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Accusative, Dative, Nominative, Genitive...how will they ever make sense?

I've been speaking German...(fluently) for about 3 or 4 years...fluently doesn't necessarily mean perfectly. I usually get a lot of the cases right, but of course, since I've never really spent much time in any German speaking countries, I have not really had the opportunity to immerse myself into the language and culture like I would have liked. I didn't start taking any classes until freshmen year of college. I have done very well in teaching myself for the most part, but even through self education, or sitting in a calss room...I have NEVER been able to truly grasp the concept of Acc, Dat, Nom or Gen. It seems sinple enough, right? I mean, so does basic algebra...at least you'd assume, but taking any kind of mathematics course just about gives me an aneurysm, so it's best not to try. I am sure I am not the only German learner who has this problem. What helps you all get cases memorized, or at least better acquainted with? I speak German as if it is seconed nature, like I've been doing it most of my life, and I suppose...I have technically been learning German most of my life, so...but that is besides the point. I just don't feel like I've done so well if I cannot even explain the cases or what they do (exactly). I understand it perfectly. I can read it perfectly, I write it very well, with few mistakes, and I speak it as if I grew up speaking it, without any trace of an accent (most of the time) at least that is what I am often told, and that is an accomplishment, but I feel like kind of a failure if I cannot grasp this part of the grammar structure.

If there is anything that really helps you understand German cases, and you may have some tips, I'd love to hear about them!

February 11, 2018



It is kind of tricky because sometimes the Dative is not only used for the Indirect Object but also as the Direct Object after certain verbs and also after some prepositions. This is true for Accusative and Genitive also.


Have you ever learned any tricks or any ways to better help yourself remember them though?


It might be tricky, because people often get told "Akk=direct object, Dat= indirect" but in reality its not. Its just that the Akk often is used for stuff that you call a direct object in english.

In fact the different Kasus have multiple purposes and arent only objects.


Just do a web search for German grammar cases to help figure it out. Here's a quick one:


That is kind of exactly what I needed, to be honest. Thank you.


Thanks, this was helpful.


Cases are simply a way of organizing a language's syntax. You mark each word in the sentence to indicate its role. German inherited these cases from its Indo-European parent language, which had 8 in total. These were:

nominative - subject and subject predicate (i.e. Er ist ein Mann, and not Er ist einen Mann)

accusative - movement towards the speaker, and, by association, direct object

dative - used when referring to a tertiary subject in some manner. By association, indirect object. Usually expressed in English through the prepositions "to" or "for".

genitive - used when ascribing a relationship between two objects. It's a difficult case to describe, but typically any construction in which "of" is used in English falls under IE's genitive, as in an amount of time", a friend of mine, a distance of five meters, fleet of foot, a throne of gold etc.

ablative - used to indicate movement away from the speaker

locative - used to indicate static location. (e.g. I stayed at home last night. The French chez is an old carryover from a Latin locative form for casa [house]).

instrumental - used to indicate the means by which or with which an object was performed. I wrote the letter with a pen. Can also be used, by association, the cause by which something occurred, and to ascribe characteristics to a thing or person

vocative - used when addressing a thing or person directly. "O friend of mine" "Et tu Brute"

German, just as all the other IE languages have done, merged some of the cases into others, using a preposition to specify meaning in the case of ambiguity. Nominative exists as-is. Accusative exists as-is. Vocative merged with nominative. Locative and ablative merged with Dative. Parts of instrumental merged with dative, and other parts merged with genitive (which itself is currently in the process of transferring much of its functions into Dative).


I dont know your german skills, so I cant say whether youre right or not about your selfcritique.

You do not have to understand the grammar to use it properly. Everyone learns his first language by imitating and not by grammar. So you could learn german also by just imitation and zero knowledge about grammar, but thats usually not how you learn a second, third or fourth language. (OK, if your parents speak already two at home, you will learn at least two by imitating).

When different kasus all have multiple uses. Now since you see yourself as already pretty good with german. Ill give you the wiki links that detailed explain the different uses of the kasus. For any beginner these are not helpful because you likely cant even read what is written, but for experienced speakers this should give you some proper knowledge.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akkusativ#Akkusativ_im_Deutschen After "Grammatische Auslöser für den Akkusativ" will be most interesting for you.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dativ everything until Besonderheiten_der_Dativbildung (and maybe also Besonderheiten_der_Dativbildung). This one has a very nice explanation of different dativ types.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genitiv My favorite kasus, might be the least important but for sure the most beautiful. Entire article is interesting for you, you can skip the short paragraph "Funktion des Genitivs in anderen Sprachen".

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominativ#Der_Nominativ_in_der_deutschen_Sprache Likely the easiest kasus, sadly I think this wiki article is a little weak (it misses for example that the Nominativ is also used to express what other languages express with the vocative). It covers the most important and most used Nominativ but doesnt

Again, if you speak proper german by just imitating, then I wouldnt bother with the reasons for the usage of the kasus. But if youre really interested, these are all good (even the Nominativartikel is still good) and detailed. For any other Duolearner, start with easier sources to learn german, these links are basically for already german speaking people.


Ich mag den Vergleich zwischen Hollaendisch und Deutsch. Mein Mann kommt urspruenglich aus Belgien. Er spricht ziemlich gut Deutsch und fliessend Flemmisch und Franzoesisch.

Mir wurde nur gesagt, dass ich sehr gut Deutsch kann, so gut wie fliessend, aber das sind ja nur unterschiedliche Meinungen. Es ist alles nur Subjektiv. Vielleicht findest Du, dass ich noch mehr Uebung brauche, und dass ist auch okay =) Wie gesagt, "Man lernt aus seinen Fehlern." Die Links sind aber auch sehr Hilfreich.

Vielen Dank fuer die Hilfe. =D

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