1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. Alright friends, I'm not sure…


Alright friends, I'm not sure what the title should be. I guess "Cases".

I come across a pretty simple sentence but I find myself just gussing on (the case?). Ex: Ich habe mein buch vergessen. Now I know this is saying I forgot my book. But...I am getting the mein, Meinen or meines confused. This with all of them. Whether it's das, den, dem. Deiner, Deines, Dein. I know they all stand for "My" "Your" or "That"...but Duolingo does not spend enough time explaining this. Can anyone help. I find I'm just memorizing the sentence when it comes back around. I really want to understand.

March 25, 2018



das Buch.

In the sentence, Ich habe mein Buch vergessen, you use the accusative case. Luckily, for neuter nouns, the accusative is the same as the nominative.

So here, mein does not get an extra ending, it stays like that: Ich habe mein Buch vergessen.

If it were a masculine word, for example: der Hund:

Ich habe meinen Hund vergessen. I forgot my dog.


Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I have realised after two years of daily study that the entire gender and case business is approaching the unintelligible, and I suspect the only way to really learn it is through the intuitive learning that comes with total immersion. To begin with, one has to learn and be confident with the gender of any noun before we can even start thinking about case -and that's long before you've even started thinking about whether a verb is dative verb or not. Native German-speaking children get it right (almost) every time long before they would have any idea what gender case even are, because that is the way the human brain has evolved to learn language. It is quite possible that, without long-term total immersion, we as non-native speakers will never get this grammar correct and will always sound somewhat imbecilic to a German native speaker. Deutsche Sprache schwere Sprache und viel Glück!


Haha, yes, we do notice wrong declensions but do not think you imbecilic for using them.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with my teenage daughter who learns English, French and Spanish in school about the declension of adjectives in romance languages in sentences like "la rose est rouge" vs "les roses sont rouges". She said: German adjectives are so easy in comparison.

When I showed her the German declension tables she was quite struck.

Needless to say, she makes no errors whatsoever when talking - she just wasn't aware.


i have to say that all the Germans I have ever met have been extremely tolerant of my attempts to use their grammar.
Whenever I feel that it's getting too difficult, I remind myself that it could have been worse: there were five main cases in the Anglo-Saxon language: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative and Instrumental... I have no idea why we ditched them, perhaps we just were't clever enough :)


That's promising! Thank you


I understand that. I studied 8 years in high school plus college, plus studied in Berlin. But I am still very confused. I'm hoping that when I start my private tutoring I'll hopefully grasp it. I am also starting to attend a conversation group. So, I'll get there... :)

  • 1737

Are you trying to say you had German classes for more than 8 years and you still don't know how to deal with accusative case for example? I doubt the quality of your teachers or the classes overall. Only once in my life I attended a German class for 8 months (beginner class at high school) and accusative was explained (and by most also understood) after first few months O.o.

When you get that tutoring make sure to ask about this first, since this is something very basic and German will feel like standing in a dark room untill you get it. I recently discovered this YouTube channel https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF9mJC4RrjIhOcVccRocapDsamn-JIceo maybe it could help you with some basic grammar.


There are only about 5 tables to memorize. Strong, weak, mixed, definite articles and indefinite articles. Then you are done. It dones‘t require immersion.


Er, what? I don't understand a word of that, drvdw, and I've been studying German daily for two years


Oh God, I give up. I thought drvdw was more of the ‘abbreviations’ (what I call textspeak) and then I see that it is just a name. BTW, I am old (late 50s) so can’t cope with this new language of texting which people claim is still English. It took me two years to discover that LOL didn’t mean ‘Lots of love’, I thought it was brilliant that so many people loved me!! Steve, we will get to grips with German declension, I will be 80 by the time I do, but I am sure it can be done....


What about accusative, nominative, genitive, dative and all the variations thereof? It may be easy for you, but after two years of daily hard study I STILL have no real confidence at all in when to use die, das, der, den, dem, dies, diese, diesem etc, etc, etc. :-(. Every time I think I've got it, I realise I haven't quite got it at all :-(.


