Latest update date: February 07, 06

Based on the latest 2020 statistics, English is the third most spoken language in the world. About 379 million people are found in 137 countries where English is their first language. The majority of them are in Northern Ireland. On the other hand, German is ranked 17th among the most spoken languages ​​worldwide. About 76,1 million people in 28 countries speak German as their first language.

German and English are two languages ​​with different origins and show many differences in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation as well as culture. German belongs to the Germanic language group, and English is a member of the Indo-European language group. Grammatically, German has a more complex sentence structure with clearly defined verb positions, while English has a simpler sentence structure. Regarding vocabulary, German has many long words and compound words, while English uses many short words.

Furthermore, the phonetic systems of these two languages ​​are also different, with German having more complex vowels and final sounds. These differences require learners to master the unique rules and characteristics of each language to be able to communicate effectively.

German – A Unique Language in the World

German is the official language in Germany. It is also spoken by a large population in Central Europe, especially in parts of Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and South Tyrol in Italy. Furthermore, German is one of the official languages ​​of Persian and the official language in Poland, Opole Voivodeship. In contrast, English is widely used in German pop culture and media. Due to their similarities, it is easier for English speakers to learn German because Germans find it easier to learn English.

German is ranked 17th most spoken language worldwide, but is ranked second after English in terms of most spoken West German languages. The West Germanic Indo-European language family includes Yiddish, Low German/Low Saxon, Afrikaans, English, Dutch, Frisian and Luxembourgish. In terms of vocabulary, German has many similarities with the vocabulary of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.

Difference Between German And English

Although the two languages ​​may have some aspects in common since they come from the same branch of language, there are several other characteristics that hinder Germans from speaking English fluently.


The first is the alphabet. Like English, German has 26 letters, but also has a set of marked characters, such as ö, ü and ä, as well as the double S or scharfes S, represented by ß. Germans learning English for the first time often mistake E or R and write them as A or I when it is spelled.

In terms of phonology, German and English tones are almost similar. The same is true for intonation and stress. But in German, the sound /th/ is absent, so it is difficult for them to create words that start with this particular sound. English speakers pronounce /v/ and /w/ separately. German pronunciation words start with the /w/ sound in /v/ so “wine” becomes “vine” and “we” is pronounced “ve.”


For verb tenses, the continuous verb tense is not used in German. German uses the present simple when the English counterpart will use the future tense. Instead of the past tense, the present perfect is often used. German tenses are simpler. For example, the verb 'to go' has only two tenses in German, present and past tense.

So you say, "I go" (Ich gehe) and "I went" (Ich bin gegangen). You can indicate the future tense by adding a word that represents time in the future, such as tomorrow, next week, etc.

However, in English, you will have several tenses for the verb 'to go' in the affirmative, negative and interrogative forms, such as:

  • Simple tense
  • Simple past
  • Future simple
  • Present continous
  • Past continuous
  • The future continues
  • Present perfect
  • Past Perfect
  • Future perfect
  • Present perfect continuous
  • Past Perfect continous
  • Future perfect continuous
  • Conditional
  • Complete conditional sentence
  • Present conditional continuous

English is generally unaffected while German is different, so some parts of speech in German may vary depending on their characteristics.

Word order

The word order of the two languages ​​is different. English has SOV word order. German, on the other hand, has a three-word word order. In an independent clause, the main verb must come second, which means the subject and verb will have to be inverted. In German, you say, “Manchmal komme ich mit dem Bus in die Schule,” means Sometimes I come to school by bus.

In an independent clause, the past participle should come down to the end. I have not seen him means “Ich habe ihn nicht gesehen" in German.

In a dependent clause, the main verb must be at the end of the sentence. It is shown in this example –”Sie fragte mich, ob ich to Film schon gesehen hätte” translates to She asked me if I had already seen the film in English.

The two languages ​​have some of the same root words, such as drink/trinken, house/haus and winter/winter. However, there are also some root words that are not the same in meaning.

Here are some examples:

  • aktuell (same as actual) – current
  • groß (same as disgusting, gross) – big
  • fahrt – ride, drive
  • das Handy (same as useful, handy) – mobile, cellphone
  • der Chef – boss, chief
  • Hell-bright
  • das Gift (same as present or gift) – poison

Use the article

In using articles, English uses indefinite and definite articles a, an and the. In German, articles express gender, so the definite article "der" is used for masculine, "die" for feminine and plural, and "das" for neutral.

However, you do not use definite or indefinite articles in German if you are indicating a form of identity, nationality or occupation.

Other difference

  • German is very strict in the use of punctuation.
  • Furthermore, German nouns are always capitalized.
  • There are some differences between English and German grammar.
  • For example, English has only nominative, accusative, and genitive cases for pronouns. The German language has additional connotations.

