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A short introduction to spoken colloquial German!

As there are always many questions about how the spoken German differs from the written, I decided to try to write down some things that I’ve noticed during my time in Germany. Maybe this will help someone trying to get a grasp of rapidly spoken German. Also in the end are some basic tips for understanding “Facebook and SMS German” ;)

This won’t be a “complete guide” and there are many local differences, but I would say what I write here, is rather “standard colloquial German”

Disclaimer: I’m not saying you should do it like this, but I just try to explain how people do use the language. Some of these things are considered to be bad style. But people do use the language in such ways.

The following is very colloquial, use this at Duolingo at your own risk (and probably lose a heart) ;)

<h1>Dropping the -e in first person</h1>

When you are talking in first person, you in most cases drop the -e from the verb. Examples:

  • Ich mach das
  • Ich sag ihm Bescheid
  • Ich denk schon

That is pretty straightforward and extremely common. Even though it is just a letter, it is still a syllable, so it does change the rhythm of the language a bit. Speaking of the rhythm:

<h1>Es becomes just ’s</h1>

Also very common. Examples:

  • Ich mach’s (ich mache es)
  • Ich sag’s ihm (ich sage es ihm)

So from ich sa-ge es ihm becomes ich sag’s ihm, two syllables drop away. That is a big difference in rhythm.

<h1>Replacing genitive with the dative</h1>

This doesn’t really need much explanation.

  • wegen meines Bruders


  • wegen meinem Bruder


  • Das ist das Haus meines Vaters


  • Das ist das Haus von meinem Vater

Simple as that.

<h1>Leaving the “dass” away and changing the word order</h1>

This is also very common. It does not work everywhere, but in simple sentences like the following, you often drop it out:

  • Er hat gesagt, er kommt ein bisschen später (Er hat gesagt, dass er ein bisschen später kommt)
  • Ich weiß, es ist keine gute Idee (Ich weiß, dass es keine gute Idee ist)

I cannot really form a rule, where you can use it and where not, but for example in this sentence you couldn’t leave it out:

  • Ich will nicht, dass du gehst

Maybe a native could help me here? :)

<h1>Replying with a verb</h1>

Can’t think of a good name for this rule, but it works like this:

  • Kannst du mir einen Kaffee machen?
  • Mach ich


  • Mache deine Hausaufgaben!
  • Ja, Mama, mach ich gleich!

Why the weird word order? Because you are dropping the word das (or another pronoun) away. The “proper” reply would be:

  • Das mache ich

But using the “mach ich” is so common that if you would ask a German why does he say it so, they probably wouldn’t even know that they are “dropping a das” there. For them it does not exist, because you just are used to saying “mach ich”.

Negatively it works as well:

  • Nein, mach ich nicht

It also works with some verbs, outside “machen” but with it is by far the most common. If you think you could reply with “das [verb] ich”, you probably can drop the “das” and just reply with the verb, as above.

<h1>Using the definite articles as pronouns</h1>

This is sometimes rather confusing for language learners. It is really not standard and no German course will teach you to do it so, but it is very common in the spoken language. Especially in some regions:

  • Der hat gesagt, der kommt gleich (Er hat gesagt, er kommt gleich)
  • Kennst du die? (Kennst du sie?)

This is however something you should be careful with. In some contexts, especially with the wrong tone, it can be understood in a demeaning way.

  • Kennst du sie? (Do you know her?)
  • Kennst du die? (Do you know her? BUT with a emphasis on die it could change to: Do you know her (the weird girl)

It is a bit hard to explain that, but “sie” just sounds more respectful and “die” is what you could use if you would like to “depersonalize” someone.

That said, it is still used even in a very respectful manner. It is just about the tone. My advice: Always stick with er/sie if you aren’t sure.

<h1>Not pronouncing the extra syllable of indefinite articles in dative or accusative</h1>

What I’ve noticed is that people don’t tend to put any weight on the “extra syllable”:

  • Ich esse einen Apfel

sounds like:

  • Ich esse ein’ Apfel (or as people would write that: Ich esse nen Apfel, more about that later)

  • Ich rede mit einem Freund

sounds like:

  • Ich rede mit ein’m Freund

So from the two syllables of “ei-nem” becomes “ein’m” that is kind of just one, or maybe “one and a half”, syllables ;)

<h1>Bonus: decoding Facebook or SMS German!</h1>

All the above works also when you chatting with your friends online. No matter what Goethe Institut teaches, you aren’t always expected to write proper Hochdeutsch. I would even say that writing all Hochdeutsch on some online forums would make people think you are rather “hochnäsig” and your proper punctuation just is out of place there.

Capitalizing the nouns? Nah, just forget about it. Most people don’t care. Especially in a SMS, as it can be a pain in the Gesäß to do the capitalization (unless your smartphone does it automatically).

