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The Four German Cases

The Genitive Case

Summary | Nominative | Accusative | Genitive
Werfall | Wenfall | Wemfall | Wesfall
Nominativ | Akkusativ | Dativ | Genitiv

Der Genitiv • Der Wesfall

Also see: The genitive case with prepositions

The genitive case in German shows possession and is expressed in English by the possessive "of" or an apostrophe-s ('s). The genitive case is also used with some verb idioms and with the genitive prepositions. The genitive is used more in written German than in spoken form. In spoken, everyday German, von plus the dative often replaces the genitive: Das Auto von meinem Bruder = My brother's car.

You can tell that a noun is in the genitive case by the article, which changes to des/eines (masculine and neuter) or der/einer (feminine and plural). Since the genitive only has two forms (des or der), you only need to learn those two. However, in the masculine and neuter, there is also an additional noun ending, either -es or -s:

das Auto meines Bruders
my brother's car (the car of my brother)
die Bluse des Mädchens
the girl's blouse (the blouse of the girl)
der Titel des Filmes (Films)
the title of the film
Feminine and plural nouns do not add an ending in the genitive. The feminine genitive (der/einer) is identical to the feminine dative. The one-word genitive article usually translates as two words (of the / of a/an) in English.

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Definite Articles (the)
Fall
Case
Masc. Neu. Fem. Plur.
Nom der das die die
Gen des (-es/s)* der
Indefinite Article (a/an)
Nom ein ein eine keine
Gen eines (-es/s)* (k)einer
*Note: Some masc. nouns add an -en or -n ending in the genitive and in all other cases besides the nominative.
Adjective endings: In the genitive case, adjectives almost always have an -en ending. Examples: des neuen Autos, der hohen Kosten

The Germanic word for the genitive case is der Wesfall. The question word in the genitive is wessen (whose): Wessen Buch hast du? (Whose book do you have?)

When showing possession with the names of people, countries or cities, German adds an s (without an apostrophe): Karls Haus, Marias Buch, die Geschichte Deutschlands (Germany's history). Unfortunately, many German-speakers have adopted the English practice of using an apostrophe (Karl's Auto) for the possessive forms, but it is still considered to be substandard German.

Genitive Expressions
The genitive is used in some idiomatic expressions.

Ende der Woche gehen wir.
At the end of the week we're going.
Ich muss das Anfang des Monats bezahlen.
I have to pay that at the start of the month.

For more examples, see A Closer Look at the Genitive Case, an article by your Guide.

Genitive Prepositions
The genitive is also used with certain prepositions. For more, see The Genitive with Prepositions

NEXT > Genitive Prepositions

CASES > Summary | Nominative | Accusative | Dative | Genitive


Related Pages

Grammar Glossary
German grammar terms explained in plain English.

A Closer Look at the Genitive Case
An article that examines a few important details concerning the genitive case.

Adjective Endings (1)
The German adjective endings in the nominative case.

Adjective Endings (2)
The German adjective endings in the accusative and dative cases.

German Word Order
A helpful guide to German syntax.

More German Grammar


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