"It is an apple."

Translation:Es ist ein Apfel.

April 13, 2013



Why did we use 'ein' instead of 'einen' for an?

April 13, 2013


Nominative case. "einen" is accusative.

April 13, 2013


But why, "Er isst einen Apfel" is right? when we say "He eats an apple"

May 8, 2013


Because there apple IS accusative. He would be the nominative and apple would be accusative. The way I keep it straight (my method may help or hurt others) is I think to myself that the victim is always accused of the crime. Example: She attacked him. "Him" is the accusative because she's the victim. The victim (the one that's being acted on) is the accusative and the one "attacking" is the nominative. (I have a dark mind. It's scary in here.)

May 15, 2013


To get even more technical, this "A is B" construction is called "the copula", and, in many languages, the copula works differently than normal "A acts on B" sentences. Because we are directly relating A to B ("It is an apple"), they must share the same case. This should also be true for adjectival uses, like "The boy's hair is red", and suchlike.

August 13, 2013


"Because we are directly relating A to B ("It is an apple"), they must share the same case."--Thanks!

March 26, 2014



I'm not a native German speaker so I can only offer insight as an English speaker who has been here a while. Clarification from a native speaker would help.

Looking it up, it appears (at least according to (this site)[https://easy-deutsch.de/en/nouns/cases/]) that in addition to sein (to be), both werden (to become) and bleiben (to remain) keep the nominative case. There might be a couple more, but I don't know them off-hand. I'm more familiar with those that are special dative verbs (helfen, glauben, gefallen, etc.) as those are the ones that usually trip me up.

That being said, in the above example using "A" and "B" as stand-ins for your sentences, "A remains B. (I opted not to use the past tense of remain) essentially means the same as "B remains A." However, "A becomes B." isn't the same as "B becomes A." because it involves a transformation. Think of a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. It better like flying, because there is no way it's becoming a caterpillar again.

On top of that, if you put "The student becomes the master." in Google Translate (I know this isn't always the best, but it's done a decent job with German from what I've seen), it gets translated as "Der Schüler wird zum Meister." If it were nominative I assume it would be zur or just der.

Whether it's the intricacies of werden, the presence of the preposition zu, an idiom or just plain wrong, I don't know. Hopefully a native speaker can clear it up.

April 27, 2018


Does the second noun take the nominative case with other linking verbs too? In English, verbs like feel, remain, grow, seem can also create a predicate nominative. (Not just 'to be' verbs.) So if we say in German, "She remained my friend" or "The student becomes the master," would 'friend' and 'master' be in the nominative case too?

April 25, 2018


But she attacked him, why is she the victim?

August 22, 2013


Lol Nicely put :)))

February 21, 2014


Sanjay.sai lol

I think Jonathan meant to say that he was the victim and thus accusative of his assailant. A better way to remember is a slight tweak on your own observation "She attack me!"

That might also work in his example.

May 18, 2014


My method is that when the verb is "is" or "are", this is a statement that the two two nouns on either side of it are equivalent. "It is a potato" means "it" = "potato". If the "it" is nominative (subject of the sentence) then so is the potato. You could as easily have said, "the potato is it." In a statement of equivalence, neither noun is acting upon the other.

October 31, 2013


Getting there, thanks for this tip.

February 21, 2014


Thanks very much. This is the first explanation that offers a reasonable look into how language evolved. This removes my biggest stumbling block to German grammar.

August 13, 2013


English has this as well. "I am he."

November 18, 2013


That actualy helps allot thanks man

December 17, 2017


So in one sentence sometimes is accusitive (object) and nominative (subject -person or thing that is doing the action) . I don't understand. Should we look to the noun and ask oursels is that accus. or nominat??

December 7, 2018


The nominative is the subject of the sentence. The accusative is the object that's having something done to it. If you say "She is an apple," both "she" and "apple" represent the subject of the sentence because she IS the apple. Therefore, there is no accusative case. However, if you say, "She eats an apple," the woman becomes the subject and the apple becomes the accusative object having something done to it (it's being eaten). There is now an accusative case. Basically, you just need to look at the sentence and decide if there is a direct object receiving an action. If there is, you know to use accusative case.

