Intermediate B1 German vocabulary and grammar: what and how? (2023)

Whatnew vocabulary and grammardo you need to move from upper beginner (A2) to lower intermediate (B1) German? Maybe you want to improve your German for work or pleasure. You may even need to pass a German B1 exam. If so, you’re in the right place for some actionable information on the B1 German vocabulary and grammar that you need and how to master it.

We’ve already done a high level comparison of A2 German skills and the B1 German level in my recent postFrom Beginners (A2) to Intermediate (B2) German: What’s the difference?What exactly is B1 German vocabulary and grammar?

We saw that getting to a solid intermediate level in German is all about becoming a “going concern” in the language as an “independent user”.

Sure, there’ll still be things you don’t understand and things you can’t easily say yet.

The focus is still on familiar topics and situations and clear speech.

But the exciting thing is that you’ll be able to deal well with most real-live situations when travelling.

You can use longer, more complex phrases to talk much more freely than before about events, your attitudes and plans.

First, let’s look at intermediate or B1 vocab.

Discover how YOU can use Dr P's free Weekly Workout Routine to get ready for more confident German conversations in a matter of weeks.Click here to get the training!

Contents hide

Intermediate level German vocabulary: how much?

How to learn vocabulary for German B1

Why chunks?

German grammar at B1 intermediate level

Is there such a thing as an intermediate B1 grammar pattern?

(Video) 100 Intermediate Words in German - B1 & B2 Lessons

Get lots of appropriate reading and listening input

Utilise the power of focus to master your B1 German vocabulary and grammar

Companions on the journey to fluency

Intermediate level German vocabulary: how much?

Learning more German words is central to becoming a competent intermediate-level German speaker.

It’s an oversimplification but the adage that communication fails due to lack of words not lack of grammar has at lot truth to it when you’re a beginner or at the lower intermediate level.

How much vocabulary do you need for B1 intermediate German?

The Goethe Institut provides one answer. For its upper beginner A2 German exam candidates to know about 1,300 of the most common words in the language. If you’re aiming at the Goethe Institut’s B1 exam, you need at least another thousand words. That’s a total of2,400 words.

That’s quite a jump and it gets even more complex, because you have gender and plurals to remember. On gender, by the way, check out my in-depth post,“How to remember German noun gender: the ultimate guide”.

Plus, you’ll naturally want to be on top of words that maybe aren’t, on average, high frequency, but which are important TO YOU (such as talking about your job, hobbies or other special topics in you life).

How to learn vocabulary for German B1

There is a publishedGoethe Institut listof their 2,400 intermediate B1 German words.

You can download the list (or buy something similar) and learn it by heart. I quite like a systematic approach to vocab, myself, though I know it’s not for everyone.

Just repeating, straining, writing out is not the most effective way to go, though.

Instead, make use of two key tools:spaced repetitionand thetesting effect.

Combine them together and you’ll havespaced recall, not just repetition.

Below, I’ll explain all this further and give you somepractical tipson how to do spaced recall. First, though, a question: Should we just be recalling individual words?


When you can, learn“chunks”of language rather than isolated items of vocab.

Chunks could be“collocations”: words that habitually go together in a set combination.

(Video) Intermediate German #27: Vocabulary Memorization Tips

The German for “to be fun”, for example, is “Spaß machen” – to “make fun” – not “Spaß sein”. It just is. It’s a matter of style as much as logic. It’s what you have to say.

Beyond collocations, a chunk could be alonger combinationsof words.

It may be a full phrase such as “Ich begleite dich ein Stück” (I’ll come some of the way with you). Here’s another phrase :”den Mantel an der Garderobe abgeben” (“to hand your coat in/leave your coat in the cloakroom”). Here you already have a reusable pattern: “an der Garderobe abgeben”, whatever you ant to hand in.

A chunk could also be a shorterset phrase: “Nice to meet you”.

