Modalverben // Nena

About the Band

Nena is probably best known throughout the world for her 1983 hit “99 Luftballons,” or, more precisely, the English-language version “99 Red Balloons.” This song remains her only international hit, but her music is well known in the German-speaking world. She is considered one of the original singers of the mainstream branch of the “Neue Deutsche Well” (German New Wave) that made German-language music popular in the ‘80s. Her original band broke up in 1987 but she continued making solo albums throughout the ‘90s, including several for children. In 2002 she made a comeback with a release of new arrangements of some of her earlier hits including a new recording of “99 Luftballons”. She has continued to release singles and albums since then and has been on tour several times as well. Along with her singing career, she appears as a coach on the reality TV show “The Voice of Germany”.

Want to know more about Nena? Visit her webpage at Nena.

Teaching Video

Modal verbs are a special group of verbs that express particular ideas such as necessity or possibility toward a second verb in a sentence. For example, a couple of common modal verbs in English are “can” and “may”. When we use these in conjunction with the verb “go,” we can express different moods towards the idea of “to go.” The question “May I go?” asks about permission to go while the question “Can I go?” asks about ability to go.

This occurs in German as well, and throughout her song “Willst du mit mir geh’n?”, Nena uses several modal verbs. The word “Willst,” for example, expresses the idea of wanting to do something, so we can translate the title “Do you want to go with me?” We should focus on these modals verbs so we can understand the lyrics to her song.


Grammar Summary

For a quick overview of the video, see this Modals Grammar Summary

Online Practice

For the following exercises, we’ll be working with the words that we heard in the song.

Exercise 1

First, let’s make sure that we know what the modal verbs mean. In this exercise, you are given the ich form of each modal. Use what you just learned to find the infinitive and type it in the second column (Infinitiv), then type in the English equivalent of the idea each one expresses in the Mood column. If you’re not sure how to type in the special characters, go here for a handy reference.

To help you with this, we’ve given you the English meanings of the modal verbs. Make sure you include the “to” for each English equivalent.


to be allowed to, to be able to, to have to, to want to, should

Here is an alternate vocab worksheet that your instructor might assign for you: Alternate Worksheet.  The worksheet covers the same verbs as the exercises above.

Exercise 2

Now that we know what these verbs mean, let’s practice what we’ve just learned about the modals.

You will be presented with sentences containing modals. Select the proper subject pronoun (du, ihr, or er) that each sentence should start with. Again, pay close attention to the ending of the verb to see which pronoun is the right one.

Exercise 3

You will be presented with three choices and you will need to select the one that is conjugated appropriately for the given subject. This will have a mixture of the same three subjects du, er, and ihr.

Classroom Exercise

Print out the Partneraktivität worksheet and complete the first part of it on your own before coming to class. Check with your instructor for the due date. You will work on the rest of it with a partner in class.

Follow-up Exercise

Now that you have worked with conjugation and know the meanings of the words that appear in the song, let’s see how well you understand the lyrics. If your instructor assigns it, print out the Folgeübungen worksheet and view the video again as you complete the exercises. Bring the worksheet to class for review and discussion.