School vs. Grown-up-school

wall with graffiti saying schule
School is cool, but Schule is cooler

1.

School – Some kids sneak out now and then during the day for a crafty fag.

Grown-up school – Some people go out now and then during the day for a crafty fag. No sneaking is required. Also, it’s less ‘now and then’ and more ‘every damn hour’. Also, the teacher tends to join them.

2.

School – The kids get into tight social cliques who spend all their time together and bitch about other people in the breaks.

Grown-up school – The people get into tight social cliques who spend all their time together and bitch about other people in the breaks. But they also quite enjoy drinking coffee while they do it.

3.

School – The naughty ones sit at the back and piss about, gradually eroding the teacher’s nerve and will to live.

Grown-up school – The naughty ones sit at the back and piss about, gradually eroding the teacher’s nerve and will to live. At the end of the module they write a strongly-worded complaint about the teacher being incompetent.

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Legs that won’t quit

I bike berlin sticker
My rear mudguard is one of the few things that has escaped unscathed.

 

Last week on Wednesday, I was hit by a bus. Thankfully not to the extent that I was pulverised; the coachdriver was turned right without checking to see if anyone was going across the side-road, so he was going fairly slowly, but I still ended up fully underneath the belly of his massive motor with my arms and legs painfully tangled among the sprockets of my bike. Some wonderful people taking signatures for the Rote Nasen immediately pulled me and my bike out from under the bus and gave me a red nose to cheer me up once the police had been and gone and the driver had skulked off guiltily into the distance.

The following Thursday, after I had celebrated a full week with no bicycle-related accidents, my victory was cut short when a speeding Hell’s Angel rocketed past me at a changing light and scalped my elbow with his handlebar-mirror. He turned and swore loudly at me as he drove away, and in general it was a pretty high-octane end to a boring schoolday, although I hadn’t been doing anything wrong at all.

Then, on the Friday morning, my thigh put a pretty impressive dent into some twonk’s car bonnet when he lurched gaily out of his driveway at such a speed that he wouldn’t have been able to see Godzilla coming at him, let alone a trundling cyclist. This was actual agony, not to mention the gall of the driver, who leapt out of his car and starting spluttering ‘Why did you-?! Why didn’t you-?! You should have-?!’ before realising that he didn’t really have anything to blame me for. I haven’t even my mum about this one yet because I don’t want her to worry – sorry mum! – but at any rate, I really hope that it’s one of those things where lightning doesn’t usually strike twice but if it strikes three or more times in a fortnight then lightning will leave you alone entirely for the rest of your life. Fingers crossed!

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Guten Morgen Grammar: Conjunctions part 2 – Fly away, little verb

Cartoon about subordinating conjunctions

 

In Part 1 we took a look at co-ordinating conjunctions and what I call ‘mixed conjunctions’. As I mentioned, these conjunctions could also be seen as ‘easy’ and ‘medium’ conjunctions, like difficulty levels in Guitar Hero: for ‘easy’ you play with just three fingers, for ‘medium’ you play with four, and for ‘hard’ you have to play chords with your forehead while solving physics equations that flash up on the screen…or something, I haven’t played that game in a while. Anyway – now it’s time for us to dive into the ‘hard’ conjunctions: subordinating conjunctions.

Don’t panic, though. Subordinating conjunctions sound a lot scarier than they actually are; once you’re used to the way they work, it’s dead simple. First of all, let’s get acquainted with all the most common ones which you’re going to need in your Germanical toolbelt:
weil – because
obwohl – although
dass – that (i.e. ‘he said that you’re an ass’)
da – because, as
bevor – before
nachdem – after
ob – whether
als ob – as if
damit – so that
wenn – if, when, whenever
als – when (used for past events – we’ll come back to these last two later. Click here to spring straight to that section.)

As you can probably tell, these are some super-useful words right here, so you definitely want to learn all of these off by heart, no question. Tattoo them on your love handles if you need to, just as long as you learn them and learn ’em good.

Word order with subordinating conjunctions

Let’s build a complex sentence out of two clauses using a subordinating conjunction.

Ich spiele gern Fußball.
I like playing football.

Ich bin gut darin.
I’m good at it. (n.b. useful to remember that in German you are good ‘in’ something rather than good ‘at’ something)

First things first: when you’re using a subordinating conjunction to join up the clauses, you need to pop in a comma at the end of the first clause:

displaying the importance of the comma at the end of the first clauseSlightly exaggerated here, but you get my drift. Then, after the comma, comes the conjunction. Here we’ll use ‘weil’ – ‘I like playing foolball because I’m good at it.’ And this is what happens:

Ich spiele gern Fussball. Ich bin gut darin. Ich spiele gern Fussball, weil ich gut darin bin.