It’s also worth notingidiomatic expressionsthat may not even make any sense at all when translated literally (“ich bin schon ziemlich blau” (lit: I’m already quite blue, meaning I’m already quite drunk)).

In effect a chunk could be any shortish combination of words that native speaker effortlessly deploy as a unit, as if one word.

Why chunks?

There are three reasons for giving chunking a major role in your journey from beginner to intermediate German.

First, when you learn a word in context, you’ll find that wordeasier to remember.

Second, you’ll be sure you’reusing it right. That feels a lot better than struggling to build phrase after phrase from the ground up. If you play that game, you run the risk of a word-for-word from English when German expresses things differently.

You may be understood, but you won’t sound like a native. That won’t make fun at all (as a German who hasn’t been learning English in chunks might put it).

Learning chunks will help you master the general style of the language(naturalness)but it’s also about the wider grammar(accuracy).

So, in German, you’ve got case declensions to worry about. Learn “in die Stadt gehen” as a phrase and you won’t have to think though whether the preposition “in” here governs the accusative or the dative. And you won’t then have to try to remember how the definite article declines in front of feminine nouns in either case (assuming, of course, that you’d remembered that “Stadt” is feminine).

Third, it appears that one of the reasons we are able to speak and understand our native language so quickly is thatnatives process language as chunks. By focussing on chunks, you really are going with nature.

Learn in chunks and you’ll be able to speak not only more naturally and accurately, but also morerapidly.

Naturalness + accuracy + tempo. How’s about that for a definition of fluency?

Discover how YOU can use Dr P's free Weekly Workout Routine to get ready for more confident German conversations in a matter of weeks.Click here to get the training!

German grammar at B1 intermediate level

Grammar is simply the underlying patterns of the language.

Don’t be confused by the technical words used to describe these patterns and create abstract “rules” with lists of exceptions. Thereiscertainly place all this and do sit down and read a technical grammar through cover to cover, to get a good overview if you want.

Sure, it’s useful to learn “about” the language. But won’t help you as you speak. That’s because you won’t be able to apply rules on the wing.

For that, we’re back to mastering patterns. We’re back, really, to context and chunks, as in my “in die Stadt gehen” example.

Good teaching materials will teach the patterns in context as much as possible and be relatively light on abstract rules that you don’t much help in practice.

So, “VERB + prefer X than Y” is a pattern expressing that you prefer some action in relation to X than Y (“I prefer to buy bread than cake”; “I prefer to stay here than there”). You can use this in full flow, to slot in the detail to generate an unlimited number of correct phrases.

“I prefer living in the countryside to in the town”…..

Here's another, short, pattern: "Do we want + INFINITIVE?" (Shall we [DO SOMETHING]): “Shall we go?”; "Shall we eat?".

(Video) B1 German important Vocabulary| Wortschatz B1 Prüfung|

Is there such a thing as an intermediate B1 grammar pattern?

We saw that getting good at German at the intermediate level involves being able to talk about a wider range of topics at a deeper, more sophisticated level.

This means, among other things, a greater number of more complex patterns that you can shunt around more freely.

Good intermediate materials such as a B1 textbook or online course will introduce what you need in a systematic way.

For example, they’ll get you practising building out a phrase to explaincausation or consequences(clauses with “wegen”….. (because of), andconjunctionssuch as “obwohl”…..(although); “deshalb”….(therefore), “so dass” (with the result that)).

You’ll also need to learn how to add more information usingrelative pronouns(I visited the villages you talked about yesterday).

As phrases become more complex in German, theposition of the verbis often very different from English and you’ll want to get lots of examples of this and opportunity to practise.

Another area you’ll need to focus on a lot more will be the so-calledmodal verbsthat are used with other verbs and indicate likelihood, ability, permission and obligation (“können”, “mögen”, “wollen” and so on). You’ll find my in-depth exploration of modals in the post“German modal verbs explained”.

