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The endings on the definite
articles spell out the mneumonic
RESE NESE MRMN SRSR
("reesee neesee mermen sirsir").
These article endings are
known as strong endings.





















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Language Learning Software

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Whereas German uses cases
to identify the functions of
nouns and pronouns in a
sentence, English relies
on word order to perform
this task.

German cases

Definite & indefinite articles & possessive adjectives


The German case system

When used in a sentence, German nouns and pronouns take cases. The case of a noun or pronoun signifies its function in the sentence, that is, whether it is acting as the subject or an object, or whether it is acting in some other capacity.

There are four cases in German: Nominative, Accusative, Dative, and Genitive. Each case signifies a specific range of functions. To identify the case of a noun, one normally must look at the determiners that precede it, words like the, a, an, this, every, etc. These words are called articles.


The cases | Definite articles | Indefinite articles | Possessive adjectives
Nominative case | Accusative case | Dative case | Genitive case
GRAMMAR INDEX

Definite articles

You have already seen that the genders of German nouns are typically shown by way of an accompanying definite article: der (masculine), die (feminine), or das (neuter). These are the nominative case forms of the definite articles. When a noun is used in a different case, the form of its definite article may change. No matter the case or the inflected form, the definite article still means the.

  masculine feminine neuter plural
nominative der Mann die Frau das Kind die Kinder
accusative den Mann die Frau das Kind die Kinder
dative dem Mann der Frau dem Kind den Kindern
genitive des Mannes der Frau des Kindes der Kinder

The plural form of the definite article is identical to the feminine form in the nominative and accusative cases (die). Note that the noun is usually identifiable as either feminine or plural, because the plural noun itself has an altered form:

die Frau (singular) > die Frauen (plural)
die Tochter > die Töchter
die Blume > die Blumen

Also note that there are three instances where a noun itself takes on an ending to help signify its case:

1) Nouns in the dative plural add an -n, unless the plural form already ends in -n or -s.
nominative singular nominative plural dative plural
der Mann die Männer den Männern
die Mutter die Mütter den Müttern
der Freund die Freunde den Freunden
die Freundin die Freundinnen den Freundinnen
das Auto die Autos den Autos

2) Masculine and 3) neuter nouns in the genitive case add an -s or an -es suffix. One-syllable nouns typically add -es. Nouns with more than one syllable just add -s.

der Mann (nominative) > des Mannes (genitive)
der Wagen > des Wagens
das Buch > des Buches
das Telefon > des Telefons

These endings are vestiges of an older system of case inflection in which the nouns themselves altered their suffixes to signify case.


The cases | Definite articles | Indefinite articles | Possessive adjectives
Nominative case | Accusative case | Dative case | Genitive case
GRAMMAR INDEX

der-words

A number of words behave in their case inflection like the definite articles.

dieser (m), diese (f), dieses (n) this, these
jeder, jede, jedes each, every
welcher, welche, welches which
jener, jene, jenes that, those
mancher, manche, manches many
solcher, solche, solches such

Because these words are declined much like the definite articles, they are often referred to as der-words. The only difference is that in the neuter nominative and accusative, the article ending is -es instead of -as.

  masculine feminine neuter plural
nominative dieser Mann diese Frau dieses Kind diese Kinder
accusative diesen Mann diese Frau dieses Kind diese Kinder
dative diesem Mann dieser Frau diesem Kind diesen Kindern
genitive dieses Mannes dieser Frau dieses Kindes dieser Kinder

Just like the definite articles, these der-words precede nouns and indicate the case of the accompanying noun.


The cases | Definite articles | Indefinite articles | Possessive adjectives
Nominative case | Accusative case | Dative case | Genitive case
GRAMMAR INDEX

Indefinite articles or ein-words

Indefinite articles can also precede a noun and specify its case. The indefinite article ein and all of its inflectional variations mean a or an. Because of this, ein cannot be used with the plural form of a noun. Just as one would never say "a books" or "a children" in English, it is neither possible to combine ein or any variation of it with plural forms in German.

  masculine feminine neuter plural
nominative ein Mann eine Frau ein Kind Kinder
accusative einen Mann eine Frau ein Kind Kinder
dative einem Mann einer Frau einem Kind Kindern
genitive eines Mannes einer Frau eines Kindes Kinder

Although it is unacceptable to use the indefinite article with a plural form, the German article kein, which is inflected similarly to ein and means no, not a, can be and often is combined with plurals.

  masculine feminine neuter plural
nominative kein
Mann
keine
Frau
kein
Kind
keine
Kinder
accusative keinen
Mann
keine
Frau
kein
Kind
keine
Kinder
dative keinem
Mann
keiner
Frau
keinem
Kind
keinen
Kindern
genitive keines
Mannes
keiner
Frau
keines
Kindes
keiner
Kinder

As noted above with respect to definite articles, with indefinite articles, too, do the nouns themselves take endings in the dative plural (-n) and the genitive masculine and neuter (-[e]s).


The cases | Definite articles | Indefinite articles | Possessive adjectives
Nominative case | Accusative case | Dative case | Genitive case
GRAMMAR INDEX

Possessive adjectives

In addition to the der-words, ein, and kein, the possessive adjectives can also precede a noun and show its case.

mein, meine my
dein, deine your (informal, singular)
sein, seine his, its
ihr, ihre her, their
unser, unsere our
euer, eure your (informal, plural)
Ihr, Ihre your (formal, singular & plural)

As ein-words, the possessive adjectives follow the same declension pattern as kein.

  masculine feminine neuter plural
nominative mein
Mann
meine
Frau
mein
Kind
meine
Kinder
accusative meinen
Mann
meine
Frau
mein
Kind
meine
Kinder
dative meinem
Mann
meiner
Frau
meinem
Kind
meinen
Kindern
genitive meines
Mannes
meiner
Frau
meines
Kindes
meiner
Kinder


  masculine feminine neuter plural
nominative ihr
Bruder
ihre
Schwester
ihr
Kind
ihre
Geschwister
accusative ihren
Bruder
ihre
Schwester
ihr
Kind
ihre
Geschwister
dative ihrem
Bruder
ihrer
Schwester
ihrem
Kind
ihren
Geschwistern
genitive ihres
Bruders
ihrer
Schwester
ihres
Kindes
ihrer
Geschwister

Whenever the possessive adjective euer has an ending, the final e is dropped and the endings are added to the root eur-: euer Kind (nom. & acc., no ending), but eurem Kind (dat.), eures Kindes (gen.).

Remember that the nouns themselves take endings in the dative plural (-n) and the genitive masculine and neuter (-[e]s) regardless of the article with which the noun is used.


The cases | Definite articles | Indefinite articles | Possessive adjectives
Nominative case | Accusative case | Dative case | Genitive case
GRAMMAR INDEX


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