The subordinating conjunction boots the verb in the second clause all the way to the end of the clause. Here are some more examples of this happening:

Sie gießt ihre Pflanzen. Sie verlässt das Haus.

Sie gießt ihre Pflanzen, bevor sie das Haus verlässt.

 

Ich nehme an der Demo teil. Ich habe nichts gegen Atomenergie.

Ich nehme an der Demo teil, obwohl ich nichts gegen Atomenergie habe.

 

See? Dead easy. The verb always goes to the end of the clause. If you’re working with a clause which contains more than one verb or a past participle, the rule still applies – the active verb (i.e. the one which is being carried out by the subject and is conjugated) still goes to the end of the clause:

Wir haben uns nicht wohl gefühlt, nachdem wir eine ganze Flasche Gin getrunken haben. (past tense)

Sie liest sein Tagebuch, damit sie seine Gefühle besser verstehen kann. (modal verb)

But the fun doesn’t stop there. We can also begin a sentence with a subordinating conjunction, which is often helpful for emphasis or slight changes in the way you want to express your message:

Ich spiele gern Golf. Ich bin nicht gut darin. Obwohl ich nicht gut darin bin, spiele ich gern Golf.

See how the subordinating conjunction still sends the verb to the end of the clause? And take a look at the second clause: see how the verb comes at the very start, right after the comma? That’s because the whole first clause has now taken first position, and so what absolutely must follow is the verb, which always wants to be in second position. Generally, grammacologists tend to simplify this whole idea down to the much more catchy ‘Verb comma verb rule’: when you start your sentence with a subordinating conjunction, the verbs hang on either side of the comma separating the clauses. The clause containing the subordinating conjunction doesn’t change, in essence; all we’re changing is where it stands in relation to the other clause.

Examples of conjunctions at the beginning and in the middle of a sentence.

The last example shows how the different structures allow us to change the meaning and expression of what we’re saying – namely that the first option in this instance sounds even more bitchy than the second.

So what’s the deal with wenn and als?

As you may have noticed in the vocab list above, wenn and als can both mean ‘when’, but they have weird and different meanings. Let’s break it down:

Wenn

Wenn means ‘if’ and also ‘when’, also in the sense of ‘whenever’ (i.e. a recurring or conditional incident); for example, I would use ‘wenn’ in all of the following sentences:

If he comes home before me hopefully he will do the dishes.

She has an emotional breakdown whenever she hears One Direction.

When I get my Master’s degree I’ll have much better job opportunities.

When her dog sees her, he always runs straight to the door to say hello.

(Bonus points: translate these sentences into German and email me your answers!)

Als

Als also means ‘when’, but ONLY in the context of past happenings; if it helps, you can think of it as the ‘once upon a time’ conjunction. Any time you are recounting something that has already happened, whether it was yesterday or three years ago, you need to use als. I would use als in sentences like this:

When I went to the shops on Tuesday I tripped over a chihuahua.

She called the vet immediately when she saw her sick hamster.

When we got to know him last year he had blue hair.

I read a lot of books when I took the train to work.

 

See how, in that last example, the ‘als’ is actually really useful because it very often carries over the idea of ‘used to’, which has no direct translation in German – in English the sentence feels more comfortable as ‘I read a lot of books when I used to take the train to work’ but in German you don’t need that ‘used to take’ flimflam as long as you’ve got als in there doing the heavy lifting.

(Bonus points for these four sentences too! Email your answers to ampelfrau[at]gutenmorgenberlin[dot]com!)

 

I’m sure it’s obvious from this lesson how useful and important subordinating conjunctions are, even though they require a bit more elbow grease than the other conjunctions. If you learn all this by heart you’ll be a great step further towards feeling comfortable with German word order, and with the language in general.

Guten Morgen Grammar: Conjunctions – Working for a noble clause (part 1)

Cartoon about subordinating conjunctions

German conjunctions come in three different types, like the difficulty levels in Guitar Hero: Easy, Medium, and Hard. Rather than calling them that, though, we tend to give them more grammatically funky names so that we are able to bore schoolkids in a more effective manner. Their real names are Coordinating Conjunctions, Subordinating Conjunctions, and…well, I’m not sure about the third type and I’m not sure how to Google it either. I call them ‘Mixed Conjunctions’ because they have elements of both of the other types, but feel free to correct me if you know the official term. But trust me: beyond troublesome nomenclature, I do know what I’m talking about.

First of all, let’s establish what a conjunction actually is. A conjunction is a little word which joins two clauses together, like sellotape or a staple.

Examples of conjunction useTo give you some context, conjunctions in English are words like ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘however’ and so on. But (and you should never start a sentence with but) they are a little more complicated in German because different types work with the clauses in different ways.

