It is now time for the second part of my personal German lesson. The first part can be found here. There were some universal principles, so today we will do a small case study based on my own experience.
Der, die, das …
Some think that the German grammatical gender is meaningless and impossible to learn. I’m sorry but I have to deny this rumour, so that you won’t have any excuse. Remember that German is a very logical language and, in spite of appearances, there are endings characteristic to a particular grammatical gender.
Characteristic doesn’t mean universal, but learning this short rule, we will avoid more than 3/4 mistakes!
I don’t know why exactly these verbs were so difficult for me. There are many other German words that sound similar. Maybe it’s because I travel a lot by public transport…
Anyway… think twice before you say to someone, that he can put himself somewhere instead of sit… 🙂
to sit: sitzen – er sitzt – saß – hat gesessen
to put: setzen – er setzt – setzte – hat gesetzt
For me it was the same with tauschen and wechseln, which in Polish simply mean zamieniać (to change). It turned out that tauschen means that we give something to someone and get something in return, while wechseln indicates that something that is currently in use will be replaced by something else.
It sounds complicated, but there is an easy way to remember:
to change: tauschen – er tauscht – tauschte – hat getauscht (places)
to change: wechseln – er wechselt – wechselte – hat gewechselt (money)
Zazdrosny (jealous) and ciekawy (curious) are other two similar words which were hard for me to remember. By the time, I told someone that I’m a very jealous person, instead of just curious. This caused a lot of laughter, so…
neidisch – jealous
neugierig – curious
In my career with the German language, there were also some gay days, so you’d better learn how to pronounce umlauts correctly!
schwül – sultry
schwul – homosexual
Er ist mein Freund…
It was probably the funniest and the most common, that was happening to me at the beginning of my language adventure. Presenting my colleagues, I was always using the construction mein Freund, being completely convinced that I was speaking correctly… until my very understanding boyfriend reminded me, that we are actually a couple. It turned out that I should have been saying ein Freund von mir (a friend of mine) instead of mein Freund (my boyfriend). How many times do you think I said this?
Interestingly, structures: eine Freundin von mir and meine Freundin used by a girl are not surprising at all and mean just a female friend.
Where has Genitiv gone?
Everyone has heard, that there are four cases in German: Nominativ, Akkusativ, Genitiv and Dativ. I was totally surprised when my friend (ein Freund von mir!) from Germany told me that only his grandma uses Genitiv. After that, I read, that the debate has been going on for a few years. Because you can replace:
Genitiv: das Buch des Mannes => Dativ: das Buch vom Mann
Genitiv: Wessen Fahrrad ist das? => Dativ: wem gehört das Fahrrad?
Some people say that using Dativ instead Genitiv is lame, others that it’s just more common in everyday speech. Definitely, without Genitiv we won’t be the brightest star shining with outstanding knowledge, but every German will understand us.
For more advanced in German, I recommend the book “Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod” (B. Sick).