Today, we’ll explore the top five grammar topics crucial for A1 learners. This article won’t dive deeply into each topic but will provide an overview of essential grammar concepts you must grasp at the beginner level. If you find any topic confusing or want a more detailed explanation, check the links in the article to my more comprehensive pages on each subject. Let’s get started!

Articles and Cases

For many, articles and cases are among the most challenging topics. However, they are fundamental to mastering German grammar. Let’s recall what articles are, the types available, and how and where to use them.

Understanding Articles

An article is a short particle that precedes a noun and indicates its gender, number, and case. Generally, articles are divided into two categories: definite and indefinite articles. The definite article is “der/die/das” and the indefinite is “ein/eine.” If you’re unsure about them, keep reading, and it will become clearer.

The confusion often arises around when to use which article. Many remember a vague rule: use a definite article for something specific and an indefinite one for something general. However, this rule can be tricky to apply in practice. Let’s break it down further.

When choosing an article, consider the perspective of your listener or reader, not your own. Ask yourself: Is the object I’m talking about already known to my listener or is it new? For example, in the dialogue: “Was machst du?” “Ich lese eine Zeitung.” (“What are you doing?” “I’m reading a newspaper.”), you use the indefinite article because the newspaper is being mentioned for the first time.

On the other hand, if your friend later asks, “Gefällt dir die Zeitung?” (“Do you like the newspaper?”), they use the definite article because now it’s a known entity in the context of your conversation.

For a deeper dive into articles, check out my detailed page on der/die/das articles.

Cases in German

German has four cases: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. The nominative case is for the subject of the sentence, accusative for the direct object, dative for the indirect object, and genitive to show possession. Articles change form depending on the case, and this can be seen in the declension table you’ll frequently reference as you learn.

For example:

  • Nominative: der Hund (the dog)
  • Accusative: den Hund (the dog)
  • Dative: dem Hund (to the dog)
  • Genitive: des Hundes (of the dog)

Memorizing these forms and their usage is critical for accurate sentence construction. To understand the gender of German nouns, visit this guide.

Conjugation of Regular Verbs

Conjugating verbs in German requires you to modify the verb endings based on the subject pronoun. Most German verbs in their infinitive form end in -en or -n (e.g., machen, gehen, sehen). Here’s a quick guide on conjugating a regular verb like “machen” (to do):

  • ich mache (I do)
  • du machst (you do)
  • er/sie/es macht (he/she/it does)
  • wir machen (we do)
  • ihr macht (you all do)
  • sie/Sie machen (they/you formal do)

Exceptions to Regular Conjugation

Some verbs ending in -d or -t, like “arbeiten” (to work), require an extra -e- before the ending for easier pronunciation (e.g., “du arbeitest” instead of “du arbeitst”). Similarly, verbs ending in -s, -ss, -ß, -z, or -tz have slight modifications in their du-form, replacing -st with just -t (e.g., “du tanzt” instead of “du tanzst”).

To expand your verb knowledge, here are 180 German verbs you should know.

Modal verbs, like “können” (can), “müssen” (must), “dürfen” (may), “sollen” (should), “wollen” (want), and “mögen” (like), are used to express necessity, possibility, permission, and desire. These verbs have unique conjugation patterns and often accompany another verb in its infinitive form.

For instance:

  • ich kann (I can)
  • du kannst (you can)
  • er/sie/es kann (he/she/it can)
  • wir können (we can)
  • ihr könnt (you all can)
  • sie/Sie können (they/you formal can)

Understanding these verbs is crucial as they appear frequently in both spoken and written German.

Word Order in Sentences

German word order can be tricky for English speakers due to its strict rules. In declarative sentences, the verb is always in the second position, and if there are two verbs, the second verb goes to the end of the sentence.

For example:

  • Ich gehe ins Kino. (I am going to the cinema.)
  • Heute gehe ich ins Kino. (Today, I am going to the cinema.)

In questions, word order varies depending on whether it’s a yes/no question or an information question. For yes/no questions, the verb precedes the subject (e.g., “Gehst du ins Kino?” – Are you going to the cinema?). For information questions, the question word comes first, followed by the verb and then the subject (e.g., “Wann gehst du ins Kino?” – When are you going to the cinema?).

Past Tenses: Präteritum and Perfekt

German has two primary past tenses: Präteritum and Perfekt.


Präteritum is often used in written language, such as books and articles, and for some common verbs like “sein” (to be) and “haben” (to have). For example:

  • Ich war (I was)
  • Ich hatte (I had)


Perfekt is more common in spoken German and consists of an auxiliary verb (“haben” or “sein”) and the past participle of the main verb. For instance:

  • Ich habe gegessen (I have eaten)
  • Ich bin gegangen (I went)

Whether to use “haben” or “sein” depends on the verb. Generally, “sein” is used with verbs indicating movement or change of state, while “haben” is used for most other verbs.

For a detailed comparison, see my page on Präteritum vs. Perfekt.


I know this is a lot of information, but I hope this overview helps you recall the key grammar points for the A1 level. If you need more detailed explanations, remember to check the links for my comprehensive pages on each topic. Good luck with your studies, and see you next time!

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