I'm confused: Mein is masculine and modifies Schwester, which is feminine? Doesn't the gender of the possessive pronoun have to agree with the gender of the thing possessed (as in French)? If not, what determines the gender of the pronoun? The person or thing which does the possessing? (But here, the speaker is clearly female.)
Not sure where you're getting from that "mein Schwester" is correct. It isn't. "Meine Schwester" is. And yes, the prononun takes the same gender (and declination) as the noun. "Mein Bruder" (masculine). "Meine Schwester" (feminine). "Mein Auto" (neuter).
And no, the sentence does not give away the gender of the speaker. It could be said by both a man or a woman.
The fundamental components of any sentence in (almost) any language are:
Subject, predicate, object.
The subject of a sentence is the thing or person (i.e. noun) that does something (actively).
The predicate is the verb of the sentence that the subject uses.
And the object is the thing/person (noun) that the subject does something with. It is the entity that suffers the action of the subject.
So: the subject does something with the object. The "does" part is described by the predicate (verb) of the sentence.
As I said, you will find this fundamental structure in almost any language. For one, it exists in German and English.
In our example:
- "Meine Schwester hat einen Hund." - "My sister has a dog."
"Meine Schwester" - "My sister" is the subject of the sentence. "My sister" is the thing/person that actively does something.
What is she doing? She "has" - "hat". So, "has" is the predicate of the sentence.
Who or what does she have? "Einen Hund." A dog is the thing in the sentence that the subject is doing something with or to.
The subject is the active part and the object is the passive part of a sentence.
So, the components of the sentence are:
- Subject: "Meine Schwester" - "My sister".
- Predicate: "hat" - "has".
- Object: "einen Hund" - "a dog".
Now we get to the thing called "cases" or "declinations". There are four cases in German: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative.
The subject of a sentence always is in nominative. The object of a sentence can never be in nominative, but is always in one of genitive, dative or accusative.
The predicate of a sentence most often decides in what case an object in a sentence appears. Here, we have the predicate "to have" - "haben". Whenever that predicate is used in a sentence (in German), the object must be in accusative. That is a rule you just have to learn.
So, we are now getting back to what I wrote in my previous post: "Hund" is the accusative object of the sentence. It is in accusative for two reasons: it is the object of the sentence and it is used with a form of "haben" - "to have".
"Hund", however, appears with the indefinite article "einen" in this sentence. This article also has to appear in accusative, since it is linked to the object. So, if "Hund" is in accusative, "ein" right in front of it also has to be in accusative (and is being transformed to "einen"). If "Hund" were in a different case, "ein" would have to be changed to that same case.
In German nouns and articles (among other words) tend to change their word endings when they appear in different cases (or declinations).
The "default" version "ein Hund" becomes "einen Hund" when "ein Hund" is to appear in accusative. "Ein Hund", by the way, is in nominative.
Just to give you an idea of the different declinations of "ein Hund", here they are in all four different cases:
- Nominative: "ein Hund".
- Genitive: "eines Hundes".
- Dative: "einem Hund".
- Accusative: "einen Hund".
The above are declinations in singular, since we're talking about a single dog. In plural, we get yet another set of word endings. Since we can't say "ein Hunde" - "a dogs", let's change the article to the definite one. So, in plural the declinations are as follows:
- Nominative: "die Hunde".
- Genitive: "der Hunde".
- Dative: "den Hunden".
- Accusative: "die Hunde".
Is your head spinning yet? The word endings/declinations change again if we take a noun of a different gender. I won't list all the declinations for those here though.
So, the above declinations are for a masculine noun. If you take any other masculine noun you can stick it in the above declination tables and the article and word endings stay the same.
- "Meine Schwester hat einen Tisch." - "My sister has a table."
- "Meine Schwester hat einen Fisch." - "My sister has a fish."
"Tisch", "Fisch", "Hund" are all masculine.
Are both the singular and plural forms of Schwester the same, like Mädchen? I can't tell because Duolingo does not present it at once. Is it then therefore the only way to tell apart the singular form from the plural form that you look at the verb ending (given that it's feminine, so you can't use articles/adjectives to do so)?