Today I wanted to write a blog with a difference, let me call it a tutorial blog! Rather than just talking about German I wanted to give you a mini-tutorial on a topic which makes a huge difference to your German. Certainly something you would be using in most sentences: It is all about modal verbs. I love teaching German and if you want to be part of a great journey then join me at German with CDlingua

But for now, let’s get back to our topic at hand!

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What are modal verbs?

First things first! What are modal verbs?

Modal verbs are verbs which are usually accompanied by another verb in German as well as in English. In German, there are six modal verbs, and their accompanying verb will be in its unchanged infinitive form at the end of a sentence. They don’t usually stand on their own unless the sentence is extremely short. For example: I can. You must. etc.

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Zum Beispiel/ for example:
Ich kann heute einen Film sehen. – I can watch a movie today.

Er darf hier parken. – He is allowed to park here.

NOTICE that the modal verb ‘kann’ is in second place as it is the conjugated verb and the other verb remains at the end of the sentence in the infinitive form.



Let me give you a few more examples in different types of sentences:

Ich muss heute in die Stadt fahren, weil ich gern einkaufen möchte. – I have to go into town because I would like to go shopping.
Wir mussten keine Hausaufgaben machen, da wir Schulferien hatten. – We didn’t have to do any homework because we had school holidays.
Möchtest du eine Tasse Kaffee trinken? – Would you like to drink a cup of coffee?
Ich müsste noch schnell einen Anruf machen. – I would still need to make a phone call quickly.

NOTICE the position of the verbs in both the main clause and the sub-clause.


Not all modal verbs are used the same in German as in English

German onlineThe modal verbs a fairly straight forward if you keep to the secondary translation (at the bottom of the blue box). The one to be mentioned would have to be ‘müssen as it is always used in the sense of ‘to have to’!

Er muss am Abend noch arbeiten.
He still has to work in the evening.

There is one situation where one uses ‘must’ in English but cannot use ‘müssen’ in German as the meaning is not the same.
To show the difference let’s have a look at the English sentence: You must not do that.
If I translate it with:
Du musst das nicht machen. – it actually means: You don‘t have to do that.
But it should be translated as:
Du darfst das nicht machen. – You are not allowed to do that.

REMEMBER: müssen is translated always in the sense of ‘to have to’ and in the above sentence we need to use the verb ‘dürfen’.


Do you have any questions?

If you would like to know more about modal verbs or you are looking to be part of an amazing group for learning German with daily interaction then come and join me in my Facebook Group – Learn German with Claudia.

German Tutor

I am Claudia Dickson of CDlingua.

My passion is all about helping people to speak German like a native with confidence and ease to build stronger relationships with German contacts and to get top grades in your exams!

Being a native German Tutor and language specialist with 28 years of teaching experience certainly adds a certain edge. And I love seeing people succeed in German and overcoming objections and struggles.

I help clients and students with their German tuition either online or face-to-face, in groups or one-to-one. Specializing in GCSE and A-Level, Professional and Business German at a corporate level I am looking to help you to increase your German potential and make any exams you are taking less stressful.

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