German/Level I/Wie heißt du? (2. Teil)
Lesson I.2: Wie heißt du? (2. Teil)
The dialogue of this lesson is a conversation between two persons: Franz and Mr. Schwarz. While Franz uses the formal Sie to address Mr. Schwarz, the latter uses the informal du to address Franz. We also discuss some grammar: subject pronouns and some important verbs in the present tense.
In this short dialogue Mr. Schwarz uses the informal form you – du. while Franz uses the formal translation of you – Sie. When listening to the dialogue, try to find out how the word Sie is pronounced.
|Vocabulary: What's your name? (2nd Part) — Wie heißt du? (2. Teil)|
|Good morning.||Guten Morgen.|
|You are... (formal)||Sie sind ...|
|Are you...? (formal)||Sind Sie ...?|
|I am late.||Ich bin spät dran.|
|See you later.||Bis später.|
Sie and du
Why is Franz using the formal form of you — Sie while Mr. Schwarz is using the informal of you — du?
First of all you should realize that Franz addresses Mr. Schwarz with his last name while Mr. Schwarz addresses Franz with his first name. This is probably the most important rule: if you (would) address someone with his or her last name, you should use the formal Sie. On the other hand, if you are using the first name, you should use du. Anything else would sound funny.
Sie is the polite form. It is used when speaking with foreign people, and in order to testify respect against the interlocutor, for people you would address with Mr and Mrs.
So, when do Germans address other people with their first name and say du?
- Some cases are very clear: children, relatives, and friends are always addressed with du. (Mr. Schwarz uses du because Franz is still a child. Otherwise Mr. Schwarz would either use Sie or Franz would also use du.)
- Students (at universities etc.) usually say du to other students and everyone else who is of their age or younger.
- The situation is not so clear for colleagues in companies. Fortunately, there is another rule for grown-ups: any two grown-ups address each other in the same way, either with du or Sie, but never does only one of them use du and the other Sie. Thus, if in doubt, you can just copy how the other person addresses you.
- In all other situations you should use Sie. If a German thinks that it would be more appropriate to say du, he or she will be happy to suggest to use du. On the other hand, it is almost always considered impolite to go from du to Sie; thus, you shouldn't put someone in a position where he or she wants to suggest to use Sie instead of du.
- Note that mostly the polite form is easier to use. You just have to learn a few forms of auxiliary and modal verbs. The main verb is usually the infinitive. With the familiar address you unfortunately have to consider many more irregular verbs.
A noun is a word that describes a thing or being, e.g. "apple", "woman", "man", etc. Pronouns are the little words that refer to previously mentioned nouns, e.g. "it", "she", "he", or even "we", "him", etc.
The subject of a sentence is the noun or pronoun that the sentence is about. Usually it is the most active thing or being of the sentence. For example, in the sentence "The woman ate an apple.", both "woman" and "apple" are nouns, but "woman" is the subject of the sentence because the sentence is about the action performed by the woman. (If you are curious: "apple" is the direct object of the sentence.)
If we replace the nouns of the example by pronouns, the sentence becomes: "She ate it." In this example, "she" and "it" are pronouns. The subject of this sentence is the pronoun "she" and therefore this kind of pronoun is called a subject pronoun.
Now that you know about the English subject pronouns, here is a table of them with their German counterparts. Note that you corresponds to three different words in German, depending on whether you address one or more persons and whether you are using a more formal or more familiar way of addressing them.
|Grammar: Subject Pronouns — Subjekt-Pronomina|
|2nd person||you||du, Sie*|
|3rd person||he, she, it||er, sie, es|
|2nd person||you||ihr, Sie*|
*Sie is the formal (polite) version of du and ihr.
To say the name of someone or something you can use to be called — heißen. You have already seen some forms of the verb heißen. Here is a more systematic table with all the forms in the present tense. Note that the subject pronouns are capitalized because they start the sentences.
*Remember, the formal way to ask someone's name is to ask Wie heißen Sie?
Note: There are possessive pronouns (e.g. "my", "your", "his", her", ...) in German, they just don't apply here. For instance, native speakers usually don't say Mein Name ist ... (My name is...).
Verbs are the words that describe the action of a sentence, e.g. (to) run, (to) call, (to) be, etc. Conjugation refers to changing the form of a verb depending on the subject of a sentence. For example, the verb to be – sein has several different forms: (I) am..., (you) are..., (he) is..., etc. Most English verbs, however, have only two forms in the present tense, e.g., (I/you/we/they) run and (he/she/it) runs. German verbs, on the other hand, have usually several forms in the present tense.
You have already learned the forms of one German verb: to be called – heißen.
*The form of verbs for you (polite) — Sie is exactly the same as for the plural, 3rd person pronoun they — sie.
Two extremely common verbs are to be — sein and to have — haben. They are conjugated like this:
|Verb: to be — sein|
|singular||1st person||I am||ich bin|
|2nd person||you are||du bist|
|3rd person||he/she/it is||er/sie/es ist|
|plural||1st person||we are||wir sind|
|2nd person||you are||ihr seid|
|3rd person||they are||sie sind*|
*Don't forget that the form for you (polite) — Sie is the same as for the plural, 3rd person pronoun they — sie.
|Verb: to have — haben|
|singular||1st person||I have||ich habe|
|2nd person||you have||du hast|
|3rd person||he/she/it has||er/sie/es hat|
|plural||1st person||we have||wir haben|
|2nd person||you have||ihr habt|
|3rd person||they have||sie haben*|
*This is also the form for you (polite) — Sie.
The test consists of three parts: grammar, vocabulary, and translation. The grammar part is about conjugation; i.e., different forms of verbs for different subject pronouns. The vocabulary and translation problems are all from English to German because this is what you have to learn if you want to communicate in German.
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