German Nominative Case (Nominativ): with Examples and a Quiz!

German Nominative Case (Nominativ): with Examples and a Quiz!

The Nominative in German: Intoduction

Hello and welcome to the world of German grammar! As you begin your journey, the first concept you'll meet is the nominative case. 

In German, sentences are built around four cases: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative. Your ability to understand these can vary depending on your previous language experience. However, mastering these cases is essential, and understanding the nominative is a significant step forward. 

Would you like to learn more about all four cases in German? Click here to read more.

Genders in Nominative

When you start learning German, one of the first things you’ll notice is that every noun has a gender—masculine, feminine, or neuter. These genders are tagged with a definite or in definite article. 

Definite Articles in Nominative Declension

Gender (or Plural)Definite ArticleExample Sentence
MasculinederDer Mann geht ins Kino. The man goes to the cinema.
FemininedieDie Frau geht ins Kino. The woman goes to the cinema.
NeuterdasDas Kind geht ins Kino. The child goes to the cinema.
PluraldieDie Freunde gehen in den Park. The friends go to the cinema. 

In this chart, you can see that the definite articles for nominative are the following: "der" for masculine, "die" for feminine or plural and “das” for neuter. 

If you're wondering why a table ('der Tisch') is masculine or why a door ('die Tür') is feminine, you're not alone. The assignment of gender in German can seem random and confusing, as it doesn’t usually follow a clear pattern. Learn more about German genders and articles by checking out our article: here.

Indefinite Articles in Nominative Declension

Gender Indefinite ArticleExample Sentence
Masculine   einEin Mann spielt Fußball. A man plays football.
FeminineeineEine Frau spielt Fußball. A woman plays football.
NeutereinEin Kind spielt Fußball. A child plays football.

In this chart, you can see the the indefinite articles in Nominativ are: “ein” for masculine and neuter and “eine” for feminine. 

You might ask, “Does the gender of a noun really matter?”Unfortunately, it does. While the concept of gender might seem like just another memorization hurdle, it plays a crucial role in the structure of the language. Gender affects how articles are used in a sentence. 

German Articles Free Quiz

It makes sense to practice the genders and articles in German regulary. The most important step is too always learn every noun with the correct article. You can find a quiz for the articles: here

Word Order of the Nominative in German

Normally it is common to start the sentence with the subject, but it is possible to also start a sentence with an object to have the focus on it. 

Examples: 

  • Der Student gibt seiner Freundin das Geschenk. The student gives the present to his girlfriend.

This is the normal sentence structure, you can see that the subject is at the 1st position. 

  • Seiner Freundin gibt der Student das Geschenk. The student gives the present to his girlfriend.

You can see in this example, that the sentence started with an object and that the subject is placed at the 3rd position. 

  • Das Geschenk gibt der Student seiner Freundin. The student gives the present to his girlfriend.

Also in this example, we started the sentence with an object to have the focus on it. Even tho the translation into English might be the same, there is a difference because the importance lays more on the object and not the subject of the sentence. 

Curious about word order in German? Check out a detailed explaination by clicking here!

Nominative personal pronouns

German Personal PronounEnglishExample Sentence
ich (1st. person, singular)IIch spiele mit Freunden Tennis. I play tennis with friends.
du (2nd. person, singular, informal)you (informal, singular)Du spielst mit Freunden Tennis.  You play tennis with friends. 
er  (3rd. person, singular)heEr spielt mit Freunden Tennis. He plays tennis with friends. 
sie (3rd. person, singular)sheSie spielt mit Freunden Tennis. She plays tennis with friends. 
es (3rd. person, singular)itEs spielt mit Freunden Tennis. It plays tennis with friends. 
wir (1st. person, plural)weWir spielen mit Freunden Tennis. We play tennis with friends.
ihr (2nd. person, plural, informal)you (plural, informal)Ihr spielt mit Freunden Tennis. You play tennis with friends.
sie (3rd. person, plural)theySie spielen mit Freunden Tennis. They play tennis with friends. 
Sie (2nd. person, plural, informal)you (formal, singular or pluraL)Sie spielen mit Freunden Tennis. You play tennis with friends.

