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Practice Makes Perfect helps you put your German vocabulary and grammar skills together!

You may have all the vocabulary down pat and every grammar point nailed--but without the skill of knowing how to put these elements together, communicating in your second language would be nearly impossible. Practice Makes Perfect: German Sentence Builders picks up from where other grammar books leave off, showing you the variety of structures and how to combine them to make solid sentences. And like every Practice Makes Perfect title, these books feature crystal-clear explanations, numerous realistic examples, and dozens of opportunities to practice, practice, practice!

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Jahr:
2009
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1
Verlag:
McGraw-Hill
Sprache:
english
Seiten:
193
ISBN 10:
0071599622
ISBN 13:
9780071599627
Serien:
Practice Makes Perfect
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PRACTICE
MAKES
PERFECT

German
Sentence
Builder
Ed Swick

New York Chicago San Francisco Lisbon London Madrid Mexico City
Milan New Delhi San Juan Seoul Singapore Sydney Toronto

Copyright © 2009 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no
part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior
written permission of the publisher.
ISBN: 978-0-07-159963-4
MHID: 0-07-159963-0
The material in this eBook also appears in the print version of this title: ISBN: 978-0-07-159962-7, MHID: 0-07-159962-2.
All trademarks are trademarks of their respective owners. Rather than put a trademark symbol after every occurrence of a trademarked name, we use
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To contact a representative please e-mail us at bulksales@mcgraw-hill.com.
TERMS OF USE
This is a copyrighted work and The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (“McGraw-Hill”) and its licensors reserve all rights in and to the work. Use of this
work is subject to these terms. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1976 and the right to store and retrieve one copy of the work, you may
not decompile, disassemble, reverse engineer, reproduce, modify, create derivative works based upon, transmit, distribute, disseminate, sell, publish or
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THE WORK IS PROVIDED “AS IS.” McGRAW-HI; LL AND ITS LICENSORS MAKE NO GUARANTEES OR WARRANTIES AS TO THE ACCURACY, ADEQUACY OR COMPLETENESS OF OR RESULTS TO BE OBTAINED FROM USING THE WORK, INCLUDING ANY
INFORMATION THAT CAN BE ACCESSED THROUGH THE WORK VIA HYPERLINK OR OTHERWISE, AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY
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advised of the possibility of such damages. This limitation of liability shall apply to any claim or cause whatsoever whether such claim or cause
arises in contract, tort or otherwise.

To Riane, AJ, Jalyn, Tori, and Riley, my terrific grandkids.

This page intentionally left blank

Contents

Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  ix

1. Declarative sentences and word order  1
2. Interrogative sentences  11
3. Questions and answers  21
4. Imperatives 31
5. Coordinating conjunctions 39
6. Subordinating conjunctions 43
7. Relative pronouns 51
8. Extended modifiers 59
9. Adjectives 67
10. Adverbs 77
11. Pronouns 83
12. Infinitives 91
13. Short responses 99
14. Idioms and special phrases 105
15. Antonyms and contrasts 113
16. The passive voice 121
v

17. The subjunctive mood 133
18. Punctuation 145
19. Letter writing 153
20. Let’s write! 161
Answer key 169

vi

Contents

Acknowledgments

I wish to extend my gratitude to Stefan Feyen for all his help and suggestions.

vii

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Introduction

Writing skills are usually the most difficult skills to acquire in a language. This is
particularly true in a foreign language. The goal of this book is to guide you
through the various types of structures in the German language and to illustrate
how those structures combine to make sentences.
Naturally, in order to acquire writing skills you have to write. Therefore, you
will be provided with an abundance of writing exercises. Some will require a small
variation in a given sentence. Others will provide you with a series of words that
you form into an appropriate sentence. And you will have plenty of opportunity
for coming up with original sentences of your own. This development of your
German sentence writing moves gradually and with careful explanation from the
least complex activity to the most complex.
Make changes to given sentences.     
Combine a series of words as a sentence.
Write original sentences.



Writing skills developed

In addition to the illustrations of how structures combine to form sentences,
and the practice exercises, an answer key is provided at the end of the book. It
includes not only the correct answers for the exercises but also sample sentences
for you to use to compare to your original sentences.
Good sentence writing is not an impossible task. But it requires analysis and
practice and a willingness to apply concepts and rules consistently. Let this book
guide you, and you will discover a new confidence as you write more successfully
in German.
Viel Glück!

ix

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Declarative sentences
and word order

·1·

Declarative sentences in both English and German consist of a subject and a predicate. In German, the subject is in the nominative case, and the verb in the predicate is conjugated appropriately for the subject and in a specific tense:
subject 1 verb 1 predicate
Karl 1 singt 1 gut.
Karl sings well.

In the example sentence above, the subject is Karl and the verb singt is conjugated
in the present tense for the third person singular subject. This basic structure is
used in great abundance in the language and can be modified in a variety of ways.
Nonetheless, its simple formula is subject plus predicate. If one of those elements
is missing, you don’t have a sentence.
Let’s look at a series of sentences composed in this way. Take note of the subjects, the variety of verb types in the predicate, and the various tenses that can be
used in declarative sentences. Many sentences are composed of a present perfect
tense verb and the auxiliary haben:
Karin hat in Leipzig gewohnt.

Karin lived in Leipzig.

Many are composed of a present perfect tense verb and the auxiliary sein:
Sie sind nach Kanada
ausgewandert.

They emigrated to Canada.

Many appear in the future tense with the auxiliary werden:
Die Kinder werden im Garten
The children will play in the garden.
spielen.		

Others can be a combination of a modal auxiliary and an infinitive:
Niemand kann ihn verstehen.

No one can understand him.

And still others can be written in the passive voice:
Deutsch wird hier gesprochen.

German is spoken here.

In other words, a declarative sentence can take many forms.

1

Übung

1·1
Rewrite the following declarative sentences in the missing tenses.

1. Present

Martin spricht kein Englisch.

Past

a. 

Present perfect

b. 

Future

c. 

2. Present

a. 

Past

b. 

Present perfect

c. 

Future

Ich werde es machen können.

3. Present

a. 

Past

b. 

Present perfect

Eine Schlange hat den Frosch gefressen.

Future

c. 

4. Present

a. 

Past

Über dem Wald flogen viele Vögel.

Present perfect

b. 

Future

c. 

Negation
Declarative sentences do not always make positive statements. They can be made negative by adding a negative word to the sentence or by changing a positive subject to a negative subject.
The most common way to negate a sentence is by the addition of the adverb nicht (not):
Karl singt gut.
Karl singt nicht gut.

Karl sings well.
Karl doesn’t sing well.

German usually places nicht in front of the element that is negated. However, if that element
is the verb itself, nicht follows the conjugated form or stands between the auxiliary and the corresponding infinitive or participle. Nicht also follows an adverb or adverbial phrase that describes
time or place or an object that is in the accusative case:
Es geht nicht.
Sie sind nicht zu Hause gewesen.
Er konnte gestern nacht nicht schlafen.
Sie kennt den Mann nicht.

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Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

That won’t work.
They weren’t at home.
He couldn’t sleep last night.
She doesn’t know the man.

Nicht precedes a prepositional phrase or an adverbial that describes the manner in which
something was done:
subject 1 verb 1 nicht 1 prepositional phrase
Sie 1 fahren 1 nicht 1 nach Hause.
They’re not driving home.

English often requires the auxiliary do/does when negating. This does not occur in German:
Sie warten nicht auf Katrin.
Er versteht nicht.
Onkel Fritz kommt nicht heute.

They don’t wait for Katrin.
He doesn’t understand.
Uncle Fritz isn’t coming today.

When negating a noun, kein (no, not any) is used:
kein 1 noun
keine 1 Bücher
no/not any books

Ich habe kein Geld.
Jack kennt keine Deutschen.
Es dauert keine fünf Minuten.

I don’t have any money.
Jack doesn’t know any Germans.
It won’t last more than five minutes.

Übung

1·2
Rewrite each sentence, negating the underlined element with nicht.

example:

Sie laufen in den Garten.
Sie laufen nicht in den Garten.

1. Das ist das beste Buch.

2. Sie ist am Nachmittag angekommen.

3. Ihr Mann ist bei einem Unglück umgekommen.

4. Er hat helfen wollen.

5. Frau Schneider hat sich wohl gefühlt.

6. Die Studenten sitzen im Lesesaal.

7. Seine Frau hat ihn betrogen.

Declarative sentences and word order

3

Übung

1·3
Rewrite each sentence, negating the underlined element with kein.

Example:

Luise hat die Zeitung.
Luise hat keine Zeitung.

1. Meine Großmutter trinkt Kaffee.

2. Boris hat interessante Bücher gefunden.

3. Die Jungen haben den Kindern geholfen.

4. Der Dieb hat ein Wort gesagt.

5. In diesem Wald gibt es Bären.

6. Ich werde das unter diesen Umständen tun.

Übung

1·4
Rewrite each sentence, negating the underlined element with kein or nicht, whichever is
appropriate.

1. Ihr Sohn hat mitgehen wollen.

2. Die Leute gehen in seinen Laden.

3. Ich klebte die Marke auf den Brief.

4. Der Bodensee ist der größte See.

5. Ein Mann spricht mit ihm.

4

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

6. Die Lehrerin brauchte einen Kugelschreiber.

7. Der betrunkene Mann fährt schnell.

Niemand, nichts, and niemals
The negative pronouns niemand (no one, nobody) and nichts (nothing) are high-frequency words
and are commonly used to negate a sentence. The same is true of the adverb nie or niemals
(never). Niemand and nichts can act as subjects or objects. Compare their use in the following
examples:
Niemand besucht sie.
Sie versteht niemanden.
Nichts interessiert ihn.
Ich habe nichts für die Kinder.

No one is visiting them.
She doesn’t understand anybody.
Nothing interests him.
I have nothing for the children.

Nie / niemals is used adverbially:
Er geht nie (niemals) ins Kino.

He never goes to the movies.

Just like jemand, niemand can have a declensional ending in the accusative and dative
cases. That ending, however, is optional:
Nominative
Accusative
Dative

jemand
jemand or jemanden
jemand or jemandem

niemand
niemand or niemanden
niemand or niemandem

Übung

1·5
Change the underlined word(s) in each sentence to the appropriate negative word:
niemand, nichts, or nie (niemals).

example:

Thomas hat zehn Euro.
Thomas hat nichts.

1. Die Mädchen wollen Schlittschuh laufen.

2. Der Polizist wird den Dieb verhaften.

3. Manfred geht alle paar Tage in die Stadt.

Declarative sentences and word order

5

4. Meine Verwandten waren gestern in Berlin.

5. Sonja wird ihre kranke Tante in Hamburg besuchen.

6. Er will etwas zu essen haben.

Word order
The sentences you have encountered so far all began with the subject of the sentence. But German
sentences can begin with other elements as well. When this occurs, the verb in the sentence will
precede the subject. Consider the following sentences. Notice that the English sentences cannot
always follow the German word order, particularly when the German sentence begins with a
direct object:
Gestern war er in der Stadt.
Direct object
Das verstehe ich nicht.
Clause
Als ich in Berlin war, besuchte
	  ich meinen Onkel.
Adverb

Yesterday he was in the city.
I don’t understand that.
When I was in Berlin, I visited
my uncle.

In the previous examples, the various German sentences began with an adverb (Gestern), a direct
object (Das), and a clause (Als ich in Berlin war). And in each case the subject was preceded by
the verb:
non-subject element 1 verb 1 subject  inverted subject and verb
Übung

1·6
Rewrite each of the following sentences by beginning them with the underlined word or
phrase.

Example:

Die Vorstellung beginnt um zwei Uhr.
Um zwei Uhr beginnt die Vorstellung.

1. Sie ist leider wieder krank geworden.

2. Martin blieb den ganzen Tag zu Hause.

3. Ich verbringe meine Freizeit in der Bibliothek.

6

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

4. Ich begegnete meinen Nachbarn, als ich um die Ecke kam.

5. Ich möchte im Herbst nach Italien reisen.

6. Sie geht oft ins Theater, wenn sie in London ist.

It is important to remember that German sentences that begin with some element other
than the subject cannot always be translated word for word into English. For example:
Den Mann beißt der Hund.

Those words translate as the man bites the dog, but the German sentence begins with the direct
object and must, therefore, be translated into English as the dog bites the man.
Übung

1·7
Rewrite each of the following sentences by placing the direct object at the beginning of the
sentence.

