Germanish – English with German grammar – verbs and pronouns

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

As a funny mental exercise, I wanted to try to see what English would look like if it used German grammar, but with English vocabulary preserved as much as possible. The result is a constructed language which I call Germanish.

Learning Germanish is a good way for someone not familiar with German to learn German grammar without having to memorize any vocabulary and to appreciate the differences between the two languages. In this article, we will learn about construction of verbs and pronouns in Germanish.

Pronouns, conjugations

In German, there are two different words for the “singular you” and the “plural you”. In order to match this phenomenon, in Germanish, we reintroduce the old English thou for the “singular you” and use you only for the “plural you”.

German infinitives always end with “-en”, but the English ones almost never do. If an English verb ends with an “e”, we add -n to it to create the Germanish infinitive, otherwise we add -en, e.g. goen (to go), seen (to see), walken (to walk).

Conjugation in German is somewhat more involved than in English. Our conjugation table will look as follows:

I walkewe walken
thou walkstyou walkt
he/she/it walksthey walken

We just take the English verb and add -e, -st, -s, -en, or -t depending on the subject. The second person singular gets only “-t” if the verb already ends with an “s” or “sh” (e.g. thou hisst, thou blusht). The third person singular is the same as in English (with all its irregularities) to increase legibility (the German ending is actually -t, not -s). If the verb ends with a “t”, the second person plural gets -et instead of just -t.

The polite way to address someone you want to show respect to is They, the same as the third person plural but with a capital “T”. For example, you could ask:

Wanten They TV watchen?
Do you want to watch TV?

There are two irregular verbs in Germanish: ben (to be) and haven (to have), which are conjugated as follows:

I amwe are
thou artyou ard
he/she/it isthey are

For example:

Are They hungry? Wanten They something eaten?
Are you hungry? Do you want to eat something?

Have is conjugated as:

I havewe haven
thou hastyou havt
he/she/it hasthey haven

The simple past

The simple past of irregular English verbs is the same as in English, but the endings are different. Let’s conjugate the verb see in the past:

I sawwe sawen
thou sawstyou sawt
he/she/it sawthey sawen

Notice that, unlike the present tense, the third person singular doesn’t get the ending “-s”. All irregularities are inherited from English, e.g. for goen the forms would be I went, thou wentst, he went, we wenten, you wentet, they wenten. For regular English verbs, the table looks as follows:

I walktewe walkten
thou walktestyou walktet
he/she/it walktethey walkten

If the verb ends with a “t”, the endings are -ete, -etest, … instead of -te, -test, …, e.g.

I wantetewe wanteten
thou wantetestyou wantetet
he/she/it wantetethey wanteten

The past participle and past perfect

The past participle of irregular English verbs is formed by adding the prefix ge- and sometimes adding the ending -en. If there is an English form ending with -en, we just add ge- to it, e.g. geseen, gedrawn, gewritten. If the past participle is irregular and ends with a -t or -d, we also just add ge-, e.g. geset, getold, gebent. There are only 9 irregular English verbs for which this is not the casecome, done, gone, hung, made, sung, slung, stuck, wrungwhose past participle will be, in the same order, gecomen, gedone, gegonen, gehungen, gemade, gesungen, geslungen, gestuckt, gewrungen.

The past perfect tense is usually formed using an appropriate form of haven, as in English. For example:

Hast thou it geseen?
Have you seen it?

However, for the verbs expressing movement (such as goen), the auxiliary verb is ben, not haven:

He is outgegonen.
He has gone out.

For regular English verbs, the past participle is formed by adding the prefix ge- and replacing -ed or -d by -t, for example gewalkt, gewatcht, gestoppt. In verbs ending with -y, we don’t replace -ied by -it to increase intelligibility, e.g. gecarried, gecried.

If a verb already has a prefix, such as “out” in outweighen, it doesn’t get the prefix “ge-” in the past participle! For example outweight, overcomen, mistaken.

Phrasal verbs

English contains a lot of phrasal verbs. The corresponding construction in German is adding prefixes. To translate an English phrasal verb into Germanish, simply take the preposition after a verb and put it in front of it as a prefix. For example “to go off” becomes offgoen, “to bring up” becomes upbringen, “to get along” becomes alonggeten.

In the present tense and simple past in a main clause, the preposition moves to the end of the sentence, for example:

We all getten well along.
We all get along well.

And using alongget in a sentence with an infinitive:

You wantet well alonggetten, hope I.
You want to get along well, I hope.

In the past participle, “ge-” gets between the preposition and the verb, for example offgegonen, upgebrought, alonggegotten.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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