Shortening the indefinite articles:

  • ne Katze (eine Katze)
  • nen Kaffee (einen Kaffee)
  • nem Hund (einem Hund)
  • ner Frau (einer Frau)

You see that a lot.

Then you receive a message from a friend of yours:

  • Haste schon deine mutter gefragt?

Hä? Haste? Where is the subject? Well, “haste” originally comes from the Hamburg dialect, as far as I know, and translates to “hast du”. It is pretty well spread nowadays, I would say. I’ve seen it used by people from all around Germany.

I thought I would have other tips in my head, but now I seem to have forgotten about them. So I’ll update them, if I remember them later.

Hope this helps someone :) If I’ve missed something crucial, please tell me. Or if there is something you don’t agree. It could be that I’ve totally misunderstood something ;) Wouldn’t be the first time :D

June 6, 2014



There's not only "haste...", but also "hamse" and "hattense". For example

"Warum haste kein Brot gekauft?" - "Hamse nicht." = Haben sie nicht (im Geschäft nicht vorhanden)


"Milch hattense nicht" = Milch hatten sie nicht.

And same thing with "können" + a "forgotten letter" and a whole forgotten word:

"Kannste ma zum Bäcker?" = Kannst du mal zum Bäcker gehen?

or the "better" version:

"Gehste ma zum Bäcker?" = Gehst du mal zum Bäcker?

It's common with a lot of verbs: schwimmste, spielste, kaufste, ...

I'm really astonished about these things you found out that are totally normal for me as a native speaker. And I understand that it makes not really easy to learn German. But don't give up and please don't be afraid to speak German if you have the opportunity. Real conversations are a great way to learn and I think everyone will appreciate that you give it a try and won't laugh at you!


btw Vielen Dank für Frederick & Piggeldy. I'm learning the genders from watching them. "Nichts leichter als das."


But the "das" in this sentence is not an article, it's a demonstrative. (="nothing easier than this")


My head is in a happy whirl. This discussion has got to be the most fascinating and informative ever. You see, in each episode the little pig asks the big pig a question (Frederick, was ist Schnee?). Then Frederick replies " „Nichts leichter als das, komm mit.“ I was repeating it here to indicate there no easier way to learn genders. Keep it coming. I'm soaking up every post like a sponge.


Great job!

About the pronoun thing: it's not the definite article that is used but these are actually demonstrative pronouns :)


Using demonstrative pronouns instead of personal pronouns is the grammatical equivalent of pointing with one's fingers to sb. and often perceived as being rude. (Especially if not spoken in the right tone)


I am nowhere near close to this level yet, but I'm saving the discussion so that when I do finish my tree I can take a look at this. Thanks.


German is my mother tongue. So, some comments.

Hm, on "Using the definite articles as pronouns".

Its more like: "Do you know that one?" if you say "Kennst du die?" and "That guy said, that guy is on the way." (In this case it sounds like two different people) It's like pointing at a person, which is in fact a bit rude.

Your two examples of leaving the "dass" away actually represent two different grammatical phenomena.

"Er hat gesagt, er kommt ein bisschen später" is indirect speech. It's only 100% correct if you use Konjunktiv I or "dass": "Er hat gesagt, er KOMME ein bisschen später.".

"Ich weiß, es ist keine gute Idee." would be correct with a semicolon instead of the comma.


Thanks for the message! I really enjoy understanding also the "mechanisms" behind everything, so that is great info :)

I have the feeling that here in the south the der/die with a person is not considered that rude, in most contexts, for the reason that you often use articles with names too, so it is somehow "logical" to use them to refer too.

"Der Arno kommt heut ein bissl später. Der hat den Zug verpasst"

It really depends on the context and tone.

What I forgot to mention is that you use them also with "non living things" like that. Stuff like "die sind" is very common.


To complete the confusion about pronouns and definite articles I'd like to point out that in the Saarland women are neutral. You would for example say "Das Anna hat angerufen." oder "Es hat angerufen." (instead of "Sie hat angerufen.")

Admittedly, that makes my ears bleed.


Maybe this goes back all the way to Old High German. It appears that the equation connecting masculine, feminine and neutral gender with male, female and neuter sex, respectively, wasn't always felt so strongly. In Old High German it was superimposed by other meanings of the genders. And, rather surprisingly, nouns did not have a fixed gender. You chose the appropriate gender based on the aspect you were interested in. (All of this is based on relatively recent research from 2001. But I think for Proto-Indo-European this was already known. What's new is that it was preserved to such an extent in Old High German.)

masculine: single things or people

feminine: collections

neutral: uncountable masses, abstractions, continuous things

(Proto-Indo-European originally had only two genders: animate and inanimate. Animate gender then split rather early into masculine and feminine, and inanimate became neutral. But this happened so long before Old High German that we can ignore it.)

