German for Beginners, snippets #12

Today we take a look at some questions and the complements they ask for:

Wer? – Who? – asks for the subject (nominative case) or a nominative complement (in the case of persons, if we talk about things or events we ask ‚was‘-what)

Wer ist das? – Who is this?
Das ist seine Freundin. – That’s his girlfriend.

Explanation:

The verb ‚ist'(3rd person singular of ’sein‘, to be) requires a nominative complement, here ’seine Freundin‘. We ask ‚wer‘ because it’s a person we talk about and not a thing or event.

Wen? – Who? – asking for accusative complements (in the case of persons). In the case of things or events we ask ‚was'(what).

Example: Wen triffst du morgen? – Ich treffe meinen alten Freund Hans. / Who will you meet tomorrow? – I will meet my old friend Hans.

Explanation: The verb ‚treffen‘ requires an accusative complement, here ‚meinen alten Freund Hans‘. ‚Wen‘ asks for this complement. We ask ‚wen‘, because it’s a person we talk about and not a thing or event.

Was? – What? – Asking for nominative or accusative complements (in the case of things or events).

Was ist das? – Das ist eine Mikrowelle.

Explanation: ‚ist'(3rd person singular of the verb ’sein‘) requires a nominative complement, here ‚eine Mikrowelle‘. We use ‚was‘ here because it’s a thing we talk about and not a person.

Was brauchst du? – Ich brauche einen neuen Computer.

Explanation: ‚brauchen‘ requires an accusativ complement, here ‚einen neuen Computer‘. ‚Was‘ asks for this complement. We use ‚was‘ here, because it’s a thing we talk about and not a person.

Wem? – asking for dative complements

Examples: Wem gehört der Rucksack? – Der gehört mir.

‚gehören‘ is a verb that requires a dative complement, here ‚mir‘. ‚Wem‘ is the question to ask for this complement.

Wessen? – Whose? – Asks for a relationship or kind of possession (genitive attribute)

Wessen Handy ist das? – Das ist Marias Handy. / Whose mobile is that? – It’s Maria’s mobile.
ATTENTION! You don’t use the apostrophe to express the ownership in German, you use it only if the last letter of a name is already a „s“, like in „Das ist Markus‘ Katze.“

Wessen Haus ist das? – Das ist das Haus meines Bruders. / Whose house is that? – That’s the house of my brother.

REMEMBER! Possession is often expressed with „of“ in the English Language. In German you can use the preposition ‚von‘ + dativ case or the genitive Case (without preposition)

Examples:

Das ist das Haus meines Bruders. – This is my brothers house.
Das ist das Haus von meinem Bruder. – This is the house of my brother.

Wie? – How? – Asking for modal specifications and adjectival complements

Wie geht’s dir? – Es geht mir gut, danke!

Explanation: The verb „es geht“ requires a dative and an adjective complement. ‚gut‘ is the adjective complement. ‚Wie‘ asks for this complement.

Woher?, Wohin? – Where…to?, Where…from? – Asking for directive complements

Wohin gehen die beiden? – Sie gehen nach Hause.

Explanation: ‚gehen‘ is a verb, that requires a directive complement, in this case „nach Hause“. ‚Wohin‘ is the question to ask for this complement.

Woher kommt Klaus? – Er kommt aus Berlin. / Where is Klaus from? – He comes from Berlin.

Explanation: ‚kommen‘ is a verb, that requires a directive complement, here „aus Berlin“ Woher is the question to ask for this complement.

Wo? – Asking for situative complements (where?)

Wo bist du? – Ich bin im Kino.
Where are you? – I’m in the cinema.

Explanation: ’sein‘ has a situative complement here, ‚im Kino‘. ‚Wo‘ asks for this complement.

Wo wohnt Johanna? – Sie wohnt in Düsseldorf.
Where does Johanna live? – She lives in Düsseldorf.

Explanation: ‚wohnen‘ requires a situative complement, here ‚in Düsseldorf‘. ‚Wo‘ asks for this complement.

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