German vs English: What is the Difference?

English and German both come from the family of Germanic languages. While that means there are ties and genetic relations between these two languages, the influence of history has impacted each and caused them to develop differently. 

While English and German are two Germanic languages, English vocabulary has far more influence from Romance languages. However, you can still see the similarities when examining sentence structure, alphabet, and pronunciation of these two languages. 

In the rest of this article, we will take a closer look at how German and English are similar and how they differ. We will see the historical influences that have impacted their current vocabulary and how useful both of them are in the modern world. 


If you’re a native English speaker looking at a page of German text, there will probably be very few recognizable words at first glance even though they’re both Germanic languages.

While these two languages were at one time more similar, English has experienced far more influence from Romance languages than German. In fact, the vocabulary that comprises modern English is only 26% Germanic. 29% of the vocabulary comes from Latin, another 29% comes from French, and 6% comes from Greek. 

With this numerical breakdown, we can see English is more closely related to Romance languages (Latin and French) when compared to German. 

That being said, the vocabulary words that overlap in German and English can sound quite similar. It’s possible for a native English speaker to listen to a German speaker and pick out a few words that sound familiar. 

You might be wondering how English can be considered a Germanic language considering its evolution. It is partly due to the fact that language categorizations are not based on modern-day vocabulary. They are based more on grammar and syntax. Therefore, English and German are quite different in vocabulary but find more similarities in other parts of the language. 

For more information on the linguistic roots of modern English vocabulary, you can check out this Youtube video from Langfocus:


Both being Germanic languages, English and German are genetically-related languages. We can see clear evidence of this in many grammatical structures of both. 

When examining simple sentences, the structure can be close to identical. German can follow the subject-verb-object structure, like in English. However, as the sentences get more complex, there are some slight changes to the word order. The order of words in more complex German sentences can feel more flexible than in English. 

When it comes time to conjugate your verbs in German, it will be similar to how you do so in English. After your subject, you use your verb in the required tense. This is quite consistent in German, with the verb consistently being the second element in statement sentences. 

However, one notable difference between the two languages is with noun gender. In English, gender is not assigned to nouns, while it is in German. Unlike Spanish or French, which uses two genders (masculine and feminine), German uses three (neuter, masculine and feminine). 

Speaking and Listening

These two languages share similar sounds, making the speaking process easier for those trying to learn another language. Germans might struggle with the “th” sound in English since this is not a sound that exists in German.

Similarly, English speakers might have a hard time with the added vowels in German, like ä, ö, and ü. They will have to train themselves to pronounce these new vowel sounds correctly in order to speak clearly with proper pronunciation in German. 

Writing and Reading 

One useful similarity between German and English is that they use the same alphabet. There are a few additional letters to learn for German, but overall the transition is a small one when going between languages. 

German is also considered to be a pretty phonetically consistent language. This means that the letters tend to produce consistent sounds. Once you understand the system of pronunciation in German, you should be able to read out loud with consistent accuracy. 

Usefulness and Coolness

When it comes to usefulness, English is the clear winner. English has become the international second language and is the go-to linguistic option for many international industries. From Youtubers to CEOs, many people use English to communicate and reach a wider audience.

With the huge amount of media that comes out of the United States, English has also taken on a coolness factor that German hasn’t obtained. English words are making their way into the vocabulary of the youth all over the world as a way of sounding cool. 

Final Thoughts

German and English may share linguistic roots but have developed into languages with significant differences along with their similarities. The alphabet and basic sentence structure are quite similar between the two languages. However, when it comes to vocabulary and gendered nouns, the two languages become very different.

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