Deutsch 101-326 an der Universität Michigan
 


Home
Kursseiten
Grammatik
Vokabeln
German on the Web
Sprechen
Schreiben
Lesen
Hören
Learning Strategies


German Dept.
LRC
Max Kade House
German Club
PONS online dict.
L.E.O. online dict.
Contact/Feedback

 

 

 
Standard Case Overview

 

Diagnostic and Practice Exercises on the Main Case Overview Page Forms of der/das/die, ein-words  and personal pronouns
Nominative Accusative
Dative Genitive

Forms of der/das/die and personal pronouns

You should be very familiar with the forms of the personal pronouns and of the der- and ein- words in the various cases and genders.  If you are not confident with these, investing a little time now to learn them will help you A LOT with your German immediately.  Click below to see charts with the forms of these words, as well as some mnemonic hints and mechanical exercises to help you practice:
  • the forms of der/das/die and ein-words
  • the forms of the personal pronouns (this chart includes the possessive adjectives "mein," "dein," etc. in the last column, but does not give their endings.  Remember that the endings of the possessive adjectives are the same as the endings of "ein," which are given in the chart just above the pronoun chart)

Nominative

This is the case for the subject, the person doing the action.  The verb always agrees with the subject, as in English ("I am tall," not "I is tall" etc.):
 
Ich esse den SPAM. Heute geht der Hund mit mir in die Schule. Den Mann im Mond habe ich gestern mit meinem Teleskop gesehen. Beethoven schrieb die neunte Symphonie, als er taub war.

Always use Nominative after sein:

Wir sind die Welt./Die Welt sind wir. [=We are the world.]
Ulla ist die Lehrerin./Die Lehrerin ist Ulla.

In these examples, all the nouns are in the nominative, but only "wir" and "Ulla" are the subjects of their sentences; "die Welt" and "die Lehrerin" are "predicate nominatives." The difference is that the verb agrees with the subject, and need not agree with predicate nominatives.  In the first example, "wir" is the subject, whereas "die Welt" just completes the meaning of the verb "sein": "We are what?" ==> "We are the world."  This may sound abstract, but you generally do this right instinctively: the reason you don't say "We is the world" (even though "the world" is third person singular) is that you know "we" is the subject of that sentence, and "the world" is just the predicate nominative and the verb need not agree with it.

Predicate nominatives are also used with a few other verbs, notably "werden" [=to become] and "bleiben" [=to stay].  Note how the verbs agree with the subjects in each case:
 

Ich [subject] werde Lehrer[Pred. Nom.].  Er [subject] ist ein Professor [Pred. Nom.] geworden.  Sie [subject] bleibt Studentin[Pred. Nom.].  Du [subject] bist ein Idiot [Pred. Nom.] geblieben.

Accusative

For the direct object of the action: who it's being done to (even if that action is not much of an activity, like "having"):
 
Wir kochen Bambi. Du hast einen kleinen Kopf. Die Schlüssel [=keys] habe ich. Ich kann deinen Bauchnabel sehen.

Always use accusative after the accusative prepositions (click here for more info on prepositions):
 

bis, durch, für, gegen, ohne, um

Two-way prepositions (in, auf, an, unter, hinter, neben, vor, zwischen') take accusative with motion and dative with location (click here for more info on prepositions):
 

This nonsense mnemonic might help you with this:
"Accusative-Cruisative; Dative-Stative"

Ich gehe in die Klasse [Acc.]. Ich bin in der Klasse [Dat.].
Ich gehe ans Fenster [Acc.]. Ich stehe am Fenster [Dat.].

Ich will nicht unter mein Bett gehen [Acc.]. Unter meinem Bett ist ein Monster [Dat.].

Always use the accusative with "es gibt" [=there is/are]:
 

Es gibt mehr Bakterien als Insekten. In Ann Arbor gibt es einen schönen Park.

Dative

The Dative is for the indirect object, i.e. the recipient or beneficiary of the action.  If you give/show/recommend (etc.) something to someone, then that person is in the dative, and the thing you are giving/showing/recommending is the direct, accusative object of the verb.  If you do something for someone (e.g. tell them a story, water their plants for them, cut their hair), then that person is in the dative, and the story, the plants, the hair (etc.) are the direct, accusative object of the verb.
 
Ich gebe meiner Mutter einen Kuß. Elvis gibt seiner Mutter einen rosa Cadillac. Bitte zeig [=show] mir deine Tätowierung [=tattoo]. Hans empfiehlt [=recommends] uns einen guten Wein.

Always use dative with the dative prepositions (click here for more info on prepositions):
 

[sing to "Blue Danube"!] aus, außer, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu

A few verbs take only dative objects; i.e. by a quirk of grammatical history, the thing that those verbs are done to, which should by rights be the direct, accusative object, is in fact considered to be an indirect, dative object. The most important examples of these "dative verbs":
 

helfen, glauben [for believing someone], gefallen, gehören, danken, schmecken [=to taste good/bad], weh tun [for who is being hurt]
Die Frau hilft dem Mann; Bitte glaub mir; Das Lied gefällt mir; Die Britney Spears CD gehört mir; Ihm tut der Kopf weh; Ich will dir nicht weh tun...

Two-way prepositions (in, auf, an, unter, hinter, neben, vor, zwischen...) take accusative with motion and dative with location (click here for more info on prepositions):
 

Ich gehe in die Klasse [Acc.]. Ich bin in der Klasse [Dat.].
Ich gehe ans Fenster [Acc.]. Ich stehe am Fenster [Dat.].

Ich will nicht unter mein Bett gehen [Acc.]. Unter meinem Bett ist ein Monster [Dat.].

Genitive

For expressing possession--note the word order is not like English:
 
Das ist der Hut des Mannes. Das ist der Porsche meiner Schwester. Dtv Lexikon [=dictionary] der deutschen Sprache. Hast du das Nummernschild [=licence plate] des Autos gesehen? Der Sponsor des zweiten "O"s im "Hollywood" Zeichen in Los Angeles ist Alice Cooper (zu Ehren von [=in honor of] Groucho Marx); der Sponsor des "Y"s ist Hugh Hefner.
Don't confuse genitive and possessive adjectives:
 
Das ist sein Hut. Das ist ihr Porsche. [No genitive!--the possessive adjective ("his," "her") already indicates possession]
Die Farbe meines Hutes ist schwarz. Das sind die Schlüssel [=keys] ihres Autos. [possessive adjective in the genitive!--the color of his hat; the keys of her car]

Also use the Genitive after the Genitive prepositions (click here for more info on prepositions):
 

(an)statt, trotz, während, wegen, außer-/inner-/ober-/unterhalb, diesseits/jenseits/beiderseits

Note that the Dative is increasingly being used instead of the Genitive, especially in spoken German, after the prepositions (an)statt, trotz, während, and wegen.



   
 

Site Index | Site Questions or Notice Errors | © 2003