Co-ordinating conjunctions

Co-ordinating conjunctions are so called, I guess, because they join up clauses without any of the words in either of the clauses having to make any special efforts – they just naturally co-ordinate with each other, like a baseball cap and some Raybans. What I mean to say is, co-ordinating conjunctions are joining words which don’t cause the word order in either clause to change. For example:

Ich treffe meine Freunde. Wir gehen zum Konzert.
Ich treffe meine Freunde und wir gehen zum Konzert.

Er hat einen Hund. Seine Freundin hat Angst vor Hünden.
Er hat einen Hund aber seine Freundin hat Angst vor Hünden.

See? It’s dead easy, you just slip the conjunction right in there and it’s barely even noticeable. Nice. Have a look at this one:

Ich schaue gerne ‘Futurama’. Ich lade die Folgen herunter.
Ich schaue gerne ‘Futurama’ und lade die Folgen herunter.

See how, in this case, because we had the same subject in both clauses, we could just leave it out in the second clause? It’s just the same as in English: ‘I go to my nan’s and look after her cats.’ It would sound a bit clunky to say ‘I go to my nan’s and I look after her cats’ so we just take out the ‘I’ the second time around, but the rest of that clause stays exactly the same. In German we can also leave out the verb the second time around if it’s the same, too: ‘Ich habe Gitarre gespielt und am Lagerfeuer Marshmallows gebrannt.’ (rather than ‘Ich habe Gitarre gespielt und ich habe am Lagerfeuer Marshmallows gebrannt.’).

One thing to remember is that co-ordinating conjunctions carry through any special word order action which is going on in the first clause, so if for example the verb has been sent to the end of the clause, that structure is carried through to the joined-on clause:

Er kommt vorbei, um uns seine Zeichnungen zu zeigen.
Er kommt vorbei, um uns seine Zeichnungen zu zeigen und mit uns zu essen.

There are only a few co-ordinating conjunctions so, you know…I’m not going to tell you what to do or whatever, but like, maybe learn them or whatever? I mean only if you want to, but…

und – and
oder – or
aber – but
denn – because (formal register)
sondern – rather

 

Mixed Conjunctions

Mixed conjunctions are a bit more jazzy because they do slightly affect the word order in the joined-on clause, but only slightly. In fact, they tend to take the same role as things like time phrases in that they cause the subject and verb to swap around following them. So, the second clause starts with the conjunction, then the verb, and thirdly comes the subject.

Cartoon about mixed conjunctionsLet’s look at a few more examples:

Er findet seine Matratze zu weich. Er schläft lieber auf der Couch.
Er findet seine Matratze zu weich, also schläft er lieber auf der Couch.

Wir besuchen meine Oma jede Woche. Sie ist immer sauer auf uns.
Wir besuchen meine Oma jede Woche, jedoch ist sie immer sauer auf uns.

See how each time the verb comes straight after the conjunction, because these conjunctions grammatically take first position in the clause?

However – fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how much German grammar terrifies you – mixed conjunctions are a bit more flexible than that. You can also change the position of them in the clause or even use them without a joining clause, much in the same way that we do in English:

I take your point, however the situation is complicated.

I take your point; the situation is, however, complicated.

Ich verstehe Ihre Meinung, jedoch ist die Situation kompliziert.

Ich verstehe Ihre Meinung; die Situation ist jedoch kompliziert.

A good rule of thumb is to use them in the same way you would use a time phrase: usually happiest when nestling comfortably in first position at the start of the sentence, but also won’t kick up a fuss in most other places in the sentence if you need it there for emphasis. This is very much an issue of Sprachgefühl, that gut feeling you get for using a language. I advise you stick to the tried-and-tested rules until you start developing your sixth sense in this respect.

There are quite a few mixed conjunctions but only a few which come up time and time again:

deshalb – therefore
jedoch – however
allerdings – at any rate, certainly
deswegen – for that reason (usually used in the sense of ‘that’s why…’ in casual German)
nichtsdestoweniger – yes, that is a real word. Means nevertheless.
daher – therefore, thus
also – so (WARNING – remember not to confuse the German ‘also’ with the English ‘also’ OR the German ‘so’ with the English ‘so’, all of which have different meanings just to make life difficult)

The third type of conjunction, the subordinating conjunction, is so stimulating and juicy that we can’t possibly sum it up without making this lesson WAY too long. So tune in next time for Part 2!

