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Please Help Me Understand... Einer/Einen/Einem?

So, I'm currently going through the Dative Case lesson and have come across three new words: Einer, Einen, and Einem.

From what I can understand, if something is being shown or going TO something, an ending is added to ein. It seems like -er for feminine, -em for masculine and -en for neutral.

Is this correct? Are there any exceptions? And most importantly, can anyone properly explain why this change occurs? Understanding why/how something works grammatically helps me to commit it better to memory.

Here's an example of the words in use: Das Baby zeigt einer Frau ein Kleid. (The baby shows a dress to a woman.) OR Das Baby zeigt einem Mann ein Schuh. (The baby shows a shoe to a man.)

March 29, 2018



You got it all figured out already. "Ein" changes depending of the gender of the noun it accompanies. In the dative it's exactly how you said it it. There is no "rational" reason for this, it is just how German works.

"Ein" changes in the accusative case as well. Thus, you need to change it (depending on the gender) as well. It is "Das Baby zeigt einem Mann einEN Schuh." For masculine nouns it's "einen", for feminine nouns "eine" and and for neuter nouns it is just "ein" - that's the reason why your first example is correct.

The good news: you may change the order of the objects. Both

Das Baby zeigt einer Frau einen Mann.


Das Baby zeigt eine Frau einem Mann.

are both correct. Who is shown to whom is noticeable by the case. In English you would need to change the word order of the second sentence to make that clear.


There is no "rational" reason for this, it is just how German works.

How do you mean? It's quite logical, right? Dative is used for indirect object, accusative for direct object.


I think he means there's no objective reason for it.

Why is it, "Du bist," but "Ich bin,"? In Norwegian for example they just use the same verb form for both: "Du er," and "Jeg er."

Some languages don't have plural. Some languages have no words for, "Yes," and "No."

Grammatical rules develop in a language, and subjectively they can make the meaning of a sentence clearer, but there's no objective reason for them.


Awesome, thanks for your help!


The second sentence: Das Baby zeigt eine Frau einem Mann - is not a correct sentence! It has to be changed to: Das Baby zeigt einem Mann eine Frau (The baby shows a woman to a man). Das Baby zeigt einer Frau einen Mann means: The baby shows a man to a woman.


..... "and -en for neutral."
should be -em for neuter.


That is correct. Dative case is used for lots of things. "Movement towards" is one of them. I wouldn't say there are "exceptions" so much as Dative can sometimes pop up where you might not expect. The verb "helfen" (to help) for example takes Dative rather than Accusative as you might naturally think.

As for WHY this occurs, well... even in English where grammatical inflection has almost died out we still have a difference between "I" and "me." Other languages just have additional ways of marking this.

However in English this is mostly limited to pronouns. In the sentence, "I give it to the dog," the only indication that the dog is the recipient is that it comes after "to." This is why word order is much more strict in English than in German.

In German the Dative case is most commonly marked on the adjective and the article and rarely on the noun.

Languages like Russian which not only have more cases than German (six versus the German four) but also inflect their words more can have an even freer word order than German.


Actually, the accusative case is more typically defined as "movement towards". It's the difference between Ich gehe ins (in das) Kino) and Ich stehe im (in dem) Kino.


Good point. I guess that's just how I figured it in my mind. "Movement" is the wrong word. I probably got confused because English uses the same preposition ("to") for both.

The thing is the German dative covers not only the indirect object but also what elsewhere would be considered the prepositional, and lots of dative constructions replace genitive.


Dative prepositions like zu and nach can also indicate "movement towards".


@drvdw True, there are some. But with the prepositions that can take both dative and accusative, you'll notice the difference between these cases best. Not everything can be logically explained, but if you compare all the uses of the accusative and the dative in all contexts, the former can more properly be considered the "case of movement towards".

@mason a lot depends on how you look at it. Giving something to someone can, in a way, also be interpreted as a movement from an object to that person. Yet the prepositions that take both dative and accusative show best how differently these cases are understood by native German speakers.

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