The “Essay Format for German 101” that we are asking you to follow is specifically designed to help you write your essay in German as much as possible, without first coming up with ideas in English. We strongly recommend that you use this same method to draft your remaining test essays, i.e. start by leafing through the current and most recent chapters of the textbook to look for ideas, note vocabulary and phrases you can use/adapt, then free-write for 20-minutes, then make edits and look up words as needed. As much as possible, try to avoid coming up with ideas in English and then having to figure out how to translate them into German! Writing your ideas out in English and then translating them into German is very hard work, and produces very poor results. Follow the suggested procedure, and you will be surprised how easy it can be to write in German :)
Look up words carefully. When you look up a word, your goal should be 95% confidence that the word you find is correct.
Start with the PONS dictionary (see the link on the top right or bottom of this page).
Note the information provided about each group of words:
whether it’s a noun, an adjective, an adverb, or a transitive or intransitive verb. A transitive verb can take an object (e.g. eat: I eat vegetables); an intransitive verb cannot (e.g. sleep: I sleep). If you’re looking for the verb “to kick” [=treten], for example, don’t choose a noun [e.g. der Tritt]!
often, there is additional info provided in parentheses about the sense of the word. E.g. for the noun “cup,” there are sections on (container), (measure), (“SPORTS”), (chalice), (“BOT(ANY)”), (“FASHION”) etc.
Once you’ve decided on a German word/expression, click on that word/expression to check its list of English translations, to see if it’s what you were expecting
If after checking PONS you’re still unsure which word to choose, try dict.dcc or Linguee (see the links on the top right or bottom of this page).
If you’re still unsure, try googling the phrase you came up with in quotation marks, to see if it gets used on the internet, and if it seems to mean what you want it to mean.
This is a lot of work, and so before you look up a word, you should consider whether you might not be able to express the same idea more simply in another way using the vocabulary you already know!
Proofread your essay:
Make sure your ideas “flow.” Move sentences around as needed, group ideas that belong together in paragraphs, delete sentences that “don’t fit,” or write an additional sentence or two to make them fit.
Google will suggest spelling corrections. Accept them if they look correct!
“Respect the nouns”: Make sure all nouns (and only nouns) are capitalized! Do not capitalize “ich” (unless it starts the sentence).
Look up the genders of all nouns; for any nouns in the plural, look up the correct plural form.
See below for more things to look for if you have time.
If you use a modal verb (können, dürfen, sollen, wollen, müssen), be sure to conjugate it correctly – click here to see their present tense forms. Remember in particular that they have no endings for the ich- and er/sie/es-forms. Remember also that the modal verb goes in “position 2,” and the infinitive form of the “other” verb comes at the end of the clause: “Nena kann gut singen“; “Heidi Klum will das nächste Top-Model finden.”
The same rules about verb position apply for möchte: put the infinitive form of the “other” verb comes at the end of the clause: “Sebastian Vettel möchte einen Ferrari kaufen“; “Ich möchte Fatih Akin kennen lernen.”
The above list of modal verbs should have included mögen, but it didn’t because mögen is normally used with nouns rather than other verbs: “Angela Merkel magNicki Minaj, Bruce Springsteen und Peter Fox“; “Jerome Boateng mag Katzen. Er magkeine Pressekonferenzen.” But mögen does follow the same conjugation pattern as the other modal verbs: no endings for the ich- and er/sie/es-forms.
Remember gern is for verbs and mögen is for nouns: X schwimmt gern; X mag SPAM.
X is 17/18 = X ist 17/18 ODER X ist 17/18 Jahre alt.
ie/ei (spelling): If it sounds like the “ie” in “die,” use “ie”; if it sounds like the “ei” in “ein,” use “ei”!
UofM is “Die University of Michigan” or “Die Universität Michigan”; “High School” is “High School” [“Hochschule” actually refers to colleges/universities in German].
Avoid beginning sentences with “auch.” Put “auch” before the thing shared in common.
First Year Student = First Year Student ODER Student / Studentin / Studentx im ersten/zweiten Semester. Or you can say “Es ist sein/ihr/their erstes Jahr an der Uni.” Sophomore ==> drittes/viertes Semester; Junior ==> fünftes/sechstes Semester etc.
At 5 o’clock = Um 5 Uhr, but to say someone is at a place, you need to use “in” or occasionally “an,” never “um“.
“Die Familie” and “die Polizei” are singular; “die Leute” are plural.
German adjectives come before the noun, like in English [for those of you who have had Spanish, Italian, or French].
German has no real equivalent to the verb “graduate,” and you shouldn’t need it for this essay. If you do, read on: The verb “graduieren” exists, but is very awkward. Try to say things like “Nach [=after] der High School…” or “Wenn ich mit der Universität fertig [=finished] bin…” or “Ich mache meinen Abschluss…” [=”I complete my degree”]. If you use this, cite it with a footnote as follows: “First Essay Hints, No. 14.”