Practising co-ordinating and mixed conjunctions

Join up the clauses for each of the numbers below using the conjunction in brackets, then translate into English

1. Ich habe meine Katze gefuttert. Sie bekommt viele Snacks von unseren Nachbarn. (aber)

2. Deine Freunde sind nervig. Ich komme nicht auf deine Party. (deswegen)

3. Gehen wir heute Abend ins Kino? Hast du zu viel Arbeit? (oder)

4. Ich wollte gestern Geld sparen. Ich habe versucht, zu Hause zu bleiben. (und)

5. Ihre Bewerbung ist super. Sie sind nicht für diesen Job qualifiziert. (jedoch)

6. Sie findet sein Geschenk toll. Es ist besser als das Geschenk, dass sie von ihrer Familie bekommen hat. (allerdings)

7. Ich gehe jetzt feiern. Ich werde spät nach Hause kommen. (also)

8. Habt ihr die Wäsche gewaschen? Habt ihr die Pflanzen gegossen? (und)

Guten Morgen Grammar: Hot Dative

Note to self: look into making Donkey Kong sequel which teaches German grammar...potential goldmine...
Note to self: look into making Donkey Kong sequel which teaches German grammar…potential goldmine…

Alright guys. Before we do anything else, let’s go over some terminology. Some of you will already know these terms, but I’m not going to start talking about how to make a cake until I’m sure that everyone here knows what a bowl and a whisk are.

There are two main elements in any one sentence or clause besides the verb: the subject and the object. The subject is the thing which carries out the action of the verb – the ‘main character’ of the sentence, you might say – while the object is the thing which has the action done to it – perhaps the ‘best supporting role’? For example, if I catch a bee in my hand, I am the subject and the bee is the object; it is the thing being caught. If the bee then stings me, the bee is the subject and I am the regretful object. If my cat catches a bee in its mouth, though, the cat is the subject and the bee becomes both the object and a delicious crunchy snack.

To show the difference between the subject and the object, they each have their own ‘case’, which is a special way of showing their grammatical role in the sentence by using different words and structures with each thing. The subject is always in the nominative case, and the object is always in the accusative case; we have this to a very small extent in English, for example when the bee stings me and not I – ‘me’ is the accusative form of ‘I’. In German, this case distinction is shown in all the articles (der, die, das, ein, eine, etc), adjectives (see prev article) and much more besides. Click the link to see how all the articles change depending on gender and case.

dat5-01

Let’s watch this guy make a delicious English breakfast (and boy, do the Germans love a good English breakfast. ‘You eat a whole plate of fried crap for breakfast? Geil!!’). The nouns circled in blue are in the accusative, because they are the things which are having all the cooking actions done to them by ‘ich’, the subject. You can see how the accusative changes the definite article for the masculine noun ‘Bacon’ because the masculine nouns are the only ones whose articles, adjective endings etc change in the accusative. It’s pretty simple, and we’ll do more on that in another lesson.

So now let’s talk about what we’re all here to talk about: the dative. The dative is a third case which we use for a second kind of object in a sentence: an object which is in a position of receiving something, being told something or spoken to, and in general any idea which evokes the idea where we would usually use ‘to’ in English. For example, in the sentence:

He said some really mean things to me!

‘He’ is the subject, doing the saying; ‘really mean things’ is the accusative object (also known as the direct object); ‘me’ is the dative object (also known as the indirect object), because it is the target of this ‘to’. The ‘to’, and the dative, is a structure which allows us to describe a verb affecting two different nouns at the same time: one noun is directly affected (i.e. a present is given) while another noun is indirectly affected (i.e. I receive the present; it is given to me).

dat3-01For example, here the dad ‘He’ is the subject, the ‘dad joke’ is the thing being told, and ‘me’ is the dative object receiving the joke. Somewhat unwillingly.

dat2-01Here’s another example. Please note that it is an example and I do not accept any responsibility for anyone who decides to eat a dead bee, nor will I pay ten dollars for that action.

Let’s look at how this works in German.

dat4-01She gave me the wrong book. ‘Me’ is in the dative here, because it’s the object in the receiving position. Click here to revise what the pronouns like ‘ich’ do in different cases.

Here’s another example:

dat6-01

You must tell the pope about your sins…

This is an example of how a sentence can contain a dative object but not an accusative object. ‘Erzählen’ and the other words which use the dative (see below) need a dative object every time, but here the accusative object has been replaced with ‘about your sins’, a prepositional phrase. You could always sub it out with an accusative object though, and say ‘Du musst dem Papst deine Sünden erzählen’ – you have to tell your sins to the Pope.

