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The Four German Cases

The Nominative Case

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

Der Nominativ • Der Werfall

The nominative case—in German and in English—is the subject of a sentence. The term nominative is from Latin and means to name (think of "nominate").

All German nouns have one of three possible genders: masculine (der), feminine (die) or neuter (das). The nominative plural of any gender is always die (pron. DEE). These gender words are also called definite articles ("the").

The most common gender in German is the masculine. (Keep that in mind the next time you're guessing.). These gender forms—der, die, das—are the nominative forms. They are the article or gender that is found in a German dictionary, but they may change form (be "declined") when in one of the other three German cases.

In English, only persons and personal pronouns have gender, with rare exceptions ("she's a good ship"). In German, every noun (person, place or thing), whether it refers to a tree, a thought, a planet, a car or a man (all masculine nouns in German), has a gender. However, it is the word (das Wort), not the object or concept itself, that has gender. For more about German gender, see the article Gender Hints and Lektion 3 of German for Beginners - Nouns and Gender.

In the examples below, the nominative word or expression is in red:

Der Hund beißt den Mann. The dog bites the man.
Dieser Gedanke ist blöd. This thought is stupid.
Meine Mutter ist Architektin. My mother is an architect.

The nominative case can also be found in the predicate, as in the last example. The verb "is" acts like an equal sign (my mother = architect). But the nominative is most often the subject of a sentence.

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Definite Articles (the)
Fall
Case
Masc. Fem. Neu. Plur.
Nom der
the
die
the
das
the
die
the
Third Person Pronouns (he, she, it, they)
Nom
er
he
sie
she
es
it
sie
they
Notice that each pronoun ends in the same letter as its corresponding definite article? (der/er, r/e/s/e)
Interrogative Pronouns (questions)
Nom
(people)
wer?
who?
wer? wer? wer?
Nom
(things)
was?
what?
was? was? was?

Indefinite Articles (a, an)
Fall
Case
Masc. Fem. Neu. Plur.
Nom ein
a/an
eine
a/an
ein
a/an
keine*
no/none
*Note: keine is the negative of eine, which has no plural form. But keine (no/none) can be used in the plural: "Keine Autos dürfen hier fahren." (No cars can be used here.)

The Germanic word for the nominative case, der Werfall, reflects the der gender and the question word wer (who): Wer hat mich gestern gesehen? (Who saw me yesterday?)

For more case details read our pages related to each case, see our Grammar Glossary, and use the links below.

NEXT > The Accusative Case

MORE > Summary | Nominative | Accusative | Dative | Genitive


Related Pages

Gender Hints
There actually are ways to avoid guessing at the gender of German nouns. An article from your Guide.

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

Grammar Glossary
German grammar terms explained in plain English.

German for Beginners Course - Adjectives and Colors
Lesson 5 in our online course for German.

German for Beginners - Nouns and Gender
Lesson 3 in our online course for German.

German Word Order
A helpful guide to German syntax.

More German Grammar

German Word of the Day
Das Wort des Tages: a new German word each day - in German and English.


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