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Case endings have mutated
extensively over time under a
variety of influences -- so much
so that case endings in the
dialects of German spoken 1000
years ago scarcely resemble
those in the case system of
modern German.

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Noun cases in German

The genitive case

The cases | Definite articles | der-words | Indefinite articles | Possessive adjectives
Summary of the cases | Nominative case | Accusative case | Dative case | Genitive case | GRAMMAR INDEX

The genitive case has four functions. It is widely rumored that the genitive case is falling out of usage in German. This statement only applies conditionally to certain functions of the genitive; these will be noted below.

1) Possession & relationships

The genitive case indicates that noun belongs to or bears some kind of relationship with someone or something. The genitive is rendered in English as a possessive with an 's or with the preposition of.
Die Farbe meiner Augen ist blau. 
The color of my eyes is blue.
The genitive specifies that a quality --the color -- "of my eyes" is being discussed.
Der Beruf des Mannes ist Arzt. 
The profession of the man is doctor.
The genitive "of the man" indicates whose profession is being discussed.
Der Bruder meiner Freundin heißt Lars. 
My girlfriend's brother is named Lars.
The genitive "of my girlfriend" indicates whose brother is being discussed.
Note that the genitive construction typically follows the noun that it modifies (like the English construction using of). An exception to this is the use of proper names in the genitive, which simply add an -s or, if the name already ends in -s, an apostrophe.
Susans Kusine kommt zu Besuch.
Arnold Schwarzeneggars Heimatstadt ist Thal in Österreich.
Hans' Auto ist in der Werkstatt.
In colloquial German, genitives denoting possession and relationships are sometimes replaced by von + the dative:
Die Farbe von meinen Augen ist blau.
Der Beruf von dem Mann ist Arzt.
Der Bruder von meiner Freundin heißt Lars.
Die Kusine von Susan kommt zu Besuch.
In formal standard German, however, the genitive of possession and relationships occurs frequently.

2) Object of a genitive preposition

The object of an accusative preposition takes the genitive case in formal standard German. These are some of the more common genitive prepositions:
(an)statt instead of jenseits on the other side of
anlässlich on the occasion of kraft by virtue of
anstelle in place of laut according to
aufgrund on the basis of seitens on the part of
außerhalb outside of trotz despite, in spite of
bezüglich with regard to während during
innerhalb within wegen because of

Er wohnt außerhalb der Stadt. 
He lives outside the city.
"The city" is the object of the genitive prep. außerhalb.
Trotz des Regens spielen wir Fußball. 
We're playing soccer despite the rain.
"The rain" is the object of the genitive prep. trotz.
Aufgrund dieses Fehlers wurde ich entlassen. 
I was fired on the basis of this mistake.
"This mistake" is the object of the genitive prep. aufgrund.
In colloquial German, some of these prepositions -- wegen, während, trotz, laut -- are frequently used with the dative, although this is generally regarded as incorrect in standard formal written German. Note, however, that the genitive and dative forms of feminine nouns are identical.

For more information on prepositions, see the German prepositions page.

3) Object of a genitive verb or genitive construction

A number of verbs, adjectives, and idiomatic expressions require a genitive object in German. There used to be many more such genitive expressions in German (as in English to avail oneself of, to take note of), but these have become replaced over time with other verbs and prepositional phrases. In general, the genitive verbs that are still used convey a highly educated tone.
sich annehmen to see to sich enthalten to refrain from
sich bedienen to make use of gedenken to think of
bedürfen to be in need of sich rühmen to boast of
sich bemächtigen to take control of sich vergewissern to make certain of
Er bedient sich einer Metapher. 
He makes use of a metaphor.
"A metaphor" is the genitive obj. of the verb sich bedienen.
Hartholzmöbel bedürfen einer besondern Pflege.
Hard wood furniture is in need of special care.
"Special care" is the genitive obj. of the verb bedürfen.
In addition to the genitive verbs, a number of adjectives and other idiomatic phrases are used with genitive objects. Here are some of them:
bedürftig in need sicher certain
bewusst conscious verdächtig suspicious
gewiß certain wert worth
schuldig guilty würdig worthy
Notice that the genitive objects that accompany these adjectives are often rendered in English with an accompanying "of". There is no need to add an additional preposition to the German sentence, since these meanings are included when the noun or pronoun is declined in the genitive case.
Sie ist des Mordes schuldig. 
She is guilty of the murder.
"(Of) the murder" is the genitive object of the adjective "guilty".
Es ist der Mühe nicht wert. 
It is not worth the effort.
"The effort" is the genitive object of the adjective "worth".
Anna war sich der Gefahr bewusst. 
Anna was aware of the danger.
"(Of) the danger" is the genitive object of the adjective "aware".

4) Expressions of indefinite time

Expressions of non-specific time that are (1) not adverbs (e.g., irgendwann, manchmal) and (2) not governed by a preposition (e.g., seit einer Ewigkeit) take the genitive case.
Eines Tages besuchen wir München. 
Someday we'll visit Munich.
"Someday" is an expression of indefinite time.
Eines Abends war ich bei Freunden. 
One evening I was at my friends' place.
"One evening" is an expression of indefinite time.

Nouns in the GENITIVE CASE

Finally, here are some examples of nouns in the genitive case. Genitive pronouns are used infrequently and only in elevated speech. Words and endings in red indicate a change in form from the dative.
Nouns Personal Pronouns
masculine feminine neuter plural
des Onkels
dieses Onkels
eines Onkels
keines Onkels
unseres Onkels
der Tante
dieser Tante
einer Tante
keiner Tante
unserer Tante
des Buches
dieses Buches
eines Buches
keines Buches
unseres Buches
der Kinder
dieser Kinder
keiner Kinder
unserer Kinder
not commonly used in the genitive case

The cases | Definite articles | Indefinite articles | Possessive adjectives
Summary of the cases | Nominative case | Accusative case | Dative case | Genitive case

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