Thegenitive case is often used to express a relationship of possession (“das Haus meines Bruders” (my brother’s house) = “das Haus von meinem Bruder” (the house of my brother)). You may have come across the genitive already, but at this level, you’ll typically be tackling it head on.

You may have come acrosspassive formsof the verb before, but probably not much. At this level, you’ll be covering them thoroughly and in different tenses: “Das Auto wird repariert” (the car is being repaired); “das Auto wurde repariert” (the car was/was being repaired) and so on.

You may have already come across the Germanimperfect tense(the Präteritum). It’s very common way of referring to the past in the spoken language for a small number of the verbs. Otherwise it’s usually used in the written language.

Once you’ve started to get familiar with how the imperfect tense is formed, it’s time to move onto a verb form called thesubjunctive II or conditional(Future). We use the Konjunktiv II for polite requests: Could you help me? (Could you help me?), instead of Can you help me? (Can you help me?). The Konjunktiv II can also express and element of conditionality. Something will (or would) happen, if something else is (or were to be) the case: Maria could do a world trip, if she had a lot of money.

Something that will probably be completely new as you reach intermediate German is the“past perfect”(or “pluperfect”) tense, which enables you to talk about “the past in the past” (“He was very tired, because he HAD WORKED all day. )

The list of typical “lower intermediate” patterns is quite long. Remember, though, it’s not without end.

The key is to take things gradually and reinforce what you’ve already done as you go.

Get lots of appropriate reading and listening input

The importance oflearning in contextis an emerging theme here, whether we’re looking at vocabulary or grammar.

You can do this by gettingextensive passive inputby reading and listening to correct, realistic German.

It’s particularly effective to use“graded” materialat or just below your current level to reinforce and just above to stretch you and present the new with enough context. If material is too hard, you won’t have as much supporting context. Not so good.

If you’re using a course with reading passages and audio, such asmy popular intermediate/B1 German course, and you’ll have a great tailor-made reading and listening “graded” starting point.

To an extent you can just “pick up” new words and phrases through extensive exposure to such German.

Discover how YOU can use Dr P's free Weekly Workout Routine to get ready for more confident German conversations in a matter of weeks.Click here to get the training!

Utilise the power of focus to master your B1 German vocabulary and grammar

Sometimes, though, you may want ratchet things up by getting more interactive and making a focussed effort to train yourself up in B1 German vocabulary and grammar. Indeed, combine extensive input with focussed study routine to super-charge your progress.

I”ve already mentionedspaced repetitionandspaced recallas a fulcrum for focus.

You’ll be getting a lot of that with regular reading and listening input.

One way to learn B1 German vocabulary and grammar more actively is to take words and native phrases and use aflashcardsystem to recall what you’ve learnt at spaced intervals, with the intervals getting gradually longer.

(Video) 150 Words for Intermediate German Learners

Cognitive science has long told us that such spaced repetition returning to material just as we’re at the point of forgetting it is the way to lodge it in the long term memory.

Having to make the effort to remember makes the process more effective. So, make sure you really areactively recallingand not just passively repeating, build in thetestingelement.

If you’re using flashcards, the obvious way to test yourself is to work not from German to English butfrom English to German.

You could go further andleave the English outaltogether. Have a German phrase on both sides of your flash card but to leave one word out on the “front” side”, to test that you know the complete phrase. That way you’re “keeping it all German”.

You could use the same phrase for this on multiple cards, with a different word or group of words left out each time. That way, you’re really stress-testing your grasp of the whole thing.

Other techniques to get more interactive with that essential B1 German vocabulary and grammar include the classic types of writtenexercisesyou’ll find in a course book (you can do these verbally to, use the recorder on your phone or do them live with a teacher or exchange partner). Exercises aren’t to everybody’s taste but they may be a valuable part of the picture for you. They certainly always are for me.

You can also take adictationof a recording you’ve listened to and check it against a transcript. That will really get you focussed and get younoticingwhat you can’t yet understand. This takes time and requires concentration, so work with short texts.

