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24 German Essay Phrases, Plus Tips on How to Write an Essay in German

We need to talk about your German essays.

Essay writing is a skill that you can learn in any language.

All you need is to brush up your vocabulary and follow a few simple strategies, and you’ll be well on your way to writing your first masterpiece.

This post will provide you with a list of useful German words and phrases to include in your next essay, plus the different types of German essays, a few writing strategies and even a sample essay at the end. 

Contents

German Essay Phrases

Let’s start with the words and phrases themselves. As you’ll see, they’re grouped according to how and when you’ll use them. Let’s start off with some that will help you explain your arguments.

General Explaining

1. Weil (Because)

Daniel muss lernen, weil er morgen einen Test hat.

(Daniel has to study because he has a test tomorrow.)

2. Da (Because)

Daniel muss lernen, da er morgen einen Test hat.

(Daniel has to study because he has a test tomorrow.)

3. Denn (Because)

Daniel muss lernen, denn er hat morgen einen Test.

(Daniel has to study because tomorrow he has a test.)

A quick note: Weil, da and denn are generally interchangeable. Keep in mind though that denn requires a different word order.

4. Damit (In order to; So that)

Lisa lernt viel, damit sie den Test besteht.

(Lisa is studying a lot in order to pass the test.)

5. Um (To; In order to)

Lisa lernt viel, um den Test zu bestehen.

(Lisa is studying a lot to pass the test.)

6. Im Grunde (Basically; Fundamentally)

Im Grunde ist Deutsch keine schwierige Sprache.

(Fundamentally, German is not a difficult language.)

7. Eigentlich (Actually)

Eigentlich ist Deutsch nicht so schwierig, wie es scheint.

(Actually, German is not as difficult as it seems.)

Ordering Facts and Ideas

8. Ein Beispiel anführen (To give an example)

Ich möchte ein Beispiel anführen.

(I would like to give an example.)

9. Dieses Beispiel zeigt, dass… (This example shows that…)

Dieses Beispiel zeigt, dass das Lernen einer Fremdsprache beim Reisen viele Vorteile hat.

(This example shows that studying a foreign language has many advantages when traveling.)

10. Erstens… zweitens… (Firstly… secondly…)

Erstens kann man sich auf Reisen besser verständigen und zweitens lernt man viele neue Leute kennen.

(Firstly, you can communicate better while traveling, and secondly, you meet many new people.)

11. Das Wichtigste ist… (The most important thing is…)

Das Wichtigste ist, die Angst vor der Sprache zu verlieren.

(The most important thing is to lose your fear of the language.)

12. Außerdem (Furthermore)

Außerdem kann man beim Reisen seine Sprachkenntnisse verbessern.

(Furthermore, you can improve your language knowledge while traveling.)

13. Nicht nur… sondern auch… (Not only… but also…)

Nicht nur im Unterricht, sondern auch im Alltag kann man viel Deutsch lernen.

(Not only in class, but also in everyday life you can learn a lot of German.)

Demonstrating Contrast

14. Obwohl (Even though)

Obwohl Anna viel lernt, hat sie Probleme mit der deutschen Grammatik.

(Even though Anna studies a lot, she has problems with German grammar.)

15. Allerdings (However)

Anna lernt gerne Deutsch, allerdings hat sie Probleme mit der Grammatik.

(Anna enjoys studying German; however, she has problems with the grammar.)

16. Trotz (Despite)

Trotz ihrer Probleme mit der Grammatik lernt Anna gerne Deutsch.

(Despite her problems with German grammar, Anna enjoys studying German.)

17. Im Vergleich zu (In comparison to)

Im Vergleich zu Russisch ist Deutsch eine einfache Sprache.

In comparison to Russian, German is an easy language.

18. Im Gegensatz zu (In contrast to; Unlike)

Im Gegensatz zu Anna lernt Paul gerne neue Vokabeln.

Unlike Anna, Paul enjoys learning new vocabulary.

Expressing Your Opinion

19. Meiner Meinung nach (In my opinion)

Meiner Meinung nach sollte jeder eine Fremdsprache lernen.

(In my opinion, everybody should study a foreign language.)

20. Ich bin der Ansicht, dass… (I believe that…)

Ich bin der Ansicht, dass jeder eine Fremdsprache lernen sollte.

(I believe that everybody should study a foreign language.)

21. Ich finde es schade, dass… (I think it’s a pity that…)

Ich finde es schade, dass die Schulen keine anderen Fremdsprachen unterrichten.

