20 Common Mistakes in the German Language

German isn’t exactly the easiest language to learn if it’s your first foreign language, but it’s also a versatile choice and one of those languages that lends its words to other languages. The good news is that if you do decide to learn German, there are plenty of tips and tricks that you can learn to help you along the way. Get started by avoiding these twenty common pitfalls.

Forgetting to practice

If you want to learn a language, you need to practice it. This will help you to identify what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong and to highlight areas of improvement. Practice makes perfect.

Forgetting to read

When we start to learn a new language, we tend to focus mostly on our ability to speak that language and to hold a conversation. This certainly helps, but it’s also a good idea to read newspapers, books and even blog sites so that you get exposed to different words and ways of talking.

Getting the genders wrong

English doesn’t use masculine, feminine and neutral terms to refer to inanimate objects, but German does. Getting the genders right can take time and a lot of it comes down to trial and error, but it’s one of those little tells that will immediately give you away as a non-native speaker.

Not getting backup

When you’re learning a language, it helps to have some backup in the form of a friend or a family member who’s a fluent speaker. When you learn on your own, you risk picking up bad habits and then reinforcing them subconsciously because there’s no one there to correct you.

Getting the word order wrong

The German language follows its own set of grammatical rules, and this includes a specific word order that differs from the way we structure sentences in English. One of the most important rules to remember is that the main verb in the sentence is almost always the second word.

Mispronouncing words

Beware when German words look like English words because that’s no guarantee that they’re pronounced the same. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to misunderstand someone or even to accidentally swear. The pronunciation makes all the difference.

Not re-reading anything you write

Pete Menzies says that 80% of the mistakes that he sees could be avoided with a proofread. “We work with many people who are writing English or German as a second language,” he explains, “and we find that they improve faster if they re-read their written work to check for mistakes.”

Ignoring nuances

In German, the same word (fruend/freundin) is used to refer to a romantic partner or just a casual acquaintance. It falls to you as a German speaker to infer the context of certain words from the sentences in which they’re being used.

Falling for false friends

Some English and German words have similar roots but different meanings, and this can lead to awkwardness and embarrassment. There’s also slang to deal with, which can be tricky enough in your mother tongue.

Getting lost in compound words

The German language is notorious for its usage of long, compound words that bring multiple words together into one. An example of one of the easier words is “hauptbahnhof”, which basically means “main train station”. Mastering these words can be difficult and it can help to break them up into their constituent words.

Wanting instead of doing

English speakers often get confused between “ich will” which means “I want” and “ich werde” which means “I will”. This simple mistake can lead to major misunderstandings and accidental implications.

Getting times wrong

Times in German are always “half to” or “quarter to”, and if you make the mistake of forgetting it you’re going to be an hour late to everything.

Forgetting umlauts

A tiny umlaut can make a major difference. For example, if you describe the day as “schwul” then you’re saying that it’s a gay day, but if you remember the umlauts and say “schwül” then you’re describing it as muggy.

Forgetting also vs. auch

German speakers use the word “also” to mean “therefore”. For “also” in the sense of “as well as”, they use the word “auch”.

Not remembering workarounds

Sometimes the German language includes workarounds like “einzigste” (“only-est”) and “meist beliebteste” (“most popular-est”) to compensate for words that don’t exist in a German form. Being able to remember these unusual words will help you to sound more like a native and less like a tourist.

Thinking in English

When English is your primary language, the temptation is to think in English too. Where possible, try to think in German instead, especially when you’re spending time with German speakers. This will help you to improve your vocabulary but it’ll also remove the need to translate from one language to another.

Using “sie” instead of “du”

The term “sie” is a formal way of saying “you”, whereas in more informal situations, most people go with “du” or “ihr”. This is another one of those things that you’ll need to trust your gut on and which will improve over time with practice.

Forgetting to capitalise nouns

German is unusual because it requires you to capitalise nouns, although nationality adjectives use lower case. This won’t affect your spoken German, but it will betray you as a non-native when you’re writing in the language.

Not putting the verb at the end of the sentence

The verb doesn’t always come at the end of the sentence, but there are certain times at which it’s mandatory. This is another thing that comes with practice and from listening to the way that native speakers talk.

Trying to be perfect

Ultimately, nobody’s perfect and even native German speakers make mistakes. We do the same as English speakers. Trying to form perfect sentences can hold you back from actually maintaining a conversation, so focus instead on getting your meaning across.


Ultimately, learning any new language opens you up to potential pitfalls, and part of the learning process involves making mistakes and then overcoming them. With the common mistakes that we’ve shared in this article, you should be off to a good start. Now it’s over to you for you to practice. Viel glück.

Author's Bio: 

Peter Hill is a topresume writer, working for the best dissertation writing service called ninja essay. Here you may check ninjaessays reviews. He was working in California SMM Agency for 5 years. If you need a qualified paper writing service or math homework help, please feel free to contact him.