Mnemonics in language learning

Mnemonics can help in learning languages. Here are three I learnt at school.

German: Fudgebow

This mnemonic is of the 7 basic prepositions that take the accusative case:

  • Für: for
  • Um: around
  • Durch: through
  • Gegen: against
  • Entlang: along (actually a post-position, it generally follows the noun, all the others precede it)
  • Bis: until
  • Ohne: without
  • Wider: against (not to be confused with wieder, meaning again)

This mnemonic was handy because I knew some of the prepositions already (für, um, durch, ohne, perhaps gegen and/or bis) but not the others (entlang, wider).

Also taking the accusative are a handful of prepositions derived recently from other parts of speech, for example, ausgenommen (except), derived from a past participle.

Adding ausgenommen to the mnemonic, it becomes a fudgebow—a variant I remember seeing somewhere.

French: RR Pavements MD

Most French verbs use the auxiliary avoir (to have) to form their present perfect, for example j’ai vu—I saw. But for some verbs, the auxiliary verb is être (to be). An example is je suis allé—I went (said by a male, female version: je suis allée)

One of my French teachers taught us a mnemonic for 13 verbs that use être as their auxiliary. It is the name of a fictional medical doctor, R R Pavements MD:

Rester—to stay
Retourner—to return

Partir—to leave
Aller—to go
Venir—to come
Entrer—to enter
Mourir—to die
E—see comment below
Nâitre—to be born
Tomber—to fall
Sortir—to go out

Monter—to climb, go up
Descendre—to go down

This mnemonic isn’t perfect. Two common verbs (aller and arriver) combine with être, but the mnemonic has only one A.

And I can’t remember what the second verb beginning with E is. I have found some candidates in reference books or on the internet but they seem too obscure to be convincing: expirer (to expire), échapper (to escape), échouer (to fail) éclore (to hatch) and some change-of-state verbs formed from adjectives (embellir, enlaidir, empirer). Some of these obscure verbs combine with être in some constructions but with avoir in other constructions.

Can you help me find my missing verb beginning with E?

Russian: atomek

atomek is a mnemonic for 6 letters whose printed shape in the Russian alphabet is similar to the shape of the same letters in the English alphabet. (But in handwriting, lower case Russian t looks like lower case English m).


  1. I recently created mnemonic for myself to remember which German words count as articles. This is necessary to attach the correct endings to adjectives. (If you don’t know the logical but complex rules for German adjective endings – lucky you.)
    Mnemonic: DJ’s Make Sound Waves
    D (der, die, das, des, dem) (the) dieser diese, dieses, diesen, diesem (these)
    J’s (jeder, jedes, jeden, jedem) (each/every)
    M (mancher, manche, manches, manchen, manchem) (some)
    S (solcher, solche, solches, solchen, solchem (such)
    W (welcher, welche, welches, welchen, welchem (which)
    I haven’t yet thought of how to also incorporate indefinite articles (ein etc.), or alle/beide (all/both).

    1. I used to struggle to remember which of these (the ones you cite) pattern with definite articles and which ones pattern with indefinite articles.
      Does it help to bear in mind that the full endings (-er, -em) can only appear once in the phrase?

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