(I think it’s a pity that schools don’t teach other foreign languages.)

Summarizing and Concluding

22. Alles in Allem (Overall)

Alles in allem ist Deutsch nicht so schwierig, wie es scheint.

(Overall, German isn’t as difficult as it seems.)

23. Im Großen und Ganzen (Overall)

Im Großen und Ganzen ist Deutsch keine schwierige Sprache.

(Overall, German isn’t a difficult language.)

24. Zusammenfassend kann man sagen, dass… (In summary, it can be said that…)

Zusammenfassend kann man sagen, dass Sprachen beim Reisen sehr hilfreich sein können.

(In summary, it can be said that languages can be very helpful when traveling.)

What Are German Essays Like?

Ok, let’s get a little deeper into the actual essays themselves. How do they compare to the essays that you’re probably used to writing?

  • They have a similar structure to English essays. Remember how English essays have a beginning, middle and end? Good news: German essays contain those same parts. When you’re writing a German essay, you’ll want to include an opening paragraph with your argument, three supporting paragraphs that further your argument and a conclusion. German and English are often surprisingly similar, and essay structure is no exception.
  • German essays are more to the point. Although German essays and English essays are structured similarly, German essays—just like German speakers—tend to be more blunt and to the point. You won’t need to dance around your conclusions or obfuscate in German: just say what you mean.
  • German punctuation is different. Germans have different rules for punctuation than English speakers. For example, Germans introduce a direct quote with a colon instead of a comma. They use quotes instead of italics for the names of books, movies and newspapers. And they set off relative clauses beginning with dass (that) with a comma, unlike in American English. Understanding these differences between English and German punctuation will ensure you don’t give yourself away as a non-native speaker through punctuation marks alone!

The Different Types of German Essays

Before you get started on your essay, make sure you know what type of essay you’re going to write. If it’s a school essay, be sure to read and understand the instructions.

Here are a few notes about the most common kinds of essays in German.

  • An Erzählung is a narrative essay that tells a story. Your teacher might give you some keywords or pictures and ask you to create a story around it. An Erlebniserzählung (“experience story”) is about a personal experience and can be written in the first person.
  • An Erörterung is an argumentative essay, a writing piece meant to persuade someone to think the way you do. This writing genre requires you to investigate your topic well and provide evidence to prove your point.
  • In a Nacherzählung you summarize and recount a book, a film or an article you have read, from an objective perspective. Depending on the essay instructions, you might be asked for your personal opinion in the conclusion.

How to Write an Essay in German in 4 Steps

Are you ready to start writing? Use these four strategies to wow your teachers and write the perfect German essay.

1. Write down a list of words 

You should look at any new activity as an opportunity to learn and master new vocabulary. Instead of using the same words that you use in your everyday German speech, use this essay as an opportunity to introduce new words into your German lexicon.

Besides, incorporating academic words that help you craft and shape your argument can make your essay sound more professional and polished. So before you start writing, write down a list of the German words you’d like to incorporate in your essay.

2. Do your research

As with everything else, you should look at the research portion of the essay-writing process as an opportunity to learn more about Germany—this time, about German culture, history, politics or travel.

Chances are if you’re writing your essay for a language-learning class, you’ll be assigned a topic pertaining to one of these aspects of German life, so use this as a chance to learn more about Deutschland.

For example, Deutsche Welle offers information and resources about German history. Other newspapers such as Berliner Zeitung and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung offer another perspective on politics and daily life in Germany.

3. Make an outline using transition words

There’s nothing clunkier than an essay that doesn’t flow naturally from one point to the next. Besides, thinking about how your arguments and points interact with each other will help you organize your essay and make sure you get your point across. (Do they support each other? Counter each other? How exactly do they function to further your argument?)

Examples of transition words:

  • Vorher (prior)
  • zur gleichen Zeit (at the same time)
  • dann (then)
  • trotzdem (nevertheless)
  • noch (still)

4. Write directly in German

Writing an essay in English and then translating it into German often results in stilted, poorly formed sentences and unnatural constructions.

For example, remember that German word order is different from English. If you write “He didn’t read the book,” a one-to-one literal translation would be Er hat gelesen nicht das Buch. But the correct translation is actually Er hat nicht das Buch gelesen. In this example, translating word for word leads to errors.

There’s another, less tangible reason why it’s not a good idea to write in English and translate to German. Sure, you could just remember that you need to change the word order when translating into German. But isn’t it better to adapt your brain so that German word order seems fluid and natural?

