2.2 Building sentences (Sätze bauen)

The verbs and the workrelated jargon are the building blocks for making short sentences. Now you
have to learn and practise to place them in the right order. You will see that in many cases the word
order is very similar or even the same as in English.

First, go to the German Grammar book, page 56, Lesson 7: ‘Sentence structure and word order in
German’. Look at the examples and listen to the audiotracks. Don’t try to memorise everything
before you continue. Instead, work with the theory when building your first sentences.

Now, listen to this clip, follow the instructions and practise your pronunciation.

Translate into German.

⦁ I have a gasket
⦁ You replace the pump
⦁ We check the temperature
⦁ You can continue
⦁ We close the valve
⦁ He tests the groundcable
⦁ The pressure is too high

The article (das Geschlecht)

When translating, you probably wondered how to translate the word ‘the ‘. Examples from the
exercise are: the pump, the valve and the pressure. In English it’s simple, in German it is not.
It’s all about the gender of a word: masuline, feminine, neutral or even plural. The word ‘the’
translates as: der (masculine), die (feminine), das (neutral) and die (plural).
Examples are: der Druck, die Pumpe, das Ventil, die Ventile.

How can you tell which noun has which gender? It’s just a matter of learning by heart, but there are
rules too. Go to German Grammar, page 25 and listen to the tracks.

One more remark: a word can have different genders in different languages. For example: the word
‘bridge’ is masculin in French: le pont, but feminine in German: die Brücke.

The four cases (die vier Fälle)

After you have figured out the article of a word, you need to determine the case of the word. A ‘case’
is a way of spelling the word, depending on the function of the word in the sentence. There are four
cases: nominative, dative, genitive, accusative.

Look at this sentence that has four cases in it:
The captain gives the operator of the terminal a cup of coffee.

Because of all these articles and cases, German is a complicated language. If you have a conversation in German, or you write in German, you need to know everything about them. During loading and unloading, you often use standardized or fairly short sentences. Getting the case right, becomes a little less important. In other words: it is more important that you get the nouns right. Perhaps you make a mistake with the case, but a German will still understand what you mean. An example:

The gasket of the pump has a leak
Die Dichtung der Pumpe hat ein Leck.

Dichtung, Pumpe and Leck are the keywords here. These are the nouns. Die, der and ein are the articles . If you get the articles wrong, like ‘das Pumpe’ or ‘einer Leck’, a German speaker will still understand what you are saying. This is a situation where you should not be worried about making a mistake.

Of course, it would be perfect if you knew all the articles and cases. This is an overview of all combinations:

























Always remember: The nouns are important to get the message across, the article and case a little less important.

Numbers and counting (Zahlen und Zählen)

For this chapter you need the book River Speak. On page 85, 86 and 87 you find everything you need to learn all about numbers and counting. Let’s start with some pronunciation, beginning at page 87 (The page number may vary, depending on the publication of your book).

Page 87: The numbers from 1-10 
Page 85: Counting from 1-10 
Page 87: Numbers from 11-1000 

When counting, there is one issue that you have to be aware of. It’s about the right order. Look at this example of the number 18 to see what I mean: The number eighteen in English has the same order as in German: achtzehn. Eight(8)teen(10) and acht(8)zehn(10). From 21 and up, this changes. In English, the order is reversed: the number 21 is twenty(20)one(1). In German, the order does not change: ein(1)und zwanzig(20). This remains the same for all numbers from 21 and up.

Now let’s try some numbers that are not in the book

  • 24
  • 41
  • 97
  • 112
  • 223
  • 1050
  • 10500

Improving communication

Finally, we have a look at improving your communication with a German colleague. What I mean is: it’s often noisy, the wind is blowing, pumps are running. So what do you say if you do not understand the other person. How do you ask someone to repeat what he or she said?


  1. I cannot hear you 
  2. I do not understand you 
  3. Please repeat (what you said) 
  4. I understand
  5. Thank you! 
  6. Are you finished? 
  7. Please, let me know 
  8. Can I ask you something? 


  1. Ich kann Sie nicht hören
  2. Ich verstehe Sie nicht
  3. Bitte, wiederholen Sie (was Sie sagten)
  4. Ich verstehe
  5. Danke!
  6. Sind Sie fertig?
  7. Bitte, sagen Sie mir bescheid
  8. Kann ich Sie etwas fragen?

'Du' and 'Sie'

In Germany it is important to use ‘du’ and ‘Sie’ correctly. ‘Du’ and ‘Sie’ are personal pronouns. Examples are: du bist, Sie löschen, du kontrollierst. ‘Du’ is used in informal situations such as family and friends. ‘Sie’ is for formal situations such as work.
In English there is no difference between du and Sie. Both are translated as ‘you’: ‘Du bist’ translates as ‘you are’ , ‘Sie sind’ also translates as ‘you are’.

The correct use of ‘du’ and ‘Sie’ is part of German culture and people are sensitive to it. Saying ‘du’ too quickly is a mistake you want to avoid. Always use ‘Sie’, unless you know someone better and are on a friendly basis. Then you can say ‘du’. With ‘Sie’ you cannot go wrong. And if a German invites you to say ‘du’, he will say: ‘wir können uns gerne duzen’.

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