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Case Rules (how to work out which case)

The way the article (a/an or the) is written depends on the gender of the word and the way in which the word is being used, the case (nominative, accusative, dative or genitive). This table shows you how to use the gender and case to work out the article: http://christianlangenegger.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/screen-shot-2011-02-13-at-23-28-22.png and below is a summary of rules for working out the case.


The nominative noun is the subject of a sentence, ask “Who or what ...?”

  1. Example: Der Baum wird heute gefällt.

  2. Translation: The tree is will be felled today

  3. Question: Who or what will be felled today?


The accusative noun is the receiver, of the action, of a transitive verb (a verb that requires both a subject and one or more objects) ask “Who or what (was interacted with) ...?”

  1. Example: Ich habe heute den Bundeskanzler in der Stadt getroffen.

  2. Translation: I met the Chancellor in the city today.

  3. Question: Who or what did you met in the city today?

or ask “Where are ...?”

  1. Example: Ich gehe in den Garten (...den Wald, ...die Schule, ...das Haus)

  2. Translation: I’m going to the garden (...the forest, ...the school, …the house)

  3. Question: Where are you going?


The dative noun is the receiver of the direct (accusative) object, ask “with/to whom ...?”

  1. Example: Ich schenke dem Vater ein Buch.

  2. Translation: I give the father a book.

  3. Question: To whom are you giving a book?

or ask “Where from ...?”

  1. Example: Ich komme aus dem Garten (...dem Wald, ... der Schule, ... dem Haus)

  2. Translation: I’m coming from the garden (...the forest, ...the school, …the house)

  3. Question: Where are you coming from?


The genitive is used to show possession or close relation, ask “Whose ...?”

  1. Example: Die Äste des Baumes werden heute geschnitten.

  2. Translation: The branches of the tree will be cut today.

  3. Question: Whose branches will be cut today?

March 12, 2013

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