This is still visible in modern German in some cases: der Lauf is a single run, die Lauferei is a sequence of runs, and das Laufen is a prototypical example for the above definition of what the neutral gender means.

This also explains why we are still using the feminine definite article die for plurals! It's not an accident, after all. It's because feminine once meant plural as much as it meant female.

E.g. take the Old High German noun thiot (people), the ancestor of the adjective deutsch. When referring to "the people", you may be thinking of a bunch of individuals that you are dealing with one by one, or of a group that you are dealing with as a whole, or of a nation that's an anonymous mass for you. In Old High German you would have made explicit which of the three uses you meant by choosing grammatical gender accordingly.

This could well explain why the oldest word for woman in German, das Weib, is neutral rather than feminine. In the logic of Old High German, mein Weib might have been interpreted as a plural (my wives) or collective (my harem). So I guess it was better to use neutral gender to avoid misunderstandings or sounding awkward. Later female words are feminine except when we can still see a good reason why they are not: die Frau. Das Mädchen is neutral like all diminutives. Das Frauenzimmer is neutral like all words ending in Zimmer. (A Frauenzimmer was a woman who wasn't noble, i.e. wasn't a vrouwe = noble lady, but who was genteel enough that she might have been found in the company of one, or in her room. This may have started as a collective term that was later applied to individual women as well, similar to English words such as staff or visa.)


Thanks for the information! Here, have one of my red hexagonal candies, they are quite tasty ;) Do you have a background in linguistics?


No, I am just a hobby linguist. All my knowledge comes from scholarly web sources and a couple of well chosen books.

My main source for this post was a talk about Regine Froschauer's Genus im Althochdeutschen: http://www.uni-bamberg.de/fileadmin/uni/fakultaeten/split_lehrstuehle/deutsche_sprachwissenschaft/PDF/Forschung/Genus_Forschung/Die_Ergebnisse.pdf


Hi, Johaquila! Thanks for the info, I like to know the history of the language, it makes more sense this way. I noticedthat your link leads to a paper that was written in the University of Bamberg. Have you been there? I was there for 6 month :)


It's the same around Cologne: "Dat Marie" and so on.


WTH, strangest thing ever!


I saw an infographic about the articles attached to female names in some newspaper once. There was some other small regions too, where they do that.

It is really weird :D


Yeah, true. Thanks for reminding me. One is always so oblivious about the grammar of one's own language. In middle school I had a rather strict German teacher, now I am glad how much grammar she taught us.


Here's a good example of pretty much all of the above. The guy in the video speaks Ruhrdeutsch, which is a regiolect spoken in the Ruhr region of western Germany.




:) I can understand it mostly. I live in Dortmund. Though there are people from this region, Duisburg, I think, that I had lots of trouble with at first. Intersting, though, since he is from Duisburg (the actor)! Apparently the character is supposed to be from Essen? Thanks for the video. I love the term ''Potties', though not sure they do. http://www.dhlog.de/shop/dynshop/shop/showproddtlimg.php?item=12033


Though there are people from this region, Duisburg, I think, that I had lots of trouble with at first.

That might be because the area around Duisburg has been heavily influenced by the Dutch language. I grew up in the Lower Rhine region between Duisburg and the Dutch border and our traditional dialect is actually a dialect of Dutch. In the eastern Ruhr region, the regiolect shares more features with Westphalian Low German.




Very interesting and makes lots of sense!


This is very helpful, and especially great because it's from a non-native speaker, so you can be sure that those are things you will trip over, while we might not even be aware of causing confusion ;) Thanks EeroK!


Thanks! I've come across a few of those, but others (e.g. "haste") are new to me. Duolingo seems to accept the "dass-less" form for subordinate clauses, and even gives it as the preferred translation sometimes.


It's not only "haste". Others like "willste", "kannste", "musste" are quite common, too. Actually, it can be done with any verb: "schreibste, fährste, arbeiteste ... And that is used in spoken language a lot. At least where I live. In the south not so much, I think.

But it doesn't stop with the second person ;)

You can also hear things like "kanner" (kann er), "kannse" (kann sie), "könnse" (können Sie) but they are not as common and not really used in writing.


We use it in the South as well.


I just realized they really common in my dialect. Stuff like "kunnt's" (könnten Sie).


Yeah, I've noticed that too. I would really like to know if there is a rule behind it or something.


I don't know any rule, but I interpret that as some form of introduction to a citation/ indirect speech:

Er hat gesagt, er kommt ein bisschen später = Er hat gesagt: "ich komme ein bisschen später".

Of course, that would really require a subjunctive (er komme ein bisschen später), but Germans are not really keen on using a proper subjunctive in colloquial speech (maybe you can add that to your list ;) ). You can do that with many verbs that introduce some kind of statement or opinion: Ich denke, ich meine, ich finde...


