Meine Lieben Studenten!

My Dear Students!

(German salutations have exclamation points!)


Please be patient! These lessons are being made up as we go along. Most of the students are pastors who have studied one or more languages, so grammatical terms such as "second person plural" or "accusative case" will often be inserted in the hope that you will profoundly appreciate them. If grammatical terms confuse you, IGNORE THEM!!! The key thing with the simple language of the Small Catechism will be to learn the meanings!

If you have any questions, you may subscribe to the Deutsch mail list (instructions below) and send your questions to the list address. If the questions/answers will be of benefit to everyone, they will be answered onlist; otherwise, we will try to answer you privately. Please limit the questions unless something is totally unclear. If you ask a question which must be left to be explained later, please accept the following simple answer:

AWBCITG = All Will Become Clear In Time, Grasshopper.


Die erste Lektion.

The first lesson.


Der kleine Katechismus

The Small Catechism

(German titles do not capitalize all words; but in German all nouns are always capitalized.)


Die zehn Gebote.

The Ten Commandments.

The definite article--meaning "the"--is "der" (masculine), "die" (feminine), "das" (neuter). As in Greek or Latin, it bears no relationship to physical sex; it is purely a matter of grammatical gender. Some but not all words for males do take "der." Some but not all words for females do take "die." But "die" also serves for the plural. Nouns for things may take "der," "die," or "das." All attempts to find any "Freudian" significance to grammatical gender in any language have found absolutely no correlation. The best procedure is simply to memorize each noun with its article.

"Zehn" is a cognate word to "ten." These words are like cousins to each other between English and German. I will designate such as cognates throughout.

Please make yourself a list of vocabulary words and go over it daily. The best way may be to make little cards which will be more durable--you can flip through them at least once every day. Note: put the English and the German on opposite sides of the cards.

Any language is learned ONLY by repetition. As with physical exercise, language learning is best done with daily doses rather than marathon sessions. I suggest that you go over your vocabulary words at least once every day.

When you write a noun on a vocabulary card, write the form of the definite article with it (the definite article is the word that means "the"). There is no rhyme nor reason to grammatical gender. But if you memorize the noun with "der," "die," or "das," it will come naturally. If anyone has trouble with gender identity, I assure you that grammar will NOT help.

So far your vocabulary list/cards should be:

mein -- my (cognate)

lieb -- dear (cognate: love)

der Student (plural: Studenten) -- student (both from Latin)

die Lektion (plural: Lektionen) -- lesson (from Latin)

erst -- first (cognate)

der Katechismus (plural: Katechismen) -- catechism (both from Greek)

klein -- small, little

das Gebot (plural: Gebote) -- commandment (from the German verb "bieten," a cognate to the English word "to bid."

zehn -- ten (cognate)


Wie sie ein Hausvater seinem Gesinde einfaeltiglich vorhalten soll.

As them a house-father to his household simply present should

(As a housefather should present them to his household in a simple manner.)


German word order puts the verb or verbs at the end after a subordinating conjunction.


wie -- as; subordinating conjunction (same word is "how" as interrogative).

sie -- them; plural personal pronoun--accusative case--direct object.

ein -- a (or an); (the indefinite article; cognate--from "eins," "one").

der Hausvater -- house father; the head of the house--equivalent to Latin "paterfamilias." German loves compound words: so das Haus (house) and der Vater (father) become der Hausvater. Both parts of this compound word are cognates with the English words.

sein his (can also be "its"); possessive pronoun; -em ending indicates 'dative' case, i.e., on the receiving end of giving; translate with "to" or "for."

das Gesinde -- household (collective or class noun); includes family but specifies servants. This word is archaic, outdated--the SC was written 469 years ago).

einfaeltigligh -- simply (adverb). "Falten" is "to fold" (cognate).

ein faelt ig lich

one fold y ly = onefoldily = simply.


