Easy Learning German

The Cases - Easy Learning Grammar German

  • In German, there are four grammatical cases – nominative, accusative, genitive and dative. The case you should use depends on the grammatical function of the noun in the sentence.

1 The nominative case

  • The nominative case is the basic form of the noun and is the one you find in the dictionary.
CaseMasculineFeminineNeuter
Nominativeder Wagen
ein Wagen
die Dose
eine Dose
das Lied
ein Lied
  • For more information on Articles, see Articles.
  • The nominative case is used for:
  • the subject of the sentence, that is the person, animal or thing ‘doing’ the action
Das Mädchen singt.The girl is singing.
Die Katze schläft.The cat is sleeping.
  • after the verbs sein (meaning to be) and werden (meaning to be, to become)
Er ist ein guter Lehrer.He is a good teacher.
Das wird ein Pullover.It’s going to be a jumper.

2 The accusative case

  • The article for feminine and neuter nouns in the accusative case has the same form as in the nominative. Der for masculine nouns changes to den and ein to einen.
CaseMasculineFeminineNeuter
Nominativeder Wagen
ein Wagen
die Dose
eine Dose
das Lied
ein Lied
Accusativeden Wagen
einen Wagen
die Dose
eine Dose
das Lied
ein Lied
  • For more information on Articles, see Articles.
  • The accusative case is used:
  • to show the direct object of a verb. This is the person, animal or thing affected by the action of the verb.
He gave me a book. → What did he give me? → a book (=direct object)
Can you get me a towel? → What can you get me? → a towel (=direct object)
Ich sehe den Hund.What do I see? → den Hund (=direct object)
Er hat ein Lied gesungen.What did he sing? → ein Lied (=direct object)
  • after certain prepositions (words in English such as at, for, with, into or from) which are always used with the accusative.
Es ist für seine Freundin.It’s for his girlfriend.
Es ist schwierig ohne einen Wagen.It’s difficult without a car.
Durch das Rauchen wurde ich krank.Smoking made me ill.
  • For more information on Prepositions followed by the accusative case, see Prepositions.
  • after certain prepositions of place when movement is involved:
anon, to, at
aufon, in, to, at
hinterbehind
inin, into, to
nebennext to, beside
überover, across, above
unterunder, among
vorin front of, before
zwischenbetween
Stell dein Rad neben mein Auto.Put your bike next to my car.
Sie legten ein Brett über das Loch.They put a board over the hole.
  • Note that when there is no movement involved after these prepositions, the dative case is used.
Sie geht in die Stadt. (accusative)She’s going into town.
Er war in der Stadt. (dative)He was in town.
  • For more information on Prepositions followed by the accusative or the dative case, see Prepositions.
  • in many expressions of time and place which do not have a preposition
Das macht sie jeden Donnerstag.She does that every Thursday.
Die Schule ist einen Kilometer entfernt.The school is a kilometre away.
  • in some set expressions
Guten Abend!Good evening!
Vielen Dank!Thank you very much!

3 The genitive case

  • Der for masculine nouns and das for neuter nouns change to des. Ein changes to eines. The endings of masculine and neuter singular nouns also change in the genitive case.
  • -s is added to masculine and neuter nouns ending in -en, -el, -er.
der Wagen car → des Wagens
das Rauchen smoking → des Rauchens
der Esel donkey → des Esels
der Computer computer → des Computers
Ich mag die Farbe des Wagens.I like the colour of the car.
Die Größe des Computers ist nicht wichtig.The size of the computer isn’t important.
  • -es is added to most masculine and neuter nouns of one syllable ending in a consonant.
der Freund friend → des Freundes
der Mann man → des Mannes
der Sitz seat → des Sitzes
der Arzt doctor → des Arztes
der Tisch table → des Tisches
das Schloss castle → des Schlosses
Die Schwester des Arztes hilft manchmal in der Sprechstunde.The doctor’s sister helps him in the surgery sometimes.
Das Museum befindet sich in der Nähe des Schlosses.The museum is near the castle.
  • Die changes to der and eine to einer in the genitive. The endings of feminine singular nouns in the genitive case are the same as in the nominative.
die Ärztin (female) doctor → der Ärztin
 