I agree that it probably has to do with direct/indirect speech. "Er hat gesagt, er kommt später" is indirect speech and is fully acceptable. "Ich weiß, es ist keine gute Idee" is almost but not quite indirect speech, and it's borderline acceptable. But interpreting "Ich will, dass du gehst" as indirect speech would be really bold, and "Ich will, du gehst" is just wrong.


Well, "ich will" isn't stating an opinion. It's a classic modal verb which follow their own rules anyway.

I think in the case of "ich weiß, es ist keine gute Idee" we could also put a colon there: "Ich weiß: Es ist keine gute Idee." but usually we connect them with a comma to not imply such a big pause.


Good explanation, and on the other hand I think that "Ich will, dass du gehst" can be understood as a subjunctive mood (rarely seen in English, but very common in Spanish, for example).


I think the difference is "Ich weiß. Es ist keine gute Idee." would work as two separate sentences as well without changing the meaning.


If you use the subjunctive "er hat gesagt, er komme ein bisschen später" I'd even call that perfectly correct and formal German and not colloquial at all.


Good point. In standard German you can say it in Indikativ (indicative, the standard mood, as in the original example) or in Konjunktiv (subjunctive). There is a slight difference in meaning: Konjunktiv is neutral about the veracity of the statement, whereas Indikativ embraces it.

But this is changing. In the south, especially in Austria, Konjunktiv has mostly fallen out of use in this context, making Indikativ the normal and neutral choice. If you use Konjunktiv, people may think that you doubt the reported statement. (Otherwise this would be expressed by Konjunktiv 2, though I am not sure if that isn't colloquial: "Er hat gesagt, er käme ein bisschen später.")


Good that you mentioned that! I wanted to ask this for a long time, but have always forgotten to do so:

I often see people using Konjuktiv 2, where I would use Konjuktiv 1. What is kind of "funny", is that I've noticed it happening mostly with the verb "haben". So:

  • Er meinte, er habe es schon gemacht


  • Er meinte, er hätte es schon gemacht

I kind of translate the latter in my head in to:

  • Er behauptet ... (ich glaube ihm aber nicht)

What I find really weird, is that people even sometimes mix that with Konjuktiv 1:

  • Er sagte, er sei schon satt und er hätte heute genug getrunken

(I'm hungry, that was the first example that came to mind ;) )

I've been trying to decipher if they mean something special with that or is just that they aren't used to using Konjuktiv 1? I see that often in reports at my work. We have a lot of dialect speakers there and nobody expects you to write everything properly, they are more like notes to others, so that you know if something special happened during the shift, that others should be aware of. Somebody called, wanted to talk with somebody about something, but he wasn't there, could you please tell him when he comes, so that he knows to call them back. Just simple stuff like that.


@EeroK: Haben is indeed a somewhat special case. There is an official rule that for those verbs for which Konjunktiv 1 is identical to the Indikativ, we replace it by Konjunktiv 2. Obviously doing so does not imply any doubts about the veracity of the statement.

I think this rule is more prescriptive than descriptive. The Konjunktiv system in German is broken, and the various dialects and variants of German have different approaches to solving this problem. (One of them is circumscribing with würde, but some dialects have also developed more distinguishable Konjunktiv forms.) One symptom seems to be that use of Konjunktiv 2 as a replacement for Konjunktiv 1 seems to be more general in the standard language than the rule indicates, especially for haben. The Konjunktiv 1 forms of haben sound alien to many native German speakers, so they either learn them at school or just ignore them.

Your concrete examples are clearly from colloquial speech. As the rule is really only for written (or printable) German, it doesn't really apply to them anyway.

I guess it is routine when preparing transcripts of interviews for the media to 'fix' 'incorrect' indirect speech use such as use of Indikativ or overuse of Konjunktiv 2. In other words, Konjunktiv 1 is currently on life support.


Interesting that you say it's basically out of use in Austria, as it is very much alive in Switzerland. Swiss German has much more distinct paradigms too. For example, a regular weak verb, laufa (laufen, to walk):

<pre> Indikativ Konjunktiv I Konjunktiv II ii laufa laufi laufti du laufsch laufisch lauftisch er/sii/as/ma lauft laufi laufti miar/iar/sii laufen laufendi lauftendi </pre>

Note that there is no preterite tense in Swiss German. Like, at all. It's so outdated that I can't even guess how it could be formed.

Sometimes the forms overlap in the second person indikativ and K1, but otherwise they're all distinct.


Wow, that's an amazing guide. I've noticed that in German music, the e is often dropped in first person speech, to fit the syllable structure of the song.

By the way, do you know 'Was ist den los'? Is that like how are you or something?


"Was ist denn los?" would be used when someone is upset or something and you want to console them or calm them down and you need to know what happened. It's not used for a generic "how are you?", that's "wie geht's?"


