German Adjectives, Adverbs and Prepositions

Beginner German - Level A2

Time for a review of German Adjectives, Adverbs and Prepositions:
Adjectives are words that describe nouns. Most adjectives are stand-alone words; however, present and past participles can also be used as adjectives. Numbers are also adjectives, though they do not decline.
Adverbs based on adjectives are one of the simplest parts of German grammar. Any adjective can be used as an adverb simply by placing its uninflected form within the sentence, usually towards the end.
Prepositions are words that are used to describe the relationship between one noun or pronoun (person, object, thing, etc.) to another noun or pronoun (person, object, thing, etc.) in a sentence.
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German Adjectives, Adverbs and Prepositions

In English and in German we use several different parts of speech to describe other elements in a sentence, and to demonstrate the relationship between each other. Adjectives, adverbs and prepositions are all used for that very purpose. Especially adverbs and prepositions can get mixed up, as they both can modify or describe another element in the sentence based on time or place (and less often, manner). But it is important to understand that they cannot be used to modify or describe the same element. Additionally, an adverb in English

1. Adjectives 

Adjectives are words that modify or describe nouns or noun phrases. In English and in German, adjectives can be placed after a noun (The house is small) and before the noun (I live in a small house.). When using adjectives in German, we have to pay close attention to its placement: if the noun appears before the adjective, then, as in an English sentence, there is no change to spelling of the adjective, regardless of the gender of the noun. (Das Haus ist klein. Die Maus ist klein.) However, adjectives that are placed before a noun will take endings depending on gender, case, and article. Because of this fact, adjectives in German are classed as "veränderlich" (changeable), and more specifically "deklinierbar" (declinable), which means they can change based on grammatical case or determiner (e.g. definite vs. indefinite article). 

Der kleine Hund schläft. Ein kleiner Hund schläft. Ich sehe den kleinen Hund. 
The small dog sleeps. A small dog sleeps. I see the small dog. 

2. Adverbs

Adverbs never modify or describe nouns. Adverbs are used to modify verbs (hence the name adverb), but they can also be used to modify adjectives (sehr gut - very good) or another adverb (sehr gern - very gladly). In English, we can easily make an adverb out of an adjective by adding the suffix "-ly".

The car is beautiful. (adjective) 
The car drives beautifully. (adverb)

In German, we do not have an equivalent of "-ly" adverbs. However, a word can be used as an adjective in one sentence, and an adverb in another. For example, we can use the word "nett" (nice) as either an adverb or an adjective. 

Der Mann ist nett. The man is nice. (adjective). 
Der Mann lächelt nettThe man is smiling nicely. (adverb) 

Notice that the adverb "nett" did not change. Adverbs in German are classified as "unveränderlich" (unchangeable), because they do not change regardless of subject or verb. (Note: a handful of adverbs can be used in comparison, which does add comparative or superlative endings). In general, adverbs help us describe the circumstances under which a verb is done. We can describe a circumstance based on location or place (Lokaladverbien), time or frequency (Temporaladverbien), manner (Modaladverbien), or cause (Kausaladverbien). This is something that they have in common with prepositions, which adds to the confusion. But remember, an adverb describes how a verb is done. 

Der Hund spielt draussen. 
The dog plays outside (Lokaladverb)
Der Hund spielt oft. The dog plays often. (Temporaladverb)
Der Hund spielt deshalb. The dog plays for that reason(Kausaladverb)

Der Hund spielt komisch. The dog plays weirdly. (Modaladverb). 

3. Prepositions 

Prepositions are words that are used to describe the relationship between one noun or pronoun (person, object, thing, etc.) to another noun or pronoun (person, object, thing, etc.) in a sentence. Because they can describe this relationship based on time (temporale Präpositionen), place (lokale Präpositionen) and manner (modale Päpositionen), there can be confusion between them and adverbs, which can describe verbs based on time, place and manner. Prepositions are also classified as "unveränderlich" (unchangeable), because the prepositions themselves do not change, regardless of the gender or case. However, as they describe the relationship between nouns (which is exactly what the cases help us demonstrate), they trigger specific cases depending on the nature of this relationship. 

Der Junge steht vor dem Haus.
 (lokale Präposition). 

The boy stands in front of the house. 
Der Junge lernt vor der Prüfung. (temporale Präposition)
The boy studies before the exam. 
Der Junge schreibt mit dem Bleistift. (modale Präposition)
The boy writes with the pencil. 