Example:

Der Hund beißt den Mann.
Den Mann beißt der Hund.

1. Er hat den Wecker reparieren lassen.

2. Sie wissen das nicht.

3. Die Jungen spielen Schach.

4. Man muss das nicht.

5. Die Frau kaufte einen Mantel im Kaufhaus.

Declarative sentences and word order

7

Übung

1·8
Rewrite the following sentences by beginning each one first with an adverb, then with a
prepositional phrase, and finally with a clause of your choosing.

1. Meine Familie isst italienisch.
a.	Adverb 
b. Prepositional phrase 
c.	Clause 
2. Sonja spielte Tennis.
a.	Adverb 
b. Prepositional phrase 
c.	Clause 
3. Seine Freundin wird einen neuen Wagen kaufen.
a.	Adverb 
b. Prepositional phrase 
c.	Clause 

Übung

1·9
Compose sentences using the words provided in each list. Add any necessary words.

example:

morgen / kommen / er / mit / Freund / nach Hause
Morgen kommt er mit einem Freund nach Hause.

1. in / Woche / werden / wir / wieder / Wien / sein

2. Mutter / müssen / um / sechs / aufstehen / und / Stadt / fahren

3. als / ich / in / Hauptstadt / sein / gehen / ich / oft / Museum

8

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

Übung

1·10
Write original sentences. Begin each one with the cue words provided.
Example:

(heute)
Heute werde ich meine Tante in Berlin besuchen.

1. (jemand)

2. (vor einer Woche)

3. (um zehn Uhr)

Declarative sentences and word order

9

This page intentionally left blank

·2·

Interrogative sentences

In both English and German, there is a variety of ways to form questions. In German questions that concern the action of a verb and in some English questions,
the verb precedes the subject:
verb 1 subject
Ist 1 Martin zu Hause?
Is Martin at home?

But if the question concerns the action of a verb, English most often uses the
auxiliary to do to form the question. For example:
verb 1 subject
Sprechen 1 Sie Deutsch?
Do you speak German?
verb 1 subject
Kaufte 1 er einen Mantel?
Did he buy a coat?

With the verb to be and sometimes with the verb to have, however, the auxiliary to do is not needed in English. Instead, as in German, the question begins
with the verb:
Ist sie wieder krank?
Waren sie in München?
Haben Sie keinen Pass?

Is she sick again?
Were they in Munich?
Have you no passport?

If the verb to have is transitive, a question can be formed either with the auxiliary verb to do or without it. However, the form that uses to do is more common
in modern English:
Hast du genug Geld?
			
Hatten sie kein Handy?
			

Do you have enough money? or
Have you enough money?
Didn’t they have a cell phone? or
Had they no cell phone?

If the verb to have is the auxiliary of a perfect tense, the auxiliary verb to do
cannot be used in the formation of a question:
Hat er sein Heft gefunden?
Hatte Sonja ihre Tasche verloren?

Has he found his notebook?
Had Sonja lost her purse?

The auxiliary to do is used in English questions only in the present and past
tenses with the exception, of course, of to be and to have as illustrated in the previ-

11

ous examples. The English future tense also avoids using to do in a question. Other auxiliaries,
such as certain modal auxiliaries, also avoid it:
Wirst du auch mitkommen?
Kannst du mir helfen?

Will you come along, too?
Can you help me?

If the English modal requires the particle word to in order to complete its meaning, use to
do to form a question. To be able to is an exception to this rule, because the verb to be is
involved:
to be able to
to have to
to need to

Are you able to breathe all right?
Does he have to shout like that?
Did the dogs need to be fed?

The point being made here is that it is important to realize that you cannot translate English
questions directly into German. You have to look at the structure of the English sentence and
modify for the German approach to forming questions for the action of a verb: the verb precedes
the subject in a German question:
verb 1 subject  eine Frage

Let’s look at a few examples:
Statement: Er singt sehr gut.
Question: Singt er sehr gut?
Statement: Sie ging nach Hause.
Question: Ging sie nach Hause?

He sings very well.
Does he sing very well?
She went home.
Did she go home?

The same word order is required when a modal is used in the sentence:
Statement: Du musst so oft rauchen.
Question: Musst du so oft rauchen?

You have to smoke so often.
Do you have to smoke so often?

If the sentence is in the present perfect tense, the auxiliary verb precedes the subject.
Statement: Der Mann ist gestorben.
Question: Ist der Mann gestorben?

The man has died.
Has the man died?

In a future tense sentence, the auxiliary werden precedes the subject:
Statement: Wir werden mit ihm reisen.
Question: Werden wir mit ihm reisen?

We will travel with him.
Will we travel with him?

Übung

2·1
Rewrite each statement as a question.

1. Sein Vetter ist in der Hauptstadt gewesen.

2. Gudrun will die Wahrheit über das Unglück erfahren.

3. Die kranke Frau litt an einer Vergiftung.

12

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

4. Man muss alle Verkehrszeichen beachten.

5. Ich durfte Luise und Tanja begleiten.

6. Etwas ist in der Küche los.

7. Meine Tante freute sich auf das Wiedersehen mit ihren Verwandten.

Übung

2·2
Translate the following English questions into German.

1. Do you (Sie) play chess?

2. Do you (du) have to stay at home today?

3. Haven’t you (du) gone to work yet?

4. Will they arrive at ten o’clock?

Interrogative words
Interrogative words are used to pose a question about a specific element in a sentence: who, what,
when, where, how, and so on. For the most part, German and English interrogative words are
used in much the same way.

Wer
The interrogative wer (who) inquires into the person or persons mentioned in a statement. But
wer is a singular pronoun and requires a singular conjugation of the verb, even when it inquires
into a plural subject. For example:
Tina wohnt jetzt in Bremen.
Wer wohnt jetzt in Bremen?
Meine Eltern waren im Harz.
Wer war im Harz?

Tina lives in Bremen now.
Who lives in Bremen now?
My parents were in the Harz Mountains.
Who was in the Harz Mountains?
Interrogative sentences

13

If wer inquires into the direct object of a sentence or the object of an accusative preposition,
the pronoun becomes wen (whom, who). If it inquires into an object in the dative case, the pronoun becomes wem (whom, who). And if it replaces a possessive adjective or a genitive case noun
showing possession, the form wessen (whose) is used. Let’s look at some example sentences.
The case of the interrogative pronoun wer, wen, wem, or wessen is determined by the case
of the noun or pronoun it replaces: nominative, accusative, dative, or possessive. In the following
example, the nominative subject is replaced by the nominative wer in a question:
Statement: Der Lehrer ist noch nicht da.
Question: Wer ist noch nicht da?

The teacher isn’t here yet.
Who isn’t here yet?

In the next example, the accusative noun is replaced by the accusative wen in a question:
Statement: Sie kennt den Lehrer.
Question: Wen kennt sie?

She knows the teacher.
Whom does she know?

If the accusative noun is introduced by an accusative preposition, that preposition will introduce wen:
Statement: Er wartet auf den Lehrer.
Question: Auf wen wartet er?

He’s waiting for the teacher.
For whom is he waiting?

If the dative case is required to replace an indirect object or a noun introduced by a dative
preposition, the interrogative wem will be used:
Statement: Sie gab es dem Lehrer.
Question: Wem gab sie es?
Statement: Du sprachst mit dem Lehrer.
Question: Mit wem sprachst du?

She gave it to the teacher.
To whom did she give it?
You spoke with the teacher.
With whom did you speak?

And if the noun is in the genitive case showing possession, or there is a possessive pronoun
showing possession, the possessive wessen is required:
Statement: Der Sohn des Lehrers ist
krank.
Question: Wessen Sohn ist krank?

The teacher’s son is sick.
Whose son is sick?

Übung

2·3
Rewrite the following sentences, changing the underlined word or phrase to the appropriate
form: wer, wen, wem, or wessen.

Example:

Er kann uns gut verstehen.
Wer kann uns gut verstehen?

1. Maria hatte ein Geschenk für dich.

2. Peter möchte mit der neuen Studentin tanzen.

3. Die Verwandten in Deutschland wollen ihr helfen.

14

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

4. Ihre Kinder werden mit Liebe erzogen.

5. Sie möchten mich morgen besuchen.

Was
The interrogative was (what) inquires into an object or group of objects in a sentence. It replaces
the subject of the sentence or an accusative object. Its dative form is wem. Like wer, was is a singular pronoun.
The possessive form wessen is used to replace a possessive adjective or a genitive case noun
showing possession.
Even if the noun or pronoun replaced by was is a plural, the verb in the question will have a
singular conjugation:
Statement: Diese Bücher sind alt.
Question: Was ist alt?

These books are old.
What is old?

When replacing a direct object, the pronoun was is again used:
Statement: Er kauft eine neue Uhr.
Question: Was kauft er?

He buys a new clock.
What does he buy?

German sometimes uses an indirect object with non-human animates, a structure that
would sound strange in English. To illustrate that point consider the following sentence and the
question that follows:
Statement: Der Schäfer scherte den
Schafen die Wolle.
Question: Wem scherte der Schäfer die
Wolle?

The shepherd sheared the wool from the sheep.
From what did the shepherd shear the wool?

The possessive wessen replaces the genitive case noun or possessive adjective in a question.
Statement: Wir verkaufen die Wolle des
Schafs.
Question: Wessen Wolle verkaufen wir?

We sell the sheep’s wool.
Whose wool do we sell?

Übung

2·4
Rewrite the following sentences as questions, changing the underlined word or phrase to the
appropriate form: was, wem, or wessen.

example:

Das Buch kostet zwanzig Euro.
Was kostet zwanzig Euro?

1. Ich habe es im Schaufenster gesehen.

Interrogative sentences

15

2. Der Gerber wird einem Tier das Fell abziehen.

3. Die Bauern ziehen Schafe auf.

4. Die Nase des Hundes war sehr kalt.

Prepositional adverbs
If an inanimate noun follows an accusative or dative preposition and you wish to replace that
noun with a pronoun, a prepositional adverb is formed. In a statement, a prepositional adverb
begins with da(r)- and ends with the preposition. In a question, it begins with wo(r)- and ends
with the preposition. The -r is added before a preposition that begins with a vowel. For example:
Prepositional phrase: im Klassenzimmer
Prepositional adverb: darin, worin
Prepositional phrase: vor der Tür
Prepositional adverb: davor, wovor
Prepositional phrase: an der Wand
Prepositional adverb: daran, woran

in the classroom
in it, in what
in front of the door
in front of it, in front of what
at the wall
at it, at what

There is a tendency to use um was and to avoid using a prepositional adverb when saying around
what.
Let’s look at some example questions that include prepositional adverbs:
Worin sitzen sie?
Worüber spricht Karl?
Worauf warte ich?

What are they sitting in?
What is Karl talking about?
What am I waiting for?

Übung

2·5
Rewrite the following sentences as questions. Change the underlined word or phrase to the
appropriate prepositional adverb needed for a question.

Example:

Der Zug eilt durch den Tunnel.
Wodurch eilt der Zug?

1. Herr Bauer interessiert sich für Chemie.

2. Ich will nicht länger darauf warten.

3. Der Lehrling hat nicht von der neuen Methode gehört.

16

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

4. Die neuen Auswanderer sehnen sich danach.

5. Die Kinder spielten damit.

6. Ich habe meine Freunde um Hilfe gebeten.

7. Der Professor kämpfte gegen falsche Meinungen.

If the preposition in, zu, or nach is used to mean to a place, its interrogative form will be
wohin (where to, whither). Do not form a prepositional adverb:
Wohin ging er?
Wohin laufen sie?
Wohin reist sie?

Where did he go?
Where are they running (to)?
Where is she traveling (to)?

If the prepositions von and aus are used to mean from a place, their interrogative form will
be woher (from where, whence). Do not form a prepositional adverb:
Er kommt von der Arbeit.
Woher kommt er?
Die Wanderer kamen aus dem Wald.
Woher kamen die Wanderer?

He’s coming from work.
Where is he coming from?
The hikers came out of the woods.
Where did the hikers come from?