NOTE: in your Triglot Concordia [three language edition of the Lutheran Confessions], you will see the Umlaut (das Umlaut--the sound change) written as two dots over a vowel. It occurs over "a" or "o" or "u." The Umlaut cannot be universally reproduced via email, so I will use the German equivalent of putting an "e" after the "a," "o," or "u." If you want to know about sounds, I will devote a special lesson to that topic. Any tape or CD about German will do better than mere words on a screen, though. Don't worry about why an Umlaut occurs. Simply accept the fact. By the way, the Umlaut is ignored for purposes of alphabetizing words--as in a dictionary.


vorhalten -- to present vor = (be)fore halten = to hold both are cognates; literally: to hold before. Used as we would use "to present," that is, "to make a presentation [in words]"--i.e., this is not used for giving gifts.

sollen = should Indicates obligation. Cognates. This is a helping verb. German uses helping verbs as English does. That makes the German verb simpler than the Greek verb and much simpler than the Hebrew verb--especially for English speakers.


Das erste Gebot

The First Commandment

Note: adjectives take endings; don't worry about them now!


Du sollst nicht andere Goetter haben

Thou shalt not other gods have.

(Thou shalt have no other gods).

Note: German word order: after a helping word (sollen), the other verb (haben, to have) comes at the end of the clause. Why? No reason. Don't ask. That's just the way it is. So don't bother you head about it. Just get used to it.


Du -- thou (cognate). This is the second person (you) singular.

Note: Spoken German uses "Du" only to address close relatives, close friends, children, and animals. Modern Germans say "Sie" (literally: they) to mean "you" when addressing all others. In Luther's day, the plural "Ihr" was so used. "Du" in German and "Thou" in English were BOTH archaic when Luther's German Bible (1534) and the KJV (1611) were published. The translators made a conscious decision to use these forms because Greek and Hebrew distinguish singular and plural in the second person ("you").

sollst -- should from sollen--second person singular, present tense (-st ending the same as in English: shouldest).

nicht -- not (cognate: nought). This is Luther's word order; modern German is different.

ander -- other (andere is plural)

der Gott (plural Goetter) -- God or god. German capitalizes all nouns; so Gott is capitalized when it refers to the true God and when it refers to false gods as here.

Note: Germanic plurals are formed in a variety of ways. There is no uniformity--though you may eventually perceive some pattern. The best way is simply to memorize the plural in each case. The Germanic type of plural formation appears in English in men, women, geese, oxen, children, brethren. The use of "s" to form every plural is an influence on Middle English from Norman French.

haben -- to have (cognates). See the Large Catechism on the First Commandment for an

explanation of what it means "to have a God"


These commandments reflect the Hebrew way of forming prohibitions (future tense with negation); not the normal form of prohibition in German or English; but familiar through the Ten Commandments.


Was ist das? Antwort:

What is that? Answer:

Note: German word order for questions is similar to English.


was -- what (interrogative)

ist -- is third person singular of "sein," "to be."

das -- that (the neuter definite article used as a mind demonstrative pronoun).

die Antwort (plural: Antworten) -- answer (cognate).


Wir sollen Gott ueber all Dinge fuerchten, lieben, und vertrauen.

We should God above all things fear, love, and trust.

(We should fear, love, and trust God above all things.)

Note: after the helping word (sollen), the rest of the verbs come at the end of the clause.


wir -- we (cognates) first person plural personal pronoun.

sollen -- should first person plural, present tense.

der Gott -- God. Direct object in this sentence.

ueber alle Dinge--prepositional phrase used adverbially.

ueber -- over, above (cognate to "over"). Here in the sense of "more than."

alle -- all (cognates)--plural.

das Ding (plural: Dinge) -- thing (cognates).

fuercten -- to fear (cognate)

lieben -- to love (cognate)

und -- and (cognate)

vertrauen -- to trust, to have confidence in. (Note: a personal, intimate trust is implied).

Note: the infinitive form (without personal ending) of every German verb ends in "-en." This form is the one that will be in the dictionary.


Gott befohlen (meaning: "be commended to God" -- that is, I pray for you)

John M. "Herr Professor Doktor" Drickamer, Lakeview, Oregon

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