Learn German - Lesson 9 - Grammar:

Eine fahrt in die berge

(photo by   Stephan A. used under terms of Creative Commons license.)




I. Three 'degrees' of intensity


Three different degrees of intensity are expressed by adjectives and adverbs. We noted this in Lesson 4, where the adverbs gern, lieber and am liebsten were discussed. The same difference in degree is shown by a number of adjective and adverb forms occurring in the present lesson:


Es ist nicht so kalt wie gestern.

It's not as cold as yesterday.

Jetzt können wir schneller fahren.

Now we can go faster.

Welche Jahreszeit ist am schönsten?

What season is the nicest one?


II. Positive, Comparative and Superlative Forms


The forms of adjectives and adverbs corresponding to the different degrees of intensity are called POSITIVE, COMPARATIVE and SUPERLATIVE. Note the similarity of German and English forms:
























The suffixes -er and -est (or -st) are added to the basic, or positive form of the adjective or adverb to make the comparative and superlative.


In addition to this some monosyllabic German adjectives and adverbs change or 'umlaut' their stem vowels in the comparative and superlative forms.


1. Relatively few adjectives and adverbs have umlaut in their comparative and superlative forms, but those which are umlauted are of rather frequent occurrence. Here is a complete list of the adjectives and adverbs encountered up to this point in which umlaut takes place. A few show other irregularities which will be pointed out later.












2. English also uses the words more and most to indicate comparative and superlative degree, especially with words of several syllables. German however, uses ONLY the suffixes:










more practical

more complicated




most practical

most complicated



3. The superlative suffix is usually -st, but it is -est after s (heiss-est), t (kält-est) or z (kürz-est). It may be either -st or -est after vowels (neu-st, neu-est).


III. Stem-lengtheners versus Endings


The comparative and superlative suffixes are NOT ENDINGS. They are STEM-LENGTHENERS, to which endings are added when the comparative and superlative forms occur as attributive adjectives, i.e. as part of an adjective-noun or specifier-adjective-noun phrase:


Die Zugspitze ist der höch-st-e Berg Deutschlands.

The Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany.

Ich habe einen dick-er-en Pullover an.

I have a heavier sweater on.


If you remember that STEM-LENGTHENER and ENDING are BOTH present in some phrases you will not be confused by such examples as the following:


Das ist ein schwer-er Wagen.

(Ending only)

Das ist ein schwer-er-er Wagen.

(Stem-lengthener + ending)

Das ist unser neu-er Teppich.

(Ending only)

Das ist unser neu-st-er Teppich.

(Stem-lengthener + ending)

Hier ist eine teuer-e Lampe.

(Full stern with ending)

Hier ist eine teur-er-e Lampe.

(Short stern with stern lengthener + ending)


IV. Predicate Adjectives and Adverbs


Positive and comparative forms occurring as predicate adjectives or adverbs have no endings. Superlative forms, however, occur in a special predicate phrase:


Dieses Haus ist klein.

This house is small.

Dieses Haus ist klein-er.

This house is smaller.

Dieses Haus ist am klein-st-en.

This house is [the] smallest.

Dieses Haus ist das klein-st-e Haus von allen.

This is the smallest house of all.

Unser Wagen fährt schnell.

Our car is going fast.

Unser Wagen fährt schnell-er.

Our car is going faster.

Unser Wagen fährt am schnell-st-en.

Our car is going [the] fastest.


The superlative of most adjectives never appears in the stem form only. When it is attributive it has the regular adjective endings; when it is a predicate adjective or an adverb it has the special phrase form. Note that English also very often uses a phrase with 'the'.


V. Irregular Comparison


A few adjectives and adverbs are quite irregular in their comparative and superlative formation. The following is a complete list of those encountered up to this point:

























VI. The complete comparison


1. A complete comparison may contain a comparative form of the adjective or adverb and a phrase introduced by als 'than' or, in the negative, nicht so plus the positive form of the adjective or adverb and a phrase introduced by wie 'as'.


Der Herbst ist länger und wärmer als hier.

Thee fall is longer and warmer than [it is] here.

Heute ist es nicht so kalt wie gestern.

Today it's not as cold as yesterday.

Hier ist weniger Verkehr als unten im Tal.

There's less traffic here than down in the valley.

Hier ist nicht so viel Verkehr wie unten im Tal.

There's not as much traffic here as down in the valley.



Note that phrases following als and wie have the same case forms as the phrases with which they are being compared and prepositions are repeated:


Der Vater ist natürlich älter als sein Sohn.

(Both are Nominative forms)

Der Sohn ist nicht so alt wie sein Vater.

(Both are Nominative forms)

Ich trinke lieber diesen Wein als den französischen.

(Both are Accusative forms)

Sie kommen schneller mit dem Auto als mit der Strassenbahn in die Stadt.

(preposition mit occurs twice)


2. A complete comparison may also contain a superlative form plus a genitive form or a phrase introduced by the prepositions in or von:


Die Zugspitze ist der höchste Berg Deutschlands.

The Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany ('Germany's highest mountain' ).

Der Everest ist der höchste Berg in der ganzen Welt.

Everest is the highest mountain in the whole world.

Von allen Städten Amerikas hat Washington das heisseste und feuchteste Wetter in den Sommermonaten.

Of all the cities in America Washington has the hottest and most humid weather in the summer months.







I. Quantity adjectives in German have endings only under certain conditions.


1. Viel 'much, many' and wenig 'not much, few' have endings when they occur in the plural:


Er kennt viele Deutsche, aber er spricht nur mit wenigen.