Only wer and was are declined and used as pronouns. Other interrogative words are adverbial or are substitutes for modifiers. Some of the most commonly used ones are:
wann
was für
was für ein
welcher
wie
wie viel(e)
wo

when
what kind of (plural)
what kind of a (singular)
which
how
how much, many
where (location)

The interrogative phrase was für (ein) can be used with singular or plural nouns. Use was
für ein with singular nouns and was für with plural nouns. For example:
Was für eine Katze hast du?
Was für Haustiere hast du?

What kind of a cat do you have?
What kind of pets do you have?

Let’s look at some sentences that illustrate these interrogatives:
Statement: Der Zug kommt in zehn
Minuten.
Question: Wann kommt der Zug?

The train comes in ten minutes.
When does the train come?

Interrogative sentences

17

Warum is used to ask a question about an entire clause that begins with because:
Statement: Er spricht so laut, weil er
taub ist.
Question: Warum spricht er so laut?

He speaks so loudly because he’s deaf.
Why does he speak so loudly?

When using was für ein, the case of the article ein is determined by the usage of the noun it
modifies and not by the preposition für that precedes ein:
Statement: Sie hat einen Rennwagen.
Question: Was für einen Wagen hat sie?
Ein Lehrbuch liegt auf dem Tisch.
Was für ein Buch liegt auf dem Tisch?

She has a racing car.
What kind of a car does she have?
A textbook is lying on the table.
What kind of book is lying on the table?

Use welcher to ask about the distinction between two people or things:
Statement: Der neue Student ist klug.
Question: Welcher Student ist klug?

The new student is smart.
Which student is smart?

Wie is generally used to ask how in a question, but it also occurs in commonly used idio­
matic expressions such as in the following example:
Statement: Der Junge heißt Karl.
Question: Wie heißt der Junge?

The boy’s name is Karl.
What is the boy’s name?

Normally, wie viel is used with singular nouns (how much) and wie viele with plural nouns
(how many). (However, wie viel is also often used in place of wie viele.)
Statement: Er hat zwei Hefte.
Question: Wie viele Hefte hat er?

He has two notebooks.
How many notebooks does he have?

The interrogative wo inquires into location and should not be confused with wohin, which
inquires into direction or motion:
Statement: Sie arbeiten im Garten.
Question: Wo arbeiten sie?

They’re working in the garden.
Where are they working?

In addition, there is a variety of other interrogative phrases formed with wie. For example:
wie alt
wie groß
wie oft
wie schnell
wie weit
um wie viel Uhr

how old
how big
how often
how fast
how far
at what time

Let’s look at some sentences that illustrate the use of these interrogatives:
Statement: Karin ist vier Jahre alt.
Question: Wie alt ist Karin?
Statement: Das Zimmer hat zehn
Quadratmeter.
Question: Wie groß ist das Zimmer?
Statement: Er geht alle vier Tage in die
Stadt.
Question: Wie oft geht er in die Stadt?

18

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

Karin is four years old.
How old is Karin?
The room is ten meters square.
How big is the room?
He goes to the city every four days.
How often does he go to the city?

In general, interrogative words are followed by the regular word order for a question:
interrogative word 1 verb 1 subject 1 ?
Wann 1 kommt 1 der Zug 1 ?
When is the train arriving?
Übung

2·6
Rewrite each sentence as a question using the underlined word or phrase as the cue for
determining which interrogative word to use: wann, warum, was für (ein), welcher, wie,
or wo.

Example:

Sie wohnen jetzt in Leipzig.
Wo wohnen sie jetzt?

1. Der Rechtsanwalt sprach zu laut.

2. Die junge Dame hat einen teuren Pullover gekauft.

3. Du musst einen Mantel tragen, denn es ist heute sehr kalt.

4. Der ältere Junge ist ziemlich dumm.

5. Seine Tochter studiert an der Universität Hamburg.

Übung

2·7
Rewrite each sentence as a question using the underlined word or phrase as the cue for
determining which interrogative word to use: wie alt, wie groß, wie oft, or wie viel.

Example:

Sie hat zehn neue Blusen.
Wie viele neue Blusen hat sie?

1. Unser Schlafzimmer hat nur achtzehn Quadratmeter.

2.	Onkel Peter hat ein paar Nelken gekauft.

3. Doktor Schmidt wird am elften Dezember achtzig werden.

Interrogative sentences

19

Übung

2·8
Compose questions using the words provided in each list. Add any necessary words.

example:

kommen / er / mit / Freund / nach Hause / ?
Kommt er mit einem Freund nach Hause?

1. was / fallen / von / Dach / auf / Straße / ?

2. klettern / Bergsteiger / den steilen Felsen / hinauf / ?

3. mit / wer / haben / du / so lange / tanzen / ?

4. wie lange / müssen / ihr / in / Hauptstadt / auf / euer / Zug / warten / ?

5. können / du / mich / zu / Bahnhof / begleiten / ?

6. welcher / Geschäft / haben / beste / Preise / ?

7. durch / schützen / man / Pflanzen / vor / Kälte / des Winters / ?

Übung

2·9
Write original sentences. Begin each one with the cue words provided.

Example:

(was)
Was siehst du im Garten?

1. (was für ein)

2. (auf wen)

3. (worauf )

4. (wohin)

20

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

·3 ·

Questions and answers

In the previous chapter you encountered the varieties of interrogative forms that
exist in German. In this chapter you will have an opportunity to apply that knowledge as you analyze the elements of sentences and determine what kinds of questions to ask and what kinds of answers to give.
Let’s look at an English sentence and the kinds of questions that can be
formed from the words in it:
Every day the children’s voices grew louder and louder, because Grandpa
always played his radio so loudly.

The following questions can be asked of the various elements in this sentence:
How often did the children’s voices grow louder and louder?
Whose voices grew louder and louder every day?
What grew louder and louder every day?
Did the children’s voices grow louder and louder every day?
Did the children’s voices grow quieter and quieter every day?
How did the children’s voices grow every day?
Why did the children’s voices grow louder and louder every day?
Who always played his radio so loudly?
How often did Grandpa play his radio so loudly?
What did Grandpa always play so loudly?
Did Grandpa always play his radio so loudly?
Did Grandpa ever play his radio quietly?
Whose radio did Grandpa always play so loudly?
What happened every day as a result of Grandpa always playing his radio so
loudly?

In the same way, a German sentence can be separated into these kinds of sentence
elements, and questions can be formed about them as well. Knowing how to do
this effectively will help you to write better sentences.
Too often, learners assume that there are only a couple of questions to be
derived from a sentence. But, in fact, nearly each word in a sentence can serve as
a cue for a question. Let’s look at a simple example first:
Seine Geschwister lebten in
His brothers and sisters lived in
Darmstadt bei der Tante eines		 Darmstadt with the aunt of a
Freundes.		 friend.

21

Now let’s look at the questions you can ask. Some can inquire into the subject of the sentence
and the words that modify it:
Wessen Geschwister lebten in Darmstadt
Whose brothers and sisters lived in Darmstadt
bei der Tante eines Freundes?		 with the aunt of a friend?
Wer lebte in Darmstadt bei der Tante
Who lived in Darmstadt with the aunt of a
eines Freundes?
friend?
Lebten seine Eltern in Darmstadt bei der
Did his parents live in Darmstadt with the aunt
Tante eines Freundes?
of a friend?

Some questions will ask about location:
Wo lebten seine Geschwister?
Bei wem lebten seine Geschwister in
Darmstadt?
Lebten seine Geschwister in Berlin bei
der Tante eines Freundes?

Where did his brothers and sisters live?
With whom did his brothers and sisters live in
Darmstadt?
Did his brothers and sisters live in Berlin with
the aunt of a friend?

Some questions seek to distinguish between two persons or things by inquiring which or
what:
In welcher Stadt lebten seine Geschwister?

In what city did his brothers and sisters live?

Some questions ask whose to identify a person or thing or to show ownership:
Bei wessen Tante lebten seine Geschwister
in Darmstadt?

With whose aunt did his brothers and sisters
live in Darmstadt?

Some ja-nein questions seek to clarify information in the sentence:
Lebten seine Geschwister in Darmstadt
bei dem Onkel eines Freundes?
Lebten seine Geschwister in Darmstadt
bei der Tante einer Freundin?

Did his brothers and sisters live in Darmstadt
with the uncle of a friend?
Did his brothers and sisters live in Darmstadt
with the aunt of a girlfriend?

When you merely invert the subject and verb, you are asking a general question about all the
information in the sentence, and this type of question will require a ja-nein answer:
Lebten seine Geschwister in Darmstadt
bei der Tante eines Freundes?

Did his brothers and sisters live in Darmstadt
with the aunt of a friend?

As you can see, at least eleven questions were able to be derived from a sentence composed
of ten words. When you are able to do this on your own, you will have the skill to understand the
complexities of a sentence and how to compose your own sentences more accurately.
Übung

3·1
Write a question for each of the underlined elements in the sentences that follow.

Example:

Die Kinder wollen Schach spielen.
Wer will Schach spielen?
Was wollen die Kinder spielen?

22

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

1. Unser Lehrer wird nach Irak fahren.
a. 
b. 
2. Der Kieler Kanal verbindet die Nordsee mit der Ostsee.
a. 
b. 
3. Sie bringen den Kanarienvogel zum Tierarzt.
a. 
b. 
4. Das große Wörterbuch kostet vierzig Euro.
a. 
b. 
5. Der alte Herr trägt immer einen alten Hut.
a. 
b. 
6. In den Hauptstraßen einer Großstadt gibt es viele interessante Geschäfte.
a. 
b. 
7. Der Polizist brachte den verhafteten Dieb zum Polizeiamt.
a. 
b. 

Übung

3·2
Write an appropriate answer to each of the following questions.

1. Sind gute Sprachkenntnisse jedem Menschen nützlich?

2. Wer machte dem Kranken große Hoffnungen?

3. Warum müssen die Touristen die deutsche Sprache lernen?

4. Woher kommen Sie?

Questions and answers

23

5. Wessen Vetter aus Amerika war letzten Sommer hier?

6. Wie arbeitet der Student?

7. Wodurch erfuhr sie das Unglück?

8. Für wen soll der Vater sorgen?

9. Wen liebt die Mutter am meisten?

10. Woraus trinkt man Tee oder Kaffee?

Wer and was
You are already aware that the interrogative pronouns wer and was are used for questions regarding people and things, respectively. Since these pronouns can be declined, the answers to questions that use these words require the use of the same case as the interrogative pronoun. That is,
the answer to wer will be a nominative case pronoun or noun such as die Frau, and the answer
to wen will be an accusative case pronoun or noun such as den Mann.
The declension of wer and was:
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive (Possessive):

wer
wen
wem
wessen

was
was
wem
wessen

Remember that the accusative and dative forms of was are not used after prepositions.
Instead, a prepositional adverb is formed, for example: wofür (for what) or wovon (from
what).

Übung

3·3
Form questions with wer or was. Use the underlined words or phrases as your cue for
determining which pronoun and which case to use.

Example:

Karl sprach mit einem Freund.
Mit wem sprach Karl?

24

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

1. Die Kinder müssen sich die Hände und Gesichter waschen.

2. Ein weißer Storch kreiste über dem kleinen Dorf.

3. Die Gäste fragen nach seiner kranken Frau.

4. Sie mussten zwei Stunden auf ihn warten.

5. Wilhelm hat sich in Klaudia verliebt.

6. Es gelingt ihr nicht, die Aufgabe zu lösen.

7. Er muss zehn Schafen die Wolle scheren.

8. Ich kann dir nicht glauben.

9. Der Tod ihres besten Schülers betrübt die Lehrerin.

10. Es freut uns, dass du kommst.

Übung

3·4
Write an appropriate answer for each of the following questions.

1. Wen tadelt der Vater?

2. Durch welches Land wollen sie eine Reise machen?

3. Wer liebt es nicht, nach dem Essen zu rauchen?

4. Worüber freuten sich die Eltern?

Questions and answers

25

5. Was ist nicht möglich?

6. Wem gehören diese Handschuhe?

7. Wessen Wagen hat Herr Schäfer reparieren lassen?

8. Was wird der Fahrer auf die Straße schieben?

9. Womit fahren Sie ins Ausland?

10. Bei wem musste die arme Frau wohnen?

In summary, interrogative words other than wer and was form questions about adverbial or
adjectival expressions: when, why, where, how, and so forth. And if those expressions include a
preposition, a prepositional adverb is formed. But remember that prepositional phrases that
describe location, motion to a place, or motion from a place require the use of wo, wohin, and
woher, respectively:
◆

Location (Where?):
wo 1 verb of location 1 subject 1 ?
Wo 1 sitzt 1 er 1 ?
Where is he sitting?

