The fourth edition of Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage appeared in 2002, and it has become clear from comments and suggestions made by the numerous users, both teachers and learners, who have been kind enough to contact me that a revision would now be timely. However, it was equally clear from these comments that a thoroughgoing revision of the basic structure of the work would not be welcomed. Thus, the relatively traditional layout based on the parts of speech has been retained, since alternative approaches, however theoretically justifiable, would be unfamiliar to many potential users and could detract from the usefulness of the work for everyday reference.
 
Similarly, considerations of the user prevailed again, despite my own reservations, in the decision to retain a separate chapter on expressions of time, although consistency would suggest that the material dealt with there ‘really’ belongs elsewhere, e.g. in the chapter on adverbs or the chapter on prepositions. The revision is founded, like all previous revisions, on the basic principle that the work should be a comprehensive descriptive account of modern German for the use of the advanced learner or student of the language whose first language is English – or who can approach German through English, since I am aware that the book has been widely used in other countries.

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This aim implies that it should cover the whole gamut of variation in usage within modern German, not simply the most prestigious written form which is still, unfortunately, used too exclusively in many teaching manuals, even when they purport to present examples of spoken language. Thus, considerable attention has been paid to giving information on usage in registers other than formal writing or literature, and details given on everyday speech. This also reflects the greater emphasis paid to oral skills, both active and passive, in modern language teaching.

The distinction between common spoken usage and the norms of formal writing norms is particularly marked in German, and clear indications are given in this work as to where spoken and written usage diverge, as also in respect of forms which, although they are considered to be grammatically ‘correct’, are felt to be stilted outside formal writing (and sometimes even there). Similarly, forms which are frequently heard in everyday speech but widely thought of as non-standard or incorrect are included here, as the foreign learner will encounter them every day, but with a clear indication of their status. Important regional variants within standard German are also included and marked accordingly, especially those commonly found in Swiss or Austrian usage, but purely dialectal forms have been ignored.