Articles and Use of Cases

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Articles and Use of Cases

The word for "the" changes in German according to the gender of the noun. If you have learnt whether a word is der (m), die (f) or das (n) you will have no problems with knowing what to do with it.

Firstly, you need to know that the word for 'the' changes according to what it is doing in the sentence.

a) Nominative case:

If the noun is the subject of the verb, for instance, it is 'doing' the verb, then it is in the nominative case.

For example: Der Hund ist schwarz. Die Frau spielt Tennis.

  Masculine: Feminine: Neuter: Plural:
Nominative: der die das die

b) Accusative case:

When a noun is the object of the verb, for instance, it has the action of the verb done to it, then it is in the accusative case.

For example: Der Hund isst den Kuchen. (The cake is having the action done to it, so it is in the accusative case.)

  Masculine: Feminine: Neuter: Plural:
Nominative: der die das die
Accusative: den die das die

Note: From this table that the only difference between nominative and accusative is in the masculine - so that's easy to remember!

Some prepositions take the accusative case.

To see if you've got the hang of this, have a go at these sentences. Complete the sentences by typing in 'der' / 'den' / 'die' or 'das'. The genders are given so you don't have to worry about them:

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c) Genitive case:

The genitive case is mainly used to mean 'of'. When 'the' is in the genitive case, it means 'of the'. You don't need to use a separate word for 'of'.

  Masculine: Feminine: Neutral: Plural:
Nominative: der die das die
Accusative: den die das die
Genitive: des der des der

You need to add an '-s' to masculine and neuter nouns in the singular. If they only have one syllable, you need to add '-es'.

Das Kleid des Mädchens

Das Buch des Freundes

Some prepositions take the genitive case.

d) Dative case:

Dative for indirect object.

Verbs for saying, showing, giving, etc. often have an indirect object. For instance, the person or thing to whom something is said, shown, given, etc.

For example: Ich gebe dem Baby das Spielzeug. (I'm giving the baby the toy).

The subject of the verb 'gebe' is 'ich'. The object of the verb 'gebe' is 'das Spielzeug' - this is what is being given and so it is in the accusative case. We are also told to whom the toy is given (dem Baby) and this is the indirect object. The indirect object is in the dative case.

If a sentence contains both a direct and an indirect object in the form of a noun, then the indirect object (the dative) always comes first.

Ich gebe dem Baby das Spielzeug
  (indirect object) (direct object)

  Masculine: Feminine: Neuter: Plural:
Nominative: der die das die
Accusative: den die das die
Genitive: des der des der
Dative: dem der dem den

If the noun is in the dative plural then you need to add an extra '-n' or '-en' to the noun itself.

For example: Was geben wir den Kindern?

Some prepositions take the dative case.

In German, there are different words for 'a' depending on whether a noun is masculine, feminine or neuter. Look at the rules for the use of cases under the 'Definite Article'. They are the same for the indefinite article.

This is the indefinite article:

  Masculine: Feminine: Neuter:
Nominative: ein eine ein
Accusative: einen eine ein
Genitive: eines einer eines
Dative: einem einer einem

Here is a little bit of practice of the nominative and accusative cases. Type in the correct word in each sentence - 'ein' / 'einen' / 'eine'. The genders are shown so they won't cause you any problems:

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Kein

In German, you can't say 'nicht ein'. You have to say 'kein'. The endings for 'kein' are the same as for 'ein', although there is also a plural.

For example:

Ich habe kein Heft = I don't have an exercise book / I have no exercise book.

Ich habe keine Schuhe = I don't have any shoes / I have no shoes.

  Masculine: Feminine: Neuter: Plural:
Nominative: kein keine kein keine
Accusative: keinen keine kein keine
Genitive: keines keiner keines keiner
Dative: keinem keiner keinem keinen

Have a go at these sentences, which are just to do with the nominative and accusative cases. The genders of the nouns are given, so you don't have to worry about those. Complete each sentence by typing in 'kein' / 'keinen' / 'keine':

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