◆

Motion to a place (Where to?):
wohin 1 verb of motion 1 subject 1 ?
Wohin 1 geht 1 er 1 ?
Where is he going?

◆

Motion from a place (Where from?):
woher 1 verb of motion 1 subject 1 ?
Woher 1 kommst 1 du 1 ?
Where do you come from?

If the verb alone is the target of a question, no interrogative word is required. The verb
merely precedes the subject in the question:
Er lernt Deutsch.
Lernt er Deutsch?

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Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

He is learning German.
Is he learning German?

Übung

3·5
Form questions by using the underlined words or phrases as your cues for determining
which interrogative word to use.

example:

Karl war gestern in Bremen.
Wann war Karl in Bremen?

1. Er kommt ziemlich oft spät zur Schule.

2. Die Kinder dürfen nicht im Park spielen, weil es sehr kalt ist.

3. Meine Nichte hat mit ihren Freundinnen einen Ausflug gemacht.

4. Die alte Dame trug ein altmodisches Abendkleid.

5. Der süße kleine Junge singt wie ein Engel.

6. Der Fremdenführer will den Besuchern die schönen Gemälde zeigen.

7. Ihr erster Sohn ist am zwanzigsten Mai geboren.

8. Seine Tochter tanzt so schön wie eine Ballerina.

9. Das Kind spielt sehr gut Geige.

10. In diesem Restaurant darf man nicht rauchen.

Übung

3·6
Write an appropriate answer to each of the following questions.

1. Was darf man in der Kirche nicht machen?

Questions and answers

27

2. Wo sollst du deine Freunde erwarten?

3. Warum liegt der Mann den ganzen Tag im Bett?

4. Was für einen Schlips soll ich tragen?

5. Wie haben sie vom Tod ihres Großvaters erfahren?

6. Wofür interessiert sich die Studentin?

7. Wohin laufen diese Leute?

8. Was für Geschenke haben Sie gekauft?

9. Wann ist ihr Geburtstag?

10. Wen suchen die weinenden Kinder?

Übung

3·7
Compose questions using the words provided in each list. Add any necessary words. Then
answer the questions appropriately.

Example:

kommen / er / mit / Amerikaner / nach Hause / ?
Kommt er mit einem Amerikaner nach Hause?
Nein, er kommt mit einem Ausländer nach Hause.

1. warum / spielen / du / nicht / mit / andere / Kinder / ?
a. 
b. 
2. woher / haben / er / dies / alt / Bücher / bekommen / ?
a. 
b. 

28

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

3. wie viel / Meter / Stoff / haben / Frau Benz / brauchen / ?
a. 
b. 
4. wie oft / sein / ihr / Ausland / reisen / ?
a. 
b. 

Übung

3·8
Compose original questions using the words in parentheses as your cues. Then answer each
question.

Example:

(was)
Was haben Sie gekauft?
Ich habe einen neuen BMW gekauft.

1. (wann)
a. 
b. 
2. (warum)
a. 
b. 
3. (wie lange)
a. 
b. 
4. (wohin)
a. 
b. 

Questions and answers

29

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·4·

Imperatives

Imperatives are commands given, for the most part, to the second person pronoun you. In English, the infinitive of a verb without the particle word to is used
to give a casual command and the same form with the addition of the word please
is used to give a more formal or polite command:
Sit down.

Sit down, please.

Sign here.

Sign here, please.

German is similar but not identical. For one thing, German has three forms
for the pronoun you: du, ihr, and Sie. Therefore, there are three imperative forms
that correspond to the usual uses of those three pronouns: informal singular,
informal plural, and formal singular or plural, respectively:
du imperative 1 predicate  command
ihr imperative 1 predicate  command
Sie imperative 1 predicate  command

With many German verbs, the stem of the verb becomes the stem of the
imperative form. The stem of a verb is the infinitive minus the -(e)n ending
(machen – mach). The du-form adds an -e to the stem, the ihr-form adds a -t, and
the Sie-form adds an -en and is paired with the pronoun Sie. Look at the following examples:
		du	ihr

Sie

lachen
kaufen
warten

lachen Sie!
kaufen Sie!
warten Sie!

lache!
kaufe!
warte!

lacht!
kauft!
wartet!

laugh
buy
wait

The -e ending of the du-form is optional for most verbs. However, if the stem
of the verb ends in -d or -t the ending is not optional and must be retained:
stellen
senden
streiten

stell(e)!
sende!
streite!

stellt!
sendet!
streitet!

stellen Sie!
senden Sie!
streiten Sie!

put
broadcast
quarrel

31

If a verb requires an umlaut in the second and third persons singular in the present tense
conjugations, for example, tragen—trägst, trägt (to carry), the imperative forms follow the pattern above and the umlaut is not used:
◆

Du imperative:
verb stem(e) 1 !
Schlag(e) 1 !
Hit!

◆

Ihr imperative:
verb stem 1 -t 1 !
Schlagt 1 !
Hit!

◆

Sie imperative:
verb stem 1 -en 1 Sie 1 !
Schlagen 1 Sie 1 !
Hit!

But if a verb forms its singular second and third persons present tense conjugations with a
vowel shift to -i- or -ie-, the du-form of the imperative is formed from the second person present
tense conjugation (du) minus the -st ending and never adds an -e ending. The other two forms
follow the previous pattern. For example:
geben
helfen
sehen

gib!
hilf!
sieh!

gebt!
helft!
seht!

geben Sie!
helfen Sie!
sehen Sie!

give
help
see

A notable exception to this rule is werden:
werden

werde!

werdet!

werden Sie!

become

The only verb that has its own imperative pattern is sein. It forms the imperative from the
infinitive:
sein

sei!

seid!

seien Sie!

be

Inseparable and separable prefixes act the same way in an imperative sentence as they do in
any other sentence:
besuchen
zuhören

besuche!
hör zu!

besucht!
hört zu!

besuchen Sie!
hören Sie zu!

visit
listen

Note that imperatives are punctuated with an exclamation point in German.
Übung

4·1
Rewrite each of the following infinitives as imperatives appropriate for du, ihr, and Sie.

	du	ihr

32

Sie

1. trinken

       

      

       

2. anstellen

        

       

       

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

3. tun

       

       

       

4. brechen

       

       

        

5. empfehlen

       

       

       

6. abfahren

       

       

       

7. lesen

       

       

       

8. nehmen

        

       

       

9. essen

       

       

        

10. stehlen

       

       

       

Übung

4·2
Using the word or phrase in parentheses as your cue, write an appropriate du-, ihr-, or
Sie-form command with the infinitive provided.

Example:

(Kind) gehen

Geh zur Schule!

1. (Mutter und Vater) helfen 
2. (Doktor Schmidt) essen 
3. (Richter) schreiben 
4. (Arzt und Pflegerin) besuchen 
5. (Bruder) sein 
6. (Hund) fressen 
7. (Freund) einladen 
8. (Tochter) werden 
9. (Kinder) antworten 
10. (Touristen) aussteigen 

Addressing groups
There is another form of imperative that is used when a command is not directed at any particular individual and is meant to give information to people at large instead. These imperatives can
be heard over loudspeakers or read on signs in public places. Their formation is quite simple: The
infinitive is used as the imperative form and is usually found at the end of the phrase. For
example:
Den Rasen nicht betreten!
Nicht rauchen!
Gepäck aufmachen!

Keep off the grass.
No smoking.
Open (your) baggage.

Imperatives

33

Übung

4·3
Change the following infinitives to imperatives that address people in general. The
information in parentheses tells where the action takes place. Add any necessary words.

Example:

aufmachen (at the border)
Gepäck aufmachen!

1. zurückbleiben (on the platform as a train arrives)

2. anfassen (a sign on a museum exhibit)

3. anstellen (an announcement about where to line up)

4. aussteigen (an announcement to get off the streetcar)

Imperatives with wir
Most commands are given to the second person pronoun you. But in both English and German
it is possible to include yourself in the command and thereby make it seem a bit more polite. In
fact, it sounds more like a suggestion than an imperative. In English, this is done by beginning a
verb phrase with let’s:
Let’s get something to eat.

Let’s leave soon.

The German version of this type of command is equally simple. The present tense conjugation of a verb in the first person plural (wir) with the verb preceding the pronoun is all that is
required:
Essen wir im italienischen Restaurant!
Kaufen wir einen neuen Wagen!
Fahren wir jetzt ab!

Let’s eat at an Italian restaurant.
Let’s buy a new car.
Let’s leave now.

verb 1 wir 1 complement 1 !
Gehen 1 wir 1 nach Hause 1 !
Let’s go home.

A similar expression is formed by using the verb lassen (to let). It can include the speaker or
not, as we shall see below, but must conform, regardless, to the second person pronoun required
by the circumstances: informal or formal, singular or plural. Therefore, a distinction is made
among the du-, ihr-, and Sie-forms. First, let us look at the basic imperative, meaning let, not let’s
(i.e., not including the speaker). For example:
Lass ihn ausreden! (du)
Lasst die Kinder spielen! (ihr)
Lassen Sie sie warten! (Sie)

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German Sentence Builder

Let him finish speaking.
Let the children play.
Let them wait.

lass/lasst/lassen Sie 1 object 1 infinitive 1 !
Lassen Sie 1 ihn 1 mitkommen 1 !
Let him come along.

If you add the accusative pronoun uns (us) to the equation, you have once again a form that
means let’s. For example:
Lass uns nicht mehr streiten! (du)
Lasst uns bald gehen! (ihr)
Lassen Sie uns darüber sprechen! (Sie)

Let’s not quarrel anymore.
Let’s go soon.
Let’s talk about it.

lass uns/lasst uns/lassen Sie uns 1 complement 1 !
Lass uns 1 jetzt gehen 1 !
Let’s go now.
Übung

4·4
Rewrite the following sentences as imperatives with wir. Careful: The sentences provided are
in a variety of tenses.

Example:

Er ging schnell nach Hause.
Gehen wir schnell nach Hause!

1. Die Freunde segelten in den Hafen.

2. Die Frau ist am Marktplatz eingestiegen.

3. Sie aßen im Schnellimbiss.

4. Sie liest die amerikanischen Zeitungen.

5. Ihr seid nicht um die Ecke gefahren.

6. Er legte die Kinder aufs Bett.

7. Ich muss einen Polizisten fragen, wo die Bank ist.

Imperatives

35

Übung

4·5
Rewrite each sentence with lassen to form an imperative that begins with the meaning let.
Conjugate lassen for the pronoun du. Then rewrite the imperative changing the direct
object to uns and thereby the meaning of the verb to let’s.

Example:

Martin spricht darüber.
Lass Martin darüber sprechen!
Lass uns darüber sprechen!

1. Sie schlafen morgen aus.
a. 
b. 
2. Er ißt den letzten Apfel.
a. 
b. 
3. Er schwimmt nicht im kalten Fluss.
a. 
b. 
Follow the same directions, but conjugate lassen for ihr instead of du.

4. Die Mädchen spielen mit den Kindern.
a. 
b. 
5. Er besucht die neue Kunsthalle.
a. 
b. 
Follow the same directions, but conjugate lassen for Sie instead of du.

6. Sie fängt um achtzehn Uhr an.
a. 
b. 
7. Herr Bauer kehrt in die Heimat zurück.
a. 
b. 

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German Sentence Builder

Übung

4·6
Write original imperative sentences. Use the cues in parentheses to tell you whether to use a
du-, ihr-, or Sie-form conjugation. Also conform to the type of imperative indicated: a direct
second person command or a command with lassen.

A direct second person command:

1. (Professor Kaufmann)

2. (Brüder)

3. (Tante und Onkel)

4. (Pfarrer)

A command with lassen, with or without uns:

5. (Freundinnen)

6. (Polizist)

7. (Herr Kamps und Frau Schäfter)

Imperatives

37

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Coordinating
conjunctions

·5 ·

The main clause of a German sentence contains a subject and a verb and makes
complete sense when it stands alone. Except when some element other than the
subject begins a main clause, the subject precedes the verb:
Er kommt spät nach Hause.
Tina versteht es nicht.
Setz dich hin! (Du is understood.)

He comes home late.
Tina doesn’t understand it.
Sit down.