Here are some of the main verbs which take a dative object in German. The best way to remind yourself what kind of object a verb takes is to add ‘jdn’ or ‘jdm’ to each verb. This is shorthand for ‘jemanden’ (‘someone’ in the accusative) or ‘jemandem’ (‘someone’ in the dative) – and you can also use ‘etw’ as shorthand for ‘something’ in the accusative, for the verbs which take both.

jdm etw erzählen – to tell someone something

jdm etw sagen – to say something to someone

jdm etw geben – to give someone something

jdm etw zeigen – to show someone something

jdm etw erklären – to explain something to someone

jdm etw schenken – to give something to someone (as a present)

jdm etw schicken – to send something to someone

jdm etw mitteilen – to inform someone of something (this is closer to ‘disclose’ in a direct translation but it is used more casually in German in the sense of telling someone an important fact)

A lot of people get confused and think that all verbs which imply a communicative or ‘giving’ sense take a dative, so they mistakenly use the dative with verbs like ‘fragen’, ‘bekommen’, ‘informieren’ and so on. A good trick to figure out whether or not a verb should take the dative in German is to think about how it would sound in old-timey English: ‘I say unto you…’, ‘Disclose unto me…’, ‘Pray explain to me…’ all sound like excellent beginnings to lines in Game of Thrones, whereas ‘I ask unto you’ doesn’t work. Fragen takes the accusative. Boom.

It’s important to learn the verbs which take the dative off by heart, because there are also several which take a dative object where there is no obvious sense of the English ‘to’.  Here’s a big list for you to dig into:

jdm helfen – Er hat mir geholfen, meine Grammatikübungen zu lernen.

jdm gratulieren – Wir gratulieren dir zu deinem Geburtstag!

jdm danken – Ich danke dir ganz herzlich!

jdm begegnen – Sie hat ihrem Ex-Freund auf der Straße begegnet…

jdm etw empfehlen – Suri empfiehlt uns das Restaurant am Potsdamer Platz.

 

Keep these in mind, because we’ll be going into those and other uses of the dative in future lessons.

Here are some examples of German sentences you’ll end up using *all the time* with the dative in – translate and try to learn these sentences. You can swap in different vocab depending on what you want to say to make it really easy to start integrating dative constructions into your spoken German without even having to think too hard about it!

1. Kannst du mir bitte die Butter geben?

2. Ich habe ihm aber nie gesagt, dass ich zustimme.

3. Erzähl deinem Bruder die Geschichte von deiner Geburtstagsparty!

4. Wir helfen den Kindern, ihre Laternen zu basteln.

5. Zeigen Sie mir bitte wie der Toaster funktioniert.

6. Wir schicken unseren Kunden einen monatlichen Newsletter.

7. Ich muss Ihnen leider mitteilen, dass ihr Termin ausfällt.

Men’s day. And one woman’s news.

 

 

Seedlings. A symbol of new beginnings. Probably also now smushed into the ground by the Doc Martens of several drunken dudes.
Seedlings. A symbol of new beginnings. Probably also now smushed into the ground by the Doc Martens of several drunken dudes.

Forgive me for getting personal, but we’re all friends here, and I have to say it: it’s the end of my second year since moving back to Berlin, and it’s been a really rough year. I’m a tough person, but if you hit a coconut with a hammer enough times, eventually the juices all spill out onto the ground. But I have a promise to my readers not to turn this blog into a journal, and so I won’t say any more than that here.

Last time I got to that point, I decided to move back to Berlin. This time, I’m moving again: into the internet, full-time. I am leaving my job and am going to begin studying web design, web development and hopefully also digital animation, and I’m going to become an Internet Person.

The Internet – and I do mean that as a kind of place, an abstract area containing villages and folks and communities – is a mindblowing thing. It’s so much more than just an information mine and entertainment console. It is a place where hundreds of thousands of people are every day creating just so very much free, interesting, thoughtful, creative and fascinating stuff. And although most people know of the forums, the wikias and the reddit strings, once you begin to learn more about the internet as a place in itself, you see that it really is like a village – maybe even more like a flat share. Internet People know and interact with the slightly awkward members of the household – the porn, the abuse, the various ‘isms’ – with a gentle chuckle and a heartfelt belief that everyone probably would get on with each other much better if we all just made a bit more of an effort. And then Internet People, unlike politicians or protesters, tend to actually exemplify that belief. They make important videos, encourage better communities, and do dumb viral stuff like chucking a bucket of ice over their heads and accidentally raising millions of dollars for just one charity. (And no, ALS, you may not copyright the ice bucket challenge, no more than I can copyright covering my knees in jam and then licking them in the name of the RSPB.)

In the last year, I haven’t enjoyed much in my own life to foster hope about. But I have watched things on the internet grow and achieve worldwide attention: things which the more cynical me would have expected to simply wither and die, poisoned by humanity’s own uselessness. In just a short blog post I cannot even begin to summarise the dynamism, philanthropy and intelligence of what is happening in the good parts of the Internet. But I can see the good parts getting bigger, richer, and realer, and I want in – now.

