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What should I put on my German flash cards in order to know everything I'll need to know about that word? For example, I know for nouns I need to make sure to learn the gender and plural forms, since those vary by word.

When I was learning Greek I had flash cards that also included the genitive form of nouns, and for verbs the different principal parts. Should I also include the genitive form on my noun flashcards, or is plural and the definite article for the gender sufficient? What about other parts of speech?

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I'll leave an answer for someone who teaches German, but I use two different sets of flash cards - verbs and their prepositions (e.g. beitragen - zu), and irregular verbs and their perfect and prateritum forms (sometimes the er form too) (e.g. bringen - brachte - hat gebracht) –  David Hall Jun 5 '13 at 20:45
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3 Answers

For nouns:

  • gender and plural

  • strong/weak noun declension (1)

For verbs:

  • past stem, complete spoken past phrase,

geben, gab, habe gegeben.

  • Furthermore, if a specific preposition is required, then it makes sense to put it there. But not so much for gehen as it could be almost anything. And then, note if there is a self reference.

sich übergeben - to vomit

übergeben - to hand over

  • If you want to be precise then add the case pattern as well.

jmd(acc). erinnern an etw(acc)

Adjectives

  • If irregular, then add the 3 forms (degrees of comparison):

hoch, höher, am höchsten

Prepositions

  • the case that follows

(1) this is "advanced stuff" since a lot of Germans don't use these rules correctly in casual conversation, but it can be important if you want to be able to speak properly

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Also add conjunctions: coordinating or subordinating. And for verbs in higher levels: Konjunktiv if irregular. –  Toscho Jun 6 '13 at 14:23
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Adding the Konjunktiv might be too much details, as the usage of the simple Konjunktiv is very seldom. I would also recommend learning prepositions by groups, not one by one, for example : aus bei mit nach seit von zu = always dative ; –  Yves Jun 6 '13 at 21:04
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Adding the case pattern is very important, I would not skip that one. –  Yves Jun 6 '13 at 21:05
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I think when adding all the cases of a noun and so on, you will feel frustrated and - most of all - bored very soon. I suggest you add complete sentences or phrases to your nouns on the card. (Please pick only phrases from really German sources. It is very hard to get rid of mistakes you were taught.)

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I'll answer this question using the first thing that came to my mind: Write down everything that stuns you.

By that I mean: You don't need to write down things that are already clear to you. If you are already sure that Mutter is female, why should you write down the gender explicitly?

Keep as little information on the cards as possible.

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Well, what happens if you forget that Mutter is female? It may be obvious to you now, but this is not necessarily true if you haven't used certain vocabulary for a while. –  Em1 Jun 11 '13 at 14:10
    
Well, we could go into the theory of learning vocab properly - and having worked as a trainer in that field I could tell you a lot about it, but I'll just say as much as: You do need to learn that stuff, but the cards are only there to repeat. So you only put stuff on them that you need to repeat over and over to memorize, and after some time, you'll ask yourself why you even put it on the card ("It's obvious!"). Things that are obvious to you at the point of writing the card (after having learned the relevant grammar) will still be obvious to you later. –  Thorsten Dittmar Jun 11 '13 at 15:00
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