German/Lesson 3

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Die Zahlen ~ The Numbers

Lektion 3 ~ Zählen von 1 bis 12[edit | edit source]

Counting in any language is a valuable skill best learned early on. In German as in English, there are both cardinal (counting) and ordinal (place or order) numbers, and number formation is similar in that the first twelve numbers are unique. Above twelve, numbers are formed by combination. For example, 13 is dreizehn and 14 is vierzehn. Higher numbers will be the subject of later lessons.

Note in the table how ordinals are formed from the cardinals in German by adding te. 'Ten' becomes 'tenth' in English; zehn become zehnte in German. As in English, there are several nonconforming variants: erste, dritte, and siebte.

 cardinal numbers   ordinal numbers 
one  eins  1st  erste 













































Learning the German words for the numbers provides an excellent opportunity to practice German pronunciations. Following are some helpful hints for English speakers attempting to count in German. A "dental sound" is made by moving the tongue into the back of the upper teeth—almost as if the word started with a 't'. A "gutteral sound" comes from deep in the throat. Also, remember, in words of more than one syllable, the emphasis is on the first syllable. final consonants are cut off quickly in German, not drawn out as in many English words. English speakers might call this being curt or brusque with each word.

eins say 'eyen-zah' but drop the 'ah'; 'z' is between an 's' and 'z' zwei sounds like 'zveye'; the 'w' is between a 'v' and a 'w' drei sounds like "dry", but with dental 'd' and roll the 'r' vier sound is between "fear" and 'fee-yahr' fünf say 'foon-fah' without the 'ah'; very slight 'r' after the 'ü' sechs sounds like "sex", but with a more dental leading 's' sieben sounds like "see Ben" (use dental 's') acht sounds like 'ahkt'; the 'ch' is guttural neun sounds like "loin" with an 'n' zehn sounds like the name, "Zane", but the 'z' is more dental elf sounds pretty much like "elf" (the German 'e' is a little higher) zwölf sounds like 'zwolf', but the 'o' is closer to 'u' in 'up'

Audio: OGG (385KB)

Grammatik 3-1 ~ Telling time (hours)[edit | edit source]

Knowing the numbers from 1 to 12, you can now begin asking and telling time in German.

Grazer Uhrturm
Der Uhrturm von Graz

Gespräch 3-1[edit | edit source]

Zwei Jungen, Heinrich und Karl, sind Freunde. Sie begegnen sich eines Nachmittags.
  • Heinrich:  Karl. Wie geht's?
  • Karl:        Hallo!
  • Heinrich:  Willst du spielen? Ich habe einen Ball.
  • Karl:        Wie spät ist es?
  • Heinrich:  Es ist ein Uhr.
  • Karl:        Dann kann ich bis zwei Uhr spielen.
  • Heinrich:  Das ist gut. Wir spielen eine Stunde lang!

Asking for the time is accomplished by the sentence: Wie spät ist es? ("How late is it?"). The answer places the hour in the line Es ist ____ Uhr ("It is __ o'clock"), substituting the correct cardinal value (except ein is used instead of eins). One could also ask: Wieviel Uhr ist es? (not used very often anymore) or respond Es ist eins or Es ist drei, etc.—which may be imprecise, unless the time is close to the hour. The following sentences also relate to telling time:

Er fragt nach der Uhrzeit. He asks the time.
Sie begegnen sich eines Nachmittags. They meet each other one afternoon.
Es ist halb vier. It is half past three (3:30).
Es ist Viertel nach zwölf. It is a quarter after twelve (12:15).
Es ist Viertel vor elf. It is a quarter to eleven (10:45).
Es ist drei Viertel elf.* It is a quarter to eleven (10:45).
Es ist fünf vor neun. It is five minutes to (until) nine (08:55).
Es ist fünf Minuten vor neun. It is five minutes to (until) nine (08:55).
Es ist zehn nach elf. It is ten minutes after eleven (11:10).
Es ist zehn Minuten nach elf. It is ten minutes after eleven (11:10).
Es ist acht nach. It is eight minutes after the last full hour (??:08).
Es ist zehn vor. It is ten minutes to (until) the next full hour (??:50).
Es ist drei durch.* It is between three and four (03:??).
Es ist elf Uhr drei It is three minutes after eleven (11:03).
Es ist elf Uhr und drei Minuten It is three minutes after eleven (11:03).
* this is only regional - many Germans may not understand

Knowing how to express the quarter, half, and three quarter hours will allow you to give the time more precisely. We will, of course, revisit this subject. Once you know how to count beyond twelve, the hour's division into 60 minutes can be expressed. Also, Germans (like most Europeans) utilize what is known in America as "military time" or a 24-hour clock.

