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German declension

The nominative, accusative, dative and genitive cases. The declension of nouns, adjectives, articles and numbers.

We know that verbs are conjugated (I eat vs. he/she eats) but it is rather simple in English; there are not many changes in the conjugation depending on the person and number.

German declension consists of adding an ending to:

according to the case (Fall or Kasus), gender and number.

The Idea of Case (Fall or Kasus) in German

In German there are 4 cases:

Nominative

The nominative is used if

  • The word is isolated:
  • Name*
    name

    *("Name" is nominative)

  • If the word makes up part of the subject:
  • Mein Name hat 5 Buchstaben*
    My name has five letters

    *("Mein Name" has the function of a subject and is declined in the nominative)

  • If the word forms part of the object of the predicate and the sentence is formed with the copulative verb ( sein, werden or bleiben)*
  • María ist mein Name*
    Maria is my name

    *("Ist" is part the verb "sein" (copulative) and therefore the object is declined in nominative)

Accusative

Accusative is used if:

  • If the word is a direct object in English, it will be accusative in 90% of the cases in German.
  • Ich sagte meinen Namen*
    I said my name

    *("sagte" is from the verb "sagen", which is a verb that is not copulative. For that reason, it is accusative)

Depending on the verb, the objects can be accusative, dative or with a preposition. Fortunately, most cases coincide with English ones all of the time. Be careful!

  • If it follows a preposition that is accusative (bis, durch, für, gegen, ohne, um, wider) or comes after a Wechselpräposition that indicates movement.
  • Ich gehe in die Schule*
    I am going to school

    *("die Schule" is declined in accusative because it follows the preposition "in" and going which indicates movement)

Dative

  • If the word is part of an Indirect Object in English, it will be dative in German in some 90% of the cases.
  • Ich schenke dir ein Heft*
    I give you a notebook

    *("ein Heft" (the thing that is
    given) is accusative and whom it is given to is dative)


  • If it follows a preposition that is dative: "ab", "aus", "außer", "bei", "entgegen", "entsprechend", "mit", "nach", "seit", von, zu or a Wechselpräposition if it does not indicate movement.

Genitive

  • If the word is after the word "of" in English
  • Die Zukunft des Buches ist schwer*
    The future of the book is difficult

    *(In English genitive’s expressed with "of" or by adding an apostrophe to show possession. "Des Buches" is translated as "of the book" or "the book’s")

  • If it follows a preposition that is Genitive (anstatt, aufgrund, außerhalb, dank, statt, während, wegen)

The genitive is not used as often by Germans as the three other previous cases. Often, a noun object is made with the preposition "von" + Dative and the genitive preposition are sometimes used incorrectly as if they were dative.

You have to keep in mind that one word can fit the rules of different cases simultaneously. For example, it can be a subject while being a part of a noun object and follow a preposition that is dative. Which case would it be then? Nominative because it’s the subject, Genitive, because it’s the noun object or dative because it is after a preposition?

The answer is that the priorities are in this order:

  1. Following a preposition (governing with Accusative, Dative or Genitive)
  2. Being part of a genitive object (Genitive)
  3. The rest of the rules

Noun Declension

There are 2 types of noun declension: Regular and N-declension.

Regular declension

Applicable to most nouns.

Example: das Gas (the gas)

SingularPlural
ArticleNounArticleNoun
NominativedasGasdieGase
AccusativedasGasdieGase
DativedemGasdenGasen
GenitivedesGasesderGase

For more info, visit: Regular declension of nouns

N-declension

Applicable to some masculine nouns and a few neuter ones.

Example: der Name (the name)

SingularPlural
ArticleNounArticleNoun
NominativederNamedieNamen
AccusativedenNamendieNamen
DativedemNamendenNamen
GenitivedesNamensderNamen

For more info, visit: N-Deklination

Declension of Adjectives

There are three types of declension for adjectives: Weak, mixed and strong. Visit the following link if you’d like to see them in detail: Adjective declension.

Weak declension of Adjectives

The most common case for weak declension is the construction: (definite article) + (adjective with weak declension) + (Noun)

Das schöne Sofa
The beautiful sofa

Mixed declension of Adjectives

The most common mixed declension is the structure: (indefinite article) + (adjective with mixed declension) + (Noun)

Ein schönes Sofa
A beautiful sofa

Strong declension of adjectives

The most common case of strong declension is: (strong declension of adjective without article) + (Noun)

Schönes Sofa
Beautiful sofa

Pronoun declension

There are 3 types of declensions for pronouns: weak, mixed and strong but not all pronouns have the three declensions.

If you’d like more in-depth info, we suggest that you visit:
Pronoun declension

Declension of personal pronouns:

NominativeAccusativeDativeGenitive
ichImichmemirme, to memeinermine
duyoudichyoudiryou, to youdeineryours
erheihnhimihmhim, to himseinerhis
sieshesieherihrher, to herihrerhers
esitesitihmit, to itseinerits
wirweunsusunsus, to usunserours
ihryou
(speaking to a group)
euchyoueuchyou, to youeueryours
sie
Sie
they
you (formal)
sie
Sie
them
you (formal)
ihnen
Ihnen
to them
to you
ihrer
Ihrer
theirs
yours

Article declension

Definite Articles:

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativeder (the)die (the)das (the)die (the)
Accusativedendiedasdie
Dativedemderdemden
Genitivedesderdesder

Indefinite Articles:

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativeein (a/an)eine (a/an)ein (a/an)--
Accusativeeineneineein--
Dativeeinemeinereinem--
Genitiveeineseinereines--

Number declension

Numbers are declined as well. If you’d like more info, visit the article: Number declension



1 Comments
#1 [Jens]2013-12-31 00:41
Wow! My language is very difficult by looking at this!

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