In the above examples, the prepositions used help us demonstrate the relationship between the boy and the house, the exam, and the pencil. Some prepositions always trigger the same case (Akkusativ Präpositionen, Dativ Präpositionen, Genitiv Präpositionen), and some can flip between accusative and dative, depending on the question that is asked (Dative: Wo? -Where?; Accusative: Wohin? - Where to?, Woher? - Where from?).

What can add to the confusion between adverbs and prepositions is that they can appear side by side in a sentence. 

Der Hund spielt draussen im GartenThe dog plays outside in the yard. 

In this example, the adverb "draussen" (outside) describes where the boy is playing, but the prepositional phrase "im Garten" (in the yard), also describes where the boy is playing. But if we break down the sentence a bit, we can figure out that "draussen" cannot be used directly with a noun, or to describe the relationship to a noun. 
For example, we could not say "Der Hund spielt draussen Garten.". That is because it is an adverb. However, the preposition "in" that is used here, can (and is) used to describe the relationship between the dog and the yard. 

4. Summary

In brief, adjectives describe nouns. If placed before a noun in German, adjectives take endings depending on gender, case and article. Adverbs modify verbs, other adverbs or adjectives. They do not change. Both adjectives and adverbs can be used for comparison. Prepositions demonstrate the relationship between nouns and trigger certain cases. 


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Silvie und Max reisen durch Europa. Sie wollten zuerst eigentlich nur mit dem Zug nach Spanien fahren, aber haben sich dann entschlossen ein bisschen rumzureisen.
Sie haben sich spontan entschlossen in Italien auszusteigen, und für ein paar Tage dort zu bleiben.
Sie stiegen morgens in einer kleinen Stadt namens Rivoli aus, und machten eine kleine Wanderung. Auf der Wanderung trafen die beiden ein Paar aus Frankreich, Mattieu und Marie. Mattieu und Marie kamen aus einer kleinen französischen Stadt namens Nimes. Marie erzählte Silvie und Max von den vielen Dingen, die man in Nimes machen kann, also entschlossen sie sich am nächsten Tag mit dem Zug nach Nimes zu fahren. Später aßen die beiden an einem kleinen, gemütlichen Bistro zu Abend.
Der Zug nach Nimes fuhr schon um 6 Uhr morgens ab. Die beiden hätten fast verschlafen, aber haben den Zug gerade noch erwischt.
In Nimes besichtigten die beiden „Les Arenes“, ein altes Amphitheater. Dort trafen sie einen Alten Mann aus einem kleinen, spanischen Dorf namens Huesca. Er erzählte den beiden von einem Berg namens Mallos de Agüero. Es hörte sich so toll an, dass sich Silvie und Max entschließen, als Nächstes nach Huesca zu fahren. Jetzt sind die beiden wieder am Bahnhof und warten auf den Zug nach Spanien.

zuerst - at first
sich entschließen - to decide
rumreisen - to travel around
die Wanderung(en) - the hike
erwischen - to catch (a train)

1. What prepositions were used (with nouns), what adjectives were used, and what adverbs were used?
2. What did Silvie and Max originally want to do?
3. Who did they meet on their hike?
4. Why did they almost miss their train? 
5. Where are they going next and why? 

1. Prepositions:

durch Europa, mit dem Zug, in Italian, für ein paar Tage, auf der Wanderung, aus Frankreich, aus einer...Stadt, von den..Dingen, am nächsten Tag, mit dem Zug, nach Nimes, an einem... Bistro, nach Nimes, um 6 Uhr, in Nimes, aus einem Dorf, von einem Berg, nach Huesca, am Bahnhof, auf den Zug.

keinen Stadt, kleine Wanderung, keinen, französischen Stadt, keinen, gemütlichen Bistro, altes Amphitheater, alten Mann, kleinen, spanischen Dorf.
zuerst, eigentlich, ein bisschen, spontan, dort, morgens, namens, namens, später, schon, fast, gerade noch, dort, namens, namens, so toll, als (Nächstes), jetzt, wieder.
2. Silvie and Max originally just wanted to travel to Spain by train. 
3. They met a couple from France, Matthieu and Marie. 
4. They almost missed the train because they overslept. 
5. They are going to Huesca, Spain, because they met a man from there who told them about a mountain. 