You couldmake up questionsabout a text and try to answer them straight away, then (spaced recall again) a day or two, a week or a month later.

You could jot down a few key words to give you a framework and then try andretellthe text.

You can also make your own exercises bymodifyingthe text as you retell it in one specific way (for example, if it’s in the present, put it in the past; if it’s told by one person, retell it in the plural).

Another technique which relies on spaced repetition is theGold List Method. It doesn’t use the testing element but many successful learners nevertheless find it very effective.

Speak and write!

We’ve seen the importance of approaching new vocab and patterns as chunks where possible and that you can reinforce this with extensive reading and listening.

You can then focussed with study routines to practise chunks and patterns effectively.

But you’ll never get good at speaking and writing without actually practising these active skills more freely.

Companions on the journey to fluency

You can get speaking and writing in “controlled conditions” byworking with a teacher or exchange partner. Look out a post full of tips on this from me soon.

Take every less formal opportunity (and make your own) to speak or write too. Just dive in!

Getting from A2 to B1 German can be a lot of fun, but it’snot always easy.

It’s all aboutkeeping goingthrough thick and thin. You need the right methods, sure, but you also need the rightmindset, motivation and support. That’s covered in the next post in this series (see links below)

Discover how YOU can use Dr P's free Weekly Workout Routine to get ready for more confident German conversations in a matter of weeks.Click here to get the training!

Other posts in this series:

Motivation for Intermediate (B1) German: enjoying the highs and getting through the lows

German cases made simple (goodbye to endless tables)

German genitive case: the only guide you’ll ever need

German modal verbs: the ultimate guide


Joining it up: how conjunctions can transform your intermediate German

German listening practice on steroids (neglected technique)


What grammar is in B1 German? ›

Verbs: Modal Verbs, reflexive Verbs, separable Verbs, Verbs with complements. Tenses: Future Tense I, Past Tense: "Perfekt" and "Präteritum" Sentences: Infinitive Clauses, Syntax: Connectors, "Nachfeld", indirect questions, exclamations. pronouns: reflexice pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, indefinite pronouns.

What is taught in German B1 level? ›

B1 – Intermediate - German Independent/Intermediate level
Rate of SpeechPronunciation and Grammar
100 WPM or lessFrequent errors with new or complex words Express yourself simply and coherently on familiar topics and areas of personal interest

How many words are needed for B1 German level? ›

The German government recommends to learn 2.700 words to pass the B1 exam.

What is B1 language level grammar? ›

B1 Level: the basic grammar

Compared to the basic notions you already know, belonging to level A2, to reach B1 you'll have to learn (and consolidate) in particular the following: Verb tenses: present perfect continuous and past perfect. Different ways to express the future.

Is B1 German advanced? ›

How Does it Work? These levels are classified as A1 for beginners, A2 for elementary, B1 for intermediate, B2 for upper intermediate, C1 as advanced, and C2 as mastery.

How many months does it take to learn German B1? ›

It takes around 80 hours per week (up to 8 weeks) to learn the German B1 level, also known as the intermediate level. Depending on what you retained from your previous A1 and A2 level, you'll have to take about 350 or 650 45-minute units of instruction.

How long will it take to learn B1 German? ›

How long does it take to learn German?
Assess your current level & test your German online!Intensive course (20 lessons/week)
A1beginner8 weeks
A2elementary8 weeks
B1intermediate8 weeks
B2upper intermediate10 weeks*
2 more rows

What level of German is considered fluent? ›

The German language has 6 CEFR levels – starting with A1 (absolute beginner), and ending with C2 (completely fluent).

How difficult is German B1 level? ›

The B1 level is the most difficult because of the lot of grammar and vocabulary knowledge that you need to grasp. No matter, how difficult or lengthy it looks, learn things slowly and reinforce all you have done as you may go through.

Is B1 level considered fluent? ›

Level B1 corresponds to independent users of the language, i.e. those who have the necessary fluency to communicate without effort with native speakers.