The cases are represented as either the columns or rows of the tables. Perhaps you are going the wrong route by trying to just "get a feel" for the grammar? Children's brains are wired to learn grammar automatically but adults' brains are not. Have you spent time attempting to duplicate the tables? It is much less work than is required to memorize hundreds of words. Of course you also have to learn the genders of nouns and the cases that verbs and prepositions take in order to choose the right article or ending. If you have learned the tables, ask a question about what word or ending to use and I can provide you with a very simple answer.


No I have not tried the column techniques. I appreciate you being here to assist me. Thank you


Children's brains are wired to learn grammar automatically but adults' brains are not.

I believe that is a hypothesis (mainly due to Chomsky), rather than something which has been proven.


i'll try to answer as best as i can, please let me know if you have any further questions though.

for articles, the definite articles are der, die, or das; their english equivalent is the. the indefinite articles are ein/eine; their english equivalent is a/an. this is of course the same as in english, but i'm just laying the foundation to explain how other words such as dies fit into this.

der words (meaning they are conjugated as if they were a definite article) also include the following: dies-, jed-, jen-, manch-, solch-, and welch-. ein-words (meaning they are conjugated as if they were an indefinite article) are the following: kein and the possessive pronouns: mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, Ihr, ihr.

so if you're saying "that is my book," it would be conjugated the same as "that is a book" – that is, das ist mein Buch and das ist ein Buch. Sie hat die Schuhe; sie hat diese Schuhe (she has the shoes; she has those shoes).

the tables for the articles themselves is unfortunately something that you just have to commit to memory. i know i'm lucky in that i studied it for years so at this point i can fill them in off memory, despite not having taken a german class in nearly four years. so the best thing i can do is to tackle them one at a time: start with definite articles, and make a blank chart and try to fill them in from memory. once you've mastered those, do the same with indefinite articles. (further info in the next post, didn't want to make this too long)


okay, now regarding the aforementioned strong, weak, and mixed adjective endings. these are to serve as a supplement or replacement for an article. basically, it helps someone know the gender and case of the noun (and adjective modifying it). for example, "rot Schuhe" is not correct as the adjective isn't modifying the noun properly. assuming there is no article before it, rot is conjugated as if it were a der word (as this is what it's replacing), so rote Schuhe.

now, what is a strong, weak, or mixed adjective ending? for these, the adjective is declined using the specific ending based off of what article/pronoun comes before it, or none at all:

strong endings: - there is no article preceding it (see "rote Schuhe" example above) - some kind of article expressing quantity (etwas, mehr, einig, etc.)

weak endings: - there is a definite article (der, die, das, etc.) - demonstrative pronouns containing a definite article (e.g. diejenig-, derselb-, etc.) - aforementioned der words (dies-, jed-, jen-, manch-, solch-, and welch-)

mixed endings: - ein - aforementioned -ein words (kein and the possessive pronouns: mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, Ihr, ihr)

here's the good news: the charts are similar to what you'd expect them to be. that is, strong adjective endings are declined exactly like a definite article: black house is "schwarzes Haus" (adjective takes -s just as its noun, das Haus, just with an added "e"), red cars is "rote Autos". the only exceptions are the masculine and neuter genitive endings, which take -en instead of the expected -es.

weak endings are so simple. they all have an -e or -en at the end, depending on the case and gender. all take -e in the nominative (except for plural, which takes -en to differentiate between the feminine singular), in accusative, neuter and feminine take -e, while masculine and plural take -en. in dative and genitive, everything takes -en. an example is "der jonge Mann" so since it's used with definite articles, it's probably the form of endings you learn first.

finally, mixed endings. they are declined like the indefinite article ein. my shoes is "meine Schuhe" just as the shoes is "die Schuhe" or seines Universums for "(of) his universe". the endings for these are all the same as their definite article's ending, so in this case the masculine and neuter genitive forms do become, say, "die schlaue Frau meiner Familie" is the clever girl of my family. sorry, i know my examples aren't very creative lol.

here is a page discussing this in a bit more detail, with more examples too: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~deutsch/Grammatik/Endings.html


I think you are very clear, have a lingot please for this explanation, it is all starting to make sense


seines Universum for "his universe"

That looks wrong to me.

