BLL German/A1/Lesson 2

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German in bite-sized chunks - Level A1 - Lesson 2[edit]

Goal[edit]

In this lesson you will learn how to ask specific questions in German that will help you to get to know people. If you haven't yet done lesson 1, please do that one first.

Text[edit]

Two strangers, a couple, walk up to where Lisa Müller and John Smith are standing.
Stranger 1: "Guten Tag! Ich suche Lisa Müller. Sind Sie Lisa Müller?"
Lisa: "Ja, und Sie? Wie heißen Sie?"
Stranger 1: "Ich heiße Lutz Schmidt."
Stranger 2: "Ich heiße Christine Schmidt."
Lisa: "Angenehm."
Stranger 1: "Wo wohnen Sie?"
Stranger 2: "Woher kommen Sie? Kommen Sie aus Österreich?"
Lisa: "Nein, ich komme aus Deutschland und ich wohne hier in Bern."
Seeing that this isn't the Lisa Müller they were looking for, the couple excuses themselves and walks away.

New words[edit]

German English Comment(s)
suchen to look for, search
Sie / sie you (formal) / they When capitalised, this is the formal and polite way of saying "you". You should always address strangers as "Sie" Careful: when not capitalised, this word means "they".
ja yes
und and
wie how Question word, but also used in other sentences, such as "Look how beautiful this is!"
Angenehm (Sie kennen zu lernen) Nice (to get to know you). Often used abbreviated like this.
wo where
woher from where, whence
Österreich Austria The "reich" part means "empire".
nein no
hier here

Explanations[edit]

1. In this text, you saw "heißen" and other verb forms ending in -n. They are not the infinitive, they are 3rd person plural ("they") - but for regular verbs this form looks exactly like the infinitive. The pronoun "sie" is necessary in order to make it clear that this is not the infinitive, so you can't just leave out a pronoun in German, unlike in Italian for example. The 3rd person plural form is not just used in the sense of "they", but also, and more commonly, for the formal address "Sie", which corresponds to the French "Vous", Spanish "Usted", Italian "Lei", Dutch "U", Greek "εσείς" and Chinese "您"(approximately). There is no difference in pronunciation between the "Sie" used as a formal address and the "sie" meaning "they", but in writing you will find that the "Sie" of the formal address is spelled with a capital S. So "Sie heißen" means "you (formal) are called" and "sie heißen" means "they are called".

2. Making yes/no questions. In order to make a yes/no question, take a normal sentence, such as "Sie kommen aus Deutschland."(You come from Germany.), put the verb at the beginning and replace the dot with a question mark: "Kommen Sie aus Deutschland?"(Do you come from Germany?). This is different from English because you never have to add another word like "do", "does", "did" or the like.

3. Making other questions. In order to make any other question, do as above and then put a question word even before the verb. For example: "Sie wohnen in Berlin."(You live in Berlin.) -> "Wohnen Sie in Berlin?"(Do you live in Berlin?) -> "Wo wohnen Sie in Berlin?"(Where do you live in Berlin?).

Exercises[edit]

  • Use the words you have learned in this lesson as often as you can in the next few days. If you don't know any Germans or German-learning friends on whom you could try them out, at least call them up in your memory whenever you have a few minutes to spare and imagine how you would have a small conversation with a stranger in Germany. You could also use the Unilang VSL German forum in order to practise.

  • Odd man out: pick the word that is unlike the others, in some way.
    • was - wie - sie - wo
    • aber - aus - als - in
    • ich - sie - wie - Sie
    • Deutschland - China - Fremdenführer - Österreich
    • ich heiße - Sie wohnen - ich arbeite - Peter und Michael komme
Answer to this exercise
  • sie (not a question word);
  • aber (not a preposition);
  • wie (not a personal pronoun);
  • Fremdenführer (not a country);
  • Peter und Michael komme (not correct, should be "kommen")


  • Translate these snippets of dialogue:
    • A: "Hello! What's your name?" B: "Hello! My name is Paul Müller." A: "Nice to meet you."
    • A: "Where do you live?" B: "I live in Austria."
    • A: "Where do you come from?" B: "I come from Germany, and you?"
    • A: "Where do Maria and Thomas live?" B: "They live in Berlin."
    • A: "Do you work as a tourist guide?" B: "No, I work as a journalist (same in German)."
    • optional, involving Extension vocabulary: A: "Which languages are you learning?" B: "I am learning German and French."
Answers to this exercise
  • "Guten Tag! Wie heißen Sie?" - "Guten Tag! Ich heiße Paul Müller." - "Angenehm."
  • "Wo wohnen Sie?" - "Ich wohne in Österreich."
  • "Woher kommen Sie?" - "Ich komme aus Deutschland, und Sie?"
  • "Wo wohnen Maria und Thomas?" - "Sie wohnen in Berlin."
  • "Arbeiten Sie als Fremdenführer(in)?" - "Nein, ich arbeite als Journalist."
  • "Welche Sprachen lernen Sie?" - "Ich lerne Deutsch und Französisch."

Extension[edit]

If you'd like to learn more words that you can use without having to study another lesson, use this section in order to find them. Feel free to learn selectively, picking out words you consider useful for your situation or interesting. If you don't have the time, feel free to just skip this section. I will not require you to know any of these words in the next lessons.

Additional expressions: "Ich studiere Linguistik. Ich unterrichte Englisch."
New words: studieren (to study at university), Linguistik (linguistics), unterrichten (to teach).

Word lists (not complete) for use with this lesson's expressions:
(for lists of languages, countries or professions see the previous lesson)

List of study subjects

Question words
German English
wer who
was what
wann when'
wo where
wie how
warum why
wieviel how much
welche Sprache(n) which language(s)

Cultural information: German names[edit]

Just like English names, German names consist of one or several given names and a family name, which may be a combination of several family names separated by a hyphen. The given name is presented first and the family name afterwards.

The first given name is always gender-specific, but the second one may be a name traded down in the family and may thus indicate a different gender, e. g. there are men called "Markus Maria". It is often possible to get a rough estimate of a person's age based on their first name, because different first names were popular at different times and some sound very outdated nowadays.

Last names can be either the father's or the mother's last name or a combination of both (using a hyphen), since neither has to give up their name when marrying. In most cases it's still the father's name though.

A "von" in the family name indicates nobility among the ancestry, but this doesn't make any difference (with the exception of a very few individuals who are still observed by the rainbow press).

Very common family names include Müller (= Miller), Schmidt / Schmitt (= Smith), Meier / Meyer / Maier / Mayer and Schulze. These names also appear with an -s afterwards, which is the equivalent of the English -son, and as Latin translation (e. g. Molitor instead of Müller).