Sie ist ein Apfel=She is an apple. No object having something done to it so there is no need for you to use the accusative.

Sie isst einen Apfel=She eats an apple/she is eating an apple. Here, the apple is clearly having an action being done to it (it's being eaten). Therefore, you need to use the accusative. This means that "ein" will become "einen." Hope that helps.

May 13, 2019



December 28, 2018


There is no action inflicted on the apple, so it's not accusative. JonathanM9's explanation is pretty nice.

June 25, 2013


Thank you very much you both for this clear and simple explanation; I've discovered the worst thing about cases is you have to know very well sintax! a real hell for me :( just one question to be sure: it can be generalized? I mean, in sentences with the verb "to be" all words are always in the same case? and is always nominative?

November 11, 2013


Besides it's confusing I ask what is it? an apple so direct object so accusative

November 11, 2013


"syntax". And probably yes, in answer to your question on "to be". Certainly in English (although in English, only pronouns are inflected for case).

November 18, 2013


Gah! it doesn't seem accusative. This is gonna take some getting used to.

January 3, 2014


dint understand..... can some one explain in detail.... what nominative and accusative is?

February 17, 2014


Nominative = subject, accusative = direct object. In English, "I/she/they" is nominative, "me/her/them" is accusative. "is" is a linking verb though, so it takes the nominative on both sides. Just like in English, where "it is me" is grammatically incorrect, and should be "it is I." A linking verb indicates more of an equivalency to something rather than an action performed on something, thus why it doesn't take a direct object.

March 29, 2014


The verb to be is, in many languages, quite special. It is called "the copula", and its object is not put into the accusative case but stays in the nominative case.

June 19, 2013


why not Das ist ein Apfel?

June 22, 2013


I'm wondering the same thing

probably because "Das" means "That" while "Es" means "It"

September 22, 2013



October 20, 2018


"Das" means This or That

January 18, 2014


This is very confusing - when to use ein Apfel and when to say einen Apfel.

September 3, 2013


Even worse is how the website doesn't attempt to give a single explanation.

February 19, 2014


So, why is it nominative and not accusative in this case ?

April 27, 2013


The verb in this sentence is an equative verb, "ist," and not an action verb. As such, it equates two things as the same in some way. You can think of this sentence as "It is equal to an apple." Since "it" and "apple" are being equated, both things are in the same nominative case. You use the accusative case for direct objects, and only transitive verbs like "eat" have direct objects, because the action is being done to the direct object.

If you can ask the question "What?" of the verb, you can use the accusative case: I eat what? An apple. It doesn't work for intransitive verbs.

May 21, 2013


Thanks a lot!

September 10, 2013


I must admit, I thought it was accusative as well - the object of the verb. Surely the subject is "it"?

May 23, 2013


True, but since "it" is the apple, this means that the apple is the subject of the sentence, and so the nominative case is used.

June 29, 2013


What is it? It is an apple.

I can't really stuck this into my memory... Don't know how. Spanish doesn't have this! Or have I not noticed it? Gotta look for it.

October 12, 2013


Italian has, but since we do not have cases, you need to know only if you are grammatically analyzing the sentence :-)

February 12, 2014


Very helpful, thanks.

February 21, 2014


I think it is because being is not an action. So "THIS is an apple" is nominative. "the apple is being eaten" is accusative

May 2, 2013


thank you, that's all i need to know, and what you said makes perfect sense

June 10, 2013


Why does it say the proper form of "it" is "es" for Apfel? The way I learned it, es goes with neuter words, er with masculine words, and sie for feminine words.

June 8, 2013


I think that would be more correct. I also learned that from both a German professor and native German speaking girlfriend. It's also humorously poked fun at in an essay by Mark Twain. Perhaps they're holding off so as not to get needlessly confusing too early?

June 20, 2013


Es means "it" Er means "he" Sie means "she," "they," and the formal version of "you."

June 8, 2013


Rather es means it, er means he, sie means she or they depending on context, and Sie is the formal version of you.

