Lesson 19. Grammar Cases in German

Our last few lessons were dedicated to German verbs. Today we will re-establish the balance and learn something new about the nouns and personal pronouns. As you probably have seen the lessons are becoming more complicated because we have to get through a lot of grammar stuff. However, I assure you it is really necessary that you know all of this and more. Only after mastering German grammar you will be able to communicate effectively.

Our today’s topic will be Cases. We have probably touched this topic lightly in one or more of our previous lessons but have not addressed it in a proper way.

What are Cases and why we need to know about them? In simple words cases are relationships between nouns/pronouns and other words in sentences. This concept is practically alien to English. In English we only have possessive relationship that has a visible mark, i.e. we get an ending -’s (Santa’s). But mostly relationships between words in English are either underlined with help of prepositions or aren’t underlined at all.

In German as in many other languages there are grammar cases to express these relationships between words. There are only four cases in German. By the way a German word for a case is Kasus.

So, the German Cases are:

  • Nominativ
  • Genitiv
  • Dative
  • Akkusativ

What are things that you should know about German Grammar Cases:

-          All German nouns are declines, i.e. can be changed based on their case and number.

-          There are different patterns for declination, i.e. main pattern, and then some exceptions (as always). Today we will only cover a main pattern.

-          The noun itself usually remains unchanged. “What is changed then?” you might ask. An article is. So, obviously there are different patterns for different genders.

-          In some particular forms the noun will get an ending along with the article change. You will see it and you will need to memorize it. It is important.

Now, let me introduce the cases to you more detailed.

Nominativ (Nominative Case) is the subject of the sentence. Easy thing!

Die Katze schläft. The cat is sleeping.

Genitiv (Genitive Case) is something that we already know about – it demonstrates possession.

Das Auto des Vaters. The father’s car.

Dative (Dative Case) is what we know in English as indirect object. It is a very important German case.

Ich gebe dir ein Buch. I give you a book.

Finally, Akkusativ (Accusative Case) is what we know in English as direct object.

Ich gebe dir ein Buch. I give you a book.

I understand that it might seem very confusing and complicated right now but trust me it is not. Below you will find a table that will help you grasp the concept of cases in German.

Indefinite Article (Singular only)

  Masculine Neuter Feminine
Nominative ein Mann ein Buch eine Katze
Genitive eines Mannes eines Buches einer Katze
Dative einem Mann einem Buch einer Katze
Akkusative einen Mann ein Buch eine Katze

Definite Article

  Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative der Mann das Buch die Katze die Bücher
Genitive des Mannes des Buches der Katze der Bücher
Dative dem Mann dem Buch der Katze den Büchern
Akkusative den Mann das Buch die Katze die Bücher

As you can see there is nothing too complicated. Just a couple of things you should pay attention to. Remember I said some of the nouns get an ending. So, here it goes. Masculine and Neuter nouns receive an -(e)s ending in Genitive, and all nouns get an (-e)n ending in Plural. Plus, please don’t forget to change the noun’s form from singular to plural, i.e das Buch ‑ die Bücher.

Exercises:

Please use the correct form of the article.

  1. Ich helfe _____ Tante und _____ Onkel. (Dativ)
  2. Das ist ______ Lampe. (Nominativ)
  3. Er hat______ Buch. (Akkusativ)
  4. Ich sehe______Tisch. (Akkusativ)
  5. Die Katze sitzt in_______ Zimmer. (Dativ)

Make up sentences using the table below as reference. Pay attention to grammar cases.

Subject Verb Indirect Object Direct Object Adverb
ich kaufen die Frau eine Rose  (f) zum Geburtstag
du geben das Mädchen ein Ring (m) morgen
mein Freund geben die Lehrerin ein Pullover (m) oft
seine Schwester schenken die Mutter das Fahrrad (nicht) gern
die Kinder schicken mein Vater das Auto am Wochenende
ein Mann zeigen eine Katze das Abendessen um 11 Uhr
sie bringen die Großmutter Bücher (pl) später

 

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