This word order is important when using coordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions
Coordinating conjunctions can link together words, phrases, or even complete
sentences (main clauses):
word 1 conjunction 1 word
phrase 1 conjunction 1 phrase
clause 1 conjunction 1 clause

The most commonly used coordinating conjunctions are:
aber
denn
oder
sondern (used with nicht or kein)
und

but
because, for, since
or
but (rather)
and

When combining sentences with these conjunctions, a comma is used to mark off
the two clauses. With und and sometimes with aber, however, this is optional. If
the combination of two clauses with und is confusing, a comma can precede und
for the sake of clarity.
Let’s look at some example sentences that illustrate the use of coordinating
conjunctions:
Der Mann klopfte laut an die Tür,
The man knocked loudly on the door,
aber niemand war zu Hause.		 but no one was home.
Sie ging nicht zur Schule, denn
She didn’t go to school, because she
sie war wieder krank.		 was sick again.
Du darfst hier übernachten, oder
You can stay here overnight, or we can
wir können ein Hotel für dich		 find a hotel for you.
finden.

39

Ich habe keinen Artikel gefunden, sondern I didn’t find an article, but I bought a whole
ich habe ein ganzes Buch über sein		 book about his life.
Leben gekauft.
Vater schläft auf dem Sofa und Mutter
Father is sleeping on the sofa, and mother is
arbeitet in der Küche.		 working in the kitchen.
sentence 1 1 comma 1 coordinating conjunction 1 sentence 2
Er bleibt zu Hause 1 , 1 denn 1 er ist krank.
He’s staying home, because he’s sick.

When the subject of the first clause is identical to the subject of the second clause, it is
­possible to omit the second subject and sometimes even the verb. For example:
Wir können bei Inge übernachten, oder
ein Hotel finden.
Vater kann nicht schlafen und arbeitet in
der Küche.

We can stay overnight at Inge’s or find a hotel.
Father can’t sleep and is working in the kitchen.

This is especially true of sondern:
Erik ist nicht eingeschlafen, sondern hat
Erik didn’t fall asleep but rather thought about
die ganze Nacht an Tina gedacht. 		 Tina all night.
Ich habe keinen Artikel gefunden,
I didn’t find an article but bought a whole book
sondern ein ganzes Buch über sein 		 about his life.
Leben gekauft.

These five conjunctions are unique in that they require no word order change. The standard
word order for a declarative, interrogative, or imperative sentence is used in both clauses that surround a coordinating conjunction.
Übung

5·1
Combine the following pairs of sentences with the appropriate conjunction. Choose the
conjunction from the two provided in parentheses for each set.

Example:

(und / oder) Werner ist mein Freund. Tina ist meine Freundin.
Werner ist mein Freund und Tina ist meine Freundin.

1. (aber / denn) Er wollte Tennis spielen. Das Wetter war endlich gut.

2. (oder / sondern) Ich habe es nicht verloren. Ich habe es hinter dem Schrank versteckt.

3. (und / denn) Paul studiert in Berlin. Er wohnt in einem Studentenheim.

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German Sentence Builder

4. (oder / aber) Sei ruhig! Geh sofort nach Hause!

5. (und / oder) Soll er einen roten Wagen kaufen? Soll er einen blauen Wagen kaufen?

6. (und / aber) Ich höre was du sagst. Ich verstehe dich nicht.

7. (sondern / und) Angela spielt Gitarre. Ihr Bruder spielt Flöte.

Übung

5·2
Rewrite the following sentences by changing the underlined clause to an alternate clause
that conforms to the meaning of the rest of the sentence.

Example:

Sie geht einkaufen, aber Peter bleibt zu Hause.
Sie geht einkaufen, aber ihre Schwester will eine Freundin besuchen.

1. Sie versuchte ihn zu warnen, aber der Junge hat sie nicht gehört.

2. Die Studentin konnte nicht arbeiten, denn der Lärm war zu groß.

3. Normalerweise ist der Herbst am schönsten, aber dieses Jahr ist der Winter wunderschön.

4. Karl ist nicht zum Café gegangen, sondern ist wieder zu Hause geblieben.

5. Der Schüler setzte sich auf seinen Platz und schrieb die Wörter in sein Heft.

6. Im Schaufenster stehen große Puppen, aber sie sehen alt und schmutzig aus.

7. Der Junge lernt das Gedicht nicht, sondern er sieht den ganzen Abend fern.

8. Der Bauer sät das Korn und seine Frau pflegt den Gemüsegarten.

Coordinating conjunctions

41

9. Im Kühlschrank gibt es keinen Wein mehr, sondern nur ein paar Flaschen Bier.

10. Ich habe ihm mit Interesse zugehört, aber ich habe ihm kein Wort geglaubt.

Übung

5·3
Compose sentences using the words provided in each list. Add any necessary words.

Example:

morgen / kommen / er / mit / Freund / nach Hause
Morgen kommt er mit einem Freund nach Hause.

1. tun / mir / Gefallen / und / mitkommen / !

2. Junge / müssen / gehorchen / oder / er / haben / Folgen / selbst / zu tragen

3. Kirschen / schmecken / sehr / gut / aber / wie viel / kosten / sie / ?

4. wir / machen / kein / Pause / sondern / arbeiten / bis / spät / in / Nacht

Übung

5·4
Write an original sentence with each of the coordinating conjunctions given.

1. aber

2. denn

3. oder

4. sondern

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German Sentence Builder

Subordinating
conjunctions

·6·

There are many subordinating conjunctions, and they all share two characteristics: (1) they introduce dependent clauses that do not make complete sense when
they stand alone; and (2) the conjugated verb in such clauses is normally the last
element in the clause:
main clause 1 subordinating conjunction 1 dependent clause 1 verb

Ich besuchte Karl, 1 als 1 ich in der Hauptstadt 1 war.
I visited Karl when I was in the capital.

Using subordinating conjunctions
Some of the most commonly used subordinating conjunctions are:
als
als ob (als wenn)
bevor
bis
da
damit
dass
ehe
falls
nachdem

when
as if
before
until, by the time
since
so that
that
before
in case
after

ob
obwohl
seit(dem)
sobald
sooft
soviel
während
weil
wenn
wie

whether, if
although
since
as soon as
as often as
as far as
while
because
when(ever), if
as

Let’s look at a few example sentences. Take note of where the conjugated verb
stands in the dependent clause:
Ich weiß, dass du lügst.
I know that you’re lying.
Er konnte nicht einkaufen gehen,
He couldn’t go shopping, because he’s
weil er pleite ist.		 broke.
Als sie in Paris war, kaufte sie sich
When she was in Paris, she bought a
ein paar neue Kleider.		 couple new dresses.

Notice that in the first two example sentences above, the dependent clause is the
second clause. In the third example, the dependent clause is the first clause. These
clauses function in the same way no matter what their position in the sentence.
Whatever tense the verb is in, the conjugated verb or auxiliary will be the last
element of a clause introduced by a subordinating conjunction:
..., dass er krank ist.
..., dass wir nichts gehört haben.
..., dass ich gut singen kann.

. . . that he’s sick.
. . . that we didn’t hear anything.
. . . that I can sing well.

43

There is only one exception to that rule. When a double infinitive structure is part of the
sentence introduced by a subordinating conjunction, the auxiliary verb will precede the double
infinitive. This occurs, of course, with modal auxiliaries and certain other verbs such as helfen,
hören, lassen, and sehen (to help, to hear, to get or to have done, to see). With modal auxiliaries,
for example:
..., weil sie uns wird einladen müssen.
..., weil er mit dir hatte fahren wollen.

. . . , because she will have to invite us.
. . . , because he had wanted to drive with you.

The same kind of word order occurs with helfen, hören, lassen, and sehen. For example:
..., weil Tina mir wird kochen helfen.
..., weil ich es habe reparieren lassen.

. . . , because Tina will help me cook.
. . . , because I have had it repaired.

When as a conjunction
You need to consider the conjunction when carefully. Although English uses the same conjunction for three different functions, German does not. There are three distinct German words, one
for each function.
When using when to ask a question, the German interrogative is wann:
Wann kommen die Gäste morgen?
Bis wann kann ich vorbeikommen?
Seit wann wohnt Lukas in Bremen?

When are the guests coming tomorrow?
Until what time can I drop by?
How long has Lukas been living in Bremen?

The brief response to a wann-question can include wann:
Ich weiß nicht wann.

I don’t know when.

In general, however, responses to a wann-question in the present tense require wenn:
Wann sind die Straßen naß?
Die Straßen sind naß, wenn es regnet.

When are the streets wet?
The streets are wet when it rains.

When using when to mean whenever, the German conjunction is again wenn, a subordinating conjunction:
Wenn wir nach Bonn kommen, besuchen
When(ever) we come to Bonn, we visit our
wir unsere Tante.		 aunt.
Wenn Sie sich erst einmal eingearbeitet
When you’ve had a chance to get used to the
haben, werden Sie unsere Ziele besser		 job, you’ll understand our goals better.
verstehen.
Wenn es Sommer wird, schwimmen wir
When summer comes, we’ll go swimming
jeden Tag.
every day.

When using when in a past tense sentence, the German conjunction is als, also a subordinating conjunction:
Als er ankam, sah er Maria vor dem Haus
stehen.
Es fing an zu regnen, als wir zum Garten
gehen wollten.
Gerade als Erik hier war, wurde meine
Schwester krank.

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German Sentence Builder

When he arrived, he saw Maria standing in
front of the house.
It began to rain when we wanted to go to the
garden.
Just when Erik was here, my sister got sick.

Comma usage with subordinating conjunctions
When two clauses are combined by a subordinating conjunction, the two clauses are separated by
a comma:
Luise understands that Benno has to
stay home.

Luise versteht, dass Benno zu Hause
bleiben muss.

The two forms of sentence formation with subordinating conjunctions are:
main clause 1 subordinating conjunction 1 clause with verb in final position
Er besuchte sie, 1 als 1 er in Berlin war.
He visited her when he was in Berlin.
subordinating conjunction 1 clause with verb in final position 1 main clause
Als 1 er in Berlin war, 1 besuchte er sie.
When he was in Berlin, he visited her.

Remember that the verb will precede the subject in the main clause if the sentence is introduced
by a subordinating conjunction as illustrated in the previous example.
Übung

6·1
Fill in each blank with the missing word: wann, wenn, or als.

1.           

legt er sich ins Bett?

2. Sie musste das Studium aufgeben,            
3.           

ihr Vater starb.

ich die Universität verließ, traf ich einen Freund.

4. Man geht zum Arzt,           

man krank ist.

5.           

hat man Husten und Schnupfen?

6.          

er im letzten Jahr in Kiel war, begegnete er einem

Schulkameraden.
7.           

die Kinder sechs Jahre alt sind, kommen sie in die Grundschule.

Übung

6·2
Complete each sentence with any appropriate phrase.

Example:

Er starb, als                  .
Er starb, als er im Krankenhaus war.

1. Wenn du nach Berlin reist, 
2. Wenn 
3.	Als die Touristen Südamerika besuchten, 

.
, dürfen Sie vorbeikommen.
.

Subordinating conjunctions

45

4. Herr Schneider trifft einen Bekannten, wenn 

.

5. Wenn du isst, 

.

6. Wenn 

, denken die Kinder an Weihnachten.

7. 

, gehst du oft ins Theater?

Übung

6·3
Fill in each blank with an appropriate subordinating conjunction. Do not use wann, wenn,
or als.

1.           

wir im Ruhrgebiet waren, besuchten wir viele Fabriken.

2.           

Herr Bauer starb, schrieb er sein Testament.

3.            

wir abfahren, müssen wir die Koffer packen.

4.           

sie meine Schwester war, wollte ich ihr kein Geld leihen.

5. Wissen Sie,

         

das Rathaus weit ist?

6. Wir kommen morgen vorbei,           

wir genug Zeit haben.

7. Fahren wir zum Bahnhof mit einem Taxi,           
8.           

wir wissen, ist sie wieder schwanger.

9. Sie können mit uns reiten,           
10. Ich kann nicht warten,           
11.          

Sie wollen.

er zurückkommt.

er zur Party ging, kämmte er sich wieder die Haare.

12. Ich habe ihnen geholfen,           
13.           

wir den Zug erreichen!

ich konnte.

Lukas betrunken war, wollte sie nicht mit ihm tanzen.