He knows many Germans but he only

talks to a few.


2. Viel and wenig have endings when they occur AFTER A SPECIFIER:


Mir gefallen die vielen eingebauten Schränke.

I like the many built-in cupboards.

Mit seinem wenigen Geld kann er sich kein Auto leisten.

With the little money he has he can't afford a car.


3. Viel and wenig usually DO NOT have endings in the singular when they occur WITHOUT A SPECIFIER:


Haben Sie viel Regen?

Do you have much rain?

Bei uns zu Hause gibt es leider wenig Schnee im Winter.

Where we live there's not much snow in the winter, unfortunately.

Ich habe nicht viel Zeit.

I don't have much time.


However, there is one fixed expression where an ending occurs: Vielen Dank.



II. Comparative forms of the quantity adjectives do not have endings.


The comparative forms mehr 'more' and weniger 'less' NEVER have endings:


Sie hat sicher mehr Geld als ich.

She certainly has more money than I.

Hat sie weniger Zeit als der Konsul?

Does she have less time than the consul?

Wir haben hier weniger Verkehr als in der Stadt.

We have less traffic here than in town.

Er hat mehr Bücher als ich.

He has more books than I.

In Deutschland gibt es weniger Tankstellen als in Amerika.

In Germany there are fewer gas stations than in America.





I. In Lessons 2 and 3 we noted that the verbs dürfen, können, müssen, sollen and wollen and the special forms möchte and möchten occur together with an infinitive in German to form a verb phrase. These verbs, which help to make up verb phrases, are called AUXILIARY VERBS. We have now encountered one more such verb. Notice the similarity in the way it is used.



Jetzt können wir wieder etwas schneller fahren.

Now we can go a little faster again.

Ich werde mir meinen Mantel anziehen.

I’m going to put my coat on.

Wir müssen eben den Reifen wechseln.

We’ll just have to change the tire.

Inzwischen werde ich ein paar Aufnahmen machen.

Meanwhile I'll take a couple of pictures.

Es wird wahrscheinlich bald regnen.

It's probably going to rain soon.



The verb phrase consisting of a form of the auxiliary werden plus an infinitive is used to refer to future time and is known as the FUTURE PHRASE.


II. Future time is indicated by other devices in German also.


1. The Present Tense form of the verb, often with a time expression:



In welches Geschäft gehen Sie?

What store are you going to?

Wo kommt die Stehlampe hin?

Where does the floor lamp go?

In zehn Minuten sind Sie da.

You'll be there in ten minutes.

Hoffentlich kommt das Frachtgut bald an.

I hope the freight arrives soon.

Ich fahre nachher dort vorbei.

I'm driving by there in a little while.


Note that English also may use a Present Tense form of the verb ('arrives'), but just as frequently uses a phrase consisting of 'will' or "'ll" plus an infinitive, or a phrase with the '-ing' form of the verb.


2. A verb phrase with the auxiliaries sollen or wollen, often with a time expression:


Ich will gleich mal anrufen.

I’ll just give them a quick call.

Wo sollen wir den kleinen Tisch hinstellen?

Where shall we put the little table?

Wir wollen essen gehen.

We’re planning to go and eat.

Soll ich auflegen?

Shall I hang up?

Ich will nach Schwabing fahren.

I’m planning to go to Schwabing.

Er soll in zehn Minuten kommen.

He's supposed to be coming in ten minutes.

Wie lange wollen Sie bleiben?

How long do you intend to stay?



Notice however that although future time is indicated in every case, something else is also implied. The sentences with wollen indicate the desire, plan or intention of the subject. The sentences with sollen express a desire, intention or opinion of someone other than the subject of the sentence, i.e., someone 'wants' or 'expects' the subject to do something, or, in questions, the subject is inquiring about the desire or expectation of another person with regard to his contemplated action.




Jeder 'each, every' should be added to the list of der-type specifiers presented in Lesson 3. It has the same endings and functions in the same way as der, dieser and welcher.


Jeder deutsche photoapparat kostet in Deutschland weniger als in Amerika.

Every German camera costs less in Germany than in America.





I. Noun phrases in time expressions are of two main types: prepositional phrases and independent noun phrases.


1. Prepositional phrases with an and in have the dative form; prepositional phrases with für have the accusative form:


Kommen Sie doch mal am nächsten Sonntag zu uns!

Why don't you come to see us next Sunday?

In den Sommermonaten ist es heisser als hier.

In the summer months it's hotter than it is here.

Ich muss in einer halben Stunde meine Frau abholen.

I have to pick up my wife in half an hour.

Wollen Sie nicht Platz nehmen? Danke, aber nur für einen Augenblick.

Won't you sit down? Thanks, but only for aminute.


2. Independent noun phrases usually have the accusative form:


Fahren Sie jeden Sommer ins Gebirge?

Do you go to the mountains every summer?

Letzten Sommer waren wir an der Ostsee.

Last summer we were on the Baltic.

Ich bin den ganzen Nachmittag in meinem Büro.

I’ll be in my office all afternoon.


II. The names of the months are nearly always preceded by a form of the specifier in German. All are der-words.


Ein Wochenende im Juli.

A weekend in July.

Der Mai ist immer schön.

May is always lovely.

Wir fahren im August nach Deutschland.

We're going to Germany in August.



Here is the complete list:


der Januar

der Februar

der März

der April

der Mai

der Juni

der Juli

der August

der September

der Oktober

der November

der Dezember