Go to this song and skip to 0:48.


"Dieses Video ist in Deutschland leider nicht verfügbar, da es Musik von UMG enthalten könnte, über deren Verwendung wir uns mit der GEMA bisher nicht einigen konnten. "

Something else you will see in Germany quite often... :(

Is that the text you mean?

Zeig mir nochmal dein Gesicht, irgend etwas stimmt da nicht; doch allmählich fang ich an, alles zu verstehen. „Was ist denn los? Was habt ihr bloß?

That's exactly what I meant, it's inquiring what's the matter with them, not just asking "hello, how are you?"


Yeah, that's what I remember Was ist denn los from. What can UMG and GEMA not agree on?


GEMA is an organisation that makes sure artists get paid for their copyrighted works. For example, every time a song is performed in public, the performer has to pay GEMA for the original artist. "Perform" includes broadcasting them on radio, playing them from CD on public events, and GEMA thinks it also includes watching them on YouTube, demanding pay for every time a video with a song is clicked. Since they can't collect money from the users, they ordered to block all videos which contain material they "protect".


This is a common mistake; you've translated "Oh, I see" directly. But when you mean "I understand", you cannot use the verb "sehen". "Sehen" refers in German always to a visual. In Spanish you also wouldn't answer "o, veo", you would say "o, entiendo". It's the same in German: "Oh, ich verstehe" is the correct answer. Didn't want to ❤❤❤❤❤ around, BTW.


You could also say 'ach so!' for 'I see'.


Auf Spanisch wurde man nicht "o, veo" sagen. "Ya veo" ist korrekt. Ausserdem, "entiendo" nicht "o, entiendo."


@JudithL1: Presumably you are not just saying "ich sehe", though, but adding some disourse particle(s) or other elements. "Ich sehe" is just wrong when used in the sense of "I understand", but "Ich sehe schon" is perfectly correct and idiomatic.

Discourse particles in German are really hard. I am currently seeing this as a learner of Dutch, which uses them in slightly different ways that are just as unlogical.


Lol, I use that too in German, although I know it's not correct (German is my mother tongue). Guess I think to much in English.


It is "Was ist denn los?" and I would translate it to "What's going on?".


Danke. I'm assuming it's colloquial, then.


I wouldn't really call it colloquial. Los sein in the sense of happen, go on has become pretty standard. This may be because in situations in which you ask "Was ist los?" ("What's going on?"), it is normally appropriate to use slightly more colloquial speech. Adding the discourse particle denn (then: "Was ist denn los?" = "What's going on then?") is also perfectly standard.


This article should be a sticky! It is amazing! Thanks for sharing it with us!


"Ne" as a kinda informal "nein", maybe the like the english "nope" or "nah"….


One thing I forgot and just remembered (thanks to one of the comments):


The colloquial negations often differ both on pronunciation and writing from their proper Hochdeutsch comrades. For example:

  • Nicht often sounds more like "nit", you sometimes even see it spelled so, or "nitt" or "net"
  • Nichts becomes "nix", both written and spoken
  • Nein can be just a "ne" or "nö" with a long vowel

At least I think I'm hearing them almost everywhere, no matter from which area the person comes from.


Thanks, these were really interesting! I knew most of them, but I definitely had no idea they did that with the indefinite articles, or any of the stuff about SMS German. Glad you posted this, it's information like this that we can't get from a text book, or just doing online lessons.

Also, it's interesting that Germans think that way about overly proper language online. I understand the usefulness of "short-hand" in text messages and things, but I don't think of someone as smug for taking the time to write out perfectly grammatically correct English sentences online, in fact I admire such dedication ha! I'm disappointed that's how it comes across in German.


There is a difference between writing a blog post to an audience, and writing an SMS or an E-mail to your friend. In the first case, you would use proper grammar and write out the words, since it's some kind of official text. In an E-mail however, you simulate a colloquial conversation, so you write like you would talk with the recipient (of course, an E-mail to your professor will still be written very formally). So when I answer quenstions on duolingo, I will use mostly proper grammar (although I have noticed I drop the -e form first person verbs as well here...), while if I sent a mail to my husband, they range from dramatic retellings about the snail-phobia of our youngest to using comic speak.


Also on most forums, we Germans tend to pay more attention to correct grammar. Telling someone to just leave out punctuation and not to care about capitalization is wrong in my opinion. Of course it depends on the situation and the place you are. In an SMS, a Skype/ICQ/IRC/gtalk/whatever IM conversation, many people will not put a full stop (Punkt) at the end of a sentence (Punkt am Satzende). That's a bother, true. They will also not use a lot of capital letters. But on a forum where people are supposed to read, think about and reply to your message, they will be offended if you do not take the time to write a few proper sentences. The more specific the theme of the forum the worse this gets. Germans that are good at something are often pedantic about it. We love to be precise, and that is reflected in our use of our language. Things like "haste das gesehen?" may work in a chat program, but not on a forum, and certainly not in an email. I would go as far as saying that only younger people use these words in written language, and many of them often lack the ability to distinguish between when may be accepted to use them and when formal register is required.