14. Hast du gewusst,           

du den letzten Bus verpasst hast?

Übung

6·4
Complete each sentence with any appropriate phrase.

Example:

Er starb, ehe                 .
Er starb, ehe er sein Testament schrieb.

1.	Obwohl 

, verstand ich es nicht.

2. Während 

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Practice Makes Perfect

, haben sie oft Schach gespielt.

German Sentence Builder

3. Er musste wieder zu Fuß gehen, weil 

.

4. Erik fragte uns, ob 

.

5. Sie haben nichts bezahlt, solange 

.

6. Kinder, wartet hier, bis 

!

7. Ich habe keine Ahnung, wie 

.

8. Beeilt euch, damit 

!

9. 

er müde war, wollte er nach Hause gehen.

10.	Obwohl 

, will ich nicht Skilaufen gehen.

11. Seitdem 

, ist sie nie zu Hause.

12. Nachdem er sich den Finger verletzt hatte, 

.

13. 

, ob er uns versteht.

14. 

, bis du das Glas Milch ausgetrunken hast.

Interrogatives
A ja or nein question begins with the verb, which is followed by the subject:
Ist Frau Gerber zu Hause?
Ja, sie ist zu Hause.
Nein, sie ist nicht zu Hause.

Is Ms. Gerber at home?
Yes, she’s at home.
No, she’s not at home.

It is possible to use such ja and nein questions as clauses with certain pat phrases, such as
wissen Sie or haben Sie gehört. When this occurs, the conjunction ob can be required:
Hat er genug Geld?
Ich weiß nicht, ob er genug Geld hat.
Wohnt sie noch in Amerika?
Wir haben keine Ahnung, ob sie noch in
Amerika wohnt.

Does he have enough money?
I don’t know if (whether) he has enough money.
Does she still live in America?
We have no idea if (whether) she still lives in
America.

But when a question begins with an interrogative word, that word can be used as a subordinating conjunction with the same pat phrases and ob is not needed. For example:
Wer steht an der Tür?
Ich weiß nicht, wer an der Tür steht.
Wem gehört dieses Buch?
Weiß jemand, wem dieses Buch gehört?
Um wie viel Uhr ist die Vorstellung?
Bitte sagen Sie mir, um wie viel Uhr die
Vorstellung ist.

Who is at the door?
I don’t know who is at the door.
Who(m) does this book belong to?
Does anyone know to whom this book belongs?
What time is the show?
Please tell me what time the show is.

Subordinating conjunctions

47

Since these interrogative words are now functioning as subordinating conjunctions, they
have the same effect on clauses as the other subordinating conjunctions. That is, the conjugated
verb or auxiliary is the last element of the clause:
interrogative conjunction 1 verb
Er fragt, wer 1 das gesagt hat.
He asks who said that.
Übung

6·5
Change the following questions to clauses preceded by Ich weiß nicht. Add ob where
necessary.

Example:

Ist der Bahnhof weit von hier?
Ich weiß nicht, ob der Bahnhof weit von hier ist.

1. Wer schwimmt in unserem Schwimmbad?

2. Hat das Mädchen das Geld verloren?

3. Warum drohte er dem alten Mann?

4. Kann er diese Probleme lösen?

5. Wie alt war sein Urgroßvater?

6. Wem ist der Sohn ähnlich?

7. Wonach fragte der kranke Herr?

8. Wie lange wird die Vorstellung dauern?

9. Was zeigt sie ihren Gästen?

10. Entwickelte der Fotograf die Aufnahmen?

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11. Woran denkt die alte Dame gern?

12. Um wen macht er sich viele Sorgen?

13. Um wie viel Uhr geht der Mann in sein Büro?

14. Was wird der Fremdenführer den Touristen zeigen wollen?

Übung

6·6
Compose sentences using the words provided in each list. Add any necessary words.
Compose your tenses carefully.

Example:

wann / kommen / er / mit / sein / Freund / ?
Wann kam er mit seinem Freund?

1. Tina / bleiben / in / Stadt / bis / ihr / Tante / wieder / gesund / sein

2. ich / erzählen / du / sein / Geschichte / damit / du / er / besser / verstehen

3. während / es / donnern / blitzen / sitzen / wir / in / klein / Paddelboot

4. Frau Benz / kaufen / Bluse / obwohl / Preis / sehr / hoch / sein

5. Kind / sein / so / müde / dass / es / sofort / einschlafen

6. seitdem / Wetter / wieder / schlecht / werden / müssen / Kinder / in / Keller / spielen

7. wenn / sie / Verwandte / besuchen / sein / sie / am glücklichsten

Subordinating conjunctions

49

Übung

6·7
Write an original sentence with each of the following conjunctions.

1. ob

2. weil

3. damit

4. als

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German Sentence Builder

·7·

Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns are commonly used to combine two sentences that have the
same noun or pronoun in both. One of them is changed to a relative pronoun, and
the sentences are then combined:
identical noun 1 identical noun
Do you know the man? 1 The man is a thief.
Do you know the man, who is a thief?

Two types of relative pronouns
In German, there are two basic types of relative pronouns. One is formed from the
definite article, and the other is formed from the der-word welcher. Naturally, in
German you have to consider the gender, number, and case when using relative
pronouns. Let’s look at their declension:
		

Masculine	

Feminine	

Neuter

Plural

Definite article
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Possessive:

der
den
dem
dessen

die
die
der
deren

das
das
dem
dessen

die
die
denen
deren

Welcher
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Possessive:

welcher
welchen
welchem
dessen

welche
welche
welcher
deren

welches
welches
welchem
dessen

welche
welche
welchen
deren

Notice that both the definite article form and the welcher form have the identical
possessive adjective where the genitive case would normally occur.
Just like English relative pronouns, German relative pronouns combine two
sentences that have the same noun or pronoun in both. But in German, gender,
number, and case must be considered. If the noun replaced by a relative pronoun
is nominative, the relative pronoun must be nominative. For example:
Der Junge ist Amerikaner. Der
The boy is an American. The boy is
Junge lernt Deutsch.		 learning German.
Der Junge, der Deutsch lernt, ist
The boy, who is learning German, is an
Amerikaner.
American.
Der Junge, welcher Deutsch lernt,
ist Amerikaner.

51

Wo sind die Kinder? Die Kinder spielen
Schach.
Wo sind die Kinder, die Schach spielen?
Wo sind die Kinder, welche Schach spielen?

Where are the children? The children are
playing chess.
Where are the children who are playing chess?

main clause 1 der/die/das 1 relative clause with verb in final position
Das ist der Mann, 1 der 1 unser Haus kaufte.
That’s the man who bought our house.
main clause 1 welcher 1 relative clause with verb in final position
Das ist der Mann, 1 welcher 1 unser Haus kaufte.
That’s the man who bought our house.

If the noun replaced by a relative pronoun is accusative, the relative pronoun must be accusative. For example:
Sie ist die Frau. Thomas liebt die Frau.
Sie ist die Frau, die Thomas liebt.
Sie ist die Frau, welche Thomas liebt.

She is the woman. Thomas loves the woman.
She is the woman that Thomas loves.

Er sprach mit dem Herrn. Niemand kennt
den Herrn.
Er sprach mit dem Herrn, den niemand
kennt.
Er sprach mit dem Herrn, welchen
niemand kennt.

He spoke with the gentleman. No one knows
the gentleman.
He spoke with the gentleman whom no one
knows.

If the noun replaced by a relative pronoun is dative, the relative pronoun must be dative. For
example:
Kennst du die Leute? Er spricht mit den
Leuten.
Kennst du die Leute, mit denen er spricht?
Kennst du die Leute, mit welchen er
spricht?

Do you know the people? He is talking to the
people.
Do you know the people that he is talking to?

Die Dame ist eine Verwandte. Er hilft
der Dame.
Die Dame, der er hilft, ist eine Verwandte.
Die Dame, welcher er hilft, ist eine
Verwandte.

The lady is a relative. He helps the lady.
The lady that he helps is a relative.

If the noun replaced by a relative pronoun is in the genitive case or is a possessive adjective,
the relative pronoun must be in the possessive adjective form. For example:
Er sieht den Lehrer. Die Schüler des
Lehrers singen ein Lied.
Er sieht den Lehrer, dessen Schüler ein
Lied singen.

He sees the teacher. The teacher’s students are
singing a song.
He sees the teacher, whose students are singing
a song.

Das ist die Richterin. Ihr Sohn wurde
verhaftet.
Das ist die Richterin, deren Sohn verhaftet
wurde.

That’s the judge. Her son was arrested.
That’s the judge whose son was arrested.

In the last example, the possessive adjective ihr refers to the noun Richterin and therefore is
replaced by the corresponding feminine, singular relative pronoun.

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It is probably wise to remind you that English has three types of relative pronouns: (1) who
and which, which introduce a non-restrictive relative clause that gives parenthetical information;
(2) that, which introduces a restrictive relative clause that helps to define the antecedent; and (3)
an elliptical relative pronoun, which is understood but not spoken or written. All three types of
English relative pronouns can be translated into German by the German definite article or
welcher. For example:
Der Mann, den ich sah, ist ein Freund.

The man, whom I saw, is a friend.
The man that I saw is a friend.
The man I saw is a friend.

When the case of a German relative pronoun is determined by its accompanying preposition, the preposition precedes the relative pronoun. The position of a preposition in an English
relative clause is more flexible. For example:
Das ist der Mann, für den er arbeitet.

That’s the man for whom he works.
That’s the man that he works for.
That’s the man he works for.

Wo ist die Dame, mit der ich sprach?

Where’s the woman with whom I spoke?
Where’s the woman that I spoke with?
Where’s the woman I spoke with?

Übung

7·1
Combine the following pairs of sentences by changing one of the identical nouns (or its
corresponding possessive adjective) to the appropriate relative pronoun in its definite article
form. Remember to take gender, number, and case into account.

Example:

Peter hat einen Wagen. Sie will den Wagen kaufen.
Peter hat einen Wagen, den sie kaufen will.

1. Die Frau wollte die Suppe nicht schmecken. Ihre Tochter ist Köchin.

2. Er hilft seinen Verwandten. Seine Verwandten wohnen in den Bergen.

3. Sie segelten zu einer Insel. Die Insel wurde von keinen Menschen bewohnt.

4. Es ist ein deutsches Flugzeug. Das Flugzeug ist eben gelandet.

5. Der alte Herr musste bei seinem Bruder wohnen. Sein Vermögen ging verloren.

6. Er trifft auf der Straße einen Freund. Das Gesicht seines Freundes ist ganz blass.

Relative pronouns

53

7. Sie sieht die Soldaten. Das kleine Dorf wurde von den Soldaten besetzt.

8. Die Universität ist weltbekannt. In den Räumen der Universität findet eine Konferenz statt.

9. Der Mann ist neulich gestorben. Tina hat für den Mann gearbeitet.

10. Der Stuhl ist alt und wackelig. Oma sitzt auf dem Stuhl.

Übung

7·2
Rewrite the answers to Exercise 7-1 with the welcher form of the relative pronoun.

1. 
2. 
3. 
4. 
5. 
6. 
7. 
8. 
9. 
10. 

Übung

7·3
Complete each of the following sentences twice, using the relative pronoun in each of the
cases specified.

Example:

Thomas kauft den Hut.
(nom.) Thomas kauft den Hut, der zu groß ist.
(dat.) Thomas kauft den Hut, von dem Luise gesprochen hat.

54

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German Sentence Builder

1. Er lud seine Freunde ein.
a. (nom.) 
b. (acc.) 
2. Wer hat die Uhr gekauft?
a. (acc.) 
b. (dat.) 
3.	Andreas spielte mit dem Hund.
a. (dat.) 
b. (poss.) 
4.	Alle respektieren die Richterin.
a. (acc.) 
b. (dat.) 

Wer and der
There is another aspect to relative pronouns. When no specific person is referred to in a sentence,
the pronoun wer is used as a relative pronoun. It is usually paired with der, and the English
meaning of this concept is he, who, or who(so)ever. For example:
He who lies about me is no friend of mine.
Whoever threw that snowball is in a lot of trouble.

