Episode 9 – Stress Free German

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Welcome to Lesson #9 of Stress Free German. In those first eight lessons, we accomplished a couple of very important things. With our system of visualisation we learned approximately fifty concrete nouns plus their gender. That’s huge. We also took note of the patterns of how, when we do something to the noun, the surrounding words are affected. That’s also huge. And we’re going to leverage all that as we turn our attention to greetings.

(sound FX) Thomas has just arrived at his friend Johanna’s apartment.

Hallo, Thomas!

Hallo, Johanna!

In American English, at least, people have a tendency to reduce that “eh” vowel. But in German, to my ear, they tend to fully pronounce it.

Hallo, Hans!

Hallo, Kathrin!

So Hallo is the greeting most often used between friends and close family members. But what if the person is a stranger, or someone else you need to be more formal with? Listen…

Guten Tag, Herr Schmidt.

Guten Tag, Frau Meyer.

You’ve almost certainly encountered this fundamental German greeting. And you’ve probably heard it translated as Good day, Mr. Schmidt. Or: Good day, Ms. Meyer. Well, that’s almost right. But why that “en” sound, at the end of Guten. After all, the word itself is just Gut.

Hmm. Well, what’s so cool is that, having followed these lessons closely, you guys have the tools to unravel this little mystery. So let’s see. Try to say…

The man is good.

Der Mann ist gut.

He is a good man.
Er ist ein guter Mann.

So that’s the same pattern we discovered in Lesson 6. We use the basic form of the adjective, gut, when it comes after the verb “is.” But we use this specific masculine form, guter, when it comes before the noun. So let’s try that with “day,” which also happens to be masculine. Listen…

The day is good.

Der Tag ist gut.

It is a good day.
Es ist ein guter Tag.

We’re about to solve the mystery, now. Try to say…

I see a good man.

Ich sehe einen guten Mann.

Why is it suddenly einen guten? Because seeing him counts as doing something to him. And when we do something to a masculine noun? Right! Those supporting words change.

Try to say: He is having a good day.

Er hat einen guten Tag.

The reason we greet people by saying Guten Tag in German, is because the whole phrase, which people rarely say, is…

I wish you a good day.

Ich wünsche euch einen guten Tag.

That’s the power of the German case system. When you say Guten Tag, you are doing something (fist/palm) to Good Day…you’re actively wishing it to the person. Very cool!


What if, when you’re greeting your boss, it’s morning time? Listen..

Guten Morgen, Herr Schneider.

I hear that “en” ending again. Guten. So Morgen must be masculine. Let’s try it again. Imagine you see your elderly neighbor walking her dog in the morning. Greet her.

Guten Morgen, Frau Brücke.

And again, by using the “doing something to it” form, we are actively wishing her a good morning.

The same is true if we greet people in the evening.

Guten Abend.

Guten Abend.

They said “Guten”, so Abend must also be masculine.

One last one to mention is this: Gute Nacht.

About the only time I’ve ever used this was when we were in a hotel in Berlin, and I said Good Night to the desk clerk before going upstairs for the night. Gute Nacht. So bear in mind that this a kind of goodbye, not a greeting. And what do we realize about the word Nacht? Well, listen to just the first word again…Gute

That sounds like the feminine form. So try to say..

She is a good woman.

Sie ist eine gute Frau.

Important point here. We need to get into the habit of making phrases into constructions. Say:

This is a good bag.

Das ist eine gute Tasche.

Das ist eine gute Brille.


Das ist eine gute Zeitung.

Das ist eine gute Uhr.

Hit pause and try to say a few more.


So today I’d like to talk about another big mistake language learners make. It’s what I call the Gigantor Vocabulary mistake. They get into one of those language apps–there’s a bunch of them–and they begin to study word lists. Or worse, they try to memorize word lists. It’s sad because such a thing is minimally helpful. After all, what is the point of acquiring a new word if you can’t use it in even the most basic sentence?

I had a lesson with a new client not long ago and he was eager to show me his word list from one of these apps. I saw the word “green” on there. I was like, “Okay, try to say, The Green Tree.”

He was like, “Umm…Grün? Baum?”

Sigh. I stopped him right there, of course, but something tells me he wouldn’t have been able to say, I see a green tree, either.

I get it, though. Don’t we need to know thousands of words to speak a language? Well, yes. Eventually. But not at first. Instead, what you want to do is master a small, core vocabuarly of mostly concrete nouns, adjectives and verbs, and get fluent with those. Master the main patterns associated with them, and understand why the surrounding words change. After that, I assure you adding new words is a breeze.

Okay, let’s get back to it. (rooster SFX)

Good morning, Ms. Becker.

Guten Morgen, Frau Becker.


Guten Tag, Frau Becker.


Guten Abend, Frau Becker.

And in your hotel, as you head up to your room for the night, tell the desk clerk…

Gute Nacht.

So we’ve got our greetings, and our good night. Next, let’s make a bit of small talk and ask our friend how they are. Here’s a standard exchange between friends.

Hallo, wie geht’s dir?

Danke, gut und dir?

Most resources will translate this phrase Wie geht’s dir? as “How are you?” And that’s certainly how it functions. But what we really want to know is: What are we literally saying? In this case, Wie geht’s dir? or slowly Wie geht es dir? translates as: How goes it for you? Or: How does it go for you? This is what we call the Super-Literal Translation, or the SLT. If you don’t know the SLT, if you don’t know what you’re really saying, then you’re stuck with just this one phrase. So let’s practice the exchange again, and then work with the literal meaning. Say…

Hello, how goes it for you?

Hallo, wie geht’s dir?

