German Lessons | German Grammar

Lesson 3: Essen

Dialogue

German Dialogue • Essen
I’m hungry! Ich habe Hunger!
FranzHallo, Greta! Wie geht’s?
GretaSehr gut. Ich bin hungrig.
FranzIch auch. Möchtest du etwas essen?
GretaJa!
In der Gaststätte
GretaIch möchte Salat, Brot und Wasser.
FranzHast du jetzt keinen Hunger?
GretaDoch, ich habe großen Hunger. Was bekommst du?
FranzIch bekomme ein Stück Apfelstrudel und einen Eisbecher.
GretaWarum das? Du sollst eine Bratwurst nehmen.
FranzNein, ich bin zufrieden. Ich habe keinen großen Hunger.
GretaAch so, dann ist das genug.
Nach zwanzig Minuten
GretaDiese Gaststätte ist schrecklich! Ich möchte etwas zu essen!
FranzWir gehen!

Food!

German Vocabulary • Essen
Food das Lebensmittel
die Früchte (das Obst) – fruitsdas Gemüse – vegetables
die Bananebananadie Möhre, die Karottecarrot
die Kirschecherryder Spinatspinach
die Zitronelemondie Zwiebelonion
die Erdbeerestrawberrydie Erbsenpeas
die Orangeorangedie Kartoffelpotato
der Apfelappledie Tomatetomato
die Traubegrapeder Spargelasparagus
die Grapefruitgrapefruitdie Bohnenbeans
das Fleisch – meatdie Meeresfrüchte – shellfish, seafood
das Lammfleischlambdie Kammmuschelscallop
der Truthahnturkeydie Krabbecrab
der Schinkenhamdie Garneleshrimp
das Schweinefleischporkder Fisch – fish
das Hähnchenchickendie Sardellenanchovies
das Rindfleischbeefder Lachssalmon
die Wurstsausageder Aaleel
die Molkereiprodukte – dairy productsOther Foods
die Butterbutterdie Suppesoup
der Käsecheesedie FrittenFrench fries
die Milchmilkdie Pizzapizza
der Joghurtyogurtder Hamburgerhamburger
die Nachspeise – dessertder Senfmustard
das Bonboncandydas Brotbread
die Schokoladechocolatedie Butterbutter
die Tortetartder Salatsalad
der Kuchencakeder Pfefferpepper
der Apfelstrudelapple strudelder Reisrice
der (Apfel)Kuchen(apple) piedas Salzsalt
das Eisice creamder Zuckersugar
der Eisbecherbowl of ice creamdie Konfitürejam

Accusative Case

As you know from the Intro, in German, there are four cases. Three are used often. The first, Nominative Case, you learned in Lesson 1. It covers the subject, and the predicate noun (in “He is (noun).”, (noun) is the predicate noun). The second, the Accusative Case, you will learn now. It covers the direct object and the object of several prepositions. The third, the Dative Case will be taught later on. It covers the indirect object and the object of many other prepositions.

The object of a sentence will be in accusative case. In, “You hurt me.”, ‘me’ would be accusative.

Note: The Accusative Case and Dative Case are identical in English; that’s why German has one case extra.

Articles

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Definite Articledendiedasdie
Indefinite Articleeineneineein-eine*

* The indefinite article for plurals is non-existant. However related words, such as possessives and the kein- words that you will learn later this lesson, will end in eine for plurals.

In the articles, the memory hook for accusative case is “Der goes to den (pronounced “dane” ) and the rest stay the same.” The masculine indefinite article goes to einen, and everything else stays the same there. Therefore above, der Hamburger goes to den Hamburger and ein Hamburger goes to einen Hamburger when the hamburger is the direct object, such as in “Er hat einen Hamburger.” (“He has a hamburger.”)