I’m going to have the time and the energy – and finally also the know-how – to make Guten Morgen Berlin what I have always wanted it to be, and to make it worthy of the now hundreds of new followers we get here each week. I’m going to make Guten Morgen Grammar! a full and free resource for anyone trying to learn German. I’m going to bumble around as a freelancer for a while and be my own boss. I’m going to do things that feel inspiring, constructive, and new. And yes, I’m going to be poor for quite some time, so I’m also going to be blogging about the myriad joys of German red tape which is already starting to weave itself around my ankles as I head quickly towards unemployment. Let the festivities commence!

 

Guten Morgen Grammar: German Adjective Endings and the Magic Saucepan

Guten Morgen Berlin is broadening its horizons, ladies and gents! As well as the usual occasional quaint ramblings about goings on in this fair city, we’ll now also be featuring lessons in German language and grammar on the site for anyone who is looking to improve their German, revise an important topic or simply loves thinking about the intricacies of cases and word order. That third group of people are truly kings among men. My other readers needn’t fear – there will still be plenty of tales of me falling over and showing my knickers in public to keep you happy in between. And as you can see, all these German language posts – under the oh-so-branded title of Guten Morgen Grammar (oh it’s happening, ladies and gentleman) can also be found neatly categorised in a separate page in the top tabs. Check it out!

And now for our main scheduled program:

grammmm-01

It’s hard for me to come up with a set order that these lessons should come in, particularly since some will cover whole ideas in German, whereas others will be more about specific nuances or details of the language. So I decided to start with a topic which I love, partly because no-one else does, and partly because I used to be one of those people until one long summer, I decided to sit down and figure the whole thing out until I knew it all off by heart. It’s amazing what the pressure of finals will do for your motivation.

Let’s be clear about our terminology here: an adjective is any word which is singly doing the job of describing a noun. They can float in a sentence without a noun, like this:

I feel really sick today.

Man, your dad is so stingy!

This makes things easy in German, because you just whack the adjective in there just like you would in English, no bells or whistles:

Ich fühle mich total krank.

Man eh, dein Vater ist sooo geizig!

Alternatively, adjectives come plonked right in front of the noun they are describing, just as in English:

The big cow = die große Kuh

A crazy dude = ein verrückter Typ

Delicious coffee = leckerer Kaffee

German adjectives are tricky because they add an extra ending on there when they are coupled with a noun to help show the gender and case of a noun (gender and case will be future lessons too!), and unlike in French, we’ve got three whole genders to play with and FOUR cases! Our cup runneth over!

Take a look at the tables in the image at the beginning of this post. Those are the endings that you jam on the end of the adjectives in different situations. Let’s look at the weak ones first.

‘Weak’ adjective endings are the ones which you use on the end of the adjective when you are using the noun with der, die or das – the definite articles. I like to think that they are weak because they are so pathetically uninteresting. grammmm1-01This all sounds complicated and boring, but it’s actually dead simple: if you are using a noun, like ‘crisps’ (Chips) and you are using it with the definite article (die Chips) then you just take whichever ending corresponds to the gender of the noun – in this case neuter – and the case the noun is in – let’s say nominative – and shove the ending on there.

The cheap crisps are actually the best ones!

Die billigen Chips sind eigentlich die Besten!

Or even:

Did you eat the whole bag?!

Hast du die ganze Tüte gegessen?!

 

The best thing is how easy it is to remember these endings. You see that table up there? See that shape drawn in yellow? Notice how all the endings inside that shape are just -e, and all the ones outside the shape are -en. Now notice how the shape kind of looks like a saucepan. I’ve drawn it in for you. It’s the magic saucepan. It is my guaranteed trick to remembering your adjective endings. The rule is, if it’s outside of the magic saucepan, it takes -en. Always and forever.

The ‘mixed’ endings get a bit more wild. As Mr Potatohead is demonstrating here nicely.

mixed-01

‘Mixed’ endings are the ones we use when we are using the noun in question, let’s say ‘possum’ (Beutelratte) with ein, eine or ein  – the indefinite article (eine Beutelratte). Different article, same process: just find the right gender, and the right case – let’s say accusative – and whack that ending on there.

I saw a dancing possum in my bedroom!!

Ich habe eine tanzende Beutelratte in meinem Schlafzimmer gesehen!!

Or even:

Did you kill it with a heavy book?

Hast du sie mit einem schweren Buch getötet?

Easy peasy. And look – there’s the magic saucepan again! This time, every adjective ending inside the saucepan is just following the ends of the definite article (der, die, das etc), and as always, everything outside the saucepan is -en. Outside the saucepan, it’s always -en. Inside the saucepan is where the magic happens. Magic Saucepan.