Thanks, good and for you?

Danke, gut und dir?

Fast, it sounds like three words: Wie geht’s dir. But it’s actually four words: Wie…geht…es…dir?

So we have: Es geht. It goes.

Er geht. would mean, He goes.

So here’s a challenge for you. How would we say, “I go.” Hit pause and take a guess…


I go.

Ich gehe.

How about: You go

Du gehst

That basically fits the pattern, wouldn’t you say? For example: I see, you see, he sees.

Ich sehe, du siehst, er sieht.

I go, you go, he goes

Ich gehe, du gehst, er geht

So imagine your friend is holding a train ticket. You ask her…What is that?

Was ist das?

She shows you the ticket and says…

Ich gehe nach Berlin.

I’m going to Berlin.

That’s a great construction, so let’s work with it.

I’m going to Munich

Ich gehe nach München.

I’m going to Germany.

Ich gehe nach Deutschland.

I’m going to Austria.

Ich gehe nach Österreich.

We use this construction mostly when saying which city or country we’re going to. But we also use it for saying, I’m going home. Listen…

Ich gehe nach Hause.

Ask a friend: Are you going home?

Gehst du nach Hause?

My brother is going home.

Mein Bruder geht nach Hause.

My friend is going to Paris.

Mein Freund geht nach Paris.

We can’t use this construction when saying something like, I’m going to the gym. Or, Are you going to the movies? No big deal. We’ll learn that very soon.


Ostensibly, this lesson was intended to teach you a common set of greetings. But it was also designed to display three of the techniques we’ll be relying on throughout this course. We leveraged the Super Literal meaning of “how goes it”, to then use the verb in a very different context. I’m going to France. We also used our ability to spot patterns, to help us change from one form of a verb to another. From Er geht, we figured out Ich gehe. And then we quickly made useful constructions to further leverage what we’d earned. For example, try to say…

He is going to Dusseldorf.

Er geht nach Düsseldorf.

She is going to Italy.

Sie geht nach Italien.

Are you going home?

Gehst du nach Hause?

Yes, I’m going home.

Ja, ich gehe nach Hause.

Let’s end with two ways to part company with someone. Again, I’m sure you’ve encountered this first one. Listen?

Auf Wiedersehen!

That’s two words, but it breaks down literally into English as: On again seeing. Or: Until we meet again. We’ll come back to that SLT in a future lesson. The main thing to bear in mind is that this is the standard, polite way of saying goodbye. Basically, if you greet someone with Guten Tag, then part ways with Auf Wiedersehen.

Meanwhile, our informal word for parting ways is: Tschüss!

The origin of that word isn’t clear, but they certainly use it everywhere, in Germany and Austria. Listen again?


If you greeted someone with Hallo, then part ways using Tschuss.

So let’s wrap this up. It’s 9am. Greet your boss, Ms. Schmidt.

Guten Morgen, Frau Schmidt.

Later, in the break room, you greet a friend: Hello, how goes it for you?

Hallo, wie geht’s dir?

Thanks, good and for you?

Danke, gut und dir?

Your friend has a rideshare app open. He explains…

I’m going to Frankfurt.

Ich gehe nach Frankfurt.

Suddenly your manager, Mr. Beckenbauer, enters the break room. It’s noon, so you greet him…

Guten Tag, Herr Beckenbauer.

You check into your hotel at 6pm. The desk clerk is likely to greet you by saying…

Guten Abend.

When you finally head up for the night, you say goodbye to the clerk by saying…

Gute Nacht.

And as we part ways here, we can go the formal route: Auf Wiedersehen.

Our informally: Tschüss!

See you in the next lesson!

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14 thoughts on “Episode 9 – Stress Free German”

  1. Loving these lessons. I have looked into many different methods, including Michel Thomas and Pimsler, which I have used to learn French and Italian. I love them all but this one gives me something new and balances well grammar, new vocab, and pronunciation.

    1. So glad to hear it, Joseph. And I hope our visual approach to mastering the gender of new nouns is helping, too! 🙂

      1. Yes! And I realized that using Apple Notes is an easy and free way to create flash cards that is similar to the screenshot of Google search you discussed in lesson 5. By adding an image you can change the settings to “view as Gallery” and presto! It seems as good and helpful as Anki or some of the other paid programs.

  2. Mark, can you please explain why the “e” on the end of “Hause” in “Ich gehe nach Hause”? I assume it’s plural or something?

    1. Hi Clint,

      Great question. This “-e” is a remnant of an older dative ending that used to be added to masculine and neuter nouns in the dative. You don’t encounter it much, but it’s still used in the phrases “zu Hause” (at home) and “nach Hause” (going home). Hope this helps!

      1. Thank you for the super quick reply.

        I’m really enjoying the course! This method is already working so much better for me than other methods that I’ve tried. I will definitely be moving on to volumes II and III once I’ve finished up here.

  3. Loving the course and finding the mental images very helpful at recalling genders. Adjectives took me a while I think I listened to episode 6 maybe 15 times however the repetition and reviewing in subsequent episodes does help. The pace of the lessons are really well structured. I look forward to continuing.

  4. I took 3 years of high school German and corresponded with a German penpal back in the day(mid-70’s), so she could exercise her English skills. I found your podcast and hope to understand a little when I visit her in 1 1/2 months in Deutschland. Your course reminds me of a technique that author, Joshua Foer, wrote about in his book Moonwalking with Einstein. I am appreciating your approach, especially since I didn’t allow enough time to re-learn.

    1. Hadn’t heard of that book before. I’m flattered, though, by the comparison.
      Hope to welcome you to Volumes II, III and IV!

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