If you are getting confused, it’s fine. This topic is one of the hardest for English speakers to grasp. Here are some solutions:

To find out the case of something, first find the verb. The verb rules the sentence. Everything revolves around it. Next you find the subject of the sentence. The subject is the thing/person that is doing the verb. The subject is always in the Nominative Case, so it takes on the der, die, das, die, or ein, eine, ein.

Now you look back at the verb. If it is a being verb (am, are, is, etc.), the next noun after the verb is the predicate noun. An easy way to figure this out is to write an equation. If the verb can be replaced with an equals sign (=), then the following noun is a predicate noun. If it can’t be replaced by an equals sign, refer to the next paragraph. The predicate noun is also always in the Nominative Case, so the same rules apply to it.

Ich bin ein Junge.
Sie ist eine Frau.

If the verb of the sentence is an action verb (playing, throwing, making, eating), find what the subject is doing the verb to. For example, if the verb is “makes” (macht), you look for what is being made. That is the direct object. The direct object is always in the Accusative Case, so it takes on the den, die, das, die, or einen, eine, ein.

Sie haben den Cheeseburger.
Habt ihr einen Salat?

The indefinite articles, when you just look at their endings, select e, -, e for nominative case, and en, e, -, e for accusative.

Remember, between nominative and accusative, the only third-person change is in the masculine form.

Pronouns

The pronouns experience a much bigger change than the articles. This is also true in English, as the articles (a, an, the) do not change ever, but I goes to me, we goes to us, etc.

Not everything is the same, though. While me is mich and us is uns, the second and third persons undergo different changes. In third person, as in the articles, the only change is in masculine singular. Following the “der goes to den” rule, er goes to ihn when in the accusative case.

The second person in English never changes. In German, du goes to dich and ihr goes to euch. Sie, the formal version of either, stays the same. Remember, Sie (2nd person formal) and sie (3rd person plural) only differ in their meanings and the fact that the former is capitalized and the latter is not. This stays true throughout German grammar.

Here is a tabular representation of the above.

PersonSingularPlural
EnglishGermanEnglishGerman
1stmemichusuns
2ndyoudichyou (all)euch
3rdhim, her, itihn, sie, esthemsie

Antecedents

Note: This is just a quick lesson in English grammar applied into German. If you already know all about antecedents in English, skip the first paragraph.

When using a pronoun, you have to know what it is for it to work. There are some rare exceptions, such as in mysteries or drama, but otherwise this is always true. Sometimes in dialogue this is taken care of by pointing or making some other gesture, but most of the time, the pronoun modifies something already mentioned. The object/person mentioned earlier that turns into a pronoun later is called the antecedent.

In German this is very useful. You can’t simply say ‘it’ anymore. Many food words are masculine and feminine, and when you turn them into pronouns, they turn into ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘him’, and ‘her’, not always ‘it’. For example, the sentence “The cheeseburger tastes good. It’s very crunchy.” turns into “The cheeseburger tastes good. He’s very crunchy.” Note: You will learn how to say this in German later in this lesson.

Why is it “he”? This is where the antecedent comes in. Because there are foods that are masculine and feminine in German, you can’t assume the ‘es’. You have to look back at the previous sentence, at the antecedent, der Cheeseburger. “Der Cheeseburger” is replaced by er (since it is the subject, and therefore in Nominative Case). Therefore, all you need to know are these connections: der/den-er/ihn, die-sie, das-es, die-sie.

Food-Related Verbs

  • essen (I) – to eat, to be eating, to do eat
  • trinken – to drink, to be drinking, to do drink
  • bekommen – to get/receive, to be getting/receiving, to do get/receive
  • möchten (M) – would like
  • wollen (M) – to want, to be wanting, to do want

Of these five verbs, only trinken and bekommen are regular. Essen is irregular (that’s what the “I” means). Do you remember from the last lesson ‘lesen’ and ‘sehen’? In both of them, the first ‘e’ changed to ‘ie’ in the du- and er/sie/es-forms. Well essen experiences the same change, except that it changes to ‘i’, not ‘ie’. Also, it acts the same as ‘lesen’ in the du-form: You don’t have three s’s in a row.

