Book review: the fun side of German grammar

Photo by James Steakley via wikimedia commons

“Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod” is a satirical book about German grammar, written for Germans. If your German is already advanced, you’ll learn a lot, too.

Author: Jim Peterson

“Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod” by Bastian Sick does something amazing: it makes German grammar interesting and entertaining. I highly recommend it for advanced learners and teachers of German.

Basically, the book is a collection of columns (here an example) written by an editor of Germany’s news magazine “Spiegel”. Each chapter focuses on a point of grammar that many Germans find difficult.

Just to give you an idea, one part of this book that I found extremely helpful was the author’s in-depth discussion of dative vs. genitive. Sick goes through multiple examples of words like “trotz”, “wegen”, “angesichts”, etc., where Germans have trouble choosing between dative and genitive. It should go without saying that this kind of grammar-focused storytelling is highly educational for language learners. And, yes, I did mean to say “storytelling”. The book is full of entertaining anecdotes that actually make you enjoy a book about grammar.

On the down side, the author often characterizes examples of dialect as “faulty” German. I, however, would argue that when people speak dialect, they are speaking correctly within the confines of their dialect. Written German should of course conform to the rules of Hochdeutsch, but informal spoken language should retain the flavor and rich variety of dialects. Just something to keep in mind…

Despite this small setback, the book is an excellent way to learn while having fun. Its column-based format means you can read it in small chunks, taking as many breaks as you like. Put it in the bathroom! The book also has many sequels. So, if you like it, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy.

Reading level: B2 – Upper intermediate

About Bastian Sick

Bastian Sick is a writer, columnist and editor for the Spiegel and Spiegel Online. He gained popularity as the author of the Zwiebelfish column for the print and online versions of Spiegel. The column, which focuses on German grammar, spelling and punctuation, was later printed in book form as “Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod”.

Genre: Non-fiction / humor

Bibliographic data:
Author: Sick, Bastian
Book title: Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod
Publisher: Kiepenheuer & Witsch
Pages: 240
Price: €8.95
ISBN: 9783462034486

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