August 18, 2018


Why is "Er ist ein Apfel" incorrect? I thought er could also mean it.Thanks :)

July 1, 2013


Er = he / Es = it

July 31, 2013


thank you :)

July 31, 2013



July 31, 2013


I got this wrong. I put "einen" but I knew better and just wasn't paying attention. I learned German 40 years ago in high school and knew all this grammar and about the cases, but forgot it all, so I'm relearning it. The articles also change after prepositions, How, I'll have to learn. After "mit, auf, etc"

BTW, there are lots of free public domain language courses on http://fsi-language-courses.org/Content.php

Yesterday evening I listened to one of the mp3 files of a German lesson in the German FAST course.

January 29, 2014


Can Er ever mean "it"? If der Apfel is masculine why is it "es" and not "er"?

December 23, 2013


Yes, "er" frequently means "it." But in this case the "it" is referring to some indefinite thing. The sentence is an answer a question like "What is that thing on the table?" Since you don't know what it is, you can't use the it pronoun that matches its gender. So the "it"(es) in this sentence is speaking in generic, general terms: That thing (it/es) is an apple. If you were to continue the discussion, it would be appropriate to shift to "er" as the pronoun:

Was ist das? Es ist ein Apfel. Er ist rot. Er gehört mir. (It is an apple, It is red. It belongs to me.)

February 6, 2014


Can somebody explain why it is "es ist ein Apfel" instead of "er ist ein Apfel?" Isn't "der Apfel" masculine?

March 2, 2019


Good thinking.

But pronouns generally refer back to something.

So at the beginning of the sentence, you haven't identified "it" as an apple yet, and so "it" takes the default neuter gender: es.

If you had had a previous sentence with a noun that the "it" refers to, then it would have had the gender appropriate to that noun.

For example. Hier ist eine Frucht. Sie ist ein Apfel. "Here is a fruit. It is an apple." The sie refers back to the feminine Frucht, not forwards to the masculine Apfel.

March 3, 2019


Apfel is indeed masculine, but you're changing the pronoun from "it" to "he" in this case.

In later lessons you might learn you can replace a "definite article + noun" combo with er, sie or es depending on the gender, but I think in most of those cases there is more context involved so you can take shortcuts.

March 2, 2019


And it's been telling me this whole time that "Er" is acceptable for "it." Jaaaaaa.

September 24, 2013


honestly i don't understand what everyone means my accusative and nominative? is there a more simple way of explanation?

October 6, 2013


Many languages, especially Latin and Latin-based languages, have "cases" for nouns and their articles, where the form of the word might change depending on its function in the sentence. Therefore, "cases" are determined by the function of the words in the sentence. So if something is the subject of the sentence or is performing the action in the sentence, it is in the "nominative" case. If the thing is the object of the action (is being acted on by another thing), it is in the "accusative" case and may take a different form.

In the sentence, "The man is eating an apple", the man is acting on the apple. "The man" is in the nominative case ("Der Mann" rather than "den Mann") and "an apple" is in the accusative case ("einen Apfel" rather than "ein Apfel"). We can reverse the functions, of course. In the sentence, "I like the man", "the man" is being acted upon and takes the accusative form (Ich mag "den Mann", not "der Mann"). In the sentence, "The apple is sweet", the apple is the subject of the sentence and is in the nominative case "Ein Apfel").

English has largely eliminated cases. "The man" and "the apple" do not change form with their function in the sentence. But even in English, cases still exist, especially for pronouns. Can you identify the nominative and accusative forms of "I" and "he" in each of the following sentences? "I hit him." "He hit me."

Since I am just beginning to learn German, I do not know how many more German cases there are. Latin has six, but I have heard there are only two more in German, so we should be grateful, I suppose.

November 12, 2013


Wish I could save all these considered posts to revise! Thanks.

February 21, 2014


I put "Er bin ein Apfel..." What is the difference between "Er" and "Es" and the difference between "ist" and "bin/bich???"