CaseMasculineFeminineNeuter
Nominativeder Wagen
ein Wagen
die Dose
eine Dose
das Lied
ein Lied
Accusativeden Wagen
einen Wagen
die Dose
eine Dose
das Lied
ein Lied
Genitivedes Wagens
eines Wagens
der Dose
einer Dose
des Lieds
eines Lieds
  • For more information on Articles, see Articles.
  • The genitive case is used:
  • to show that something belongs to someone
Das Auto der Frau war rot.The woman’s car was red.
Der Hund meiner Mutter ist ganz klein.My mother’s dog is really small.
  • after certain prepositions which always take the genitive
Wegen des schlechten Wetters müssen wir nach Hause gehen.We’ll have to go home because of the bad weather.
Trotz ihrer Krankheit geht sie jeden Tag spazieren.She goes for a walk every day, despite her illness.
  • in some expressions of time
eines Tagesone day

4 The dative case

  • Der changes to dem and ein to einem in the dative. Singular nouns in the dative have the same form as in the nominative.
dem Autoto the car
dem Mädchento the girl
  • Die changes to der and eine to einer in the dative. Singular nouns in the dative have the same form as in the nominative.
CaseMasculineFeminineNeuter
Nominativeder Wagen
ein Wagen
die Dose
eine Dose
das Lied
ein Lied
Accusativeden Wagen
einen Wagen
die Dose
eine Dose
das Lied
ein Lied
Genitivedes Wagens
eines Wagens
der Dose
einer Dose
des Lieds
eines Lieds
Dativedem Wagen
einem Wagen
der Dose
einer Dose
dem Lied
einem Lied
  • For more information on Articles, see Articles.
  • -e is added to some nouns in certain set phrases.
Wir gehen nach Hause.We’re going home.
Er hat sich zu Tode gearbeitet.He worked himself to death.
Grammar Extra!-e may also be added to the dative singular of masculine and neuter nouns to make the phrase easier to pronounce
zu welchem Zwecke?to what purpose?
  • The dative case is used:
  • to show the indirect object of a verb – an indirect object answers the question who to/for? or to/for what?
  • He gave the man the book. → Who did he give the book to? → the man (= noun indirect object)Er gab dem Mann das Buch.
  • after certain verbs
Er hilft seiner Mutter im Haushalt.He helps his mother with the housework.
  • after certain prepositions which always take the dative
Nach dem Essen gingen wir spazieren.After eating we went for a walk.
Er kam mit ­einer Freundin.He came with a friend.
  • For more information on Prepositions followed by the dative case, see Prepositions.
  • after certain prepositions to show position
anon, to, at
aufon, in, to, at
hinterbehind
inin, into, to
nebennext to, beside
überover, across, above
unterunder, among
vorin front of, before
zwischenbetween
Ich sitze neben dem Fenster.I’m sitting next to the window.
Die Katze lag unter dem Tisch.The cat lay under the table.
  • Note that when there is some movement involved after these prepositions, the accusative case is used.
Er war in der Stadt. (dative)He was in town.
Sie geht in die Stadt. (accusative)She’s going into town.
  • For more information on Prepositions followed by the accusative or the dative case, see Prepositions.
  • in certain expressions
Mir ist kalt.I’m cold.
  • instead of the possessive adjective (my, your, his, her, its, our or their) to refer to parts of the body and items of clothing
Ich habe mir die Haare gewaschen.I washed my hair.
Zieh dir die Jacke aus.Take your jacket off.
  • For more information on Possessive adjectives, see Articles.
  • Changes to the definite and indefinite articles der, die or das and ein, eine or ein for each case are summarized in the table below, to help make it easier for you to remember them.
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter Singular
Nominativeder
ein
die
eine
das
ein
Accusativeden
einen
die
eine
das
ein
Genitivedes
eines
der
einer
des
eines
Dativedem
einem
der
einer
dem
einem
  • For more information on Articles, see Articles.
Key points
  • In German, there are four grammatical cases – nominative, accusative, genitive and dative.
  • The case you use depends on the grammatical function of the noun in the sentence.
  • The nominative case is used to show the subject of a sentence and after the verbs, sein and werden.
  • The accusative case is used to show the direct object of a sentence and after certain prepositions.
  • The genitive case is used to show that something belongs to somebody, and after certain prepositions.
  • The dative case is used to show the indirect object of a sentence, and after certain prepositions and verbs.

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