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10 Incorrect Sentences with German Grammar in English

5 Most Common Office Lies
15.09.2019

Mixing two or more languages together sometimes happens to every billingual or multilingual person. The most common situation is when we use our mother tongue at home and another language at work. As our mother tongue dominates in our thinking as well as dreaming, it can easily slip into our second language. Here are 10 common cases in which we tend to apply German grammar in English:

1. "I drive with bus to work."

If we drive a bus, it means we are a bus driver. Otherwise as a passenger we "go by bus" or we "take a bus". The sentence"Ich fahre mit dem Bus" cannot unfortunately be translated literally.

2. "I drive my bike every weekend."

It is similar like the previous case. Nevertheless, in this situation if we take our bike, we ride it at the same time. But ride, not drive. It is a tricky one, however, when you drive something, it has a steering wheel. Horses as well as bikes are always ridden.

3. "I must not do it, it has been already done."

In general, English grammar is very easy. However, sometimes this grammatical rule forces me to contemplate. If someone had ever tried to add at least few difficulties, the verb "must" in its negative form would be the case. Let's correct the sentence above and sum the rule up:
"We must tell her the news!" (We feel obligated to tell her the news.)
"He must not tell her the news!" (It is forbidden to tell her the news so he cannot do so.)
The opposite of "must" is "not to have": "I do not have to tell her the news." (I do not need to tell her the news as she has already heard about them.)

Again a perfect example of (not only) German grammar in English.

5. Calling an animal "he" or "she"

Whether we talk about an animal or thing, you refer to "it". I entirely empathize with all animal lovers who reject and even despise this grammatical rule. The comforting fact is that as long as we talk about our or someone else's pet, referring to "he" or "she" is appropriate.

6. "I have seen him yesterday."

Oh the English tenses! It is tempting to use a similar formulation like "haben" in German and the 3rd verb form like in English. However, speaking about the past you always use past tense in English instead of present perfect: "I saw him yesterday."

7. "I expect to become a nice present."

"Bekommen" is not equal to "to become" in English and I completely understand it is easy to get confused. "Bekommen" means to get, receive or obtain, while "to become" is translated as "werden" and it means the change of status. The correct one is "I expect to get a nice present."

8. "Going To" vs "Will"

"We will meet tomorrow for sure, we agreed on it last week." What can be possibly wrong on this sentence? Well, with "will" nothing has been planned. You decide spontaneously depending on the situation right here right now. There are more rules of using "will" and "going to", however the basic one is that when you plan something, you use "going to": "I am going to make a soup for dinner." (I have already bought the ingredients or at least I have been already thinking about it.)

On contrary when you say "I will make a soup for dinner.", you might have seen someone ordering a soup in restaurant and you have just decided to make it for dinner.

Going back to our first sentence about meeting someone. If you have already agreed on meeting or if you have already booked a ticket to travel somewhere, you can easily use the present continuous: "I am meeting him tomorrow." "I am flying to Japan next month."

9. Conditional Sentences

In conditional sentences there is no "will"" or "would" after conjunctions "if", "when", "as long as", "as soon as" etc. Another strange rule we need to remember. A clear example of simple conditional sentences follows:
1st conditional: "If I win the lottery, I will buy a new car." (I am going to buy a lottery ticket and I am already thinking about my future revenue from it. Therefore also the definite article: "the lottery" as I already know which lottery.)
2nd conditional:"If I won a lottery, I would buy a new car.". (This is unreal situation in which I dream about how it would be if I ever bought a lottery ticket and won.)
3rd conditional: "If I had won the lottery, I would have bought a new car." (I refer to the past - the lottery winner was drawn and it was not me - no matter whether I had even bought the lottery ticket. The situation is over and I am only contemplating what if it had been me who had won.)

10. "This apple you can take."

English language has a strict word order. In many languages including German, it does not really matter if you place subject or object first. However, in English the rule "subject - verb - object" has to be followed, thus: "You can take this apple."

Do you know more sentences with German grammar in English or do you use some of these? In order to refresh your English grammar contact me here or via e-mail hana@the-yellow-panda.com and improve your English skills with Your English Progress.