1. Identify the adverbs in the following sentenes:
   a. Ich spiele oft mit meinem Bruder Fussball. 
   b. Er spielt gerne Schlagzeug. 
   c. Der Hund spielt draussen im Garten. 
   d. Ich kann dich morgen anrufen. 
   c. Er steht vor der Garage. 

2. Identify the preposition in the following sentences:
   a. Wir üben abends. 
   b. Der Baum wächst hinter der Garage. 
   c. Die Kinder spielen im Garten. 
   d. Das Geschäft ist am Rathaus. 
   c. Wir sind in den Bergen. 

3. In the sentences below, identify the word in cursive. 
   a. Wir spielen samstags im Park Fussball. 
   b. Er geht oft durch den Wald spazieren. 
   c. Wir fahren gerne nach Italien. 
   d. Sie fährt gerne dort hin
   e. Er arbeitet in der Stadt. 

4. Of the sentences below, which one has one adjective, one adverb, one preposition, one adverb and one preposition, and all three? 
   a. Wir spielen abends in der Halle Volleyball. 
   b. Das Haus ist geräumig. 
   c. Sie singt schön. 
   d. Sie ist beim Arzt. 
   e. Wir spielen oft in der kleinen Halle Fussball. 
1. a. Ich spiele oft mit meinem Bruder Fussball. 
   b. Er spielt gerne Schlagzeug. 
   c. Der Hund spielt draussen im Garten. 
   d. Ich kann dich morgen anrufen. 
   c. Er steht vor der Garage. (There is no adverb in this sentence!)

2. a. Wir üben abends. (There is no preposition in this sentence)
   b. Der Baum wächst hinter der Garage. 
   c. Die Kinder spielen im Garten. (in dem = im)
   d. Das Geschäft ist am Rathaus. (an dem  = am)
   c. Wir sind in den Bergen. 

3.a. Wir spielen samstags im Park Fussball. (adverb)
   b. Er geht oft durch den Wald spazieren. (preposition)
   c. Wir fahren gerne nach Italien. (preposition. "gerne" is an adverb)
   d. Sie fährt gerne dort hin. (adverb)
   e. Er arbeitet in der Stadt. (preposition)

4.a. Wir spielen abends in der Halle Volleyball. (adverb - abends, preposition - in)
   b. Das Haus ist geräumig. (adjective)
   c. Sie singt schön. (adverb)
   d. Sie ist beim Arzt. (preposition - bei dem)
   e. Wir spielen oft in der kleinen Halle Fussball. (adv - oft, prep - in, adj - kleinen)

Listen to the audio and try to answer the following questions.



  1. What adverbs were used in the text?
  2. What prepositions were used?
  3. What adjectives were used?
  4. How was the weather when he decided to work outside?
  5. What will he get for a rainy day?


  1. momentan (at the moment), zu hause (home), normalerweise (normally), raus (out), einfach (simply) raus (out), draussen (outside) 4x, öfters (more often) richtig (really), viel (much) produktiver (productively), fokusierter (focused) vielleicht (maybe) darunter (underneath)
  2. von (zu hause), in (meinem kleinen Bürozimmer), in (den Garten)
  3. keinen, schön, heissen, kleinen, kühl, dicken, leckeren, wasserdichten
  4. It was cool.
  5. He will get a waterproof umbrella.


Ich arbeite momentan von zu Hause. Ich sitze normalerweise in meinem kleinen Bürozimmer und schreibe E-mails. Aber heute war das Wetter so schön, ich musste einfach raus. Also habe ich meinen Laptop gepackt, hab einen heissen Tee gemacht, und mich einfach raus in den Garten gehockt. Ich habe draußen einen kleinen Holztisch, den ich selber gebaut habe. Es war recht kühl draußen, also habe ich mir einen dicken Pulli angezogen, meinen leckeren Tee getrunken, und draussen gearbeitet. Ich sollte öfters draußen arbeiten. Das tat richtig gut. Ich hatte das Gefühl ich arbeite viel produktiver und fokussierter. Vielleicht sollte ich mir einen wasserdichten Schirm besorgen, damit ich, wenn es Regnet darunter sitzen kann.  


hocken – to sit, plop down
bauen – to build
selber – self, oneself
der Pulli(s) – short for: the pullover, sweater
gut tun – to do/feel good
wasserdicht – waterproof
der Schirm – umbrella (not necessarily a “Regenschirm” – “rain”umbrella)


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