PersonSingularPlural
1stichessewiressen
2ndduisstihresst
3rder/sie/esisstsieessen

Isst sounds and looks a lot like ist. The minute difference happens to be in the way you pronounce the s. When you mean eats it is sometimes an overstressed hissing (i.e. extremely sharp) sound. In normal life Germans, too, can only tell which verb is meant from knowing the context.

Just like in last lesson, where you could say, “Ich spiele gerne Fußball.”, you can also extend it to food. “I like to eat cheeseburgers.” is translated as “Ich esse gerne Cheeseburger.”

Before 1996, the usage of ißt and eßt were common, but the new reform rules specify that these spellings are now the only correct spellings.

The last two verbs (marked (M)) are modals. They will be discussed in the next section.

Modals

In the introduction, you learned that German has no helping verbs. Instead, they have modals, words that basically do the same thing.

Modals are conjugated very differently from normal verbs. The ich- and er/sie/es-forms are always the same, while the du-form adds an ‘st’. Most modals experience a vowel change from singular to plural, and the rest is the same.

Möchten

‘Möchten’ isn’t technically a modal, but it acts exactly the same. There is no vowel change, and the ich- and er/sie/es forms are “möchte”. Here is the complete conjugation:

PersonSingularPlural
1stichmöchtewirmöchten
2nddumöchtestihrmöchtet
3rder/sie/esmöchtesiemöchten

‘Möchten’ means “would like” and can be applied to food (i.e. Ich möchte einen Cheeseburger.). Möchten can be translated even more literally as “would like to”, and is traditionally used with an infinitive verb at the end of the sentence (i.e. “Ich möchte jetzt gehen”/”I would like to go now”). However, this infinitive is not neccesary if it’s completely obvious what you’re talking about (If you say “Ich möchte einen Cheeseburger”, everyone will assume that you would like a cheeseburger to eat.)

(Note: Technically, “möchten” is not a word. The above cited conjugation is actually the “Konjunktiv” of “mögen”, which has become so popular as a phrase, that even many Germans today aren’t aware of it anymore, so you don’t need to worry about it. “Etwas mögen” means “to like to”, and “I would like” is the closest translation of “ich möchte.”)

Wollen

‘Wollen’ is a true modal; it even changes vowels. Ich/er/sie/es will and du willst. Here is the complete conjugation:

PersonSingularPlural
1stichwillwirwollen
2ndduwillstihrwollt
3rder/sie/eswillsiewollen

‘Wollen’ can also be applied to food, but may be considered impolite and demanding (“Ich will einen Cheeseburger!” roughly means “I demand a cheeseburger!” Möchten should be used instead: “Ich möchte einen Cheeseburger!” = “I want a cheeseburger!”).

‘Wollen’ should not be confused with the future tense, despite the presence of the English word ‘will’ in the conjugations. However, will can also mean an intent or a document showing what one wants to happen. So it is not so different from ‘to want’ as possibly originally presumed.

Modals with other verbs

This is very important. When you need to use another verb with a modal (such as expressing you would like or want to perform an action), the sentence’s word order is somewhat different than it would be in English. In English, you would state the subject pronoun (such as “I”), an English equivalent to the modal verb (such as “want”), the action you want to perform (such as “to eat”) and then what the action will be performed on (such as “hamburger”), making the sentence “I want to eat a hamburger.” In German you must put the action at the end of the sentence, making the sentence “I want a hamburger to eat.” (“Ich will einen Hamburger essen.”)

Hunger and Thirst

In German, instead of saying, “I’m hungry.”, you say “I have hunger.” The same applies to thirst. Here are the German translations of the corresponding nouns:

Hunger – der Hunger

Thirst – der Durst

Like in English, these two words do not have a plural form. When using them, you don’t need to worry about the ‘der’; you can just say, “Ich habe Hunger.” to say “I am hungry.”

