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36 Skipping the adjectives

Verbose sentence alert:

“There is a memorable scene in The English Patient where the rather cantankerous Egyptologist is mischievously called out by the garrulous wife of his colleague about the remarkable scarcity of adjectives in his published works.”

A things is still a thing, he retorts, no matter what you place in front of it. Big car, fast car, chauffeur-driven car… It’s still a car. A discussion ensued.

For the aspiring linguist as well, it is worth remembering that adjectives, especially descriptive adjectives, are usually the least important component of a sentence. This is even more true for descriptive adverbs, he stated boldly, pompously and increasingly irritatingly.

Let’s take the first sentence above and delete all the offending parts of speech:

“There is a scene in The English Patient where the Egyptologist is called out by the wife of his colleague about the scarcity of adjectives in his works.”

All of this is worth noting because when reading for gist rather than detail, we do not need to understand every single word of the text in order to “get” it. Skipping past any unfamiliar adjectives and adverbs, I would argue, is the most efficient way of doing this. This presupposes, however, that we are able to recognise them for what they are!

There are some clues in German:

--lich, --ig and --weise are all useful suffixes for turning other words into adjectives/adverbs

Jährlich = Annual, annually, yearly

Täglich = Daily

Abenteuerlich = Adventurous, adventurously

freundlich = Friendly (English adjectives ending in –ly are difficult to make into adverbs in the normal way. Can you say “friendlily”?)

Witzig = Funny, funnily

Lustig = Fun

Eifrig = Eager, eagerly

rutschig = Slippery

Glücklicherweise = Fortunate, Fortunately

Komischerweise = Strange, strangely

Haufenweise = In heaps, in piles, “by the dozen”

Teilweise = Partially, to some extent

Very often however, adverbs are often the same as the bare adjective – no ending at all.

Offensichtlich / klar = Obvious(ly)

But remember, every time an adjective comes immediately before a verb, it requires an ending of some description. Getting the ending exactly right every time is ‘next level’, but try to mumble something rather than leaving it blank. A blank adjective before a noun could be mistaken for an adverb and could therefore change the meaning. A wrong ending will simply sound like a slight inaccuracy, and not inhibit meaning at all.

German has the slightly unfair reputation of being a difficult language. Granted, there are a fair few rules to learn in the early stages, but once you know these rules, you know where you are. A bit like life in general in Germany!

There are places in SameSky German classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced level. Why not give it a go on a trial basis and see how you get on?

Contact us here

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