How many words should I know to be fluent in German? ›

In order to feel comfortable speaking German, you really only need to learn about 3,000 words. In contrast, being fluent in German is defined as understanding 10,000+ words.

Is it hard to pass B1 test? ›

Passing the B1 writing exam is not an easy task. You need advanced preparations to successfully complete this English test. Languages are the most complex subjects. You need lots of patience and practice to learn a new language.

Can I do B1 German by myself? ›

Without a doubt, yes. I'm currently learning German myself, and after 4 months or so I managed to get to the B1 level all by myself.

What is asked in German B1 exam? ›

The Goethe-Zertifikat B1 exam comprises reading, listening, writing and speaking modules. The speaking module of the exam is completed in pairs. The exam is administered and evaluated in the same way all over the world.

Is B1 intermediate good? ›

English test B1 (Intermediate English)

Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.

Is intermediate higher than fluent? ›

Language students who find themselves in the intermediate level of language proficiency are not quite at the fluency benchmark, but they are well on their way!

What are the parts of speech in B1? ›

For B1-B2 Levels. There are eight main parts of speech (also known as word classes): nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. Most parts of speech can be divided into sub-classes. Prepositions can be divided into prepositions of time, prepositions of place etc.

Can you reach B1 German in 1 year? ›

They say that you need to have completed at least 350 45-minute German lessons/practice sessions to reach B1, which would take roughly a year and a half since most people can't take a lesson every single day in a row.

Is B1 German enough to study in Germany? ›

You will need an official language certificate from a recognised language centre, such as the Goethe-Institut or a telc-certified institute. Depending on the German federal state, level B1 or B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is required.

How good is B1 German? ›

The B1 level is the third level in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages. It is certainly a step beyond the A1 & A2 exams. Passing the B1 level German exam means that you are on the intermediate level of your journey.

Is B1 German enough to work? ›

If you´d like to work in Germany you´ll get by if your German is on level B1/B2 (online test). The certificate issued by GLS is recognized by many employers and even some universities in Germany.

How long is B1 German certificate valid for? ›

Goethe German exam certificates have no expiration date. The B1 level test is “modular” in the sense that you do not need to sit (or pass) all four parts in one sitting. The exam is broken down into four sections. They cover listening, reading, reading and writing skills.

Can I learn German B1 online? ›

Different German online courses are available on levels A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. Our free online placement test will determine which level is right for you.

Which is the hardest German level? ›

The relevant levels of language ability according to the Common European Framework of Reference are C2, C1, and B2, with C2 being the hardest, and B2 the easiest. So "Goethe-Zertifikat C 2 (Goethe)" is the hardest. "DSH-3" is the upper end of C1, and is next in line. "TELC Deutsch C1 Hochschule" is equivalent to this.

Is it mandatory to learn German to work in Germany? ›

In short: yes, there are English-speaking jobs in Germany.

Foreigners who look for jobs in tech startups or digital departments have a higher chance of finding work in Germany without speaking German.

Do you have to speak German to live in Germany? ›

Can you live in Germany without knowing German? It is just about possible to live in Germany without knowing much German. But in order to find employment and to fully integrate into society, you will need to be able to speak and read German to a good standard, especially if you live outside the major cities.

What is the hardest German language exam? ›

Going Toe-to-toe with the Goethe Zertifikat

If the TestDaF is the academic German level test, then the Goethe Zertifikat is the all-around one. It's by far the most famous test of the German language and is accepted by everybody who needs any kind of proof of German ability.

What is B1 intermediate? ›

Level B1 corresponds to users who can understand and produce text on familiar topics and give opinions and descriptions.

What is intermediate language level B1? ›

CEFR-level B1 (intermediate)

You can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. You can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work, travel and current events).

How much vocabulary is enough for B1? ›

When you reach B1, you should have a working vocabulary of about 2500 words, and you can recall about half of them with some speed. It takes approximately 350-400 hours with the language to pass the B1 Cambridge examination.