October 21, 2013


"Er" = "he"; "es" = "it". Both are third person singular and take the same form of the verb, "ist", which = "is". This is just like in English, where both "he" and "it" use "is".

"Bin" = "am" and is used with Ich. "Ich bin" = "I am".

December 6, 2013


Ein or einen, why

November 11, 2013


Es ist ein Apfel. Because "Es" is the subject of the sentence (nominative case) and "ist" signifies that "Apfel" is equivalent "Es" and, therefor, is also nominative.

Contrast this with "It [say, a worm] eats an apple": "Es isst einen Apfel."

November 13, 2013


wass ist das

December 4, 2013


einen is an

December 4, 2013


No. "Einen" has nothing to do with the change in English from "a" to "an". The German change from "ein" to "einen" and "der" to "den" reflects a difference in how the associated noun is being used in the sentence ("Der/ein Apfel ist rot" compared to "Wir essen den/einen Apfel"). In English, the change from "a" to "an" is based on the sound of the next word. "A" is used with a consonant sound, "an" with a vowel sound: "An apple is round" compared to "A red apple is round."

February 17, 2014


Why does It give an example of Er ist ein Apfel, then change to Es

February 27, 2014


Exactly, why is it not "einen"? It's der Apfel and in this scenario the direct object which should translate into "einen," shouldn't it?

March 3, 2014


Because the verb "to be" is an exception, and is followed by the nominative case.

April 1, 2018


This is the 5th exercice in a row where I have to translate the word "apple". I think there is something wrong with the algorythm

March 9, 2014


yes , sometimes , Einen Apfel " sometimes Ein Apfel , very confusing !!

March 23, 2014


If ''einen'' is accusative and ''ein'' is nominative,then ''eine'' is also accusative? Ex. Ich habe eine Tasse.

March 28, 2014


So the masculine can be accusative or nominative The feminine and the neutral can also be .... Then when do we use ein and eine and einen ??? I got confused

April 5, 2014


So masculine nouns can be nominative or accusative ... Feminine and neutral nouns can also be Then when do we use ein and eine and einen?? I got confused

April 5, 2014


If the sentence only relates to one object, it will be ein?

April 15, 2014


Why? It isn't correct :/

October 31, 2015


Apfel got es even though it get der how come?

February 18, 2016


What is the difference between ein and eine

December 14, 2017


In the nominative case (or with just the noun and article by themselves), ein is used for masculine and neuter nouns while eine is used for feminine nouns.

Masculine: "der Mann" - "ein Mann"

Feminine: "die Frau" - "eine Frau"

Neuter: "das Mädchen" - "ein Mädchen"

April 20, 2018


I open this page from spainish lecture. Why it explain german instead of spainish? Fix this please..

April 3, 2018


why ein instead of einen?

April 12, 2018


The case here is Nominative and not Accusative. @JonathanM9 and @Michael-Forest do a great job of explaining it above.

April 20, 2018


Oh! After multiple questions involving eating (essen), on this one I misread "ist" as "isst." Now I get it. Yes, the verb "to be" acts as an equal sign, so the object of the sentence is treated the same as the subject

April 14, 2018


Ein means one, not an

April 22, 2018


It means both, unless you're referring to the numeral in which case it's eins. In this case ein takes the place of an indefinite article so it probably means a/an.


April 23, 2018


Why when you write "an apple" is einen but then here is ein. Why?

May 6, 2018


It's a different case. A few here already explained it pretty well.

You probably saw a sentence like "Ich habe einen Apfel." which is a different case.

May 6, 2018


In the north western region of germany where hochdeutsch is commonly spoken, one would use the male pronoun for male nouns, female pronoun for feminine nouns and neutral pronoun for neuter nouns. Therefore er ist ein Apfel is correct

July 20, 2018


Es ist eineApfel

July 26, 2018



July 27, 2018


Please may someone explain this nominative and accusative

September 6, 2018


They explain the cases pretty well here.

September 6, 2018


omg, I don't understand a word you guys are talking about...

October 27, 2018


My problem is knowing when to use ein or einen or eine. Its all very confusing, same with die das den and der.

