Learning German grammar is one of those things that every learner always dreads. But even though the idea may be daunting, with the right German grammar practice strategies, you might just find it’s not that bad.
In this post, we’ll go over some of the best and most effective ways to learn and practice German grammar. Who knows – maybe by the end of this, you’ll actually find the process fun!
German Grammar Practice: The Basics
Before we dive into the complex world of German grammar, there are some things that need addressing. These are the basics that are good to keep in mind throughout your learning journey.
Is German Grammar Difficult?
German grammar is notoriously hard to master. At least, that’s what people always say. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be like that.
With the right tools and attitude, German grammar practice can be a lot of fun. The German language actually has a surprising amount of structure to it. It’s really all about memorizing patterns and becoming familiar with all those structures. That can sound exhausting, but there are ways to make this easier for yourself.
Figure Out What Works For You
Many people associate German grammar practice with boring textbooks and repetitive exercises. But let me tell you a secret – if you don’t like traditional textbooks, there’s no need to stick to those.
Not everyone learns through reading long-winded explanations. What’s really important is making sure that you figure out what kind of learner you are.
Are you a visual learner? Great! Try using flashcards to practice German grammar.
Are you someone who learns by listening? Look into YouTube videos and German podcasts.
There’s something out there for everyone, and part of the battle is figuring out how to use your strengths to your advantage. Before you dive straight into German grammar practice, take some time to think about the best learning strategy that will work for you.
How to Learn German Grammar
Now, let’s get into the good stuff. Where do you actually start with German grammar practice?
While we’re going to go over some specifics (like cases and verbs) in this post, generally, the best way to learn grammar isn’t by mastering one category and then moving on to the next.
If you know everything there is to know about German adjectives, that’s great. But it won’t help you speak German if you don’t know any vocabulary, don’t understand how verbs work, etc.
The one thing I would recommend for your German grammar practice is to keep it a little organic. See where your journey takes you and be willing to be flexible. That way, you will be able to make connections between the different things you learn more easily.
For example, if you’re trying to understand cases, this might naturally lead you to the topic of prepositions. Look at the following sentence:
- Ich war dort mit meiner Schwester. (I was there with my sister.)
The word “meiner” is in the dative case (you can tell by the “-er” ending). It’s also in singular feminine form. But do you know why you have to use this specific case and ending?
It’s because the phrase “meiner Schwester” is preceded by the word “mit” (= “with”). This is a preposition that always takes the dative case. There are other prepositions like this, such as “aus” (= “from”) and “bei” (= “at,” “by”).
See what I mean by learning more organically? After encountering the above sentence, it would make sense to look up more about prepositions. Which ones take the dative case? Which ones take the accusative case? And what about those that can take both?
It’s not always the best idea to just focus on one category and ignore all others. Languages are more complex than that. Everything is connected, and it’s good to remember that. Structure is important, but so is flexibility and the bigger picture.
First Things First: Where to Start with German Grammar Practice
Now that we’ve gone over some of the more theoretical bits, it’s time to get into the real nitty-gritty of German grammar practice.
English and German sentences both follow the same basic sentence structure. This is the so-called SVO structure. “SVO” stands for “subject, verb, object.”
What this means is that a basic German sentence will look something like this:
- Ich habe eine Katze. (I have a cat.)
- “ich” (= “I”) is the subject
- “habe” (= “have”) is the verb
- “eine Katze” (= “a cat”) is the object
See how the German sentence structure is exactly the same as the English translation? This definitely makes things a lot simpler.
The SVO structure is great to keep in mind as a beginner. However, things get more exciting later on. While in all basic German sentences, the verb always comes second, you can actually play around with the other elements a little bit.
Things also get more complicated once you start talking about subordinate clauses. Those follow slightly different sentence structure rules. But that’s very much something that beginners don’t have to worry about. You’ll get there eventually. But for now, it’s enough to remember the SVO structure.
“You”: Formal vs. Informal
Another important part of your German grammar practice is knowing how to correctly address people. German has two separate words that mean the singular “you.”
One of those words is “du,” which you would use when talking to someone who you have an informal relationship with. For example, you would use “du” with your friends, family members, classmates, etc.
