Cases in German: Easily Explained

Cases in German: Easily Explained


Outline of the Article

1: Introduction to Cases in German     
2: Overview of the Four German Cases     
     2.1: Nominative Case     
     2.2: Genitive Case     
     2.3: Dative Case     
     2.4: Accusative Case     
3: The Role of Cases in German Grammar     
4: Declension of German Articles     
     4.1: Definite Articles     
     4.2: Indefinite Articles     
5: Nominative Case in Detail     
     5.1: Function     
     5.2: Examples     
6: Genitive Case in Detail      
     6.1: Function     
     6.2: Examples     
7: Dative Case in Detail     
      7.1: Function     
      7.2: Examples     
8: Accusative Case in Detail     
      8.1: Function     
      8.2: Examples     
9: Using Cases with German Prepositions     
      9.1: Dative Prepositions     
      9.2: Accusative Prepositions     
      9.3: Two-Way Prepositions      9.4: Genitive Prepositions     
10: Cases and German Pronouns     
11: Tips for Mastering German Cases     
12: Common Mistakes to Avoid     
13: Conclusion     
14: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Introduction to Cases in German


Learning German involves mastering its cases. The German language has four cases: Nominative, Accusative, Dative, and Genitive. Understanding these cases is crucial for proper communication. This article will explore the four German cases, their role in grammar, and how to use them effectively.


German Cases Chart

Here you can see a chart of the four cases in German. At the beginning of this article, you can read in short about the cases. Later on, you get a detailed explanation with examples for each case. 

Nominative Case

The nominative case marks the subject of a sentence. which is the person or thing performing the action. You can ask who or what to find the nominative.

Genitive Case

The genitive case shows possession or relationships between nouns.

Dative Case

The dative case indicates an interaction between the subject and the object.

Accusative Case

The accusative case does not have any interaction between the subject and the object.


The Role of Cases in German Grammar

In German grammar, cases play a vital role in determining the function and relationship of words within a sentence. By correctly applying cases, you can ensure that your sentences are clear, accurate, and easy to understand.

Cases can alter the form of nouns, pronouns, and even adjectives, depending on their function in a sentence. This process is called declension. For example, German articles (both definite and indefinite) and personal pronouns change their form based on the case they are in. As a result, mastering cases and declensions are crucial for anyone learning German.

Understanding cases also help you using prepositions correctly. In German, specific prepositions require the use of certain cases. Knowing which case to use with each preposition is essential to form accurate and meaningful sentences.

Declension of German Articles

First, you can get information about the declension of definite and then infinite articles in the German language.

Definite Articles

 Declension of the German definite articles

German definite articles change according to the case they're in. For example, "der" (masculine) becomes "den" in the accusative case and "dem" in the dative case.

Indefinite Articles

 Declination of the German indefinite articles

Indefinite articles also change depending on the case. "Ein" (masculine) changes to "einen" in the accusative case and "einem" in the dative case.

Nominative Case in Detail


The nominative case is used for the sentence's subject, the one performing the action. You can ask who or what to figure out the nominative.


Der MannDer Mann geht spazieren.
Die FrauDie Frau lächelt.
Das KindDas Kind spielt.
Die KatzeDie Katze schläft.
Der HundDer Hund bellt.
Der LehrerDer Lehrer unterrichtet.
Die SchülerinDie Schülerin lernt.
Das AutoDas Auto fährt.
Die BlumeDie Blume blüht.
Der VogelDer Vogel singt.

German Nominative Quiz

Would you like to practice your knowlege about the Nominative in German in quizzes? You can find the newest German Nominative quiz: here

Genitive Case in Detail


The genitive case shows possession or relationships between nouns.


des MannesDas Auto des Mannes ist blau.
der FrauDie Tasche der Frau ist rot.
des KindesDas Spielzeug des Kindes liegt auf dem Boden.
der KatzeDie Schüssel der Katze ist leer.
des HundesDie Leine des Hundes ist lang.
des LehrersDas Buch des Lehrers ist interessant.
der SchülerinDie Hausaufgaben der Schülerin sind fertig.
des AutosDie Farbe des Autos ist grün.
der BlumeDer Duft der Blume ist betörend.
des VogelsDas Lied des Vogels ist wunderschön.

Dative Case in Detail


The dative case is used if there is no interaction between the subject and the object. You can ask "to whom or for whom"to figure out the dative case.

As a German, you learn the question: "wem oder was" (whom or what) to see a dative. The difficulty is that the accusative question: "wen oder was" has the same translation (whom or what),Many grammar books are referring to dative as the indirect and accusative as the direct object which can make it very confusing to understand the differences of dative and accusative.


dem MannIch gebe dem Mann ein Geschenk.
der FrauSie hilft der Frau beim Einkaufen.
dem KindEr liest dem Kind eine Geschichte vor.
dirIch antworte dir.
der MutterDer Junge glaubt der Mutter.
dem LehrerDie Schülerin gibt dem Lehrer das Heft.
der SchülerinDer Lehrer erklärt der Schülerin die Aufgabe.
dem AutoEr stellt sein Fahrrad neben dem Auto ab.
der BlumeSie gießt Wasser auf die Erde neben der Blume.
ihrDu stimmst ihr zu.