December 21, 2018


When can i use "ein" , "eine" and "einen"... i am a confused

January 9, 2019


Don't forget "einer", "einem" and "eines"! It generally depends on which case you're in and what gender the noun is.


January 9, 2019


I don't understand.

Why is: Sie isst einen Apfel. and Es ist ein Apfel. What's the difference, IDK when use ein or einen...

April 19, 2019


Why is: Sie isst einen Apfel. and Es ist ein Apfel. What's the difference

essen (to eat) is a normal transitive verb that takes a direct object -- the thing being affected by the verb.

You can say "An apple is eaten by her" -- the apple is the thing undergoing the eating.

But sein (to be) is not a transitive verb. It does not take a direct object. "An apple is been by it" makes no sense. The apple is not "being been" -- it is not undergoing the "being". "to be" is not a verb with an object here.

Instead, "to be" is a copula or linking verb -- it links a subject to predicate that says something about the subject. Such predicates are (almost always) in the nominative case in German.

If it helps you remember, you could think of "It is an apple" as "it = an apple" -- "it" and "an apple" refer to the same thing -- and they are in the same case in German (the nominative).

Thus you need accusative Sie isst einen Apfel when the apple is the direct object of the verb, but nominative Es ist ein Apfel when the apple is the predicate.

The same difference between der Apfel (nominative) and den Apfel (accusative). For example, Sie isst den Apfel. (She is eating the apple.) versus Das ist der Apfel. (That is the apple.)

April 19, 2019


Guys, please clear this doubt, ein, eine and einen, where to use them? And in simple language. Please dont use technical english grammer like "accusative" etc.

May 3, 2019


Guys, please clear this doubt, ein, eine and einen, where to use them?

You use each when the case and gender call for it.

And in simple language. Please dont use technical english grammer like "accusative" etc.

It's actually spelled grammar.

Why not use technical details? How would you explain to somebody learning English why you say, "I gave it to him.", instead of, "I gave it to he."? Or how about how to solve an algebraic equation without knowing basic arithmetic? It'd be kind of tough without technical details like multiply & divide or subject & object, right?

Now imagine not only needing to know the case (nominative, accusative, dative or genitive), but also the gender (which English doesn't have). Seems like a good reason to get your foundations in order. You're selling yourself really short if you're avoiding cases. How are you going to know what to do with prepositions if you don't know cases?

Also, it's mostly a German technical detail. The Wikipedia article on grammatical case states:

English has largely lost its inflected case system although personal pronouns still have three cases, which are simplified forms of the nominative, accusative and genitive cases. They are used with personal pronouns: subjective case (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who, whoever), objective case (me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom, whomever) and possessive case (my, mine; your, yours; his; her, hers; its; our, ours; their, theirs; whose; whosever[3]). Forms such as I, he and we are used for the subject ("I kicked the ball"), and forms such as me, him and us are used for the object ("John kicked me").

So, if you've gotten this far and not been discouraged, I implore you spend a couple hours looking at cases. It seriously helps. I was once where you are. Maybe with a stronger starting foundation, but I was still there. I came into this knowing NOTHING about cases, but I spent time looking each one up and it helped. Like, a lot.

ein, eine and einen, where to use them?

Once you invest the time into learning the cases (you can skip genitive for now), it's easy to look at a chart like this and figure out which to use. From there, it's only a matter of memorization.

German is a fun language, but it's also very technical. I don't think you'll get very for without first learning some of the important and prevalent details.

May 3, 2019


How did it become nominative? How can we know?

May 7, 2019


sein (to be) and werden (to become) take the nominative on both sides.

May 7, 2019


Why ein not einen?

May 21, 2019, 3:44 PM


einen would be masculine accusative, which you might use (for example) for the direct object of a verb.

But there is no verb here that takes a direct object (the apple is not been by it -- "to be" is not a verb that takes an object).

"to be" is a linking verb or copula, that links a subject to a predicate that says something about the subject. Such predicates are (almost always) in the nominative case in German.

Thus you need masculine nominative ein Apfel.

May 21, 2019, 3:48 PM
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