Since German declines words like wer and der, this kind of relative pronoun usage can
appear in all the cases:
Wer oft lügt, den respektiert niemand.
He who often lies is respected by no one.
Wen die Polizei verhaftet, dem kann man
No one can help him, whom the police arrest.
nicht helfen.
Wem das imponiert, der ist wohl naiv.
Whomever that impresses is probably naive.
Wessen Brot man isst, dessen Lied man
If you eat his bread, you must dance to his
singt. 		 tune. (A saying)

You will notice that the declension of wer and der is dependent upon the use of each in its own
clause.

Was
Something similar occurs with was. Use was if it refers to no specific object and can be translated
as that, which, or what(ever). For example:
Was billig ist, ist nicht immer gut.
Was sie sagte war Unsinn.

That which is cheap is not always good.
What(ever) she said was nonsense.

Relative pronouns

55

Was is also used as a relative pronoun after the demonstrative pronoun das. For example:
Sie verstand nichts von dem, was ich
sagte.
Hast du das, was ich brauche?

She didn’t understand anything I said.
Do you have what I need?

Was also becomes a relative pronoun after the following words: alles, etwas, nichts, manches, and vieles. For example:
Ist das alles, was Sie sagen wollen?
Is that everything you want to say?
Ich habe etwas, was dich freuen wird.
I have something that will make you happy.
Manches, was sie sagt, ist Unsinn.
Some of what she says is nonsense.
Rede nichts, was nicht alle hören dürfen.
Say nothing that not everyone is allowed to
			 hear.
Es gibt vieles, was ich vergessen will.
There’s a lot that I want to forget.

If an adjective is used as a noun, was acts as its relative pronoun:
Das ist das Schönste, was ich jemals
gesehen habe.
Das war das Erste, was er sah.

That’s the nicest thing I’ve ever seen.
That was the first thing he saw.

In addition, the relative pronoun was is used to introduce a relative clause when the antecedent is an entire clause. For example:
Onkel Karl reist heute ab, was ich sehr
Uncle Karl is leaving today, which I regret
bedaure.		 very much.
Sie hat die Prüfung bestanden, was uns
She passed the test, which really surprised us.
sehr erstaunte.

When a preposition is required with the relative pronoun was, the compound form wo(r)
plus preposition is used. For example:
Hier gibt es nichts, wofür er sich
interessiert.
Peter geht an die Universität, worauf sein
Vater sehr stolz ist.

There’s nothing here that interests him.
Peter is going to college, which makes his father
very proud.

Übung

7·4
Complete each sentence with an appropriate phrase that includes wer as the relative
pronoun. Be careful to use the correct case of wer.

Example:

56

Wer mir in Not hilft, der ist ein guter Freund.

1. 

, den kann sie nicht lieben.

2. 

, dem glaube ich nicht.

3. 

, der soll es nicht lesen.

4. 

, dem bleibt man fern.

5. 

, der ist gegen mich.

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

Now complete each sentence with an appropriate conclusion beginning with a form of der.

6. Wem es nicht gefällt, 

.

7. Wer nicht gehorcht, 

.

Übung

7·5
Complete the following sentences with an appropriate antecedent for a was relative
pronoun or an appropriate relative clause that is introduced by was.

Example:

Das ist alles, was ich zu sagen habe.

1. Ist das das Beste, was 

?

2. Der Kranke hat etwas gegessen, was 

.

3. Sie haben eine gute Prüfung gemacht, was 

.

4. 

, was billiger ist?

5. 

, worum sich niemand kümmert.

6. 

, was unvergesslich war.

7. Der Reisende erzählte vieles, was 
8. 

.
, worüber ich mich gar nicht freute.

9. Das war das Dümmste, was 

.

Übung

7·6
This exercise contains a variety of relative pronoun types. Complete each sentence with an
appropriate relative clause.

1. Er tanzt mit der Ausländerin, 

.

2. Sie möchte alles wissen, 

.

3. Der alte Hund ist gestorben, 

.

4. Tue nichts, 

!

5. Die Leute, 

, fingen an zu schreien.

6. Hamburg ist eine Handelsstadt, 
7. 

.
, mit dem will ich nichts zu tun haben.

Relative pronouns

57

Übung

7·7
Write an original sentence that contains a relative clause. Use the word or phrase in
parentheses as the relative pronoun.

1. (was)

2. (mit denen)

3. (dessen)

4. (worüber)

58

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

·8·

Extended modifiers

Modifiers include those words that help to describe a noun or pronoun. Some
modifiers are called adjectives. If an adjective follows a verb like sein (to be) or
werden (to become), it is a predicate adjective. For example:
Der Mann ist alt.
Sie wurde krank.

The man is old.
She became ill.

Attributive adjectives
If the adjective stands in front of the noun, it is called an attributive adjective and
in German it will have an ending, and that ending will be determined by gender,
number, and case. For example:
Kennst du den alten Mann?
Sie besuchte ein krankes Kind.

Do you know the old man?
She visited a sick child.

If you think about it, attributive adjectives play about the same role as certain
relative clauses in which a predicate adjective is used. For example:
Kennst du den Mann, der alt ist?
Kennst du den alten Mann?

Do you know the man who is old?
Do you know the old man?

Sie besuchte ein Kind, das
krank ist.
Sie besuchte ein krankes Kind.

She visited a child that is sick.
She visited a sick child.

The differences are the need for an ending on an attributive adjective and the need
for a subject and verb in the relative clause. The use of an attributive adjective,
therefore, is a bit more efficient and requires less time to say and less space to
write.
Attributive adjectives can be extended somewhat by using other modifiers—
adverbs—to define them. For example:
Sie hat einen ziemlich schnellen
Wagen.
Das ist eine sehr wichtige Tatsache.

She has a rather fast car.
That’s a very important fact.

The modifiers in the example sentences above were extended by the adverbs ziemlich and sehr. And, as you can clearly see, German and English function in the
very same way when adverbs modify adjectives. By the way, that word extended
will become important later on in this chapter.

59

Present participles
Present participles in German are formed quite simply. A -d ending is added to an infinitive. For
example:
infinitive 1 d  present participle
störend
entsprechend
anregend

disturbing
corresponding
stimulating

Notice that the absence or presence of an inseparable or separable prefix does not affect the formation of present participles. Present participles are translated into English using an -ing suffix.
Present participles can be used as adverbs or adjectives, and when they are used as adjectives, they function as predicate or attributive adjectives. Let’s look at some examples:
Sein Verhalten war sehr störend.
Er machte einen störenden Lärm.

His behavior was very disturbing.
He made a disturbing noise.

Sein letzter Roman war spannend.
Das soll ein spannender Film sein.

His last novel was thrilling.
That’s supposed to be a thrilling movie.

Just like other modifiers, present participles can be modified by adverbs (sehr störend).
Übung

8·1
Form the present participle from the verb in each of the following phrases. Give the English
translation of each participle.

Example:

ich laufe laufend running

1. du kommst an

               

               

2. ich zwinge

               

               

3. er belastet

               

               

4. Sie stoßen ab

               

                

5. du verhältst

               

                

6. sie sieht an

               

               

7. ihr fühlt mit

               

              

Übung

8·2
Translate the following phrases into German. Provide the appropriate adjective ending for
each present participle.

Example:

60

the crying girl

das weinende Mädchen

1. the sleeping children

               

2. the loudly barking dogs

               

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

3. from her disappointing answer

               

4. a corresponding theory

                

5. next to the laughing boy

               

6. in the arriving train

               

7. the slowly flowing water

                

Past participles
Past participles are used to form the perfect tenses. But just like present participles, they can also
be used as adjectives:
(auxiliary omitted) 1 regular or irregular past participle  adjective
(hat) gekocht
cooked
(hat) versprochen
promised
(ist) angekommen
arrived

Inseparable and separable prefixes affect the formation of a past participle. With inseparable
prefixes, the past participle does not require an added ge- prefix, e.g., besucht (visited) and
­vergangen (past). With separable prefixes, the prefix is separated from the past participle by a
ge- prefix (infix), placed between them, e.g., mitgebracht (brought along) and zugenommen
(increased). Let’s look at some example sentences that use past participles as predicate and attributive adjectives.
Er schien ganz gelassen.
Er hatte eine gelassene Reaktion.

He seemed quite calm.
He had a calm reaction.

Sie war gar nicht begeistert.
Seine begeisterte Stimme war laut und
schrill.

She wasn’t enthusiastic at all.
His enthusiastic voice was loud and shrill.

Übung

8·3
Translate the following phrases into German. Provide the appropriate adjective ending for
each past participle.

Example:

the written word

das geschriebene Wort

1. a broken man

               

2. from the drunken man

                

3. with the excited boys

                

4. because of the poorly repaired motor

                

5. a hard-boiled egg

                

6. in the recently arrived train

               

7. the United States

               
Extended modifiers

61

Extended modifiers
Just as attributive adjectives can replace a relative clause that contains a predicate adjective, so,
too, can participles replace relative clauses. Look at the following example with adjectives:
das Haus, das klein ist
das kleine Haus

the house that is small
the small house

Compare that with the following examples, where participles replace the verbs in the relative
clauses and the phrase that was previously expressed by the relative clause now precedes the noun
that is modified:
das Haus, das an der Ecke steht
 das an der Ecke stehende Haus

the house that stands on the corner
the house that stands on the corner

das Haus, das gestern zerstört wurde
 das gestern zerstörte Haus

the house that was destroyed yesterday
the house that was destroyed yesterday

In both examples above the relative clause has been changed to an extended modifier, with the
present or past participle acting as the modifier with the appropriate adjective ending. English
does not use extended modifiers to the same degree as German, and German phrases that contain extended modifiers tend to be translated as relative clauses in English, as illustrated in the
above examples.
der/die/das 1 participle 1 adjective ending
der 1 sitzend 1 -e
der vor der Tür sitzende Hund
the dog sitting in front of the door

Extended modifiers, especially those that are particularly long, tend to be used in formal
writing or might be heard in a scholarly speech. When used in casual conversation, they sound
cumbersome and lofty and are generally avoided.
If an active verb in a relative clause is changed into an extended modifier, a present participle
is used: der Mann, der singt 5 der singende Mann (the singing man). If the verb is passive, a past
participle is used: das Lied, das gesungen wurde 5 das gesungene Lied (the song that was sung).
If the verb is a verb of motion or another verb that requires sein as its auxiliary, the tense of the
participle is determined by the tense of the verb. For example:
der Zug, der gerade ankommt
der gerade ankommende Zug

the train that is just now arriving
the train that is just now arriving

der Zug, der schon angekommen ist
der schon angekommene Zug

the train that has already arrived
the train that has already arrived

If the verb is reflexive, the reflexive pronoun sich must be used with the participle:
der Mann, der sich schämt 5 der sich schämende Mann

Let’s look at a sentence with an extended modifier formed from the past participle bekannt.
Notice how it can grow with the addition of modifiers and prepositional phrases:
Er ist Politiker.
Er ist ein bekannter Politiker.
Er ist ein sehr bekannter Politiker.
Er ist ein in Europa sehr bekannter
Politiker.

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German Sentence Builder

He’s a politician.
He’s a well-known politician.
He’s a very well-known politician.
He’s a very well-known politician in Europe.

Er ist ein bei Jugendlichen in Europa sehr
bekannter Politiker.

He’s a very well-known politician among young
people in Europe.

The English translation of this final sentence could contain a relative clause:
He’s a politician who is very well-known among young people in Europe.
Übung

8·4
Rewrite the following sentences by changing the verb phrase in each relative clause into an
extended modifier.

Example:

Die Frau, die im Wohnzimmer sitzt, ist meine Schwester.
Die im Wohnzimmer sitzende Frau ist meine Schwester.

1. Der Polizist, der den Rechtsanwalt anruft, ist in Not.

2. Ich hasse das Wetter, das sich so schnell verändert.

3. Sein Gewinn, der uns überrascht, erfreute seine Frau.

4. Niemand will dem Taschendieb helfen, der zum vierten Mal verhaftet worden ist.

5. Die langen Kerzen, die so trüb brennen, standen auf dem Klavier.

6. Das ist der Professor, der von seinen ehemaligen Studenten besucht wurde.

7. Sie ist sehr stolz auf die Studentinnen, die konzentriert arbeiten.

8. Der Kranke, der an seinen Wunden stirbt, hat keine Familie.

9. Kannten Sie die Frau, die gestern Abend verstorben ist?

10. Der Soldat, der sich so langsam bewegte, war verwundet.

Extended modifiers

63

Übung

8·5
Rewrite the following sentences by adding a modifier or prepositional phrase to the
extended modifier.