Formal Conversations

In Lesson 1, you learned how to talk formally, using phrases like “Guten Morgen!” and “Wie heißen Sie?”. There are, however, a few words that are ‘survival words’ in Germany, specifically:

Danke – Thank you, Thanks

Bitte – Please and You’re welcome.

To make this even more formal, you can tack on the word ‘schön’ to the end of “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” to make ‘dankeschön’ and ‘bitteschön’ (both one word) in response. ‘Schön’ literally means ‘pretty’ (you’ll relearn this next lesson).

Some other ways to say “thank you”:

  • Dankeschön – Thank you very much
  • Danke sehr – Thanks a lot
  • Herzlichen Dank (“herzlichen” means sincere or from the heart; you may remember it from “Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!” last lesson)
  • Vielen Dank – Thanks a lot
  • Tausend Dank* – Thanks a million (literally meaning a thousand, but English is more generous)
  • Aufrichtigen Dank* – would be “thank you sincerely” (very formal)

* – You will not be tested on these phrases.

Some other ways to say “You are welcome”:

  • Bitteschön!
  • Bitte sehr!
  • Gern geschehen! – Don’t mention it
  • Gerne! – also meaning “gladly”
  • Kein Problem! – No problem
  • Dafür nicht!* – (Do) not (thank me) for this (only used in Northern Germany)

* – You will not be tested on this phrase.

Kein-words

Twice you have been taught that the ending of the indefinite article for plurals would be eine (for Nominative and Accusative cases), if there was an indefinite article for plurals. Now that lesson applies. The kein-words have the same endings as the ein-words, and they mean the opposite: no, not any, none. For example, “kein Cheeseburger” means “no cheeseburger”. “Keine Cheeseburger” (in this case Cheeseburger is plural) means “No cheeseburgers“. Notice the ‘e’ at the end of ‘keine’. That’s the ending for plurals and feminine nouns and can be likened to the “der, die, das -> die” relationship, where the feminine article serves for the plural as well.

Ordering at a Restaurant in Germany

das Restaur’ant’ (French pronunciation) – Restaurant 

There are many restaurants you might find in Germany. Much like in English-speaking countries, you would more likely use the name of the restaurant than name what kind of restaurant. If you want to address the wish to eat a certain food, there are two ways:

example: “wanting to eat chinese food”

1. “Ich möchte gerne zum Chinesen.” – literally: “I want to go to the Chinese (restaurant).” 2. “Ich möchte gerne chinesisch essen (gehen).” – literally: “I want to (go) eat Chinese (style food).”

Here are some more restaurants you can find in Germany:

  • American food: “zum Amerikaner” / “amerikanisch essen”
  • Arabic food: “zum Araber” / “arabisch essen”
  • Chinese food: “zum Chinesen” / “chinesisch essen”
  • French food: “zum Franzosen” / “französisch essen”
  • Greek food: “zum Griechen” / “griechisch essen”
  • Italian food: “zum Italiener” / “italienisch essen”
  • Indian food: “zum Inder” / “indisch essen”
  • Japanese food: “zum Japaner” / “japanisch essen”
  • Mexican food: “zum Mexikaner” / “mexikanisch essen”
  • Spanish food: “zum Spanier” / “spanisch essen”
  • Turkish food: “zum Türken” / “türkisch essen”

Accusative case prepositions

You read at the beginning of this lesson that the Accusative Case covers the direct object and the objects of some prepositions. Here are those prepositions that always fall under Accusative Case

bis – until

durch – through

entlang – along

für – for

gegen – against

ohne – without

um – at, around

You learned um last lesson, and ohne earlier this lesson. Bis, durch, entlang and gegen will be taught in depth later, and für will be taught now.

Up until this point, you have only worried about the Accusative Case in third person. Für, meaning ‘for’, can and should be used in the first and second persons, too. Here’s an example:

“The cheeseburger is for me.” – “Der Cheeseburger ist für mich.”

