut.” This means, “I am not fine.” The “so” in the conversation example has the same effect as “so” in the English language. That is why “Ich bin nicht so gut” means “I am not so fine.”

Warum is the word for “why.” When asking someone a question, the verb usually comes first. If there is a question word, that word then goes to the front of the verb. The example is “Warum bist du nicht so gut?” Bist is the verb form of “am” that corresponds with you (du). Since “warum” is a question word, it is appearing before the verb in this question.

Here is the conjugation chart for “sein” (the verb for “to be”). Please note that “sein” is an irregular verb, so the chart must be memorized because it doesn’t follow the normal pattern.

Ich                   bin                   I am

Du                    bist                  You are

Er/sie/es          ist                    He/she/it is

Wir                  sind                  We are

Ihr                    seid                  You all are

Sie/sie             sind                      You (formal)/they are

In the first conversation, “müde” is the word for “tired.” This is modified by “sehr” meaning “very.” It is typical for a modifier to appear before the word it is modifying in German.

In the second conversation, you should note that Jahre (meaning year or years) is capitalized. This is because it is a proper noun; all proper nouns are capitalized in German. Modifiers, pronouns (except for Sie), and verbs are not capitalized.

Also note that in the second conversation, “how old are you?” is being asked. Since it is in question form, the verb is coming before the pronoun. The verb isn’t in second place here, but it still comes before the pronoun. This is one of the irregular sentences (verbs are usually in first or second position when a question is being asked.

“Es tut mir leid,” from the first conversation, is the standard way to say “I’m sorry.”

Practicing with these new sentences and phrases will help you become more familiar with German and make it easier to learn more complicated structures. But for now, just focus on these basics!
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Lesson 1: Introductions & Greetings

The very first thing you should learn in German is how to introduce yourself. For this, you will need to learn a verb, a pronoun, and basic sentence structure. You will also need to learn some basic greetings. It is helpful to learn the conjugations of new verbs as soon as you learn the verb. This way, you can begin memorizing it right away. This lesson will cover all of these points.

Look at the list of simple greetings and phrases below:

Hallo                            Hello

Guten Tag                   Good Day

Guten Morgen                        Good morning

Guten Abend               Good evening

Gute Nacht                  Good night

Ja                                 Yes

Nein                             No

Heißen                         verb meaning “to be called” or “am”

Wie geht’s?                 How are you?

Wie geht es dir?          How are you? (more formal)

Gut                              good

Nicht                            not

Sehr                             very

Und                              and

Dir/dich                       you (not at the beginning of a sentence)

Mir/mich                     Me

Danke                          Thanks

Bitte                            please

Wie                              how

Bis bald                       see you soon

Bis morgen                  See you tomorrow

Auf wiedersehen         Goodbye

Notice the verb on the chart is “heißen.” This literally means “to be called,” but it is also used for introducing oneself.

Look at the conjugation chart below to learn how to conjugate heißen. Heißen is an irregular verb.

Ich                   heiße

Du                    heißt

Er/sie/es          heißt

Wir                  heißen

Ihr                    heißt

Sie/sie             heißen

Now, look at the sample conversation below.

Andrea: Guten Tag! Wie geht es dir?

Markus: Guten Tag! Es geht mir gut, danke. Und dir?

Andrea: Mir geht es auch gut. Wie heißt du?

Markus: Ich heiße Markus. Wie heißt du?

Andrea: Ich heiße Andrea. Freut mich dich kennenzulernen.

Markus: Freut mich auch dich kennenzulernen.

And now, the English:

Andrea: Good day/hello! How are you?

Markus: Good day/hello! I am very fine, thanks. And you?

Andrea: I am fine. What is your name? (Literally, “How are you called?”)

Markus: My name is Markus. What is your name?

Andrea: I am Andrea. Nice to meet you. (Literally, “It pleases me to meet you.”)

Markus: Nice to meet you, too.

This conversation represents a simple greeting and introduction between two people who are near the same age. Therefore, this conversation was somewhat informal. For example, if you wanted to speak formally, instead of saying “Wie heißt du?” you would say “Wie heißen Sie?” Notice that the verb changes because of the pronoun. The pronoun went from you informal (du) to you formal (Sie). Sie is always capitalized when it means you (formal), even if it is in the middle of the sentence. On the other hand, I (ich) is only capitalized when it appears at the beginning of a sentence.

Often times in German, you will see verbs at the end of the sentence. This is usually if there are two verbs in a sentence. In “What is your name?” the structure is the exact same as in English.

Ich heiße Andrea. (ich= I heiße=am Andrea=name).

This will not always be the case! When you learn a new sentence, be sure to note the place of the verb. It can be difficult to get the hang of at first, but you will soon recognize which verbs go in last position and which go in second position (after the subject).
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German is an easy language for native English speakers to learn. Both languages are Western (meaning Germanic) languages, so they have many similarities. English and German both use the Roman alphabet and have many words that are similar. This is because many English words were derived from German words. German grammar and sentence structure also shares some similarities with English.

The biggest hurdle for native English speakers learning German is simply vocabulary and some grammar. Pronunciation is not hard for an English speaker, and it helps that both languages are written with the same characters (with a few exceptions).

The main differences between the German alphabet and the English alphabet are the “ess tset” (ß) and umlauts (two small dots over a vowel). The ß symbol simply reads like “ss” would in English. This symbol is used after long vowels, and a regular “s” is used after short vowels. Umlauts change the pronunciation of the vowel. These differences are very minute when compared to the English language and should not pose a problem to new students of German.

The other differences between German and English lie in the conjugations of verbs. This is because German has a polite form that is used for formal speech. When speaking formally in German, one should use the pronoun “Sie”* and the corresponding verb conjugation. See the charts below for more information.

*Please note that, unlike in English, all proper nouns are capitalized in German even if they do not begin a sentence. The pronoun “Sie,” when used formally, is also capitalized. The pronoun for “I” (ich) is only capitalized when it starts a sentence.

Pronoun Charts and Example Conjugations

Personal Pronouns                  Singular                       Plural

First person                 ich       I                       wir       we

Second person             du        you                  ihr        you all

Third person                er         he                    sie        they

sie        she

es         it

Formal                         Sie       you                  Sie       they

Notice that in the above chart, Sie/sie is used quite often. Sie can mean her, they, you (formal), or they (formal). You can tell which form is being used by context and by the verb conjugation. This may be confusing to new students of the language, but after a little practice, you’ll start to pick up on the patterns.

Now take a look at the conjugation chart below for a regular verb “gehen” (to go).

ich                   gehe                I go

du                    gehst               You go

er/sie/es          geht                 He/she/it goes

wir                   gehen              We go

ihr                    geht                 You all go

sie/Sie             gehen              They/you (formal) go


Notice how the ending changes for each conjugation. For most verbs, the above pattern is followed in order to get the correct conjugation. There are several irregular verbs; those conjugations must simply be memorized. Below is an example of an irregular conjugation chart for the verb “sein” (to be).

ich                   bin                   I am

du                    bist                  You are

er/sie/es          ist                    He/she/it is

wir                   sind                  We are

ihr                    seid                  You all are

sie/Sie             sind                  They/you (formal) are

Irregular verbs do not follow patterns. For each irregular verb you learn, you must memorize the conjugations for each pronoun.

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