Thanks, I see what you mean! I was imagining everything written online to people as being considered snobbish if correct writing was used.


It's not as different from what happens in English as you seem to believe. It's just that English tends to be more informal than German even when it is formal, so you can use many standard contractions even in relatively formal English. But when I write a German email to a friend, I prefer Ich hab over Ich habe for the same reason that I prefer it isn't over it is not in an English email to a friend.


Ah thanks a lot! I wasn't picturing taking the 'e' off the verb as a contraction, I was picturing it more like when people just shorten words to conform to their dialect in English.

Like chopping the 'g' off verbs, which is completely incorrect in English. "goin', runnin', lookin', talkin' etc..."

I mean, there is a huge difference in English between a grammatically correct contraction and one that is not.

I was picturing punctuation and spelling, as in English these are two of the biggest butchered categories on the internet. As well as misusing similar sounding words (your, you're, their, they're, there). What comes off as snobbish (unfortunately) is correcting someone's grammar online, instead of using simply writing correctly yourself.

There are also several "formal" English rules that don't make sense. For example, the rule to never split infinitives. This rule was carried over from Latin, where infinitives were one word. So they couldn't have split them if they wanted to!


Nonsensical made-up rules such as those about avoiding split infinitives or even the passive voice seem to be a disease peculiar to English. I haven't seen anything on this scale for any other language.

German is much more conservative than English in the sense that standard German is still preserving some syllables that everyone else has discarded. The e in ich habe is a good example. English still writes it in I have, but has stopped pronouncing it ages ago. German's sibling Dutch has discarded it officially: Ik heb. The same for the other sibling, Yiddish: ikh hob. The Scandinavian languages and Icelandic also got rid of it: jeg har, jag har, ég hef.

So it's not surprising that the German dialects as well as colloquial German also don't have the e any more. In some sense standard German is an antiquated standard not unlike a version of English completely without contractions.


My sisters write all SMS in our regional dialect. I write them in (more or less) standard German. That's kinda funny because dialects are hard to write as there is no standard orthography.


There are a lot of funny dictionaries "Deutsch-Bayrisch" and so on http://www.bayrisches-woerterbuch.de/index.html There are also Asterix comics in different dialects. But yeah, there is no standard, they are just trying to write what you hear, which in turn leaves you often reading it out loud to get what they mean.


Excellent list and probably extremely helpful to learners of German. A minor correction/clarification:

There are two different ways of abbreviating the two-syllable indefinite articles. You can leave out either the first syllable or the second syllable. I think leaving out the second syllable (e.g. einem -> ein'm) has a very long tradition. I guess it was standard in some regions centuries ago, and occasionally it is done in poetry to fix the syllable count. Some similar contractions have become perfectly standard (im < in dem, am < an dem). Leaving out the first syllable (e.g. einem -> 'nem) seems to be a more recent practice. For some reason I seem to associate it with Berlin, though it is of course much more widespread. A typical sentence that should be mentioned in this context: "Haste mal 'n Euro?"


I (grown up in Bavaria as a Saupreiß) wouldn't even have considered leaving out the first syllable a possibility in colloquial speech. "Ich esse ein' Apfel" would just sound worng to me and I'd say "ich ess nen Apfel"


I do think I have heard sentences similar to "ich ess' ein' Apfel". But I agree that "ich esse ein' Apfel" is just wrong. Anyone dropping the second syllable of einen will also drop the last syllable of esse.

There is a (small) number of Google hits for ess ein Apfel. While I was looking through them, it occurred to me that this particular way of abbreviating einen might be related to Turkish immigrants. If you drop the first syllables of indefinite articles, you must know whether in the full word a second syllable exists, and what it is. If you always drop the second syllable, choosing an indefinite article becomes much easier: It's always ein regardless of case and number. (Though some people make the transformation einem -> eim.) I am not saying that this variant is due to immigrants or that it is used primarily by them; but they seem to be more likely to use it.


This was such a lovely post. Many thanks!

I can only upvote once, but I can give as many lingots as I want! :-)


<pre>Ich will nicht, dass du gehst </pre>

Maybe a native could help me here? :)

It's really easy: In your first examples you have a complete sentence after the comma. But in this special sentence, you have two halves of a sentence, so you can leave the "dass" away if you have a complete sentence without it (and really don't do this in applications or here at Duolingo!).

