It's time to expand your knowledge of German language beyond an introductory level.
Here are some interesting topics you will learn in intermediate German courses. From cognates to modal verbs, mastering these concepts will take you all the way from being a solid intermediate German speaker to someone who sounds confident and fluent. Here we go!
1. Kognaten (cognates)
One thing is for a fact; English heavily relies on German. So if you are new to the German language, that’s should be a heads up. Take advantage of many similarities and grammar rules which you are already familiar with and climb up the multilingual ladder in style.
As a matter of fact, sometimes you can get away with saying an English word with a German accent, and then you get surprised when a German native tells you that it it’s actually a German word.
If you don’t believe it, try reading the word ‘technology’. What if I told you it’s the same Technologie in German! or Literatur (literature).
Those are just but samples of words, there are a lot more other words which you can relate.
Some striking similarities between German and English are that sentence structures, passive voice and other grammar rules are actually the same. That’s why I insist that if you speak English, you are already learning some crucial aspects of the German language than you possibly don’t think of.
2. Modalverben (modal verbs)
Modal verbs are verbs that modify the tense of another verb.
Example in a sentence, “I must buy something”. In this sentence, “must” is used as a modal verb. The same structure applies in German: Ich muss etwas kaufen. (I must buy something.)
In German the infinitive verb after a modal verb always goes at the end of the sentence (i.e. kaufen comes last). Other modal verbs, just like in English, include:
• müssen (must)
• können (can)
• dürfen (may)
• Sollen (should)
• wollen (want)
• mögen (like)
• möchten (would like)
3. Reflexive Verben (reflexive verbs)
It’s very easy to spot reflexive verbs in English; this is because they’re often accompanied by a pronoun indicating the self. For instance, in a statement like “I hurt myself”, it simply implies that the subject (I) and the object (myself) are the same person. That therefore means “hurt” is a reflexive verb.
On the other hand, German uses reflexive verbs in slightly different context. However, grammar remains hardly unchanged. If you want to say
“ich kann nicht mich beschweren” (I can’t complain)
you’re simply using the German verb
Another heads up; when learning reflexive German verbs, it’s will be important to study the sich that accompanies them because it will go a long way in helping you remember that it’s a reflexive and not your regular verb.
4. Passivformen (passive voice)
The passive voice is mostly recognized with people who don’t like to take responsibility for some actions. It’s easy to detect in a statement because the one doing the action is either missing or it comes at the end of the statement. In English it would be something like this “I closed the door”. This is an active voice, but “the door was closed” or “the door was closed by me” are perfect examples of the passive voice.
German boasts of similar general structure for passive voice. Passive often requires the use of the infinitive verb warden (to be). “Die Tür ist geschlossen” (the door is closed) isn’t passive because it’s simply a comment to tell us about the state of the door. If you want to imply that the door is being closed, then that would be the passive voice. In German you will learn to say, “die Tür wird geschlossen” (the door is being closed).
5. Verben mit zugehörigen Präpositionen (Phrasal verbs)
Just like English, German also relies on using prepositions associated with verbs to clarify and sharpen the meaning of a statement. Cleaning up, for example, is very different from cleaning out.
In German, you are likely to find that it is less confusing than in English because some prepositions actually come as part of the verb, itself. Using the same example aufdecken (cover up) includes the preposition auf (up) as part of the word. Otherwise, it’s helpful to learn prepositions that go with verbs as you learn the verbs.
However, to be proficient at all this requires a lot of memorization. Learning German, itself, requires you to memorize a lot of new things anyway. It would just be a shortcut if you learnt the prepositions at the same time you learn the verbs. This way, you would only need to go through the list once. Otherwise, if you were to learn the two separately, then for every new verb you learn, you’ll definitely need to go back a second or third time just to grasp the prepositions better.
6. Konjunctiv II (subjunctive)
In English, when we are speaking wishes, we use the subjunctive tense. You can spot this whenever a conditional phrase accompanies it.
Example in a sentence; “If I were president, I would be busy.”
The word "if" alone is already telling you that this could be a hypothetical condition. Since it is only hypothetical, the use of were instead of was is encouraged. Were is subjunctive. In English we don’t say “if I was you” but “if I were you” because there’s no chance of me being you.
German also has similar structure for conditional and subjunctive tenses. You would break no grammatical rules if you used würde (would) or hätte (would have) depending on if you’re talking about a hypothetical situation or not.
Here are two short examples:
Wenn ich Präsident wäre, hätte ich viel zu tun. (If I were president, I would have a lot to do.)
Wenn ich arbeite, würde ich bezahlt werden. (If I work, I would be paid.)
7. Präteritum (imperfect tense)
If you were to listen to how native Germans speak in everyday situations, you are likely to notice that imperfect tense is less often used. In as much as it’s considered more formal, more formal ways of speaking (just like in English) are also likely to erupt as stiff or stuffy in the wrong situations.
If I were to say I went somewhere, you’ll hardly hear
ich ging irgendwo (I went somewhere)
ich bin irgendwo gegangen (I have gone somewhere)
would be more prevalent amongst most speakers.
In a newspaper or magazine, it would be surprising if you encounter perfect tense (unless it’s a quote of someone’s actual words). Not that it’s wrong to use the imperfect tense when speaking, some people actually seem to enjoy it, however, if you were to use it in a casual situation, you should be prepared to have others welcome the idea that you’re a bit on the formal side.
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