Turn off your iPads, put down your cellphone, close your laptop—
Before you do that, first order one of these amazing German grammar books.
That’s right. We said books.
Not the latest app, or the newest website. A plain old book. Because even with so many advances in language-learning technology, books still have a lot to offer.
German grammar books are the guides you need to gain fluency in the language. And we’ve got your essential book list below, complete with links. All right at your fingertips and ready to teach you everything you need to know about German grammar.
Why Invest in German Grammar Books?
Investing in your education is one of the best things you can do. In terms of learning another language, establishing a foundation in grammar puts you on the path to advanced German language skills and ultimately success in fluency. Grammar books are an all-in-one, easy-to-reference tool, especially for the self-taught. Most books will list grammar topics you should master to gain fluency, which will help you focus your studies.
Another great component of German grammar books is the explanations, examples, exercises and quizzes offered among the lessons. You can reference these whenever you need a refresher on a particular rule. At the end of it all, you’ll gain a better understanding of the language to attain fluency.
What to Look for in a German Grammar Book
Simply picking up any German grammar book won’t necessarily help you. It’s all about what you need as an individual student. To help you find the best book out there, we’ve put together a list of the traits and components you’ll want to look for:
- Fluency level indicator: Most books will indicate in some way what levels they’re targeting. Do some self-reflection and figure out your current German level, then pick out a book that matches where you are.
- Table of contents: A simple table of contents will allow you to quickly interpret whether the book focuses on those topics you want to cover or if it’s geared toward different learning goals. You’ll want to take a peek at the grammar topics you’ll explore throughout the book. Make sure it mentions the areas you’re concerned about improving. If the book in your hand costs you $100 but it only covers two or three topics you’re interested in, it might not be the best deal for your money.
- In-depth explanations and demonstrative examples: Explanations help us to digest the information we’ve been given about a grammar topic. And examples are the application of the grammar topic, so it’s critical that the examples show the student the direct relation between the grammar concept and the practical use of it. The more linear the examples can be, the better. If your book is just a table of incomprehensible charts, consider looking elsewhere.
- Practice exercises: Exercises are where we truly demonstrate whether or not we understood the grammar lesson. It’s also a way for our brains to process and apply the knowledge we’ve gained in order to ingrain it into our memory. An answer key is useful to check answers only—no peeking!
- Complete vocabulary lists: The majority of mastering a language comes in building a strong and varied vocabulary. The more words you can learn and apply in your own reading, writing and speaking, the better your German will get.
- Multimedia components: Supplementing traditional book study with multimedia components such as CDs, DVDs and even online counterparts can be a great way to round out your German grammar skills. Plus, you’ll get to manipulate the language in a new way that could be more enjoyable.
- Fun elements: Speaking of enjoyable, games can be a great way to work with the grammar lessons you’ve studied in a way that doesn’t feel like a chore. The best grammar books aren’t all work and no play. Look for books with fun cultural lessons and self-guided activities to keep you entertained and motivated.
Beyond including these components, grammar books work best when they fit your study style. Choose those books that you feel will help you learn German grammar, rather than make it more confusing.
How to Correctly Use a German Grammar Book
Okay, so you bought the books and you’re ready to get started. But what’s the best way to begin?
The best thing you can do to put yourself on the path to success is to focus on one grammar topic at a time. Work with German cases until you feel like you could explain the entire concept to a stranger. Then, move on to the next topic. Build your knowledge foundation brick by brick.
Repetition is key to language, so spend extra time on topics you’re struggling with. Practice daily until you feel comfortable. The more you can work with a topic, the greater your understanding will be. And if one grammar book doesn’t illustrate a grammar concept for you in a way that makes sense, switch to another one. Try out different mediums to gain the understanding you need.
Part of manipulating the language is working through everyday examples, such as exercises and quizzes. Better yet, practice and learn with friends so that you can help each other when you get stuck and clarify ideas you may not have had such a good handle on.
Finally, most grammar books are sold with an additional online component as well. Supplement your learning with these activities, which may or may not include multimedia components. Take full advantage of these interactive methods to manipulate the German language in a whole new way.
Whether or not your book comes with a built-in online component, it’s crucial to supplement your textbook learning with multimedia resources. For example, you can check out FluentU’s blog posts to get extra support on tricky grammar topics. Or, check out FluentU’s learning platform, which teaches grammar through immersion.
FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.
By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:
Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.
Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.
Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.
FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or practice anytime, anywhere on the mobile app for iOS and Android.
While watching videos on FluentU, you can follow along using interactive subtitles in German and English. Come across a word you don’t know? Simply click on the subtitle for easy access to a definition and example sentences. You can also use built-in comprehension quizzes to review what you’ve learned.
