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The Four German Cases

Part 1: Summary

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

English also has cases, but they are only apparent with pronouns, not with nouns, as in German. When "he" changes to "him" in English, that's exactly the same thing that happens when der changes to den in German (and er changes to ihn). This allows German to have more flexibility in word order, as in the examples below, in which the nominative (subject) case is red:

Der Hund beißt den Mann. The dog bites the man.
Den Mann beißt der Hund. The dog bites the man.
Beißt der Hund den Mann? Is the dog biting the man?
Beißt den Mann der Hund? Is the dog biting the man?
Since English does not have the same case markers (der/den), it must depend on word order. If you say "Man bites dog" in English, rather than "Dog bites man," you change the meaning. In German the word order can be changed for emphasis (as above)—without altering the basic meaning.

The following charts show the four cases with the definite article (der, die, das), the indefinite article and the third-person pronouns (er, sie, es). Changes from the nominative (subject) case are indicated in red.

For more about each case, see the links below.

Definite Articles (the)
Nom der die das die
Akk den die das die
Dat dem der dem den
Gen des der des der
Indefinite Articles (a/an)
Nom ein eine ein keine*
Akk einen eine ein keine*
Dat einem einer einem keinen*
Gen eines einer eines keiner*
*Note: keine is the negative of eine, which has no plural form. But keine (no/none) can be used in the plural: "Er hat keine Bücher." (He has no books.) - "In Venedig gibt es keine Autos." (In Venice there are no cars.)

The Germanic word for each case reflects how that case functions in the use of forms of wer (who): der Werfall (nom.), der Wenfall (acc.), der Wemfall (dat.) and der Wesfall (gen.). For more details about each case and to read articles related to the cases, see the links below.

NEXT > Part 2: German Pronouns in the four cases

MORE > German Grammar Glossary - What is the nominative, dative...?

MORE > Nominative | Accusative | Dative | Genitive

Related Pages

Grammar Glossary
German grammar terms explained in plain English.

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.

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