Also, "neutral" should be "neuter" throughout. Sorry to be a nit-picker. Well done for taking on the task of explaining all that.


you're right, it should be meines Universums. oops. i probably could've used better examples too but i was feeling really uncreative.

(also i don't know why i always say neutral instead of neuter, i try to catch myself whenever i write it.)


i don't know why i always say neutral instead of neuter

I think German only has the one word (https://de.wiktionary.org/wiki/neutral), so if you're exposed to a lot of German, maybe that influences your English?


ah you're right. whenever i'd learn or review this stuff, the professors would be speaking in german, obviously. sometimes i'll be talking in english and can only remember how to say a word in german, or i'll get dutch and german confused where i'm speaking some hybrid mix.

  • 1353

drvdw - Also, wie groß sind die Grammatik-Tabellen?


Na ja, es gibt 4 Fälle für die Spalte und für die Reihen gibt es männlich, weiblich, sächlich und Plural. Also die Tabellen sind 4x4.


But there are three tables, right? So 3 x (4 x 4)? That only makes 48 permutations...!!! We need every little bit of help we can get...


There are 3 types of adjective declinations (strong, weak, mixed) and there are indirect and direct articles, and if you count personal pronouns too that makes 96 cells. The tables work independently. For example, you look up the right definite article and look up the right weak inflection seperately. Comparing to learning vocabulary it is much simpler. For example, to learn the word "Reihe" you need to remember 5 characters out of 30 possible, plus you need to remember which of three genders it has and its plural form, and it's not even a very long word. From an informational perspective, learning the tables is much simpler than learning vocabulary.


Thank you to both Marian and drvdw :-). I stand in awe of anyone who can learn these tables and apply them in the real world! It is an amazing thing to be able to do, but I just can't learn them like that. I guess what we have learnt is that there are a number of different methods of getting German grammar right and it is important to find just the right one which works for you and your brain - so experiment with different methods. Happy learning :-).


Learning the tables doesn’t mean you always consciously think about them to determine the articles or endings. I’ve said “in der Nähe“ enough times that I don‘t have to think about the grammar. But knowing the tables means I know that all feminine words go with der in dative, so I can practice using new words without ever wondering if I‘m right or asking someone, and after enough use I can use those phrases unconsciously too.


I've deliberately not memorised these tables (so sue me!), and yet I'm getting the German grammar correct over 90% of the time, and translate FROM the German even more accurately than that - without understanding why. Which is approaching how a native understanding operates: in the unconscious. I'm also a competent musician, but can't read music and don't really understand theory, so I guess that's just how my brain works!


Ok so I just discovered that I cannot reply to you Steve or you drvdw on Duolingo so I need to reply to myself. Hope that makes sense! I gave you a lingot Steve because you have an ear for music and for languages obviously. Most of us don’t have that so we have to do the tables. Drvdw, I can’t believe you are now telling me I have to learn more tables. Can’t understand where you are coming from and going to with the 96 cells.... We need Steve’s good ear to set us straight


to help myself learn these, i put together some sentences in the four cases. I personally find this easier than looking at all those case tables.

For example, the first one is : "A dog is for a dog with a dog of a dog". which shows "a dog" in Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive. I did masculine first, then feminine, then neuter. They might help....

MASCULINE NOUNS Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive

(A dog is for a dog with a dog of a dog):

Ein Hund ist für einen Hund mit einem Hund eines Hundes.

now I add an adjective (red): (A red dog is for a red dog with a red dog of a red dog):

Ein roter Hund ist für einen roten Hund mit einem roten Hund eines roten Hundes.

now with "the" instead of "a" :

Der rote Hund ist für den roten Hund mit dem roten Hund des roten Hundes

Now with plurals: "the red dogs" :

Die roten Hunde sind für die roten Hunde mit den roten Hunden der roten Hunde

Now without article: "red dogs" :

Rote Hunde sind für rote Hunde mit roten Hunden

now singular without article (red advice is for red advice with red advice)