Furthermore, German has some long compound words. The English language also has several languages ​​that can be found in dictionaries, such as:

  • Otorhinolaryngological
  • Thyroparathyroidectomized
  • Radioimmunoelectrophoresis
  • Honorificabilitudinitatibus
  • Antidisestablishmentarianism
  • floccinaucinihilipilification
  • Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism
  • Hepaticocholangiochlecystenterostomies
  • Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

But in German you will find more and in different categories, not only in medicine, like:

  • Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung – automobile liability insurance
  • Betäubungsmittelverschreibungsverordnung – regulation requiring a prescription for an anesthetic
  • Bezirksschornsteinfegermeister – head district chimney sweep
  • Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften – legal protection insurance companies
  • Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz – beef labeling regulation and delegation of supervision law
  • Lebensabschnittpartner – the person I am with today (partner, lover)
  • Freundschaftsbeziehung – demonstrations of friendship
  • Nahrungsmittelunverträglichkeit – food intolerance
  • Donau-Dampfschifffahrtsgesellschaft – Danube River Steamship Company
  • Rhein-Main-Donau-Großschifffahrtsweg – Rhine-Main-Danube shipping lane
  • Arbeiterunfallversicherungsgesetz – Worker's Compensation Act
  • Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz – Federal Education and Training Assistance Act
  • Straßenverkehrs-Zulasungs-Ordnung – road traffic licensing regulations
  • Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz – Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities Act
  • Steuervergünstigungsabbaugesetz – Tax Benefits Reduction Act
  • Lebensversicherungsgesellschaft – life insurance company
  • Verkehrsinfrastrukturfinanzierungsgesellschaft – transport infrastructure finance company
  • Elektrizitätswirtschaftsorganisationsgesetz – Electricity Industry Organization Act
  • Telekommunikationsüberwachungsverordnung – telecommunications monitoring regulations
  • Hochleistungsflüssigkeitschromatographie – high performance liquid chromatography

English nouns are usually gender-neutral unless they refer to gendered living creatures such as sheep. German nouns are feminine, masculine, or neuter.

In German, it is possible to express one's feelings using the verb, "to have." For example, in English, you can say, “I am hungry.” However, it is common to say "I have hunger" in German.

As you can see, German and English have some differences that make learning either language not as easy as expected, even though they come from the same branch of West Germanic languages.

So it is not easy to learn English or German and that becomes some of the challenges when translating the language, because of the difference in the grammar rules. For example, when you say, 'I am reading the newspaper' in English, learners often translate it as 'Ich bin lesen die Zeitung' when translating word for word. However, the actual and correct translation is 'Ich lese die Zeitung', since German does not have a present continuous.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which countries use German as their official language?

German is the official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and parts of Belgium and Italy (South Tyrol region). It is also one of the official languages ​​of the European Union.

2. How many letters and special characters does German have?

German has the same 26 letters as English, but adds accented characters such as ö, ü, ä and the letter ß (scharfes S). You can refer to some Tips for learning German effectively Ideally, it should be applied immediately.

3. What are the main difficulties that German speakers encounter when learning English?

Difficulties include:

  • Pronouncing words with the /th/ sound and distinguishing between /v/ and /w/
  • Use progressive verb tenses and other complex tenses in English
  • Different word order (SOV in English and 2nd verb order in German)
  • Differences in the use of articles and nouns

4. How many common verb tenses does German have?

German mainly uses two main verb tenses: present tense (Präsens) and past tense (Präteritum). The future tense is often expressed by adding words indicating time in the future.

5. How is the word order in German sentences different from English?

  • In an independent sentence: The main verb comes second, the past participle comes at the end of the sentence.
  • In a dependent sentence: The main verb comes in last position.
  • English has the order SOV (subject – object – verb).

6. Do German and English have similar words but different meanings?

Yes, some words have the same root but have different meanings such as:

  • aktuell (like actual) means present
  • groß (like gross) means big
  • das Gift (same as gift) means poison

7. What is the difference in the use of articles between German and English?

English uses “a”, “an” (indefinite) and “the” (definite).

German has definite articles that express gender: der (male), die (female and plural), das (neuter).

Articles are not used when indicating identity, nationality, or occupation in German.

8. What mistakes do learners often make when translating sentences from English to German?

When translating word by word, learners often mistranslate the grammatical structure. For example:

  • “I am reading the newspaper” is incorrectly translated as “Ich bin lesen die Zeitung”
  • The correct translation is “Ich lese die Zeitung”, because German does not have a present continuous tense.

9. Why is learning English and German not as easy as expected?

Although English and German share West Germanic roots, there are significant differences in:

  • Phonetic and pronunciation system
  • Grammatical structure and word order
  • Verb tense system
  • How to use articles and noun gender
  • Vocabulary
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