Learning to think and write off-the-cuff in German is an essential step towards fluency, and devising sentences in German, instead of sentences in translation, will help you learn to do that.

One good way to learn to think in a language is to hear it spoken in natural contexts. You can hear German spoken naturally in German language TV shows, movies and YouTube videos.

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Listening to German spoken at a natural speed and native accent will help get you thinking in the language in real time. This will help get you to the point where you can come up with your own sentences in German, rather than thinking in English sentences first and then translating them in your head before you speak or write. That will greatly improve your speed and fluency when writing in German.

So, simply start writing the essay in German. Look up any words you’re not sure of and double-check any grammatical constructions that you’re not familiar with. After you finish writing, ask a German-speaking friend to look over the essay to make sure it sounds natural.

An Example of a German Essay

Now that we’ve explored strategies and phrases for writing top-notch German essays, let’s take a look at an example.

World War I doesn’t get as much coverage in the States as World War II (where it was more directly involved). But for Europe, World War I was a devastating example of the dangers of modern technological warfare and the horrors of violence.

Let’s take a look at an example opening paragraph and outline of an essay about the effect of World War I on German government and life.

Opening paragraph:

Der Erste Weltkrieg war ein totaler Krieg, der Deutschland völlig veränderte. Dieser Krieg hat 1914 angefangen, und 1918, als der Krieg zu Ende kam, waren die deutsche Gesellschaft, Regierung und Kultur nicht mehr erkennbar. Am Anfang hat der Erste Weltkrieg altväterliche Ideen und Systeme verstärkt. Am Ende hat dieser Krieg dagegen diese altväterlichen Dinge zerstört.

(The First World War was a total war that completely changed Germany. This war began in 1914 and in 1918, when the war came to an end, German society, government and culture were no longer recognizable. At the beginning, the First World War strengthened old-fashioned ideas and systems. However, by the end, this war destroyed these old-fashioned things.)

Notice that this opening paragraph is not very different at all from the first paragraph of an English essay. You can use the same structure you’ve always used to write your German essay, leaving you free to focus on grammar and vocabulary.

Notice also the use of phrases such as Am Anfang (at the beginning) and Dagegen (however). Words like these can help you make a point and counterpoint in your opening paragraph (or anywhere in your essay, for that matter).

Outline:

I. Am Anfang (at the beginning):

– Dieser Krieg hat Deutschland vereint. (This war united Germany.)
– Menschen hatten ein patriotisches Gefühl. (People had a patriotic feeling.)
– Menschen dachten, dass der Krieg bald zu Ende kommen würde. (People thought that the war would soon come to an end.)

Notice that these points employ words like dachten (thought). Written German often relies on Präteritum, a form of the past tense that’s rarely used in spoken Deutsch. It’s often called “literary past tense” for this reason. Check out this guide to the Präteritum to include this tense in your essay.

II. Andrerseits (on the other hand):

– Bald gab es kein Essen mehr. (Soon there was no more food.)
– Menschen wurden krank und desillusioniert. (People became sick and disillusioned.)
– Es gab Proteste und Unruhen. (There was protest and unrest.)

Like in an English essay, your second and third paragraphs can include supporting points or counterpoints that contribute to the overall theme of your piece. The word Andrerseits (on the other hand) is an ideal transition word to show that you’re moving into another section of your essay.

Also notice that this essay will rely on vocabulary words that the average language learner might not have come across in his or her learning. After all, who learns the words for “disillusioned” and “unrest” in their intermediate German class? But don’t be daunted by the fact that your essay might include eclectic vocabulary. Instead, use this as an opportunity for more learning.

III. zum Schluss (in conclusion):

– Der Kaiser hat abgedankt. (The Emperor abdicated.)
– Eine Republik wurde geboren. (A Republic was born.)
– Die alten Werte waren weg. (The old values were gone.)

Once again, abgedankt (abdicated) is an example of the literary past tense (and an example of a word that you probably haven’t come across in your previous German studies!)

IV. Schließlich (finally)

– Der Erste Weltkrieg hat Deutschland verändert. (The First World War completely changed Germany.)

Again, like in an English essay, you should use this paragraph to summarize your main point.

 

Feeling a bit more confident about your next German essay now?

Just make a great essay plan, write down some new words and phrases that you want to include and off you go!

By sprinkling these bits of flair into your German essays, you’re sure to make your writing better and more effective.

Enjoy writing!

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