Essential German Grammar, by Guy Stern, et al | #6 | 2022 Centobibliennial Reading


This book explores the grammar of the German language in its basic detail.

Guy Stern & Everett F. Bleiler

There is nothing written in this book about these two writers. Not even a bio page.


Considering how German closely resembles English, along with the rest of the Germanic language family, it can be safe to say that it is easier to transition from a native English language to the German language. One way this is similar is the way the words sound. Another is the usage of possessives, though there are more complicated differences.

Another important theme of the German language is the use of articles. They experience most of the morphological change whether the noun it modifies becomes plural, dative, accusative, or genitive; while the nouns themselves sometimes add an umlaut or an ending. The authors have advised to study the articles more than the complex rules of gendered nouns.

Another thing to notice about verbs that specifically use locational prepositions in the English language are used differently in German. The words out and back, for instanced, are affixed in front of the verb.

The declensions in German are described as simply as possible. From what I took away was that the 3rd person indicative verbs have the +t ending, whereas the ones with +en are the infinitive or past participle.

Another interesting component to German is that it does not make a substantial use of “to do” as an auxiliary verb–if at all. Rather, the usage of the accusative or dative verb is used in its place with the verb that follows the subject pronoun. Another omission is the verb “to like,” rather the use of “to please” or “playfully” are used in place of it when in translation.

Historical Context

There is brief historical context when it pertained to the English language. In this case, English originally capitalized the nouns, whereas in German it continues to be used. Also, like German, the English language also makes use of the umlaut pluralization to a small extent, like in the case of mice and geese.


The differences from the English and German languages are quite stark, yet sound similar and have similarities from the same Germanic language family. This is due, as Anne Curzan explained, to the migration of Germanic speakers into what would become England. Because they landed on an island, this caused them to develop a language unintelligible from the Germanic languages spoken in continental Europe.

The usage of the “working-verb” reminds me of learning the Dutch language through a Udemy course. Dutch is a sister-language of German alongside English, in which “working-word” is directly translated into Dutch as verb. However, instead of being a verb in a general sense, the German working-word is more of an auxiliary verb denoting movement–at least as far as the example has taught me.

And like Dutch, German is an SOV language, meaning that the verb is typically located at the end of the sentences, whereas the interrogative sentences begin with the verb. It is heavily reliant on syntax, along with the morphological rules that apply.

Connecting To The Previous Book

Matthew Crawford dealt a lot with the issue of the distance between education and employment, between producer and produced. As such, he argued that he found fulfillment in motorcycle repair, because it connected him to the motorcycle, and through proxy the rest of the community that makes use of the motorcycle.

I can definitely see how learning German grammar would adapt this type of thinking, particularly at the beginning when Stern and Bleiler suggests studying terms related to whatever career you are working in, so as to build cohesion with the language and the workplace. In the case of grammar, it helps to use those terms within the sentences that make learning and eventually speaking the language more grounded.

Writing Style

The use of the word “to come” is incredibly important in German grammar. It operates as a working-word, operating as a questioner when placed at the beginning of the sentence, specifically when the sentence denotes movement with such verb as “to arrive” in the English translation. Another auxiliary verb which denotes the past tense is “to have” along with the verb in its past participle form; and “to become” is used for the future tense.

Real-World Application

The way that this book begins is by explaining that this book is meant for German-language-learners to learn what they can about the grammar in order to learn faster. As such, it is not intended for those who are just recently studying the German language.

Inspiration To Myself

Of course, I would argue that for most of the world, which already has some grasp at the English language, there really is no difficulty in transitioning towards German, since it has many similarities to English.

Although I have German ancestry from my maternal lineage, I am not learning German as a heritage language, rather for its utility in the world around and outside of myself. It is among the top 20 most widely spoken language in the world according to the 2021 edition of Ethnologue.


Maybe Recommend

I do think this book is important–if not timeless due to God knows how many reprintings–it definitely is something that would only be considered important if it was highly in demand. However, considering its size, it might be beneficial to a beginning speaker, I was hoping for more historical context behind the Germanic language family.

Recommend This To…

  • Any native English speaker who is about to learn German. Although Stern and Bleiler recommend more intermediate speakers, I would recommend this book to any beginning German speaker who is not intimidated by linguistic jargon.


  • Crawford, Matthew B. “Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into The Value Of Work.” Penguin. 2009.
  • Curzan, Anne and Michael Adams. “How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction.” 3rd Edition. Pearson. 2012.
  • De Raymond, Alain. “Learn the Dutch Language Online.” Udemy. UC-U0S7YYPZ.
  • Stern, Guy and Everett F. Bleiler. “Essential German Grammar: All the Grammar Really Needed For Speech and Comprehension.” Reprinted Edition (2014). Dover Publications, Inc. 1961.
  • “What are the top 200 most spoken languages?”Ethnologue. 24th Edition. 2021.

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