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The Four German Cases EXPLAINED

The four Cases are one of the hardest things to learn when studying German (Unless, of course, you speak another language that has these four cases). Yes, they take time to get the hang of, but after reading this, you’ll be on your way to mastering them! The cases are the nominative, the accusative, the dative, and the genitive. Now, we’ve got a lot to learn, so let’s get started.

The easiest case has to be the nominative. It is basically the subject of the sentence; the object performing the action. Articles used in the nominative are der and ein (Masculine), die and eine (Feminine), die (Plural) and das and ein (Neuter). Ex: Die Frau wäscht das Spielzeug (The woman washes the toy). Die Frau the nominative, because it is the object washing the toy. Ask yourself: who is washing the toy? The woman.

The accusative case is also quite easy. It is referring to the direct object of the sentence, which is the object which the action is being done to, or the object that is being affected by the action (the verb). I could say the direct object always comes after the verb (which is often the case in English), but that wouldn’t be true. Since sentences are very flexible in German, the direct object can come before the verb. You could say: Der Mann isst einen Apfel, or Einen Apfel isst der Mann, and it would mean the exact same thing. (In English not so much. The man eats the apple. The apple eats the man. English grammar is too simple to be flexible). Articles used in the Accusative are Den and Einen (Masculine, as you saw in the example above), Die and Eine (Feminine and Plural, only Die for Plural) and Das and Ein (Neuter). As you can see, the only gender that changes in the accusative is the Masculine Yay! Simplistic! (for German at least). Ex: Der Mann isst einen Apfel (The Man eats the apple). What is being eaten? What is being affected by the action? The apple. Therefore, the apple is the direct object, which gives it accusative, masculine pronouns.

Now, things are getting a little tough. The dative was one of the hardest cases for me to learn. Luckily, I learnt it, and I will try to explain it simply. The dative case is all about the indirect object; the object that the action is being done for. Ex: Der Hund gibt dem Mann den Käse (the dog is giving the man the cheese). Who is being given the cheese? The man. It is therefore the indirect object. What is being given to the man? The cheese. It is the direct object. I know it’s hard but try. Try. I’M TRYING MY BEST TO EXPLAIN THIS, OKAY? Now, let’s ignore my breakdown and move on to the articles for the dative case. They are: dem and einem (Masculine), der and einer (Feminine), dem and einem (Neuter), and den (Neuter).

The genitive case is kind of like the black sheep of the four cases, and that’s why I've saved it for last. It’s not easy, but not difficult. The genitive case is about the object that shows possession. In English, we add an ‘s to the end of the possessive object, but it’s different in German. The object’s article changes, and for Masculine and Neuter nouns, the noun changes, too. Let’s start with the articles: des and eines (Masculine and Neuter), der and einer (Feminine), and den (Plural). For Neuter and Masculine nouns, and -s is added to the end of the possessive object. But, if the noun only has one syllable or ends s, x, z, or ß, you add an -es instead of an -s. Now, this is probsbly a huge blur in your head by now, so let’s show a few examples. Das ist das Buch der Frau. That is the woman’s book. Der Vater hat das essen des Tieres. The father has the animal’s food. Die Fliege isst das Fleisch des Junges. The fly eats the boy’s meat. Der Vogel gibt den Männer das Hemd der Eltern. The bird gives the men the shirt of the parents. Notice how the genitive usually comes after all the other cases.

Those were the four German cases. Hope you understood what I was trying to tell you. (I’m not a good teacher). You can ask questions in reply section.

June 4, 2018



Good explanation, just a couple of tweaks...

Gib den Männer das Hemd der Eltern

I think you'll find that should be:
Gib den Männern das Hemd der Eltern
(dative plural, so extra "n" )

...the articles for the dative case. ...., and den (Neuter).
I think perhaps you mean: "den (plural)

Der Mann isst einen Apfel (The Man eats the apple)
should be: the man eats an apple. .

: )


This is incredibly helpful, thanks.


Michel, Thank you for your comment. I am saving it for future reference. My name is Cat. Have a nice week!

[deactivated user]

    This is very helpful. Thank you. I'm taking notes while reading this as a reference.


    Same here! I copy comments and print them for personal use!

    • 1307

    How about Der Vater hat das Futter des Tieres.? ;-)

    I am studying your cases now. Sehr gut, soweit ich das beurteilen kann.

    [deactivated user]

      I have been learning Spanish ever since I was in Kindergarten. In Spanish, there are three formulas for conjugating verbs of three different endings. Is there anything like this is German?


      This is an incredibly helpful thread! I think I FINALLY understand the cases!
      (You said you're not a good teacher. What? Really? I didn't know that! You explained this in a way that I understood it very well!)

      Thank you! Have a lingot!


      I'll add to your book example:
      That is Peter's book.
      Das ist Peters Buch.
      That is Hans' book. (correct me if i'm wrong)
      Das ist Hans' Buch.
      With names ending in s, x, z or ß you add an apostrophe instead of an -s/-es. I think this is the primary place where German needs apostrophes (e.g. poems do too) and it mirrors the English version.
      But in spoken language it is advisable to use a dative construction, as it sounds otherwise really weird.
      Das ist das Buch von Hans.

      The father has the animal’s food.
      Der Vater hat das Essen des Tieres. (and Futter would be more common for animals, as slamRN already noticed.)

      The fly eats the boy’s meat.
      Die Fliege isst das Fleisch des Jungen.
      -n endings don't get an -s! des Namen, des Präsidenten, des Zeugen...

      The bird gives the men the shirt of the parents.
      Der Vogel gibt den Männern das Hemd der Eltern.
      As already noticed.

      The bird gives the men the shirts of the men.
      Der Vogel gibt den Männern die Hemden der Männer.

      You can use von+dative if you don't like genitive at all.
      Das ist das Buch von der Frau.
      Das ist das Buch von Peter.
      Das ist das Buch von Hans.
      Der Vater hat das Futter von dem Tier.
      Die Fliege isst das Fleisch von dem Jungen.
      Der Vogel gibt den Männern das Hemd von den Eltern.
      Der Vogel gibt den Männern die Hemden von den Männern.
      Although I assume duolingo would not appreciate that and it might sound a bit odd sometimes too. So you better like genitive.


      ....-n endings don't get an -s! des Namen
      Thanks, I always miss those extra n's

      : (

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