The Four Cases

What are Cases (Kasus)?

Definition: German grammar knows Four cases. The nouns written in the sentence have different functions. Depending on the function, the noun has a different case. So, the case explains what function the Noun has an how it relates to the other words.

The Case (Kasus) explains the function of the noun and its relationship to the other words. 

In this lesson I explain the German cases in a simple and easy to understand way. For each case (Kasus) there is a detailed explanation, including declension, usage, Verbs and Prepositions with the corresponding case.

German has "only" 4 cases:

Recommendation: Color Codes

On all pages, the four cases will be marked in these four colors: NominativeAccusativeDativeGenitive.

I recommend you to use the same or similar color codes. This will save you a lot of space in your vocabulary list and with the help of the colors you can remember for example verbs or prepositions with certain German cases much better. Your brain stores the color code and thus the case subconsciously while reading.

Example:

  • Das Pferd ist weiß.“   (das Pferd = Nominative)
  • Das Pferd des Reiters ist weiß.“  (des Reiters = Genitive)
  • Der Mann schenkt der Frau das Pferd.“ (der Frau = Dative)  (das Pferd = Accusative)

This lesson gives an overview of the German cases. The specifics on usage and more examples can be found in the individual, detailed lessons on the Nominative, Accusative, Dative and Genitive.

Which words can get a case (Kasus)?

Every noun (=Substantive) ALWAYS has a case.

In addition, all words that belong to the word group of the noun (Articles and Adjectives) also get the case of the noun. Words that replace a noun (Pronouns) also get the noun's case as well.


⇒ Nouns (N-Declension), Pronoun, Articles and Adjective (Adjective Declension) must be changed according to their case.

  • Der Vater geht morgen mit dem Kind in die Schule.“

How to determine the case?

In Principle:

  • The Noun's function in the sentence
  • The Verb determines the case. (=Verbs with Complements)
  • The Preposition determines the case.

The Four German cases (Kasus):

Nominative

  • The Nominative Case is the basic form of Nouns and describes the subject of the sentence (the person or thing that is acting or is talked about).
  • The subject tells you how to conjugate the Verb.
  • The question for the Nominative Case is „Wer?“ or „Was?“
  • We use the Nominative case also after the verbs: „sein“, „werden“ and „bleiben“. (Warning: In this case, it is NOT the subject! - (Verbs with Nominative)

Articles and Adjectives must be adapted to the case:

  • der große Mann“
  • die große Frau“
  • das große Kind“
  • die großen Familien“

Recommendation: Nominative

For more detailed explanations of the Nominative case, please go to the following lesson: German Cases - The Nominative Case.

Accusative

Articles and Adjectives must be adapted to the case:

  • den großen Mann“
  • die große Frau“
  • das große Kind“
  • die großen Familien“
Recommendation: Accusative

For more detailed explanations of the Accusative case, please go to the following lesson: German Cases - The Accusative Case.

Other interesting lessons are Verbs with Accusative, Prepositions with Accusative, Two-Part Prepositions and Exercises on the Accusative.

Dative

Articles and Adjectives must be adapted to the case:

  • dem großen Mann“
  • der großen Frau“
  • dem großen Kind“
  • den großen Familien“

Recommendation: Dative

For more detailed explanations of the Dative case, please go to the following lesson: German Cases - The Dative Case.

Other interesting lessons include Verbs with Dative, Prepositions with Dative, Two-Part Prepositions, and Exercises on the Dative.

Genitive

Articles and Adjectives must be adapted to the case:

  • des großen Mannes
  • der großen Frau“
  • des großen Kindes
  • der großen Familien“

Recommendation: Genitive

For more detailed explanations of the Genitive case, please go to the following lesson: German Cases - The Genitive Case.

Other interesting lessons include Verbs with Genitives, Prepositions with Genitives, and Exercises on Genitives.

Summary Case (Kasus):

Related Topics:

Detailed explanations of the individual German cases:

The following things need to be adjusted (declined) based on the case:

The following things affect the case:

You can find an overview of all topics under German Grammar. 

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