Roter Rat ist für roten Rat mit rotem Rat



Eine Frau ist für eine Frau mit einer Frau einer Frau

Eine rote Frau ist für eine rote Frau mit einer roten Frau einer roten Frau

Die rote Frau ist für die rote Frau mit der roten Frau der roten Frau

Die roten Frauen sind für die roten Frauen mit den roten Frauen der roten Frauen

Rote Sicherheit ist für rote Sicherheit mit roter Sicherheit



Das rote Mädchen ist für das rote Mädchen mit dem roten Mädchen des roten Mädchens

Ein rotes Mädchen ist für ein rotes Mädchen mit einem roten Mädchen eines roten Mädchens

Ein Haus ist für ein Haus mit einem Haus eines Hauses

Die roten Mädchen sind für die roten Mädchen mit den roten Mädchen der roten Mädchen

Rote Mädchen sind für rote Mädchen mit roten Mädchen

Rotes Material ist für rotes Material mit rotem Material


I'll have to read this a few times. Thank you for helping me and being patient. I know that took a lot of time to write that. I genuinely appreciate that.


A pleasure, Penni28893.


We must be grateful to npLam for the hard work which they have put in, but I think their reply illustrates my point below: the German grammatical matrix is at least three-dimensional (if not four-dimensional) and vast. Your amazing brain can learn this intuitively, but to learn it intentionally is a mammoth task, which may result in disappointment. If you ask 99% of German native speakers why what you have just said to them is wrong, their response will be "it just doesn't sound right". They will not answer by saying "your case is incorrect because you are muddling up a feminine plural when applied to a dative verb", or suchlike.


I have to disagree: it is not a "mammoth task". The original post was about the articles, which are explained on this wikipedia page. In my opinion, you can't avoid learning the table of definite articles by heart. It is only a four-by-four table, and it is fundamental.


Trying to intuit case endings, especially when your own native language is very weakly declined, would take an absurd amount of time and language exposure to cover all situations with enough repetition to stick. Adults, unlike children who spend all their early lives learning, don't have this kind of time. A declension table is a concise guide to use as a starting point, but you only good at not needing it by practicing with it less and less. Of course, one has to understand what the table means first.

I took German in school. The students who didn't take the time to learn the grammar were constantly fumbling with article forms and adjective endings because they were still struggling with the concept of cases.

TLDR: I think tables have an extremely important role early on for efficient learning and with practice they become unnecessary.


This is a very interesting discussion thread. I just have one tiny issue with you using ‘text speak’ thatJosh. It is hard enough to learn German without having to figure out our native language also! For what it’s worth I had to google TLDR (and I know that ‘google’ is a made up English noun and verb, so I get the irony!) and found it means Too Lazy, Didn’t Read. For all those aspiring English text speakers out there!


I consider it an abbreviation instead of text speak and I agree with stoopher that it's "too long" moreso than "too lazy". It's not unusual on discussion boards nowadays to summarize a "spiel" with a TLDR to give a shortcut to those who don't want to read a wall of text for a simple point.


it can definitely be a challenge trying to remember what gender everything is, since german uses grammatical gender, while english uses natural gender. i studied german for three years in high school, got a bachelor's in it, and got my master's in translating german to english.

the trick is two things: 1. when you learn a new noun (even if it's a cognate like Buch/book), memorise its gender as well. this way, you don't just remember "Buch"; instead you'll see the word or a photo of a book and think "oh, it's das Buch". 2. study the patterns that a lot of german words follow and commit them to memory, as learning that nouns ending in -um take the neuter will help you later as you learn more complex vocabulary, so you'll know it's das Klinikum, das Universum, etc.

this site helps explain a lot about these patterns: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~deutsch/Grammatik/Nouns/nouns.html and the main page itself contains a lot of extensive information about all parts of german grammar, such as the seemingly infinite tenses/moods: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~deutsch/Grammatik/Grammatik.html


Thank you for such a humble, sensitive and constructive response. I will check out your links, and hopefully they will help me grasp something which has left me struggling and at a brick wall in my progress. Hugely appreciated :-).


you're welcome! good luck :)


I will watch. Danke

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