By listening to native speakers talk in German, you’ll absorb correct German grammar while being entertained at the same time. It’s a great supplement to the textbooks on our list. Take advantage of the free trial to start learning with authentic German videos today!
6 Must-have German Grammar Books for Incredible, Unplugged Learning
Top German Grammar Books for Your Home Library
1. “Living Language German, Complete Edition”
Perfect For: Those who want a comprehensive, all-in-one guide to German grammar
Many students of German rave about this book, which is great for students of all levels. If you’re someone who wants to learn German and isn’t necessarily of typical school age, this is the book you’ll want to start with. And even if you’re a traditional student, it can be a great resource for supplemental learning.
Moving from beginner levels to advanced understanding of the German language, this book is actually a series of three books. Included with those books are nine audio CDs, as well as an online component. This wide offering of resources is really what makes this a great book to pick up. Students will learn a grammar foundation peppered with cultural anecdotes, speaking techniques and listening exercises. Lay your German grammar foundation right with “Living Language German.”
2. “English Grammar for Students of German”
Perfect For: Learners who want step-by-step breakdowns of tricky grammar concepts
While the title of this book might seem like it’s misplaced on our list, there are actually quite a lot of great grammar tools within its pages. When learning German, we can use English (as our first language) as a blueprint for building a foundation for German fluency. That’s why this book is geared toward all levels.
This book takes an innovative approach to learning German grammar. In any given chapter, you’ll read about a single grammar point. You’ll have access to explanations in both English and German. This means that beginners can comprehend the grammar lesson without having to wade through German explanations, while intermediate and advanced learners can practice their reading skills. This book offers an online component as well. So beyond simply focusing on German grammar topics, you’ll also get the chance to use multimedia to practice your German reading skills.
3. “Großes Übungsbuch Deutsch — Grammatik”
Perfect For: Learners who never get tired of doing practice exercises
Fundamentals are the basis upon which learning can occur, and that’s certainly the reasoning behind this German grammar book, whose title translates to “Big German Practice Book — Grammar.” Targeted toward beginner and intermediate learners, this book from the publisher Hueber will have you practicing German grammar until you can recite it in your sleep. Talk about some grumpy muttering!
This “Übungsbuch” (or “practice book,” in German) will guide you through over 500 exercises to help you gain a better understanding of the application of German grammar topics. You’ll be conjugating verbs, diagramming sentences, rearranging clauses and everything in between. Many a student has increased their knowledge just by completing these 500+ exercises—and you can, too.
4. “German Quickly: A Grammar for Reading German”
Perfect For: Learners who want to practice grammar in order to improve their reading comprehension
Seeing printed German words on a page is as important to your learning as speaking or hearing them. This reading-oriented German grammar book will help anyone looking to improve their reading comprehension in German. While it does require enough knowledge of German to successfully read even a short children’s story, it’s a book that’ll grow with you as you master the German language.
Reading successfully in German, at least in this book, means taking fundamental approaches to the texts before you. You’ll learn applicable strategies and ways to tackle any German text you see. Grammar lessons guide you toward better comprehension as you read, so that you can not only understand what’s happening in the text, but also learn a bit about proper German grammar along the way.
5. “Sprichst Du Deutsch? German Vocabulary”
Perfect For: Learners who strive to polish and perfect their spoken German
“Sprichst Du Deutsch?” (“Do you speak German?”) isn’t just a question you ask strangers to see if they can help you practice. It’s also the name of a book that’s perfect speaking practice for any German language student. Whether you’ve just started speaking a few words of Denglish (that’s a mixture of Deutsch—German—and English) or can carry on a conversation without breaking a sweat, this book will help you become a better German speaker.
This book includes grammar tables and rules to guide you so you can keep an eye on your grammar as you flap your lips. A two-column section aids you in jotting down vocabulary words along with their definitions. This way, you can create individualized lists to tailor learning to your needs. And at the end of it all, it’s useful as a grammar reference tool and organizer for your vocabulary lists.
6. “German: How to Speak and Write It”
Perfect For: Learners who want to write in German with impeccable grammar
Mostly meant for beginners, this book is useful for intermediate students as well. If you’re looking to improve your spoken and written German, this book is the right choice for you.
Included are a variety of learning techniques, from sketches and diagrams to dialogues and exercises. You’ll practice some of the most common German grammar topics and be able to speak and write grammatically correct German. As you improve your written and spoken German, you’ll gain confidence in other areas language learning as well.
There are tons of great published resources at your fingertips. What are you waiting for? Turn off your phone (for once), close your laptop and crack open a textbook. You’ll be glad you did!
Rebecca Henderson holds a degree in German and Creative Writing. She’s the editor behind The Kreativ Space and hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.