have at this point learned a variety of rules about case,
which seem sometimes to contradict each other. The key is
that any given noun will be EITHER
order to know which rule to apply to a given noun, you need
first to decide how that noun got into the sentence.
subject, direct object or indirect object of a verb, OR
object of a preposition. Prepositional objects are just
that: objects of a preposition, NOT subject or object of
...can usually bring only two nouns into the sentence: the subject
(person doing the action) and the direct object (person or thing
"being verbed"). The subject will be nominative, the direct
object is in the accusative:
Maschine [Nom] produziert den SPAM
Der SPAM [Nom] verpestet
[=filthily pollutes] die Umwelt [Acc].
[=savors] der Deutschprofessor [Nom] den SPAM
Dann schläft er
verbs can have two objects, one direct (accusative) and one
indirect (dative). In this case, the person or thing "being
verbed" is still the direct, accusative object, while the
recipient or beneficiary of the action (usually a person)
is the indirect, dative object:
früh hat Marlene Dietrich [Nom] mir
[Dat] einen Kuss [Acc] gegeben.
Ich [Nom] zeige
meinen Freunden [Dat] den Lippenabdruck
[lip prints, Acc].
Sie [Nom] empfehlen
[=recommend] mir [Dat] einen Psychiater
a few special verbs are "dative verbs": for no good reason,
the thing "being verbed" is in the dative case for these verbs.
There are only a few "dative verbs"; the most common are danken,
glauben, helfen, gefallen and schmecken,
and since you learn them specially, they should stand out
to you when they come up:
Kriminellen [Nom] helfen dem korrupten
Bitte glaub mir [Dat]:
deine Tätowierung [Nom] gefällt
mir [Dat] sehr!
Dem Seemann Popeye [Dat]
schmeckt Spinat [Nom] sehr gut.
each verb only brings one, two, or at most three nouns into
the sentence, where do the other nouns come from? They are brought
into the sentence by prepositions.
the name "pre-positions" indicates, prepositions always come
right before the noun or pronoun they bring into the sentence,
and are in fact inseparable from it. They are like thumb-tacks
attaching the noun to the sentence: without them, the noun
would fall out J (==> a preposition at the end of a sentence
in German is not a preposition at all, but rather must be
part of a separable verb, as in "Ich komme um 9 Uhr
an."!). Hence it is easy to tell if a noun is
in a sentence because of a verb or because of a preposition:
der Klasse [Dat] springe ich [Nom; not brought in by
a preposition] stundenlang ohne Schuhe [Acc]
mit meinen Freundinnen [Dat] auf meinem
only ich is not preceded by a preposition. All the
other nouns are brought into the sentence by the prepositions
nach, in, mit, and auf. They are
thus objects of those prepositions, and those prepositions
determine their case, NOT the verb. So even though I am jumping
on the bed, the bed is NOT the object of the verb springen:
it is the object of the preposition auf.
the noun is in the sentence because it is the object of a
preposition, then it is easy to determine its case:
following the accusative prepositions (ohne,
für, um, durch, gegen, bis...) are in the accusative
following the dative prepositions (aus,
außer, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu...) are
dative (even if the dative preposition describes
a motion, like zu in "Wir gehen zum
Bahnhof," or von in "Ich komme von der
following the two-way prepositions (in,
auf, unter, über, vor, hinter, neben, zwischen,
an, entlang...) are
MOTION--if the action is moving towards
or away from them
LOCATION--if the action is located
facts about two-way prepositions are summarized
by this nonsense mnemonic: "Accusative-Cruisative;
can practice applying this with any text whatsoever: ask yourself
for each noun if it is preceded by a preposition. If yes,
that preposition determines its case; if not, it is there
because of a verb and then the verb determines its case.
here for more info on prepositions
fall into two categories:
Time expressions involving a preposition
it is an accusative or dative preposition, the noun is in
the accusative or dative accordingly:
einen Monat [Acc], um 4 Uhr [Acc], nach Mitternacht
it is a two-way preposition, the noun is always in the dative:
Montag, in einer Woche, vor zwei Jahren
Time expressions not involving prepositions
always use accusative:
waren einen Monat in Berlin. Von München
nach Berlin sind wir sechs Stunden gefahren.
Zwei Tage haben wir bei meiner Mutter gewohnt.
Den Rest der Zeit waren wir in einem Hotel.
the last example above, "Den Rest der Zeit waren wir in einem
Hotel," the noun "Zeit" is in the genitive; the phrase means
"the rest of the time."
in the genitive work quite differently and should stand out
for that reason. They are in fact brought into the sentence
not by a verb or a preposition, but by another noun, the thing
or person "owned," which itself may be in any of the four
Hut des Mannes ist schön.
Ich möchte den Hut
des Mannes kaufen.
Mit dem Hut des Mannes
würde ich gut aussehen.
Die Farbe des Hutes des
Mannes gefällt mir sehr.
all of the above cases, the noun "des Mannes" is brought into
the sentence by the noun "der Hut" (which itself is in a variety
of cases), which the man owns. In each case "des Mannes" means
"of the man," usually expressed in English as "the man's."