Example:

Er nimmt das Problem mit geöffneten Augen an.
Er nimmt das Problem mit weit geöffneten Augen an.

1. Sie bekam einen gut geschriebenen Brief.

2. Er wollte die längst aufgegessene Torte probieren.

3. Das verkaufte Auto muss schon repariert werden.

4.	Ausgebildete Menschen werden von unserer Firma gesucht.

5. Die Eltern suchten nach ihrem verschwundenen Sohn.

6. Der geschiedene Mann will eine jüngere Frau heiraten.

7. Das spielende Kind fing an zu weinen.

Übung

8·6
Combine each list of words into an extended modifier for the noun given.

Example:

schön / singen / Vogel
der schön singende Vogel

1. auf / Herd / stehen / Suppe

2. von / Armee / zerstören / Dorf

3. vor / Angst / zittern / Kätzchen

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Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

4. laut / reden / Prediger

5. vor / zwei / Jahr / bauen / Häuser

6. brennen / neulich / verkaufen / Haus

7. aus / zehn / Amerikaner / bestehen / Reisegruppe

Übung

8·7
Write original sentences that include an extended modifier formed from the relative clause
provided. DER represents the definite article der, die, or das. The gender and case of the
articles you use will change depending upon the context.

Example:

DER das Museum besucht
Wir begegneten den das Museum besuchenden Touristen.

1. DER von dem Studenten getrunken wurde

2. DER von der Köchin gebacken worden ist

3. DER sich die Haare kämmt

4. DER auf dem Boden eingeschlafen ist

Extended modifiers

65

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·9 ·

Adjectives

Adjectives are very useful in making sentences more interesting or for providing
clarity. They modify nouns and pronouns and can be predicative or attributive:
He is lucky.
John is a lucky guy.

Predicative:
Attributive:

Adjectives work the same way in German, with the exception of requiring an
ending when used attributively:
◆

Predicative:
subject 1 linking verb 1 adjective
Die Frau 1 ist 1 krank.
The woman is sick.

◆

Attributive:
subject 1 verb 1 declined adjective 1 object
Die Frau 1 hilft 1 dem kranken 1 Kind.
The woman helps the sick child.

The pattern illustrated above shows a declined adjective in the dative case. However, declined adjectives occur in all cases (nominative, accusative, dative, and
genitive).
Predicative:
Attributive:

Sie ist klug.
Tina ist eine kluge Frau.

She is smart.
Tina is a smart woman.

When an adjective ending is required, the nominative singular of all three
genders and the accusative singular of the feminine and neuter indicate gender
differently, depending upon whether the determiner used is a der-word or an einword:
Der-words		

der, die, das
dieser
jener
jeder
mancher
solcher
welcher
derjenige
derselbe

the
this
that
each
many a
such
which, what
the one
the same

Ein-words

ein, eine
mein
dein
sein
ihr
unser
euer
Ihr
kein

a, an, one
my
your
his
her, their
our
your
your
not any

67

With der-words, gender is shown in the determiner. With ein-words, gender is shown in the
adjective. For example:
Nominative:
Accusative:
		

der alte Mann
*
the old man

diese alte Frau
diese alte Frau
this old woman

jedes alte Haus
jedes alte Haus
each old house

Nominative:
Accusative:
		

ein alter Mann
*
an old man

seine alte Frau
seine alte Frau
his old wife

kein altes Haus
kein altes Haus
no old house

*(We’ll look at the masculine accusative forms later.)

With both kinds of determiners, the adjective ending is always -en in the masculine accusative and throughout the dative and genitive with feminine and neuter nouns. In the plural, all
adjectives with these determiners have an -en ending. For example:
Singular
Accusative:
jenen guten Mann
*
Dative:
jenem guten Mann
einer klugen Frau
Genitive:
jenes guten Mannes
einer klugen Frau
		
that good man
a smart woman
*(See above for feminine and neuter accusative forms.)
Plural
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive:
		

*
welchem neuen Haus
welches neuen Hauses
which new house

seine alten Bücher
seine alten Bücher
seinen alten Büchern
seiner alten Bücher
his old books

The determiners alle (all) and beide (both) are exceptions. They are der-words but are only
used in the plural. For example:
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive:

alle alten Bücher
alle alten Bücher
allen alten Büchern
aller alten Bücher
all old books

beide guten Kinder
beide guten Kinder
beiden guten Kindern
beider guten Kinder
both good children

Übung

9·1
Provide an appropriate adjective for each of the following phrases. Then use that phrase in
a sentence in the same case in which it is given.

Example:

mit dem      

Kind

mit dem kranken Kind
Sie wollte mit dem kranken Kind sprechen.
1. a. von seiner           

Mutter

b. 

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German Sentence Builder

2. a. ein           

Gebäude

b. 
3. a. durch einen           

Tunnel

b. 
4. a. jenes            

Professors

b. 
5. a. für unsere           

Verwandten

b. 
6. a. alle           

Reisenden

b. 
7. a. beiden           

Jungen

b. 
8. a. trotz des           

Wetters

b. 
9. a. während einer            

Oper

b. 
10. a. gegen Ihren           

Chef

b. 

Unpreceded adjectives
There are times when a determiner does not precede an adjective. In such cases, the adjective will
have the ending that would normally have been on an ein-word. This is true in both the singular
and plural. Examples of unpreceded adjectives:
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive:

kalter Kaffee
kalten Kaffee
kaltem Kaffee
kalten Kaffees
cold coffee

kalte Suppe
kalte Suppe
kalter Suppe
kalter Suppe
cold soup

kaltes Eis
kaltes Eis
kaltem Eis
kalten Eises
cold ice

kalte Finger
kalte Finger
kalten Fingern
kalter Finger
cold fingers

Übung

9·2
Fill in the blanks in each sentence with an appropriate adjective or determiner.

1. Dieser           
2.           

Mann trinkt nur            

Bücher kosten mehr als diese

Tee.

         

Hefte.

Adjectives

69

3.           

Menschen kann man nicht immer glauben.

4. Ich hasse           
5. Sein           
6. Diese           
7.           

Wetter.

Sohn isst nicht gern

         

Straße war Opfer des           

Rosen riechen schöner als            

Brot.
Krieges.
Nelken.

Mancher, solcher, welcher
Special mention must be made of three of the der-words: mancher, solcher, welcher. They can be
used in two ways: (1) just like other der-words; and (2) in an undeclined form that requires the
adjective that follows it to use the endings that are required with unpreceded adjectives. For
example:
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive:

mancher gute Mann
manchen guten Mann
manchem guten Mann
manches guten Mannes
many a good man

manch guter Mann
manch guten Mann
manch gutem Mann
manch guten Mannes
many a good man

Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive:

welches neue Auto
welches neue Auto
welchem neuen Auto
welches neuen Autos
which new car

welch schöner Augenblick
welch schönen Augenblick
welch schönem Augenblick
welch schönen Augenblicks
what a beautiful moment

However, solcher as a der-word tends to be used in the plural, and in the singular it follows
ein and is declined like an adjective:
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive:

solche alten Leute
solche alten Leute
solchen alten Leuten
solcher alten Leute
such old people

eine solche Bluse
eine solche Bluse
einer solchen Bluse
einer solchen Bluse
such a blouse

Just like the usage of manch, solch, and welch illustrated above, there are other occasions
when an adjective requires the same endings as in the previous examples. They occur with etwas,
mehr, viel, wenig, and with numbers, and can be used in both singular and plural phrases. For
example:
etwas schwarzer Marmor
mehr interessante Bücher
viel amerikanisches Geld
wenig heiße Tage

some black marble
more interesting books
much American money
few hot days

The declension for such phrases follows the pattern illustrated by manch guter Mann, above.

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Übung

9·3
Compose original phrases in the nominative case singular with the cue words provided.

Example:

manch

manch junger Mann

1. manch                      
2. welch                      
3. etwas                      
4. mehr                     
5. wenig                     
Now rewrite each phrase in the dative case with an appropriate dative preposition.
Example:

mit manch jungem Mann

6.                     
7.                      
8.                      
9.                      
10.                     

Plural-only determiners
Certain determiners are used only in the plural. They identify quantities, and like the numbers
cause adjectives to be declined like unpreceded adjectives. These determiners are einige, mehrere, viele, and wenige. You will notice that viele and wenige, although used in the same way as
viel and wenig, decline, but the adjectives that follow viele and wenige still require the same endings as unpreceded adjectives. Some examples:
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive:

einige gute Kinder
einige gute Kinder
einigen guten Kindern
einiger guter Kinder
some good children

viele neue Schulen
viele neue Schulen
vielen neuen Schulen
vieler neuer Schulen
many new schools

Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive:

mehrere gute Kinder
mehrere gute Kinder
mehreren guten Kindern
mehrerer guter Kinder
several good children

wenige neue Schulen
wenige neue Schulen
wenigen neuen Schulen
weniger neuer Schulen
few new schools

Adjectives

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9·4
Compose original phrases in the nominative case plural with the cue words provided.

example:

viele

viele junge Leute

1. vier

                    

2. einige

                    

3. alle

                     

4. mehrere                      
5. beide

                     

Now rewrite each phrase in the genitive case.
Example:

vieler junger Leute

6.                      
7.                      
8.                      
9.                      
10.                      

Comparative and superlative
When comparing two people or things, the comparative form of an adjective is used. In general,
a comparative is formed by adding -er to the adjective:
Positive	Comparative

laut
schnell
interessant

loud
fast
interesting

lauter
schneller
interessanter

louder
faster
more interesting

The conjunction als (than) can be added to make the comparison:
Dieser Wagen ist schneller als jener.

This car is faster than that one.

Superlatives used as predicate adjectives are formed by preceding them with the prepositional phrase am (an dem) and adding the suffix -sten:

72

Practice Makes Perfect

German Sentence Builder

Positive	

Superlative

laut
schnell
interessant

loud
fast
interesting

am lautesten
am schnellsten
am interessantesten

the loudest
the fastest
the most interesting

Many adjectives that have an a, o, or u (called umlaut vowels) in their base form will require
an umlaut in the comparative and superlative:
Positive	Comparative	

alt
groß
jung

old
big
young

älter
größer
jünger

older
bigger
younger

Superlative

am ältesten
am größten
am jüngsten

the oldest
the biggest
the youngest

When an adjective or adverb ends in -d, -t, -s, -ss, -ß, or -z, the superlative suffix will be
-esten. For example:
the oldest
the most idiotic
the shortest

am ältesten
am blödesten
am kürzesten

Just as English has a few irregular forms in the comparative and superlative, so, too, does
German.
Positive	Comparative	

bald
groß
gut
hoch
nah

soon
big
good
high
near

eher
größer
besser
höher
näher

soonest
bigger
better
higher
nearer

Superlative

am ehesten
am größten
am besten
am höchsten
am nächsten

the soonest
the biggest
the best
the highest
the nearest

Another spelling concern arises with adjectives that end in -el, -en, and -er. In the comparative the -e- is usually dropped:
dunkel
trocken
teuer

dark
dry
expensive

dunkler
trockner
teurer

darker
drier
more expensive

Comparatives and superlatives can be used in the same way as predicate adjectives:
Dieses Radio ist lauter als jenes.
Euer Radio ist am lautesten.

This radio is louder than that one.
Your radio is the loudest.

When a comparative or superlative adjective is used attributively, it requires the same kinds
of endings as other adjectives:
Nominative:
Accusative:
Dative:
Genitive:

dieser längere Satz
die kürzesten Briefe
einem größeren Problem
seiner besten Werke

this longer sentence
the shortest letters
a bigger problem
his best works

Adjectives

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9·5
Using the adjective and the three noun phrases provided in each item, form sentences with a
positive, a comparative, and a superlative adjective.

Example:

nett / der Lehrer / die Lehrerin / der neue Studienrat
Der Lehrer ist nett.
Die Lehrerin ist netter als der Lehrer.
Der neue Studienrat ist am nettesten.

1. klein / der braune Hund / der schwarze Hund / die weiße Katze
a. 
b. 
c. 
2. gut / sein neuer Roman / sein letzter Roman / seine Gedichte
a. 
b. 
c. 
3. hell / diese weiße Kerze / jene Laterne / die neue Stehlampe
a. 
b. 
c. 

Adjectives as nouns
Just about an