Ok, now we come to the ‘strong’ endings. These are the endings that you use when the noun in question stands alone, not using either the definite article or the indefinite article (neither ‘der’ nor ‘ein’). In the weak and mixed endings, we had an article there which did some of the grammatical heavy lifting – it was there to provide information about the gender and case of the thing we’re talking about. But when we don’t have an article there to help out, the adjective has to do all the grammar work itself, so the strong endings are more varied between cases and genders:

grammmm3-01

These are the endings we use with expressions like ‘good wine’ (guter Wein), ‘fresh milk’ (frische Milch) or ‘adorable puppies’ (niedliche Hündchen), which stand alone without a ‘the’ or ‘a’. Often these are nouns talking about something that is a substance which doesn’t come in discrete amounts, like ‘chocolate’ or ‘fungus’. So, if we decided to use a masculine noun like ‘coffee’ and use it in the accusative, we just look at the table above and do the usual matchy-matchy:

‘I love good, strong coffee with breakfast.’

‘Ich liebe guten, starken Kaffee zum Frühstück.’

Or even:

‘But breakfast is better with expensive champagne and fine caviar.’

‘Aber Frühstuck ist viel besser mit teuerem Sekt und feinem Kaviar.’

Now, the Magic Saucepan is unfortunately not mighty enough to have power over the Strong adjective endings, but there are still some tricks to remembering them without having to memorise that whole table. See the nominative and accusative endings? They follow the endings of ‘der’ exactly, because they are giving the same grammatical info as ‘der’, so that’s easy pease. Genitive is easy because there are only two endings, same for masc and neut and same for fem and plural. And dative is the best one, because if you put all the endings together you get ‘M R M EN’: MR MEN. Mr Men. Not gonna forget that now, are ya?

I bet you all enjoyed that and are raring to practise your strongs, weaks and mixeds (and I just realised how much the adjective endings sound like cocktails…). Well generous as I am, here is an activity to help you practise! Download here. And come back to this page soon for the answers!

Spam Spaaaaaaaam, Wonderful Spaaaaam *floats towards ceiling*

DSC_1177
In Germany, the spam comes in the shape of clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you will see that I now have a nifty little randomised maths sum thing which you have to answer to leave a comment. This is so that now lovely human beings like yourself can leave a comment without me being plagued with the hundreds of spam comments I have been receiving every week.

Yes, alright. I know I’m not going to ever get any comments on this blog unless I really do pose naked in front of the Ritter Sport Museum or something, and even then the comments will all be along the lines of ‘Don’t ever pose naked in front of the Ritter Sport Museum – or indeed anywhere else – ever again’. And yes, besides the annoyance of the spam and the heartache of seeing that little tag (‘156 new comments!’) and getting all excited only to discover that I haven’t become famous and beloved overnight, I did quite enjoy sifting through the spam. I’m sure you’re all familiar with spam emails, but I wager not many of you are familiar with blog comment spam. It’s a different beast. It has much more personality, it’s much more passive-aggressive, and it has complex and bizarre themes which sometimes would make James Joyce feel jealous and confused. So, before I empty my spam bin and look forward to a future of a quiet, peaceful blog back-end where I can just potter around my posts and maybe enjoy a cup of tea and a bakewell tart from time to time, I wanted to present you with a few of my favourite bot-comments from the last few months.

**NOTE** some of these will contain weblinks. Given that you know I am copying and pasting spam content, I really have no sympathy whatsoever for you if you click on one of those links and your computer catches fire or whatever. Just, seriously, no clicky.

“My partner and I stumbled over here coming from a different website and thought I should check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to looking at your web page for a second time.”

Wow, thanks! I love knowing that spambots and their partners browse the internet together, possibly in a cosy evening moment with some wine and a bit of salmon steaming in the oven.The poster’s name is ‘Official Nike Air Max 24-7 Gray Black Mens‘ so I assume his partner is the Air Max 24-7 Gray Black Womens, unless he bats for the other team and has shacked up with an Adidas. Hope you look at my web page even a third or fourth time!

“Throughout the great design of things you secure an A for effort and hard work. Exactly where you lost everybody was first on all the details. You know, as the maxim goes, details make or break the argument.. And that could not be much more correct right here. Having said that, allow me tell you precisely what did work. Your writing is rather convincing which is probably why I am making the effort in order to comment. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Next, while I can notice a leaps in logic you come up with, I am not certain of exactly how you seem to connect your ideas which make the actual conclusion. For right now I will, no doubt yield to your point however hope in the foreseeable future you actually connect your dots better.
prescription ray ban sunglasses singapore http://www.kjmm.com/shop.asp?prescription-ray-ban-sunglasses-singapore-b-3722.html

This is like the kind of harsh but fair critique my tutor would give me on my weekly Eng Lit essays at university. In fact…Rhodri, is that you? You always hated my conclusions, you called them ‘weaselish’ as far as I recall. Seriously, though, this kind of comment is really common and I can’t get my head around the thinking behind it. Are they hoping that I will be so overwhelmed and impressed by the incisive critique that I will overlook the weird Ray-Bans ad at the end? Do they think this is the kind of thoughtful analysis of discursive writing style which most blog comments tend to employ? Actually, I may be overestimating them with words like ‘think’…

“MORE Palm Deforestation: Truth or Fiction.”