Accusative Case in Detail


In the accusative case, there is an interaction between the subject and the object. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out the accusative and dative. 

One advanced trick to finding an accusative is to form the sentence from active to passive. In a passive clause, the accusative becomes the subject in a sentence, and the nominative the dative object. 

In the sentence: Die Mutter gibt der Tochter das Geschenk. The passive sentence would be: Das Geschenk wird der Tochter von der Mutter gegeben. You can see that the accusative became a nominative and that the dative still is dative.


den BallIch werfe den Ball.
die BlumeEr pflückt die Blume.
das BuchSie liest das Buch.
die KatzeWir streicheln die Katze.
den HundSie füttert den Hund.
den KuchenEr isst den Kuchen.
das AutoIch wasche das Auto.
die JackeDu trägst die Jacke.
den StuhlSie stellt den Stuhl um.
die FlascheEr öffnet die Flasche.

German Accusative Quiz

Did you understand the accusative in German? That is great! If you are not sure, you can find the latest German accusative quiz: here

Using Cases with German Prepositions

Two-way prepositions in German


Prepositions with Dative   

Dative PrepositionEnglish
beinear, with, at
zuto, at
außerexcept for, apart from
gegenüberopposite, across from
seitsince, for
ausfrom, out of
nachafter, to
abfrom, off

These are the most popular prepositions with dative. After a dative preposition comes a dative. You can read more about the German dative prepositions in detail: here. 


Das Kind geht mit der Mutter in das Kino. = The child goes with the mother to the cinema.  When you see one of the dative prepositions then you know that after this stands always a dative. 


Prepositions with Accusative


Accusative PrepositionEnglish
bisuntil, to
umaround,  at


Das Kind kocht für die Mutter das Essen. = The child cooks the food for the mother.  When you see one of the accusative prepositions then you know that after this stands always an accusative. 

You can read more about German accusative prepositions: here.


German Two-Way Prepositions (Wechselpräpositionen)

inin, into
aufon, onto
anat, on, to
vorin front of, before
nebennext to, beside
unterunder, below
überabove, over

The German two-way prepositions can be used with both dative and accusative cases. To determine whether it is a dative or accusative case, you can apply these rules: 

  1. Where? = Dative  Example: Das Mädchen ist in der Schule. The girl is in school. Where is the girl? She is in school. When you can ask for "where" then the dative is needed.   
  2. Where to? = Accusative Example: Das Mädchen geht in die Schule. The girl goes to school. Where does the girl go to? She goes to school. When you can ask for "where to" then the accusative is applied. 

You can read more about the German two-way prepositions in detail: here

German Two-Way Prepositions: Free Quiz

You can find a free Grammar quiz for the topic Two-Way Prepositions in German: here

German Genitive Prepositions


Genitive PrepositionEnglish
westlichwest of
nördlichnorth of
östlicheast of
südlichsouth of
wegenbecause of
aufgrunddue to, because of
anstattinstead of
infolgeas a result of
dankthanks to
auf Grunddue to
anlässlichon the occasion of
mangelsfor lack of
zwecksfor the purpose of
zu Gunstenin favor of

These genitive prepositions are the most common ones. They are normally used with a genitive, but in the spoken language people tend to use a dative for some of these prepositions instead.


Cases and German Pronouns


1st Personichmirmich
2nd Persondudirdich
3rd Person (he)erihmihn
3rd Person (she)sieihrsie
3rd Person (it)esihmes
1st Person Pluralwirunsuns
2nd Person Pluralihreucheuch
3rd Person Pluralsieihnensie
Formal Form (Sie)SieIhnenSie

As you can see in the chart German personal pronouns also change according to the case. For example, "ich" (I) becomes "mich" in the accusative case and "mir" in the dative case.


Tips for Mastering German Cases

  • Study the cases and their functions.
  • Learn the declensions of articles, nouns, and adjectives.
  • Practice with German prepositions.
  • Learn which prepositions and verbs are used with which case.
  • Practice writing and focus on the cases while doing it.
  • Do as many exercises as possible.


Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Confusing the dative and accusative cases.
  • Misusing prepositions with specific cases.
  • Mixing up pronoun declensions.
  • Not knowing two-way prepositions



German cases are an essential part of the language. By understanding the four cases (Nominative, Genitive, Dative, and Accusative) and their roles in German grammar, you can improve your German skills and gain a deeper understanding of the German language. Practice is the key to mastering cases in German.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the four German cases?

The four German cases are Nominative, Genitive, Dative, and Accusative.

Why are cases important in German?

Cases are important because they help identify the role each word plays in a sentence, making communication clearer and more precise. You need the cases for every sentence and many other grammar topics are connected with the cases like the German articles or adjective endings.

How can I learn the German cases?

Make sure that you understand the rules of the cases in German. Learn as much as possible and try to write and speaking a lot while you focus on the cases.



Article by Niko

Published 08 Apr 2023