LearnPlus German Grammar Guide
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Cases
 


Definition - The German language has four cases. This means that words like articles, nouns, adjectives, and pronouns change their spelling depending on how they are used in a sentence. The cases indicate the function of these words. In other languages, the function is represented by the order of the words in the sentence or by the use of prepositions. In German, instead, words change their ending.

For speakers of languages that do not have cases, it may be hard to understand how the cases work in German. You can get easily confused, especially if you try to learn all the cases at the same time. The best way to master the cases is to focus on one case at the time and practice it until it becomes natural to use it correctly. This is the effective method used in the LearnPlus German courses.


Types - German has the following cases: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive.

The nominative case indicates the subject of a finite verb: the person or thing that is or does what the verb says is always expressed in the nominative case. This case is also used after the verb 'sein [to be]'.

Examples of nominative case:
             • Der schwarze Hund bellt. [The black dog is barking.]
             • Der Bus ist gelb. [The bus is yellow.]
             • Er ist mein Freund. [He is my friend.]

The accusative case denotes the direct object of a transitive verb. This case is also used in many greetings and after some prepositions used with verbs that indicate movement in a certain direction.

Examples of accusative case:
             • Ich höre den schwarzen Hund bellen. [I hear the black dog barking.]
             • Guten Morgen! [Good morning!]
             • Mein Freund Peter steigt in den gelben Bus. [My friend Peter steps into the yellow bus.]

The dative case indicates the indirect object of a transitive verb. This case is also used to express 'possession' and after some prepositions used with verbs that indicate 'rest' as opposed to movement.

Examples of dative case:
             • Ich gebe dem schwarzen Hund einen Knochen. [I give a bone to the black dog.]
             • Inge ist die Besitzerin von dem Hund. [Inge is the owner of the dog.]
             • Peter sitzt in dem gelben Bus. [Peter is sitting in the yellow bus.]

The genitive case is used to link words in the sentence. The main function of this case is to indicate 'possession'.

Examples of genitive case:
             • Der Knochen des schwarzen Hundes ist groß. [The bone of the black dog is big.]
             • Das ist Inges Hund. [This is Inge's dog.]
             • Peter ist der Fahrer des gelben Busses. [Peter is the driver of the yellow bus.]

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