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Die größten Unterschiede zwischen deutscher und englischer Grammatik

preliminary note

Even though German and English are quite similar, at least compared to German<->Cebuano (=Cathy's language),
there are some significant differences. I want to concentrate on these differences which caused most problems during the first time of Cathy's studies.

No Present Perfect tense in German Grammar

German grammar

English grammar

Ich lebe seit 6 Jahren in Köln.
Er wartet seit 12 Uhr auf dich.
Wie lange lernst du schon Deutsch?

I have been living in Cologne for 6 years.
He has been waiting for you since 12am.
How long have you learned German?

There is no tense in German to describe actions which started in the past and have continued on until now.
We just use the present tense (Präsens) instead.

No progressive/continuous form in German Grammar

German grammar

English grammar

Ich lese gerade ein Buch.
Ich arbeite gerade an einem neuen Projekt.
Als ich gestern ankam, wartete Cathy auf mich.

I am reading a book.
I am working at a new project.
When I arrived yesterday Cathy was waiting for me.

If you want to describe that somebody is doing something just in this moment you use in English the continuous form.
You find the progressive form in 5 tenses in English:

Fortunately, there is NO continuous form in German. We put one simple word to express
that we doing something just in this moment: gerade.

Often we even leave out "gerade" (especially in past tenses). You can understand the sentence nevertheless.

no negation with "do" in German

German grammar

English grammar

Ich gehe nicht zur Schule.
Sie mochte die Reise nicht.

I don't go to school.
She didn't like the journey.

The negation is one of the points where German is easier and less complicate than English.
To negate a main verb in German we just use nicht (not) instead of using an additional verb (do).

If i didn't knew anything about English grammar I would negate the following statement like this:

statement: I know you. (Ich kenne dich.)
negation: I know you not. (Ich kenne dich nicht.)

What do we need this "do" for?

no "do" for questions in German

German grammar

English grammar

Kennst du mich?
Woher kommst du?

Do you know me?
Where do you come from?

Questions is one further point where German is easier and less complicate than English.
To put a question (with a main verb*) you have to use do in English but no addtional verb in German
what makes German much easier.

If i didn't knew anything about English grammar I would translate the following questions like this:

German: Willst du ein Eis?
English: You want ice-cream?

I think everybody would understand the sentence without this additional "do".
So, what do we need it for?

* has exceptions too (to be ...)

biological and grammatical gender is not the same in German

German grammar

English grammar

Heute scheint die Sonne.
Ich liebe das Meer.
Der Tag war sehr schön.

The sun is shining today.
I love the ocean.
The day was very nice.

In English the biological and grammatical gender are the same. "Dead things" like in the examples above are all neutral.
In German, however, a "dead thing" can be male, female or neutral.

I noticed how confusing it is for English native speaker to use person pronouns like er (he) and sie (she) for dead things
because in English you always have to use "it".

dass-sentence vs. dative-construct

German grammar

English grammar

Ich will, dass er jetzt geht.
Ich möchte, dass sie meine Freunde kennenlernt.
Möchtest du, dass ich ein paar Bier besorge?

I want him to leave now.
I'd like her to meet my friends.
Do you want me to organize some beer?

This is one of the strangest English grammar construction for me as a German.
It's one of the rare cases where the German version os more logic than the English one.

In German we use a subordinate clause induced by a "dass" to express what we want other people to do.
In English, however, we use the dative case for the subject of the subordinate although the subject has to be in the nominative case.

A logic translation of the 1st example would be: "I want that he leaves now".

change of word order in subordinate sentences

German grammar

English grammar

Sie liest ein Buch.
Weißt du, ob sie ein Buch liest?

She reads a book.
Do you know if she reads a book?

In English there is a strict rule for the word order in statements.
S-P-O (subject - predicate - object).

This order doesn't change in subordinate sentences.
In German, however, the verb goes at the very end in subordinate sentences.

I noticed that it's quite difficult to form correct subordinate sentences
because you have to keep in mind the verb until you said all other parts and that can be quite confusing.

(Almost) no Wo-/Da-compounds in English

German grammar

English grammar

Wir sprechen oft darüber.
Ich träume davon.

We speak about it.
I dream about it.

Wo-/Da-compounds doesn't excists in English*. That's why I find it quite difficult to find an appropriate translation.
It's best just to translate it with "it".

Da-compounds are a kind of personal pronoun for dead things. They consits of "da" and the preposition
which belongs to the verb.

* exceptions are: therefore, thereby, therein, thereout, hereby, herein, here-on-out, whereby, wherein, wherefore

no ly-endings for adverbs in German

German grammar

English grammar

Er ist vorsichtig.
Er fährt sehr vorsichtig.

He is careful.
He drives very carefully.

short reminder
Adjectives (careful) describe a noun (he).
Adverbs (carefully) describe a verb (drive).

Whereas in English you have to add the additional ending "ly" for adverbs
there is no difference between adjectives and adverbs in German.

illogical negation of must in English

German grammar

English grammar

Du musst jetzt gehen.
Du musst nicht gehen.

You must go now.
You need not go.

German grammar

English grammar

Du darfst jetzt gehen.
Du darfst nicht gehen.

You may go now.
You must not go.

The verb must (=müssen) belongs to the modal verbs.
Müssen is used to describe that somebody must do someting (=a duty/command).

Must not, however, describes that something is forbidden. You are not allowed to do this.
The translaion of "must not" is thus "nicht dürfen" and NOT "nicht müssen".

German is more logical than English in this case.

to be continued ...

summary - documents for your folder

German grammar (theory, 5 pages)