German Work Out – Sentence Structure

Hallo ihr alle,

wie geht’s euch? Alles gut? Ich habe eine kleine Frage … oder eine Idee…. sie heißt:

Hausaufgaben

Hah… you’re face tells me that you probably understood that :). Hausaufgaben…. boooooooh.
But it’s really just the word that has this negative spin. Homework is a good thing because if we want to learn a language, we need to practice. So… we’re already doing some listening every once in a while but I was thinking maybe it would be cool to have more exercises, you know, to get our German in shape and sexy. Wait, can German be sexy? Meh, anyways, so today I have a little exercise for the core…

the sentence structure 

I really like this exercise and I used to do that kind of exercise a lot myself which is why I have these killer abs today. But seriously… I think it’s a good way to get less intimidated and confused when it comes to making these loooooog sentences German is so famous for.
Here’s the idea:

Some Background on the exercise

A normal sentence consists of a main story point and a bunch of additional information. The main story point is basically the activity –   “Who does what” or “What is going on”.
The additional information is about stuff like when, why, where, despite what fact, with what tools and so o and so on. Some additional info is crucial to the “story”, other bits are optional and we just put them in because we think they’re interesting.  Either way, the more additional information you cram into your sentence, the longer it becomes. Let’s do an example in English:

  • Thomas drinks a PBR.

That is a simple sentence. Now let’s add the information why he does that.

  • Thomas drinks a PBR, because he is thirsty.

And now let’s add some info about Thomas.

  • Thomas, who is a craft beer fan, drinks a PBR, because he is thirsty.

And more about Thomas

  • The incredibly beautiful Thomas, who is a craft beer fan, drinks a PBR, because he is thirsty.

And now how about some “despite”

  • Although he’s at work, the incredibly beautiful Thomas, who
    is a craft beer fan, drinks a PBR, because he is thirsty.

And of course we can add additional info about additional info:

  • Although he’s at work, the incredibly beautiful Thomas, who
    is a craft beer fan, drinks a PBR, because he is thirsty due to a very salty lunch.

Now, of course this is not a nice sentence anymore. It’s looong and it doesn’t really have much of a focus. Like… what’s the story? It’s just an extreme example for how we arrange chunks of information into a sentence. Because that’s kind of what we do when we speak. We have these set pieces in mind ... Thomas is incredibly beautiful, Thomas is a craft beer fan, the reason for drinking is his being thirsty… and we use grammar and function words to arrange them to a sentence and express the relations between them. I our own language, we’re very quick with that. We know, we feel what fits where and how we need to modify it.
When we learn a new language… we don’t. We’re super slow. Like a mechanic who can disassemble and reassemble an iPhone in his sleep but when you give him a Samsung it might take a while because even though the components are kind of the same…. I mean… they’re both phone… they way they’re arranged are different.
So… we need practice, we need to get a feel for how to arrange bits and pieces into nice, meaningful sentences that get our message across. And that’s what this exercise is for.

example

It basically works like this… you’ll get separate chunks of information and you’ll have to play lego and put them together to build a nice spaceship… I mean sentence.
We’ll just do an example together. Here are the chunks

  • Maria hat schlechte Laune.
    Maria is in a bad mood.
  • Maria konnte nicht schlafen. [reason]
    Maria couldn’t sleep.

And here’s one solution.

  • Weil Maria nicht schlafen konnte hat sie schlechte Laune.
    Because Maria couldn’t sleep, she’s in a bad mood.

In both languages we used a function word that helps us express reason and in German we also had to do some grammar stuff to make it work.
And this is not the only solution. Here are a few more:

  • Maria hat schlecht Laune, weil sie nicht schlafen konnte.
    Maria is in a bad mood, because she couldn’t sleep.
  • Maria konnte nicht schlafen. Deshalb hat sie schlechte Laune.
    Maria couldn’t sleep. Therefor, she is in a bad mood.
  • Maria konnte nicht schlafen, weshalb sie schlechte Laune hat.
    Maria couldn’t sleep, which is why she’s in a bad mood.

There’s pretty much always more than one way and the more chunks you have, the more pieces of info you’re trying to fit together, the more options you have.

Cool. So that’s the idea. I’ll give some chunks in form of basic sentences and then you can puzzle away :).
We’ll only do a couple for each level this time because it’s kind of a trial. But if you like it we’ll do more in the future.

** beginners **

a)
Thomas kommt zu spät zum Meeting.

Thomas ist eigentlich immer pünktlich. 

b)
Maria ist super traurig.

Maria hat ihr Tagebuch verloren. 

** intermediate **

c)
Thomas kauft den Wein. [main]

Thomas hat wenig Geld.
Der Wein ist sehr teuer.
Thomas will Maria beeindrucken. [reason]

d)
Thomas hat eine Erkältung.

Thomas war gestern lange joggen.
Gerstern hat es geregnet. 

** advanced aka TOUGH AS HELL**

x)
Thomas macht einen Sprachkurs.

Thomas spricht nicht gut Englisch.
Thomas hatte eigentlich 10 Jahre Englisch in der Schule.
Thomas muss bald beruflich in die USA.

y) 
Das neue Buch von Stepenie Meyer hat mir überhaupt nicht gefallen.
Ich bin eigentlich ein Riesenfan von Stephenie Meyer.
Das Buch ist schlecht geschrieben.
Die Charaktere sind langweilig. 
In dem Buch geht es um eine Elfe, die ein Praktikum in einer Investment Bank macht.  

The advanced ones are REALLY REALLY tough so if they had you go like “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?” then don’t worry. Even native speakers might need a few minutes.
Anyway… if you want  you can post your solutions in the comments and we can talk about it. And of course if you have questions or you get stuck, just go ahead and ask.
Oh and also…  what are your thoughts in general? Like… Do you like this exercise? Do you want more? Do you want other exercises, as well? What kind would be helpful to you? I’m really curious for your input so let me know.
I’m out for now. I hope you liked it and I’ll see you ganz bald :)

Jump to sample solutions


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