On the other hand, when you’re talking to someone you don’t really know or someone you have a much more formal relationship with (your boss or the cashier, for example), you would use the word “Sie.”
The tricky part here is that each of those little words is followed by different verb forms. Look at the following sentences:
- Woher kommst du? (Where are you from?)
- Woher kommen Sie? (Where are you from?)
Both sentences mean the same, but they are different. Not only is the context different (you would use the first one with a friend and the second one with a colleague), but the grammar is different, too.
This is why this distinction is so important to remember. You don’t want to sound rude – and you also don’t want to make unnecessary mistakes.
German Nouns and Their Genders
Did you know that some German words have grammatical genders? For example, all nouns are either masculine, feminine, or neuter.
This is important to know because the gender of a noun will determine the article that you use for it. Here’s what I mean:
- der Hund (= “the dog”) is masculine
- das Auto (= “the car”) is neuter
- die Sonne (= “the sun”) is feminine
Keep this in mind when working on your German grammar practice. Without knowing which noun is which gender, chances are you won’t make it far without making a mistake.
If you’d like to learn more about German genders, check out this great video by YourGermanTeacher:
German Grammar Practice: Parts of Speech
German has ten parts of speech. These are:
You will want to make sure that you know a little bit about each of these parts of speech. But even though it’s good to be aware of these and know what they are, don’t overthink it! As I mentioned earlier, while it can be beneficial to focus on only one topic from time to time, at the end of the day, everything is connected. You need to know more than just nouns or conjunctions to be able to speak German.
While it’s good not to focus too much on just one thing, German verbs is definitely a topic that does require a little bit of extra attention.
There are many tenses in German, and those don’t always correspond to English. Then, you also have irregular verbs, which are important to remember if you want to speak correctly.
There is a lot to cover when it comes to German verbs, but if you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered! Check out this helpful guide to German verbs and conjugation.
German cases are another thing that many people dread when it comes to their German grammar practice. This is why I wanted to briefly talk about them and give you some tips.
There are four cases in the German language. These are:
Cases are important because they affect everything from nouns to pronouns to adjectives. But where do you start with learning these?
The good news is that you already know the first case, nominative. All the words that you learn from vocabulary lists and dictionaries are in this case. So, you really only need to worry about the other three.
Generally, it’s recommended that you start with the accusative case. Then, once you know that, you can move on to dative. Finally, you can learn the genitive case last.
This order makes the most sense within the broader context of German grammar. You are most likely to first come across accusative when starting to learn German. The genitive case, on the other hand, shouldn’t really cause you much trouble until later on.
To learn more, check out this guide to German cases.
German Grammar Practice: Online Resources
Now that we’ve talked about some of the best approaches to your German grammar practice, it’s time to get into some of the more practical tips. For instance, where should you look for learning materials?
Here are some of my personal favorites:
Anki is one of the best language-learning resources out there. It’s a flashcard-based app that uses a spaced repetition system. So, if you’re someone who loves flashcards but wants to waste less paper and have a clever algorithm help you with your learning, check out Anki.
Here are some German grammar Anki decks that you could try:
Clozemaster is an invaluable tool if you’re not quite a beginner anymore but you still want to work on your German grammar practice. It’s fun, easy to use, and a great way to improve your language skills.
With Clozemaster, you can play a series of fill-in-the-blank phrases in various game modes. You can also check out our blog, which has many helpful guides and articles – like the one you’re reading right now.
Deutsche Welle is a great resource for many reasons. But today, I’d like to recommend to you their Grammar Overview page. It covers basically everything from verbs to pronouns to things such as time specification and negation.
German Grammar Practice: Some Other Tips
One of the best ways to improve your German grammar practice is by surrounding yourself with German. Don’t just spend hours memorizing grammar rules. Try the following to see what you’ve learned in practice:
- Read German books. You can start with stories written for beginners or children if you’re not feeling confident enough to tackle a full novel.
- Watch German TV shows. Dark was one of Netflix’s biggest shows, and it’s in German. So, what are you waiting for?
- Write in German. Why not start a little journal that’s just in German? It’s great for practicing what you’ve learned. Plus, people won’t be able to read all your secrets, even if they find your journal! Unless they also speak German, of course.
If you’d like to learn more about the German language, check out some of our other useful articles: