1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. Questions about German cases.


Questions about German cases.

I am struggling with German cases. Although I know there are 4 cases (Nominative, accusative, dative and genitive) but it's still hard for me to use those cases in sentences. Can anyone explain the concepts for me?

December 31, 2017



The cases are not only required by direct or indirect objects.

Like in English there are also in German a lot of prepositions. And each of them requires a case, some of them can handle two cases.

mit, nach, von, bei, seit, zu, aus, ausser, gegenüber => Dativ

durch, für, ohne, um, gegen => Akkusativ

wegen, während, trotz, innerhalb, ausserhalb, anstatt, anhand, bezüglich, zugunsten, anlässlich => Genitiv

I see him = Ich sehe ihn. (the Akkusativ "ihn" is required by the verb "jemanden/etwas sehen")

I watch a movie with him. = Ich schaue mir mit ihm einen Film an. / Ich schaue mir einen Film mit ihm an. (the Dativ "ihm" is required by the preposition "mit", the Akkusativ is required for the object "film" by the verb "sich etwas anschauen").

The advantage of the cases is, that the strcture of the sentence becomes more flexible. Vice versa we Germans have to keep in mind, that english always requires the sequence Subject - Verb - Object.


Grammatical cases is what changes the tense of a noun and/or adjective. Let's take a sentence like- "I give the ball to my mother" The direct translation would -"Ich gebe der ball zu meine Mutter" But this is 100% incorrect. This should take the dative case because something is receiving the direct object which is the indirect object. In the dative case the indirect object comes first and their is no use of "to" because the dative case is showing something is being received. So it's- "Ich gebe meiner Mutter den Ball."


Cases is what helps to tell the difference between the meaning of the senctence. In English we have something like a accusative case but it's not called that way. This is why German sentences are much flexible than English ones.


I give the ball to my mother - the word mother is the object of the preposition "to" - so it's not an indirect object.

But if you change the sentence to "I give my mother the ball" - then mother is the indirect object.


Please have a look at this website: http://www.grammatikdeutsch.de/html/falle-info.html

I hope it is helpful. Happy New Year! : )


Here's a brief overview of each.

"Ich gebe meinem Bruder die Tasche seiner Frau." - "I give my brother his wife's bag."

NOMINATIV: In the sentence, ich is in the nominative case. This case is generally reserved for the subject of the sentence - who or whatever is performing the action. Note that the verb 'sein' uses the nominative on both sides of it. If I wanted to say that you and I were the same, I would say "Ich bin du" not "Ich bin dich".

AKKUSATIV: die Tashe is in the accusative case here, although it looks like it could be nominative because of the 'die'. The accusative is used for direct objects, whatever is being acted on in the sentence. The verb in this one is give, so what is being given? The bag. What is being thrown, seen, heard, touched? There are also a number of prepositions, für or durch for example, which simply always require that the next noun be in the accusative case, as well as several location-based prepositions (called Wechselpräpositionen or "mixed prepositions") like auf or an, that can take either dative or accusative. If the accusative is given to the these prepositions, it implies a transfer of location. E.g., auf den Tisch means that the action started off the table, and finished on it, like setting something down on it or jumping up onto it.

DATIV: meinem Bruder is in the dative case, which is used for indirect objects. This is most often the recipient of the action, you can basically imagine meinem being translated as "to my" when used without a preposition, although that doesn't always create a grammatically correct english sentence, it gets the meaning across. And like the accusative, there are also several prepositions which require the dative, like zu or mit, and it can be given to Wechselpräpositionen to imply an action that stays within the scope of the dative object. E.g., auf dem Tisch means that the action stayed within the scope of the table, like simply stating that something is on the table, or jumping up and down on top of it, but not jumping on or off. The action never leaves the table, there is no transfer of location.

GENETIV: seiner Frau is in the genetive case, and it is most commonly used to show possession. Phrases like "his wife's" or "of his wife" would use the genetive case. There are also a few prepositions which always require the genetive case, like wegen or während.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.