BTW, we in the "Ruhrpott" (Dortmund, Bochum, Oberhausen and all the cities in the area) don't say the "t" in "haste" -> "Hasse ma n Euro?" (Hast du mal einen Euro), so now you can really save your breath ;-)

And you really got it right, there's a German book: "Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod", telling us nobody uses the genitive these days and this is why the dative is killing the genitive. Also the imperative often isn't correctly used, for example: "Ess!" is used instead of "Iss!" if someone should have eaten his/her meal.

You really looked through us, nice work!


This is very helpful. Thanks so much! :)


Thanks, that's very helpful!


Thanks, great list.

You probably also heard the use of main clauses after "weil" as in: "Ich hab' keine Zeit, weil ich muss lernen." instead of the correct "Ich hab' keine Zeit, weil ich lernen muss." I always cringe when I hear it but people do use it.

Regarding the use of formally correct language online and in SMS messages I would not completely agree. The lack of proper spelling and capitalisation comes across as childish. So feel free to do it when you are a teenager but avoid it when you want to be taken seriously as an adult.


Yea, you are right. I'll edit it a bit. I didn't mean that you can write "freestyle" all over internet without sounding like an idiot, but just that, often in online conversations the tone and form are rather "loose", just like in spoken conversation in general. If you then drop in and write your message with siezen und in a really "Hochdeutsch", it can give the impression that you are overly formal and set yourself "above the others", if you understand what I mean.

It depends on the place, the tone, the style. Commenting a funny article a friend sent you is totally different than writing a serious comment on a newspapers website etc. Just as SMS'ng your friend is different than writing an SMS to your landlord ;)


"Siezen" on the Internet is basically the complete opposite of being formal. It's passive-aggressive. It basically means "we all are friends here and on colloquial terms but you don't belong to us!" Don't do this, unless you are in a forum where everyone uses "Sie". Then again, don't post in a forum where everyone uses "Sie", because the tone will be rude anyway.


I don't think these claims are true in the stated generality. Choice of Sie or du on the internet depends on the speaker's age and internet experience at least as much as the factors you mention. Forums frequented primarily by older people and therefore using Sie aren't necessarily rude.


Okay, I don't know many forums exclusivly frequented by older people. The only place I know where users are usually older is the usenet, and saying "Sie" there is considered extremely rude. The only place I read where most users say "Sie" is Spiegel online and you can bet that after 3 pages someone starts insulting others. All others I have encountered whether for games, blogs or language learning sites ;) everyone uses "du".


That's awesome. I knew about the haste, 'ne, and I believe the dass thing (although I wasn't 100% sure whether I was going mad or not :P) but the rest I believe I didn't know. Sehr dankbar!


Have a lingot! Danke schön!


just something to add for the shortening of indefinite articles "for SMS and speech" (male and neuter words)

You also leave out the t in ist very often. Der is' nett zu mir. Is'so.

Ich hab'n Freund = Ich habe einen Freund

If you have the "e" in first-person conjugated Verbs it just becomes n : Ich sehe 'n Tier = Ich sehe ein Tier.


With "Ich will nicht, dass du gehst" you can't drop the dass (I think) because the verb To want (someone) to is Wollen dass (jemand), so not using it would be like saying "I don't want you go"? I'm not native, this is just a guess :)


I've explained it above why the other two examples work: One is indirect speech (and would need Konjunktiv 1 to be formally correct) and the other one can be treated as two separate sentences. (Ich weiß; es ist keine gute Idee."

I don't know if there are ANY other structures where deleting the "dass" works.

There ares some other constructions which would need Konjunktiv 1 or 2 and are therefore similar to the first example. "Ich wünschte, er ginge" - "I wish he would go" is grammatically fine but sounds medieval.


Awesome! This is a really good guide! :D

Especially among young people, I'd say pretty much everyone talks like this. However, language courses usually don't cover it at all. That's why many learner of German are a bit lost at first when talking to natives. I'm wondering why this isn't mentioned (/taught) more often.


This is a pretty comprehensive list! The only thing I'd add is that along with 'haste' I've seen 'ham' written to mean 'haben' and 'nix' instead of 'nichts'. I think it's really interesting reading YouTube comments and seeing how real Germans actually use their language.

One thing I've noticed on the spoken side of things is that Germans have an uncanny ability to turn two syllables into one without losing any of the letters. For example, there's a song I like that ends in the sentence 'willst du, dass wir sterben?' but somehow the last word is only one syllable and sounds kind of like 'sterm'. I don't know how they do it.


b and n sound a bit like m, I think. Anyway, I (from Bavaria) would say this is quite common. "Ham ma des scho gmacht?" would be said here for "Haben wir das schon gemacht?" or trying to get people to hurry up, "haben wir es bald?" would be "hammas bald?"


Ah, so you listen to die Ärzte? That's cool! :D


Haha yeah I would have linked to the song but the video's a bit gruesome


Mhm. Some dialects do that. Until ten seconds ago I thought that was more of a Southern thing, but die Ärtzte are from Berlin.


