Lektion Sechs / Lesson Six

An Easy Lesson in Verbs

As a reward for memorizing so many verbs in Lektion Fünf, you were promised easy going the next time we looked at verbs. So there's just one rule to learn here, and it covers a lot in one easy bite.

All the plural verb forms use the infinitive form.

It's hard to understand how such a simple rule could occur in German. Personally, I think the author of the German language was probably exhausted after doing the singular verb forms — which we've already seen a sampling of — and just said, "The heck with the rest of them. Let's just use the infinitives. I've got to get working on those nineteen-syllable names for city officials."

I'm just guessing this is what she said, of course, but whatever the reason for the relative simplicity of the plural verbs, it seems to represent a serious lapse on her part. (Das ist ein SpaßThat is a joke!)

Just to prove that it's really true, though, have a look at the following table. It really is easy.

Plural verb form
der Infinitiv
ends with -en
1. person pl.
ends with -en
2. person pl.
ends with -en
3. person pl.
ends with -en
to have
wir haben
Sie haben
sie haben
to go, to walk
wir gehen
Sie gehen
sie gehen
to sleep
wir schlafen
Sie schlafen
sie schlafen

"BUT WAIT," I hear you saying. "What about the familiar form of the second person?"

You're right. It does exist and I omitted it. But you know what? Let's don't even go there. Think about this: How often, while you're a tourist in Germany, are you going to be talking to a group of people you know well enough to address familiarly? Sure, the second person plural familiar verbs are in all the textbooks and most of the phrase books, but it's knowledge you'll never use, and this is a crash course; we're in too big a hurry to bother with it.


20 easy words to learn (including some you already know)

der Garten garden Der Frosch lebt in meinem Garten.
The frog lives in my garden.
das Buch book Morgens schreibe ich in meinem Buch. Es is ein Tagebuch.
Mornings write I in my book. It is a diary.
jung young Ich bin nicht so jung wie meine Schwester.
I am not as young as my sister.
alt old Und du bist nicht so alt wie ich.
And you are not as old as I.
das Wasser water Das Wasser ist klar.
The water is clear.
das Feuer fire Das Feuer macht ein rotes Licht.
The fire makes a red light.
die Erde earth Die Erde ist der dritte Planet im Sonnensystem.
The earth is the third planet in the solar system.
die Luft air Feuer, Wasser, Erde, Luft sind die vier Elemente.
Fire, water, earth and air are the four elements.
lernen to learn Lernst du Deutsch sprechen?
Learn you German to speak?
rechts right Gehen Sie rechts.
Go to the right.
das Papier paper Ein Buch ist aus Papier.
A book is [made] out [of] paper.
hier here Warum sind Sie hier?
Why are you here?
der Kaffee
die Tasse
Bitte, eine Tasse Kaffee.
(Translation not available.)
der Tee tea

Man trinkt Tee aus einer Teetasse.
You drink (one drinks) tea from a teacup.

die Milch
die Kuh

Täglich gibt meine Kuh vier Liter Milch
Daily gives my cow four liters of milk.
lang long Die Ende kommt nach lange Zeit.
The end comes after a long time.
kurz short Die Reise nach Mannheim is kurz.
The trip to Mannheim is short.
letzt last

Das lezte Wort das wir lernen is das zwanzigste.
The last word that we learn is the twentieth.

What makes cognates easier to see is understanding the "consonant drift" that has taken place as English and German evolved separately. You will see examples in almost every phrase you learn. Think of the consonants as falling into several families:

D-family: D - T - Th (doesn't exist in German) - S - Z

B-family: B - P - PH/F - V - W

G-family: G - CH - K

Looking at many cognates, it's easy to see the how pronunciation in the two languages has become blurred within each family; for instance, in the D-family, our th is pronounced by Germans as d or t, It's in the pronunciation where this drift began. But eventually it was codified in the spelling, and Wasser became water, Hund became hound, kurz became curt.

Use your understanding of this concept to make it easier to find cognates, because cognates themselves are the key to rapidly expanding your vocabulary.

Ein romantischer Schloß, eine traurige Geschichte
A romantic castle, a sad tale

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German poet and thinker, wrote his poem "Geistesgruß," which Schubert later set to music, while contemplating Lahneck Castle, pictured above. See if you can find familiar words; there are also some cognates you could probably guess the meaning of.


The Ghost's Greeting

Hoch auf dem alten Turme steht
Des Helden edler Geist,
Der, wie das Schiff vorübergeht,
Es wohl zu fahren heißt.
High up on the ancient tower stands
The hero's noble ghost,
Which, whenever a boat passes by,
Bids it a fair journey.
"Sieh, diese Senne war so stark,
Dies Herz so fest und wild,
Die Knochen voll von Rittermark,
Der Becher angefüllt;  
"Behold, this muscle was once strong,
This heart so firm and savage,
These bones full of a Knight's marrow,
The cup overflowing;
"Mein halbes Leben stürmt ich fort,
Verdehnt' die Hälft in Ruh,
Und du, du Menschenschifflein dort,
Fahr immer, immer zu!"
"Half my life I stormed forth,
I spent the other half in peace;
And you, you little man-made boat,
Journey ever, ever forth!"


A tragic event unfolded in this tower in the mid-19th century, during the visit of the Dubb family from Scotland. Seventeen-year-old Idilia explored the tower, climbing the rickety wooden stairs to see what lay above. Suddenly the stairs collapsed behind her, stranding her high within the tower's three-foot-thick walls. She was unhurt, but her cries went unheard, and her whereabouts were unknown until nine years later, when her remains, and her remarkable sketchbook, were found at last by workers doing repairs.

Some people believe this story to have been an urban legend almost from the time of its first telling. Others believe it to be true as we have told it, though there are later embellishments which cast doubt on the whole. Do a Web search on Idilia Dubb, then decide for yourself.

Please add your comments about this lesson, this page, the Web site, or anything at all you'd like to say (preferably in German!) to me or the rest of the Phamily who stop by here. Your post will become a part of this page.

Ich heiße:

  (My name is:)

Ich möchte sagen:  

  (I want to say:)

Meine addresse: