Saturday, 19 November 2011

Wohin fahren Sie?

Do you know the verb to go in German? Probably the first word you think of is gehen as the words have the same derivative, but unless you are going on foot then the word you probably want is fahren. In English the derivate is farewell - travel or go well. Think that the person to whom you are saying farewell cannot get there on foot and you will have the correct word for go.

If you are asking where something is then the German word is wo but if the question implies movement then wohin may be the word you are looking for. Wohin gehen Sie? Gehen obviously implies movement so you want to ask where are you going to. Wohin gehen Sie in Urlaub normalerweise?

Did you spot the mistake? I hope so as the answer is in the previous paragraph. Wohin fahren Sie in Urlaub normalerweise?

Bis bald

Friday, 18 November 2011

I see you tomorrow

In English we have a very easy way of describing the future. We are going to do something. It is the same in German. There is an auxiliary verb werden which means to become and this always goes with an infinitive at the end of the clause or the end of the sentence. Ich werde ins Kino gehen tells you it is going to happen in the future.

In German you can also use the present tense for the future as long as you make it clear that it is the future. Tomorrow I will wash the car becomes tomorrow I am washing the car. It doesn't sound quite right in English but in German it is fine to say morgen wasche ich das Auto. Sometimes we use the present tense in English e.g. I am working over Christmas, or Ich arbeite über Weihnachten but in German the present tense is often used. That's why if you meet a German speaker, who will inevitably have a great command of the English language, you will sometimes hear 'I see you tomorrow'.

Bis bald

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Darf ich...

I was looking at one of those cheap phrase books and it started with some grammar. I opened the page on auxiliary verbs. It didn't explain the meaning of auxiliary but it means that it provides help or support. If I give this type of verb their full title they are modal auxiliary verbs and the mode bit means they provide mood. In English they are verbs like would, could, can or may.

The page that I opened showed how to decline the verb dürfen which means to be allowed to (or more usually we say 'may') and it reminded me of the way I was taught German in the 1970s. Ich darf, du darfst, er darf - you get the idea. As a teenager I felt my language training meant I could decline nouns and conjugate verbs but it is the rest of the phrase book which is not only much more interesting but also much more useful if communication is important to you.

The beauty of modal auxiliary verbs is that the verb with which they combine stays in the infinitive. You don't have to think about the second verb so that must be helpful. So some examples that are easy to use are darf ich mich vorstellen? If you want to introduce another person you just say darf ich xxx vorstellen? Just as in English you could say darf ich and then make a gesture but then you don't get to use an infinitive.

The only example my book gives for dürfen is 'darf ich rauchen?' It's not a common verb to use nowadays, especially if you don't smoke but at least you get to add on a simple infinitive.

Bis bald