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The most basic comma rule in German: Listing things, people, features, and actions Posted by on Aug 26, 2013 in Language

Commas are useful punctuation characters. On the one hand, they help us to sort our thoughts and on the other hand, they facilitate reading – when they are correctly punctuated. So, let’s have a closer look at the most basic comma rule in the German language: Listing things, people, features, and actions.


Simple words: Listing things, people, and features

Basically, commas divide sentences into units of meanings. This is especially discernable when we name things or people that are involved in an action, or when we describe the features of something or someone, that is, using adjectives. In such cases, every item or word is separated by a comma.

1. Hammer, Schraubenziehen, Bohrmaschine sind im Werkzeugkasten. – Hammer, screwdriver, drill are in the tool box.

2. Bettina braucht Geschenkpapier, Schere, Klebeband. – Bettina needs gift wrap, scissors, sticky tape.

3. Bäcker, Koch, Bauarbeiter sind anstrengende Berufe. – Baker, cook, construction worker are demanding jobs.

4. Anett, Claudia, Peter machen eine Radtour. – Anett, Claudia, Peter are on a bike trip.

5. Herr Meier ist hilfbereit, fleißig, zuverlässig. – Herr Meier is obliging, diligent, reliable.

6. Das Essen ist preiswert, frisch, lecker. – The food is inexpensive, fresh, delicious.

Usually, the final element in listings is added with the preceding conjunction “und” (and). When you use “und” in your listing you don’t have to punctuate a comma.

7. Hammer, Schraubenziehen und Bohrmaschine sind im Werkzeugkasten.

8. Bettina braucht Geschenkpapier, Schere und Klebeband.

9. Bäcker, Koch und Bauarbeiter sind anstrengende Berufe.

10. Anett, Claudia und Peter machen eine Radtour.

11. Herr Meier ist hilfbereit, fleißig und zuverlässig.

12. Das Essen ist preiswert, frisch und lecker.


Word groups: Listing actions

Units of meaning can also be arranged in groups of words, for example, when you describe the action of someone. In such cases, you have to separate every single action with a comma. Just as above, the last element or action is added with the conjunction “und”, hence, we don’t  need a comma.

13. Frau Müller schließt die Tür auf, betritt die Wohnung, stellt ihre Tasche ab, zieht sich die Schuhe aus, geht ins Wohnzimmer und setzt sich aufs Sofa. – Frau Müller unlocks the door, enters the apartment, puts down her bag, takes off her shoes, goes into the living room, and sits down on the couch.

If you like you can enlarge the units of meaning and add more information to each word group of your sentence. For example, your statement can also look like this now:

14. Frau Müller schließt geräuschvoll die Tür auf, betritt schnell die Wohnung, stellt behutsam ihre Tasche ab, zieht sich leise die Schuhe aus, geht fröhlich ins Wohnzimmer und setzt sich seufzend aufs Sofa. – Frau Müller unlocks the door noisily, enters the apartment quickly, puts down her bag cautiously, takes off her shoes quietly, goes into the living room cheerfully, and sits down on the couch sighing.


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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra