Willkommen zurück! In my last post, I explained three of the four German cases: the nominative, accusative and dative. So today I thought it only makes sense to present the fourth case, which is the genitive case, and finish off the topic with a little summary.

The genitive case indicates possession. In English, possession is usually indicated by the ending s or the preposition “of.” In German, you recognize the genitive by article forms and sometimes by noun endings. The genitive answers the question wessen? (whose?).

Note that the noun in the genitive case follows the noun which it modifies.

The articles for masculine nouns are des and eines
The articles for feminine nouns are der and einer
The articles for neuter nouns are des and eines
The definite article for plural nouns is der

“-s” is added to masculine and neuter nouns:

Er ist der Sohn des Lehrers (He’s the teacher’s son)

“-es” is added to masculine and neuter nouns that:

  • have one syllable: 

Der Schluss des Buches ist sehr überrraschend (The book’s ending is very surprising)

Die Frau des Mannes ist Ärztin (The man’s wife is a doctor)

  • end with s, ß, x, z:

Eine Katze sitzt auf dem Dach des Hauses (There’s a cat sitting on the roof of the house)

The genitive is the least frequently used case, seen mostly in written German. In spoken German, the genitive is often replaced by the dative. So you commonly hear people say “von dem” instead of “des,” e.g. der Sohn von dem Lehrer. Though this is grammatically not exactly correct, it has become so common that people don’t bother about it. So you see even native speakers are confused by the rules 😉

To finish off the topic, here’s a short recap of the four cases:

Der Nominativ

  • is the subject 
  • answers the question “wer oder was?” (who or what?)
  • Usually comes first in a sentence

Der Genitiv

  • shows belonging/ possession
  • answers the question wessen? (whose?)
  • -s / -es has to be added to masculine and neuter nouns 
  • articles change in all genders and in the plural

Der Dativ

  • is the indirect object
  • answers the question “wem oder was?” (to whom or what?)
  • -n has to be added to plural nouns that doesn’t end in -s or -n
  • articles change in all genders and in the plural

Der Akkusativ 

  • is the direct object
  • answers the question “wen oder was?” (who or what?)
  • Only masculine singular articles chance
NominativGenitiv DativAkkusativ
masculineder / eindes / einesdem / einemden / einen
femininedie / eineder / einerder / einerdie / eine
neuterdas / eindes / einesdem / einemdas / ein
pluraldie / —der / —den / —die / —

Let me know if you found this helpful and what further topics you’d be interested in!


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