A short remark about the Genitiv-Dativ section.
Eventhough many people do it, it is still considered wrong. It will usually be noted in a very positiv way if you use the genitiv where appropriate. So, while it is good for understanding spoken german to know about this, you definitely do not want to add to your speaking.


In addition of jayeidge's comment I'd like to say that there is an even worse construction: Instead of "Das ist das Haus meines Vaters" or the colloquially accepted "Das ist das Haus von meinem Vater" people sometimes say "Das ist meinem Vater sein Haus." which is just a no go in my opinion. However, it is used occasionally, see for example this scene from "Nobody ist der Größte" (English: "A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe"): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErhIT4pn19It=1m20s

In case you have problems understanding: "Hat das weh getan?" - "Nein, Sir!" - "Warum nicht?" - "Weil mein Schlüsselbein aus Plastik ist." - "Das auch nicht?" - "Nein, Sir!" - "Warum nicht?" - "Weil das nicht mein Fuß war, sondern ihm seiner."

[edited according to johaquila's comment - thanks!]


Actually it's not "Das ist mein Vater sein Haus" but "Das ist meinem Vater sein Haus". The construction is parallel to one that was once popular in English as well: "That is my father his house." But in English it was a hypercorrection by people who interpreted the Saxon genitive ('s) as a contraction for his and wanted to write without contractions.

The only problem with this construction is that it's not widely accepted yet. But I think it's likely that in a hundred years or so it will be standard.


I think/thought this was a regionalism in the South and specifically Bavaria because it stems from a similar non-standard practice in Latin. At least I think this is what my Latin teacher told us.


In my (Lower Austria) dialect this is the default way to indicate possession. But hearing it like that (non-dialect / pronounced as written) is cringe-worthy.


The Genitiv vs Dativ thing is an interesting one. There have been lots of discussions about this, and there is even a book written on it called "Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod" by Bastian Sick, who is also the author behind Zwiebelfisch, a part of politics and Zeitgeist magazin Der Spiegel's online version (http://www.spiegel.de/thema/zwiebelfisch/). It has a lot interesting things that have happened to German recently, as well as critical and cynical discussions about nice and not so nice changes that are occurring to the German language.

Back to the topic, it is true that in a normal conversation with a friend or with colleagues would often use the Dativ. Imagine this conversation:

"It's very loud in your garden." - "Yes, that's because of all the cars on the road."

A correct but very old-fashioned sounding Hochdeutsch translation would be:

"Es ist sehr laut in deinem Garten." - "Ja, der vielen Autos auf der Straße wegen."

No-one says that. Many Germans do not know it is correct, though someone who went to a school that teaches Latin will understand and might use stuff like this from time to time. Another correct use of the Genitiv is: "Ja, wegen der vielen Autos auf der Straße.". That is fine, you can say that. But "Ja, wegen den vielen Autos auf der Straße." is something many people use, but is not correct.

On SMS German I would like to add a few things you might encounter are acronyms. Just like English use cu or 4u or XX, Germans have these too:

  • hdl means "Hab' dich lieb", which is a weak form of I love you you can use for your lover in casual conversation, your parents/children, but which is very common between girls who are friends (as in bff).
  • hdgdl means "Hab dich ganz doll lieb". See above, just stronger and more cute.
  • ild is "Ich liebe dich". That one is obvious.
  • LG is often used in company emails or just SMS for "Liebe Grüße". I have seen French people using BR for "best regards" in English emails just like this a lot.
  • we means "Wochenende", the weekend.
  • ka means "Keine Ahnung", as in I don't know.

There are a lot more of those of course. Remember this is not even colloquial but really just for chat programs.


" Another correct use of the Dativ is" I think you mean Genitiv or am I misunderstanding you?

Other German-based chat abbreviations (most are taken from English):

  • ds Dankeschön
  • gw Glückwunsch
  • mMn meiner Meinung nach (although I think the English imo is more common)
  • n8 = Gute Nacht


Yes, thank you. I fixed it. Regarding your additions... I've not seen people using gw (I have seen gz with gamers, they even say this on voice chat) or ds anywhere. I have seen mmn, but I agree that imo is more common at least online with people that have a tech background (like me). I use this one in work emails for example, but I also use btw in written German with colleagues. We might want to add that n8 is actually N + Acht forming the word Nacht which is a short form of Gute Nacht. But overall, using numbers in these short forms is not common in German.


Yeah, I don't use n8 either but I've seen it. I don't know gz at all and see gw and ds all the time but I probably just play different games.


Just great! I'm still struggling with the German tree, but I'm going to keep the link. Thanks a lot.


Hi this is q helpful thanks rach


Thank you for starting this fascinating discussion. I've learned so much.


That was GREAT !!!!!!


Danke! (Even though this is 4 years old, haha)

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