How long does it take to learn German proficiently? ›

For this reason, English speakers will learn German much faster than French. In fact, it takes a native English speaker an average of 30 weeks (750 hours) to become fluent in German.

How many German words should you know about 85% of a German text? ›

To understand 85% of German texts, you need to know about 1,300 words. Don't worry, it's totally doable.

What are the topics for B1 exam? ›

The B1 English Test assesses your language skills in various areas, including speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

What is passing score for B1? ›

If you achieve a scale score of 140–159 (Pass, Pass with Merit) in your exam, you will receive the Preliminary English Test certificate at Level B1. We believe it is important to recognise your achievement, even if you do not reach Level B1.

How many questions are on the B1 exam? ›

What is the B1 Preliminary test like? The test has these sections: Reading six parts - 32 questions - 45 minutes. Writing two parts - 45 minutes.

Is Duolingo enough for German B1? ›

So when you reach level 25 on Duolingo, yes, you could publicly say that you've reached B1.

How can I improve my German vocabulary? ›

How to Build Vocabulary in German: 8 Proven Methods
  1. Try the Classics: Create a Vocabulary Book.
  2. Use a Spaced Repetition App.
  3. Try German Flashcards.
  4. Learn New Words Every Day.
  5. Enjoy German Content.
  6. Talk to Yourself in German.
  7. Write in German.
  8. Learn New Vocabulary Relevant to Your Interests.

What is the pass mark in B1 German? ›

Passing the Zertifikat Deutsch B1 exam

This equates to 135 points in the written and 45 points in the oral test. If you do not pass or don't do one of the two parts you may re-do the part within the calendar year or the following calendar year. Passed parts can be credited later.

How do you ace a German test? ›

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Format of the Exam.
  2. Memorize Words Smarter with Word Maps.
  3. Practice in the Mirror.
  4. Watch and Listen to Native Speakers.
Feb 21, 2022

What are the parts of German B1 exam? ›

There are 4 parts to the Goethe Institut B1 examination:
  • Lesen (reading)
  • Hören (listening)
  • Schreiben (writing)
  • Sprechen (speaking)

What is the B1 German test like? ›

The B1 test German exam is “modular” in the sense that you don't have to sit (or pass) all four sections in one sitting (see details on pass marks and retakes below). The exam is split into four parts. These cover the fours skills of listening, reading, reading and writing.

What is grammar subject in German? ›

Grammatical terms in German: das Subjekt: The subject is the person or thing that is active in the sentence or is central to the interest. It is generally a noun or pronoun.

Is B1 German exam difficult? ›

The B1 level is the most difficult because of the lot of grammar and vocabulary knowledge that you need to grasp. No matter, how difficult or lengthy it looks, learn things slowly and reinforce all you have done as you may go through.

How can I pass B1 exam? ›

You need lots of patience and practice to learn a new language. Begin your English course learning slowly and steadily. Solving exercises, practicing reading, writing and listening are the key aspects of passing the B1 level exam.

Can I learn B1 German on my own? ›

Without a doubt, yes. I'm currently learning German myself, and after 4 months or so I managed to get to the B1 level all by myself. Sure, I still make lots of mistakes but that's part of learning.

How difficult is German grammar? ›

German grammar is complex, can get frustrating at times, and will probably take a while to master. Most learners struggle with grammatical cases (to be fair, they can be a pain even for native speakers). But once you've understood how useful they are, you'll see why it's worth the work.

How can I improve my German grammar? ›

Impressive Improvement: How to Improve Your German in 7 Speedy Steps
  1. Learn Literal Translations of Sentences.
  2. Get a Grasp on the Grammar.
  3. Don't Let Grammar Get in the Way.
  4. Use New Vocab in Old Sentences.
  5. Say It Loud and Proud.
  6. Write Phrases out in Longhand.
  7. Group Similar Sentences and Words.
Jun 11, 2022


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