Please help! I have no clue what Dative, Nominative, Genative and Akkusative mean

I am just really stuck on this part of the German grammar. I would love to find a very basic instruction for beginners learning the cases. It is driving me crazy because the only instructions on this that I can find are for someone who knows a lot more than me. Can anyone please help me? I am able to grasp all other areas of grammar without a problem but as a Native English speaker I just cannot get a handle on any of this at all.

February 4, 2016


I don't have a resource to recommend you, unfortunately, but I think you will get a good start by looking at how this works in English.

Genitive is the form where you add an s: in my mother's car, mother is in the genitive. His and hers are also genitives. The genitive expresses the owner of the attached noun, to put it simple.

Nominative is used to express the subject of the sentence. In English, there are separate nominative forms in some of the pronouns: We say I hit him, but He hits me. I and He are nominative forms, while Him and Me are accusative forms, expressing the direct object. The subject is used for the "actor" of the verb, while the object is used for the "sufferer" of the verb.

The dative is used for the indirect object, which normally is a person and someone indirectly affected by the action expressed by the verb. Dative has no distinct form in English, we would still use him and me, but it is often interchangeable with a prepositional phrase, like you can say I gave you my shirt, and I gave my shirt to you, where there s no difference in meaning between the two sentences. You/to you expresses the indirect object here, and in German you would use the dative for this.

Whenever you encounter a German sentence where you are not sure about the case use, try to transform it into an English sentence where you can see the diffence, like the ones I mentioned.

I remember I found this very difficult in the beginning too, when I started learning languages. You will probably need some time to get comfortable with it, but once you are, it will help you in any language you ever learn.

February 4, 2016

You could argue that 'thither', 'wither' and 'hither' are dative forms in English.

February 4, 2016

Yes but those words are dated and rarely used.

February 9, 2016

The point is, if one is trying to remember words in another language that mean hither, hence, etc., one might as well use them, rather than simply trying to memorise an arbitrary case table titled 'here'.
Besides, these words are all frequently encountered in literature.

February 9, 2016

Ehh. It depends. Old books written in the early 20th century still contain it often, but most modern books don't much.

February 10, 2016

Nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative are called "grammatical cases". In many other languages, including Latin, Russian, German, and Polish, nouns change based on what role they play in a sentence. In German, "nominative" refers to the subject of the sentence (She gave him an apple). "Accusative" refers to the direct object of the sentence (She gave him an apple). "Dative" refers to the indirect object (She gave him an apple). However, in German, dative and accusative cases can be used in other contexts with certain prepositions. "Genitive" refers to possession (The sister of the mother ate a potato). Hope this makes sense!

February 4, 2016

    The 'German is Easy' blog's series on cases was very useful in helping me to understand these concepts. As a native English-speaker, I had no formal grammar education and the terminology in most explanations I found was very dense. That website has fairly long explanations that avoid using too much technical terminology, but they can be fun to read (much more 'casual' than other grammar explanations). At the bottom of that article I linked to, there are further links to the rest of the series explaining the cases. Allow some time to read these articles (and the others that people have linked), and take notes as you go if something 'clicks' for you (either electronically or on paper).

    Then, as you're working through the Duolingo exercises, take it slowly and explain to yourself what's happening with the cases. Then, answer the question and read the comments to see if you were right. If there's no existing discussion about what the cases are doing in the comments, write your own explanation and say "is this right?" - you will get useful feedback that way. Eventually, you'll be able to attempt answering others' questions too, and even if you're not completely correct you will also get feedback. Until your confidence improves, just make sure to say something qualifying, like "I think..." or "My current understanding is..." lest anyone mistake you for a native-speaker and take your word as gospel ;)

    Good luck!

    February 5, 2016

    A basic Wikipedia article is also a good place to start. But I will say that I felt that my 2 years of high school French taught me far more about English grammar than did a dozen years of primary school English classes!

    February 5, 2016

    Thank you all for taking the time to respond. I am currently going through the various links recommended to me. I am also glad to see that others have struggled with this area and that its not just me :) I will keep you posted on which resource has proven most helpful.

    February 5, 2016

    Cases were difficult to get my head around. I used a copy of German for Dummies and eventually I managed to figure out what I think is the basic gist of it.

    In a quick summary: Nominative is the main subject | Accusative is the secondary object | Dative is the receiver of the secondary/accusative object | Genitive shows possession

    A really simple example of the first three cases: Der Mann gibt der Frau das Pferd | The man gives the woman the horse

    The man (der Mann) is the main subject = nominative case | The horse (das Pferd) is secondary subject = accusative | The woman (der Frau) is receiving the horse = dative |

    The definite article (die, der, das, etc) changes depending on the case of the associated word (die Frau became der Frau because it was in the dative case). The only way to really remember what one to use is to memorise all of them. This sounds hard, but it's actually not that bad.

    Genitive example: Der Hund der Frau | The woman's dog (the dog of the woman) | The dog is the the main object | The woman owns the dog and is in the Genitive case to denote ownership.

    but it could be done this way instead: | Die Frau hat einen Hund | The woman has a dog

    The woman is the main object = nominative | Her dog is a secondary object = accusative

    Virtually same meaning but without the confusing Genitive case!

    February 7, 2016

    when I learned cases at school, we had questios tied to each case for better remembering. nominativ: who/what? genitiv: whitout who? dativ: I give to who? accusativ: I see who? local: about who? instrumental: with who?

    February 7, 2016

    I'm not very good at German ether, but my German teacher suggested this website for looking up German words and their meaning. It also gives the part of speech.

    February 8, 2016 does not teach grammar, which was the question.

    February 9, 2016
    Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.