As you can see, ‘me’ is put into accusative case because the preposition is für.

Saying How Food Tastes

In German (as in English) there are several ways of telling how food tastes. You can do this with ‘gut’ and ‘schlecht’ from Lesson 1 to say:

Der Cheeseburger schmeckt gut – The cheeseburger tastes good

Der Cheeseburger schmeckt schlecht – The cheeseburger tastes bad

But this is bland. Hopefully the food has more flavor than the description of it. You can use the following words to more colorfully describe how the cheeseburger tastes:

  • delicious – lecker
  • delicious – delikat* (a lot more formal than lecker)
  • tasty – schmackhaft
  • juicy – saftig*
  • crunchy – knackig (can also mean crispy)
  • crispy – knusprig*
  • spicy – würzig, pikant
  • stale, tasteless – fade* (Austria: fad)
  • salty – salzig
  • oversalted – versalzen*
  • sweet – süß
  • bitter – bitter
  • sour – sauer
  • creamy – cremig*
  • hot (in the sense of “very spicy”) – scharf – literally meaning “sharp”
  • hot (in the sense of “very warm”) – heiß
  • burnt – angebrannt*
  • cold – kalt
  • disgusting, terrible – schrecklich

* – You will not be tested on these descriptors.

Schmecken is a regular verb. Here is it’s conjugation:


PersonSingularPlural
1stichschmeckewirschmecken
2ndduschmeckstihrschmeckt
3rder/sie/esschmecktsieschmecken

The first and second persons really shouldn’t be used. No one is going to say, “You guys taste salty” or “I taste creamy.” So the only forms you really need to know are er/sie/es schmeckt and sie (plural) schmecken.

You can use ‘schmeckt’ and ‘schmecken’ or ‘ist’ and ‘sind’ to state how the food tastes. Just use whichever one you would use in English and it’ll usually be correct.

Although the English meaning of schmecken is simply to taste, “Schmeckt der Cheeseburger?” can be taken in a positive way to mean “Do you like the cheeseburger?”. In other words, schmecken alone can mean to taste good.

Dieser-forms

The cheeseburger tastes good.” does not sound that specific as to which cheeseburger you are talking about. You could be talking about a cheeseburger that is not directly in front of you. It just isn’t clear. Now, if you said, “This cheeseburger tastes good.”, it would be obvious that you’re talking about the cheeseburger you’re eating. ‘Dieser’ is the German translation for ‘this’: “Dieser Cheeseburger schmeckt gut.”

Dieser

‘Dieser’ is a special adjective. It changes forms in different situations: different genders and different cases. It can also mean ‘these’ when modifying a plural. Here are its forms:

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominative Casedieserdiesediesesdiese
Accusative Casediesendiesediesesdiese

As you can see, dieser is only appropriate for modifying masculine nouns in nominative case. But ‘Cheeseburger’, which is masculine, is the subject of the sentence, “Dieser Cheeseburger schmeckt gut.” So it is correct in that circumstance.

Jeder

Jeder means ‘every’. It acts exactly like ‘dieser’ in its endings, so it should be easy to remember. Here are the different forms:

MasculineFeminineNeuter
Nominative Casejederjedejedes
Accusative Casejedenjedejedes

Notice the absence of the plural form. When you think about this, it’s the same in English: no one says ‘every books’.

Welcher

‘Welcher’ is the third of this threesome of adjectives. ‘Welcher’ means ‘which’ and is used like the other [w:Interrogative word|interrogatives] (wer, was, wann, wo, warum, wie, and welcher). However, because the general subject has to be specified, welcher must be inflected before use: “Welcher Hamburger ist seine?” Its forms have the same endings as ‘dieser’.