How to figure out the correct form of “sie/Sie”?: 

You can see here the the Personal pronouns used with nominative. When you look at this chart, the “sie” and “Sie” can be confusing, and often students are not sure if the pronoun “sie” or “Sie” means they, she or you (formal). Often 

  • Sie fährt in die Stadt. She drives into town. 

This sentence can only be 3rd person singular she because of the verb conjugation of “fahren”. A “t” ending is normally used for 3rd person  singular (he, she, it) or 2nd person plural (you plural, informal). 

  • Die Freunde machen ihre Hausaufgaben. Sie fahren danach in die Stadt. The friends do their homework.Then they go into town.

In this sentence the “sie”  is refering to friends and that is why they is needed.  

  • Herr Schmidt, können Sie mir helfen? Herr Schmidt, können Sie mir helfen? 

This sentence is directly adressing a person in a formal context. 

German Possive Pronouns

There are two different types of possive pronouns in German. The ones that we focos on in this article always come together with another noun. They are also called Possessive article. 

 

ich 

I

du 

you      

er 

he     

sie 

she        

es 

it     

wir 

we     

ihr 

you, plural    

sie

they        

Sie 

you formal      

masculine/neutermeindeinseinihrsein  unsereuerihrIhr
feminine/pluralmeine  deine    seine  ihreseine  unsere  eureihreIhre

Examples: 

  • Mein Haus hat einen kleinen Garten. My house has a small garden.
  • Deine Katze isst sehr viel. Your cat eats a lot.
  • Ihre Kinder spielen im Park. Your children are playing in the park.

German Relative Pronouns in Nominative

Gender (or Plural)Relative PronounExample Sentence
MasculinederDer Mann, der dort steht, ist mein Onkel. The man who is standing there is my uncle
FemininedieDie Frau, die singt, ist eine berühmte Sängerin. The woman who is singing is a famous singer.
NeuterdasDas Buch, das auf dem Tisch liegt, gehört mir. The book that is on the table belongs to me.
PluraldieDie Kinder, die im Park spielen, haben Spaß. The children who are playing in the park are having fun.

In German, relative clauses provide additional information about a person or thing mentioned in the main clause. These clauses replace the noun they are describing, and the relative pronouns change according to the gender and case of that noun. Relative pronouns in German can be used in Nominative, Genitive, Dative and Accusative. You can read more detailed information: here. 

Examples: 

  • Ich kenne eine Frau, die Klavier spielt. I know a woman who plays the piano.
  • Hier ist das Kind, das gut singt. Here is the child who sings well.
  • Das ist der Mann, der die Bücher liest. That is the man who reads the books.

Want to master German relative clauses and pronouns? Check out our in-depth article. Click here to read more!

German Nominative Free Quiz

Practice the nominative in German with this free quiz: here

FAQ: 

Are the Cases in German important? 

  • Indeed, mastering the cases in German is crucial, and you should also pay close attention to the articles. Both cases and articles are fundamental components of German grammar and are used extensively

How to use the Nominative Case in German Grammar? 

  • You ask “who or what” to figure out the nominative. Often the Nominativ comes at the first position in a main clause. 

How Important is the Nominativ for the German Language?

  • The nominative is the first case and this case is very essential to be able to understand the other cases. 

Is the Nominative always subject of the sentence? 

  • The nominative case typically indicates the subject of a sentence, but not exclusively. Sometimes, you can encounter sentences with two nominative cases, especially when describing characteristics. This is known as the equative nominative (Gleichsetzungsnominativ),where one nominative functions as the subject (who) and the other describes a characteristic (what). 
  • For example, in the sentence: Der Mann arbeitet als Lehrer,' which translates to 'The man works as a teacher,' 'Der Mann' is the subject and 'Lehrer' is the characteristic.

 

Niko

Article by Niko

Published 10 May 2024
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