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cases

Cases show the function of a word within a sentence.

Cases

Munich

Munich

There are four cases in German:

  • Nominative
  • Accusative
  • Dative
  • Genitive

Cases have mostly died out in English but a few still exist:

  • He is my brother (here, he is the subject of the sentence and is in the nominative case)
  • I don’t like him (here, him is used instead, because it’s the direct object – this is the accusative case)
  • Who is that? (here, who is referring to the subject, and is in the nominative case)
  • Whom does Sarah love? (here, whom is referring to the object, and is in the accusative case)

Cases change things like the word for ‘the’, eg from ‘der‘ to ‘den‘ and ‘dem‘ to ‘des‘ and the words for ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘my’, ‘your’ and ‘his’ and the endings on adjectives.

Nominative

Use the nominative for the subject of a sentence.

The subject is the thing doing the action shown by the verb, eg the little cat gave the big dog a sneaky bite (the cat is doing the giving).

  • Ich gehe oft ins Kino -> I often go to the cinema.
  • Der Hund sitzt neben der Katze -> The dog is sitting next to the cat.
  • Eine Woche dauert 7 Tage -> A week lasts 7 days.

To find out if a word is the subject, try replacing it with ‘he’ or ‘she’ and see if it would make sense in English. The subject is usually right at the start of the sentence.

Accusative

Use the accusative for the direct object of a sentence.

The direct object of a sentence is the thing having the action done to it, eg the little cat gave the big dog a sneaky bite (the cat is giving the bite, it isn’t giving the dog).

  • Die Prinzessin küsst den Frosch -> The princess kisses the frog.
  • Mein Vater bäckt einen Kuchen -> My dad’s baking a cake.
  • Ich habe ein Meerschweinchen -> I have a guinea pig.

Him and her are examples of the accusative in English. Try putting these into your German sentence. It might not sound very logical but it will help you see if the word you’re looking at is the direct object. You also use the accusative after certain prepositions.

Visit the Prepositions Revision Bite to learn more.

Dative

Use the dative for the indirect object of a sentence.

The indirect object of a sentence is the thing being affected by the action, eg the little cat gave the big dog a sneaky bite (the dog is being affected by the bite the cat is giving).

Many sentences don’t have an indirect object in. When there is, you can often add ‘to’ in the English translation.

  • Mein Vater schickt dem Mann einen Brief -> My dad’s sending the man a letter – My dad’s sending a letter to the man.
  • Der Lehrer gibt einer Schülerin ein Beispiel -> The teacher gives a pupil an example – The teacher gives an example to a pupil.

You also use the dative after certain prepositions. Visit the Prepositions Revision Bite to learn more.

Genitive

Use the genitive for posession.

This is a way of saying who something belongs to, eg the little cat’s bite was painful.

Here are some more examples:

  • Das ist der Hut des Mannes -> That is the man’s hat.
  • Der Mantel der Frau ist auf dem Boden -> The woman’s coat is on the floor.

You also use the genitive after certain prepositions. Visit the Prepositions Revision Bite to learn more.

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