getting started with learning german - ten rules you should know

I want to learn German: The top 10 rules for German learners

When I find the time I answer questions on different forums. Someone asked today what are the most important (grammar?) rules for a beginner German learner. I had the idea of such a post in my head for a long time so I took the opportunity to finally write it down. Here are my top 10 “rules” for anyone who would like to learn German efficiently. I hope it helps you on your path. Take care and viel Erfolg with your German.


    1. Know thy articles! Start here:

      and here:

and if you want to master the gender of 1700 German nouns, you should check out my German Articles Buster.

learn german articles

    1. Sentence orders: a) Subject-Verb-Object for normal sentences and W-questions b) Verb-Subject-Object for yes/no-questions or orders and c) Verb at the end for side-clauses
    2. Learn when to use the Accusative as it is the most used case (after the Nominative which usually doesn’t cause much trouble):

  • Understand that there are only 2 tenses that you will need until late B2: The Präsens for present & future events and the Perfekt for the past.
  1. Learn your irregular verbs: German Verb Conjugations – Meister der Konjugation (for drill). If you are looking for a really really neat way of memorizing all relevant irregular verbs in less than two hours, you might want to consider getting my German Grammar Video Course.
  2. To ask for things politely or express your desires also called wishes you will need the Konjunktiv II which is very (!) simple: use a form of “würden” (=would) + Infinitive. One example: Ich würde gerne einen Kaffee bestellen. (=I would “like” a coffee to order) The forms of “würden” are: ich würde, du würdest, es würde, wir würden, ihr würdet, sie würden. Done. Next.
  3. Learn words, words, words. Find a beautiful technique on page 72 of my A1-B1 German Grammar eBook and please do yourself the favor and use www. Memrise – Learn something new everyday which will save yourself a lot (!) of time.
  4. Get a book and start reading it. Here’s the book that I have already prepared the vocab for at memrise. Any other book will do, too, yet you’d have to enter the new vocab into your own memrise course yourself. Do not exceed 25-30 words per level if you intend to do so.
  5. Find a conversation partner.
  6. Know what’s expected of you and check out these freely available model exams (there’s also videos showing you samples of an oral exam of each level): Goethe-Zertifikat B1 (other levels you will find in the left sidebar of that page).
  7. Enjoy what you are doing, that mainly means that you should connect German to the things you love to do most as then it will not feel like work. It’ll still be an awful lot of work, but it won’t feel like it.I know the last four points are not actually grammar rules but they are rules of highly efficient German learning. I hope that these tips will help you getting started. There is much more to the German language and learning it but this will cover quite a lot of your path to your aim of proficiency. And if you are thinking about taking your German learning to the next level, you might want to take a look at my video courses and ebooks here (or just click on the dandelion = Pusteblume below)


9 Replies to “I want to learn German: The top 10 rules for German learners”

  1. I disagree with only one of these things: that the only two tenses needed until late B2 are the Präsens and the Perfekt. It’s nearly impossible to read anything of real interest (including, for example, news articles) without at least a basic knowledge of the Präteritum. Therefore I’d recommend learning that as soon as possible after mastering the first two tenses.

    1. That surely is true, Charlotte, yet there isn’t much reading on such level until you have passed B1. Then much of the Präteritum is easily recognizable, like e.g. machte, hörte, sagte and even some irregular forms are not that hard once you have looked them up once: sah, kam, nahm, ging (after you have learned gegangen for the Perfekt). The Präteritum just needs to be recognized unless you want to write a novel which is rather a rare occurrence.Plus: by using the method I recommend you will learn the Präteritum literally on the go with learning the irregular past participles.

  2. That’s very useful! When I first started learning German, what put me off was the conjugation/declination – I found it way too complicated compared to languages such as French or Spanish. On the other hand, the point you make about only having to know two tenses to start with makes it seem like a really easy language 🙂

    1. German is not much more complicated than most other languages. It all depends on how it is instructed and how much effort one puts in intelligent repetition. Especially when compared to Polish, German is pure Kindergarten 😉 Have a nice start into the new week. Pozdrawiam.

  3. Hallo, Michael,
    What do you think of Anki instead of Memrise? I was getting used to Anki when I had to give up my German for lack of time. Now I was going to start using it again, although Anki is not very intuitive and it takes a few minutes to build a new flaschcard, so before I choose I would like to know why you prefer Memrise.

    1. Hi Helena,
      Anki is less beautiful and way to loaded with possibilities. It’s like taking your Rolls Royce to go to the store around the corner when a bike would do the job. The main argument though is that memrise is simpler to use, quicker, free for iOS and Android (Anki costs sth like 20 or even 30 EUR for iOS) and that I have already created a efficiently designed vocab-course on memrise which I won’t create for Anki (nor should you waste time on that).

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