Whu…that’s it? Toms Sko, you had my curiosity with your interesting (possibly Scandinavian?) name, but now you have my attention. Is this the title of your dissertation? Can I read it? Please send it to me, I love palm deforestation and have always been wanting MORE.

“Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something informative to read?
jordan 19 philippines http://staging.serialspace.org/sale.php?jordan-19-philippines-b-6847.html

This guy is so right. All this time I have been using my videos as a crutch to avoid just sitting down and tapping out some solid writing to make my point. Maybe I should write about important cultural milestones, or local politics, or even recommendations for people visiting Berlin. This is one of the best things about writing a blog: the amazing collaborative feedback/discourse you set up with the entire world which in turn helps you to better yourself and your content. Thanks, Louis Vuitton Bag Discount.

“Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!”

This one makes me genuinely tearful. Whoever wrote this spam comment has the most amazing mind for a short but meaningful narrative. I want to know more about this character, this vivacious single mother who experiences such precious moments with her kids, these snapshots of wide-eyed innocence bordering on whimsy, but yet is so alone that she has no-one to share them with but a complete stranger writing a vaguely angry blog about Berlin. And who am I to have earnt this privilege to share in her child’s first moment of experiencing the savage cruelty within the sublime magnetism of nature; a moment where perhaps a formative memory is created, a memory which will lead to nightmares and phobias as the daughter grows older and internalises her experience with her surroundings. Also, this is another spambot promoting Nike running shoes, so I guess I’m a little stumped as to how this touching short story would compel me to get a pair of men’s black Nike Revolution 2 sneakers.

Ohhh, there are so many more I might need to save them in the trash bin for another post later down the line. Let’s leave it there for now. And please, Real Human Beings of the world, do comment if you would like to say something about one of these posts; I read every single one and it brightens my entire day.

Practising Acceptance (Alternative title: A considerable majority of Berlin has seen my bum)

Don't eat the bay leaf, it's...it's...a garnish. I KNOW, ALRIGHT, I'M SORRY.
Don’t eat the bay leaf, it’s…it’s…a garnish. I KNOW, ALRIGHT, I’M SORRY.

Allow me to begin this post with a small story of something that happened to me today on my way back from the garden. I was cycling home, when I saw in the doorway to one of the apartment blocks a rather nice wicker trunk with a big sign saying ‘zu verschenken’ (i.e. it’s yours for free if you want it, mug). I stopped to look at it and think about whether or not I fancied taking it, but somehow my bike then started to lean at a rakish angle and before I knew it we both collapsed to the ground with a chaotic smash. Once I had managed to get back up and scrape my hair out of my eyes, I saw that all the stuff in my bike basket (a cardi, a tupperware full of seed packets, and some gardening gloves with birds on them) had spilled out in front of the ‘zu verschenken’ sign and some random dude had stopped to casually browse through my belongings to see if there was anything decent being given away. ‘Actually those are my things‘ I said, matter-of-factly, and then I piled them back into my basket, propped the wicker trunk on top of my bike and began wheeling myself away (with a slight limp).

First of all, yes, I am aware that this is maybe the twelfth falling-off-my-bike story there has been just this season. And no, I don’t know why I fall off so much, though I get asked why so often that it’s not like I don’t sometimes lie awake at night wondering what is wrong with me. I think it is a combination of the fact that I have a very poor sense of balance (see: me falling off the treadmill, me spilling 70% of all hot drinks I ever have to carry more than a metre and a half, me accidentally walking head-on into JOANNA LUMLEY) and that my bike is so heavy that if it ever starts to lean sideways I am unable to hold it up and so it drags me down with it like a squirrel on a falling tree. BUT that’s not the point of this post and also I don’t care what you think about the fact that I fall off my bike a lot what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger leave me alone.

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Piste again

nice but cold
I don’t want to brag, but: my actual human eyeballs were here looking at this.

What time would you usually be happy to get out of bed at the weekend, at the earliest? Imagine getting up an hour and a half earlier than that every day. Imagine then putting on two coats, and then wrapping bubblewrap around both legs.   Then, you put on your warmest slippers, wrap your lower legs in a layer of clingfilm, and then ratchet several metal clamps around each foot and ankle. Then you go and sit in a walk-in restaurant freezer and start pedalling on a stationary bike until you start to sweat despite the cold chilling your face and hands. And then you are allowed to play the excellent video game Driver for the rest of the day – as long as you keep up your pedalling. If you’ve never been skiing before, now you can imagine what it’s like.

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