Vokabeln 3-1[edit | edit source]

Also included in the vocabulary for Lesson 3 are the ordinal and cardinal numbers 1 through 12 from Lektion 3 above.

der Ball                   ball
der Junge, die Jungen      boy, boys
das Lernen                 learning, study
der Nachmittag             afternoon
die Stunde                 hour
die Uhr                    watch (timepiece); also "o'clock"
der Uhrturm                clock tower
die Uhrzeit                time, time of day
das Viertel                quarter
die Zahl, die Zahlen       number, numbers
bis zwei Uhr               until two o'clock
das ist gut                very well (lit.: "that is good")
eines Nachmittags          one (unspecified) afternoon
ich kann... spielen        I can play
es ist                     it is
willst du ...?             do you want ...? (familiar form)
fragen                     ask (a question) 
spielen                    play
zählen                     count
dann                       then
halb                       half, halfway to
nach                       about, after
spät                       late
vor                        before, until
zu                         to

Grammatik 3-2 ~ Introduction to Nouns[edit | edit source]

A noun is a fundamental part of speech, occurring in sentences in two different ways: as subjects (performers of action), or objects (recipients of action). As a generality, a noun is the name of a "person, place, or thing". Nouns are classified into proper nouns (e.g. "Janet"), common nouns (e.g. "girl"), and pronouns (e.g. "she" and "which"). A proper noun (also called proper name) is a noun which denotes a unique entity. The meaning of a proper noun, outside of what it references, is frequently arbitrary or irrelevant (for example, someone might be named Tiger Smith despite being neither a tiger nor a smith). Because of this, they are often not translated between languages, although they may be transliterated — for example, the German surname "Knödel" becomes "Knoedel" in English, as opposed to "Dumpling". Proper nouns are capitalized in English and all other languages that use the Latin alphabet; this is one way to recognize them. However, in German both proper and common nouns are capitalized (as are certain formal pronouns; see Grammatik 2-3).

Grammatik 3-3 ~ Gender of Nouns[edit | edit source]

We have seen evidence of word gender in the pronouns we have been encountering; notably 'he', 'she', and 'it' in English and er, sie, and es in German. Just like many other languages (but not English), German has genders for nouns as well. Noun gender is indicated by the definite article, which should always be learned as part of the noun. For this reason, nouns presented in each lesson's Vokabeln include the gender appropriate definite article.

Definite Articles[edit | edit source]

The definite article (bestimmter Artikel) is equivalent to an English 'the', and the three basic gender forms of definite articles in German are as follows:







To say 'the book' in German, you would say das Buch, because Buch is a neuter noun. To say 'the man' in German, you would say der Mann, because Mann is a masculine noun. To say 'the woman' in German, you would say die Frau, because Frau is a feminine noun.

Noun gender does not always derive from actual gender where gender might be applicable. For example, 'the boy' is der Junge (masculine); but 'the girl' is das Mädchen (neuter). Also, nouns that have no inherent gender are not necessarily neuter. From this lesson: 'the watch or time piece' is die Uhr ('feminine').

Because German is generally more structured than English, it is important when learning German nouns to always learn them with their gender correct definite article; and in the Vokabeln nouns are always given with their associated definite article. That is, you must memorize the word for 'book' in German as das Buch, not simply Buch. Not just definite articles, but indefinite articles and adjectives have endings that must match the gender of the noun they precede. Using the wrong gender can alter the meaning of a German sentence, so in forming a proper sentence with Buch, you will need to know that it is a neuter noun.

Indefinite Articles[edit | edit source]

In addition to the definite articles—"the" in English and der-words in German—discussed above, both languages have indefinite articles (unbestimmter Artikel). Indefinite articles precede nouns in the same way that definite articles do, but convey a general or indefinite sense. These are "a" or "an" in English. Thus, 'the book' or das Buch refers to a definite or specific book, whereas 'a book' or ein Buch is indefinite about which book is referred to. Indefinite articles also have gender as shown here:










Here are some examples of indefinite articles (underlined) used in German sentences:

Ich habe einen Ball. I have a ball.
Heute lesen wir ein Buch. Today we read a book.
Markus trifft einen Studenten auf der Straße. Mark meets a student on the street.
Die Geschäftsleute haben eine Antwort. The business people have an answer.
Ein Freund spielt Ball mit ihm. A friend plays ball with him.

Why, you ask, are there words like einen in some sentences above—a spelling that does not appear in the gender table? The tables for both the definite and indefinite articles above are simplified at this stage, giving only articles in the nominative case (applied to words that are subjects of verbs). In the very next lesson you will start to address all the other cases in German. However, the nominative case is the one used to signify the gender of a noun, as in our Vokabeln.

Vokabeln 3-2[edit | edit source]

das Buch                   book
die Frau                   woman
der Knödel                 dumpling
das Mädchen                (young) girl 
der Mann                   man
lesen                      read

Übersetzung 3-1[edit | edit source]

Translate the following sentences into German:

  1. I am reading until ten o'clock.
  2. It is nine thirty.
  3. It is a quarter to ten.
  4. Cathy is a student at the university.
  5. She meets Mark on the street.
  6. Henry has a ball.
  7. The girl is a friend.
  8. Mr. Smith has a question.

(edit template) Level II Lessons (discussion)

II.0 Introduction

Section II.A: II.1 Einfache Gespräche II.2 Fremde und Freunde II.3 Die Zahlen II.4 Zürich II.5 Wiederholung

Section II.B: II.6 Die Wohnung II.7 Mathematik II.8 Mein, Dein, Sein II.9 Einkaufen gehen II.10 Wiederholung

Section II.C: II.11 Verbtempus und Wortstellung II.12 Fragewörter II.13 Mein Arm schmerzt II.14 Tiergarten II.15 Wiederholung