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominative Casewelcherwelchewelcheswelche
Accusative Casewelchenwelchewelcheswelche

Connection with Time

You might want to say ‘every day’, ‘this week’, ‘every morning’, or ‘which Tuesday night?’. But to do this, not only do you need to know the jeder-forms, but also the genders of the times and the cases. The second one is easy: Whenever you do something at a certain time, that time is put into Accusative Case. Last lesson, you learned the gender of one time: der Tag. So now you know everything to say ‘diesen Tag’, ‘jeden Tag’, and ‘welchen Tag?’ (this day, every day, and which day?). Here are the cases of all the times in Lesson 2:


MasculineFeminineNeuter
  • Tag
  • Monat
  • Morgen
  • Abend
  • Nachmittag
  • Woche
  • Nacht
  • Jahr
  • Wochenende

When extending to ‘which Tuesday night?’, remember that the night stays feminine on Tuesday, so it stays “Welche Dienstagnacht?”. Likewise, you can say ‘every June’ the same as ‘every month’: ‘jeden Juni’.

This and That

Ich möchte einen Cheeseburger. Der schmeckt sehr gut.

Ich esse jeden Tag Cheeseburger. Die habe ich gern.

Look at the second sentence of each of these German dialogues. What’s missing? That’s right, instead of “Der Cheeseburger schmeckt sehr gut.” and “Die Cheeseburger habe ich gern.”, both of the ‘Cheeseburger’s, so to speak, are dropped. We’re left with just the articles, only in this case, they aren’t articles. They’re demonstrative pronouns.

Demonstrative pronouns aren’t scary. They’re just the same as the normal pronouns, only they give more oomph to the sentence. They can be translated as either ‘this’ or ‘that’ (“I’d like a cheeseburger. That tastes very good.”), or ‘these’ or ‘those’ for plurals (“I eat cheeseburgers every day. These I like.”).

Demonstrative pronouns are exactly the same as the definite articles (well, there is one change in dative, but that will be covered in Lesson 7). If you are not sure of the gender (meaning in context, the speaker doesn’t know, not that you’ve forgotten that it’s ‘der Cheeseburger’), use ‘das’, like in “Was ist das?” (What is that?).

Money and Paying

Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, Belgium and Südtirol – in other words: all German speaking regions except Switzerland and Liechtenstein– have given up their former currencies and adopted the Euro as of 1999. One Euro is worth 100 Cents. Because they are not members of the European Union, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have kept the Swiss Francs (Franken = 100 Rappen).

‘Euro’ normally does not change in the plural in German, so you would still say “Ich habe 500 Euro.” Nevertheless, there is an exception: Euro coins. If you say “Ich habe vier Euros.”, you actually are saying that you have four 1-Euro coins. Because the backsides of euro coins look different in each country, many people in Europe have started collecting foreign euro coins. In this case you can say “Ich habe irische Euros.” (I have Irish euro coins.) for example.

There is not yet a rule whether or not the word “Cent” has a different plural form. The majority of Germans are using the word “Cent” as a plural form, but when they don’t it is simply “Cents”.

In German “euro” is pronounced [‘oi-ro], not [you-ro]. For “Cent” there are two pronunciations: you can either pronounce it as in English or you say “tzent”. The latter version seems to be preferred by older people.

When at a restaurant, you will want to pay at the end. You can use this vocabulary to help you.

  • to pay – zahlen
  • the bill – die Rechnung
  • the waiter – der Ober
  • “How much is that?” – “Was macht das?” (“What does that make?”) or the “umgangssprachliche” “Wie viel kostet das?”

To ask for the bill you can say, “Bitte zahlen!”, or make it a complete sentence: “Ich möchte zahlen!”, or “Wir möchten/wollen zahlen!”. You can also say, “(Herr Ober), die Rechnung bitte!” “Der Ober” is the waiter. It is more formal, but probably also the nicest way to ask for the bill.


1 Comment

  • #1 by nathan n. ferguson on December 17 - 11:07 pm

    Quote

    CONTINUOS LEARNING

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