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Please help - "ein", "eine" and "einen"

I understand that these ALL mean 'a', but when should I use them, and what are the differences (if any).

I don't really understand. Thanks.

June 2, 2015



I'll make that clear as a native speaker:

Notice that there are four cases that change the word.

  • Firstly, the nominative case, that is the most needed case - it's the grammatical subject of every sentence.
  • Secondly, the genitive case, lesser used in spoken language but still used in written one. It indicates possession, just like the genitive "s" in English what the German form resembles of.
  • Thirdly, the dative case indicates an indirect object. For example: I buy something for you. The verb "to buy" refers directly to "something" and therefore it is the direct object. "you" is just an indirect object, as one needs the "for" to indicate that you haven't been bought by someone ;) In German, it is not needed to have these prepositions and instead, this language features case declension instead to express that.
  • Last but not least, the accusative case refers to direct objects, I have explained most of it above, so no more explanation is needed.

For masculine nouns:

ein, eines, einem, einen [roughly: a; of a (or genitive s); to a; a]

  • (1) Ich bin ein Mann. [I am a man.]
  • (2) Ich sehe die Frau eines Mannes. [I see a man's woman./I see the woman of a man.]
  • (3) Ich schicke einem Mann einen Apfel. [I send an apple to a man.]
  • (4) Ich höre einen Mann. [I hear a man.] - Remember, in contrary to (1), the subject is not the object in this sentence.

For feminine nouns:

eine, einer, einer, eine [same as masculine nouns]

  • (1) Ich bin eine Frau. [I am a woman.]
  • (2) Ich sehe den Mann einer Frau. [I see a woman's man./I see the man of a woman.]
  • (3) Ich schicke einer Frau einen Apfel. [I send an apple to a woman.]
  • (4) Ich höre eine Frau. [I hear a woman] - Notice that feminine nouns don't feature a distinct accusative version.

For neuter nouns:

ein, eines, einem, ein [the same as masculine declension]

  • (1) Ich bin ein Kind. [I am a child.]
  • (2) Ich sehe die Mutter eines Kindes. [I see a child's mother./I see the mother of a child.]
  • (3) Ich schicke einem Kind einen Apfel. [I send an apple to a child.]
  • (4) Ich sehe ein Kind. [I see a child] - In this case, the nominative and the accusative form also merged together.

This is quite a lot to get through but in my opinion, if you really understand this system, it becomes logical for you. If you have any questions, ask me.


That is the clearest explanation I have read, thanks, you get a Lingot!


there are 3 genders and 4 cases, since you seem like a beginner I will go over the first two cases. Nominative and accusative.

The three genders: "der"/"ein" (msc.) "die"/"eine" (fm) and "das"/"ein" (neut) there is also a plural that is also "die" Every noun has a gender you have to memorize them.

Nominative: saying something is so-and-so.

ex. I am a man.
(man = masc.) Ich bin ein Mann

ex. I am a woman.
(woman = fm.) Ich bin eine Frau

ex. I am a baby.
(baby = neut.) Ich bin ein Baby

In accusative, only the masc. form changes. It changes from der to "den" and from ein to "einen". A noun is accusative when it is the object of the sentence, and when there is an action word or verb (not "to be"/"sein"). Feminine, neuter and plural articles do NOT change in accusative. So I will only show you the masculine.

ex. I see a man.
Ich sehe einen Mann.

Hope this helps.

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