Warning: This section is being created primarily through the use of two textbooks, and a few other sources. There may be errors and misunderstandings on my part. Feel free to correct them.
In German all nouns are capitalized and are one of three genders (masculine, feminine, or neuter) which are signified by the articles der, die, and das, or the indefinite articles ein, eine.
Plural nouns can be signified by either the use of the definite article "die", the endings -e, -er, -n, -en, the addition of an umlaut to a medial vowel, or any combination of the three.
English speakers benefit from sharing numerous true and partial cognates. Understanding the consonant relationships between English and German will help you recognize them. There are also several false cognates Below is a table you can use to see and practice the consonant shift.
|German||English||Guess the English|
(medial or final)
(initial, medial or final)
|p, pp||der Pfeffer
|b (medial or final)||v, f||das Silber
|g||y, i||der Weg
|k||ch, c||der Käsedie Klasse|
|s, ss, ß||t||eine Straßedas Wasser
|tz, z||t||eine Katze
In German nouns are often combined to create more complex words:
- krank (sick) + das Haus (house) = das krankenhaus (hospital)
- die Hand (hand) + der Schuh (shoe) = der Handschuh (glove)
Sometimes -(e)s- or -(e)n- is used to connect the two words. The gender and plurality of a compound noun is determined by the ending component:
- Krankenhäuser (hospitals)
- Handschuhe (gloves)
There are 4 cases in German: nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative. They are indicated by inflections of the pronoun, noun or noun phrase. The function of the cases is to indicate the role of a noun in a sentence and its relationship to other components. Because of these cases German has a very flexible word-order compared to English which uses word order and prepositions to compensate for it's lack of cases.
To get a hang of the cases it is useful to read sentences and break them down by case. The following examples will have the nominative in plain text, the genitive in italics, the dative underlined, and the accusative in bold.
- Der Hund meines Bruders bringt ihm die Zeitung.
- Die Lehrerin hat den Eltern dieses Studenten einen Brief geschickt
The nominative case marks the subject of the finite verb:
- Der Wagen fährt sehr schnell
- Die Brüder Grimm und ihre Märchen unterhalten Kinder und Erwachsene noch heute.
It is also used for nouns or pronouns in isolation:
- Und du, was meinst du dazu
- Dein Onkel, wann siehst due ihn wieder?
and after certain verbs (sein, werden, etc.)
- Ich will ein Schuft heißen
- Horst ist sein bester Freund
The genitive case expresses possession or relationship and usually follows the noun on which it depends:
- Ich höre die Stimme der Frau (I hear the woman's voice)
- das Haus meines Bruders (My brother's house)
In in case of proper names, or old-fashioned literary style the genitive may come first:
- Deutschlands Grenzen (Germany's borders)
- seiner Vorfahren großes altes Haus (His ancestor's large, old house)
In colloquial speech it is common to replace the genitive with "von" and the dative, but there are also areas of written German that use "von" instead of the genitive.
- das Haus von meinem Bruder
- Er schämt sich von seinem Armut (He is ashamed of his poverty)
The dative is the case of the indirect object and has the widest range of all German cases.
The accusative case marks the direct object
Regular nouns are declined as follows:
|German German Grammar|