German Nouns and Articles

As is customary, I shall start with the nominative case. As is even MORE customary, I shall now interrupt myself before even just starting to explain to mention that all nouns in German are capitalized. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the middle of a sentence. Also, “ich” isn’t capitalized unless it’s the first word in the sentence or being referred to as an object as in “the self” not as in “I”. Apart from those two exceptions, you don’t capitalize it. Just say no. And now we move back to the point.

Nominative case is for the subject of the sentence and has four articles: “der” for the masculine, “die” for the feminine, “das” for the neuter/neutral, and “die” for the formal “you” as well as the plural. Adjectives take different endings depending on the article of the noun to which they refer. That just makes it all the more important to memorize the articles of nouns when you write down vocabulary terms. You don’t want to be writing about a piece of “wichtiger Papier” when it should be “wichtiges” because paper is a neuter noun. As you may have noticed from that little side note, the adjective endings take the last bit of the “the” article of the noun with which they are paired. The nouns of the last category on the list are written in the plural form (ending in -en, may take umlauts) and the other nouns stay the same. And now for the Akkusativ.

The accusative case is used to indicate the direct object of the sentence. Once you have the nominative case memorized, this one is actually pretty easy. “Der” changes to “den” and the rest stay the same. Yes, that was another rhyme I learned in school to aid in the memorization process. The -er ending for masculine adjectives changes accordingly to reflect the new word, but the noun doesn’t change into the plural form just because the “the” ends in -en. Masculine accusative and plural nominative are totally different. Moving on to the Dativ…

The dative case indicates the indirect object of a sentence. It has been described as “the thing that’s getting thinged”. In other words it’s “to whom, for whom something is given, said or done”, and that’s directly out of my grammar book, so it’s probably right. Anyway, “der” becomes “dem”, “die” (feminine) becomes “der”, “das” becomes “dem”, and the other “die” becomes “den”. The adjective endings are again changed in accordance with the new articles. And now on with the thing hardly anyone uses anymore: Genitiv.

The genitive case is the “of the”, a.k.a. the thing indicating the possession or relationship between things. An English example is “soup of the day” – auf Deutsch = <<Suppe des Tages>>, in which you can see the afore-mentioned “of the”. In this case “der” becomes “des”, “die” (feminine) becomes “der”, “das” becomes “des”, and the other “die” becomes “der”. As always: adjective endings, new articles, changing. Yes. But you don’t have to worry about this case very much because, as I mentioned earlier, hardly anyone uses it anymore. People would rather say “the man’s house” than “the house of the man”, and the equivalent naturally exists in German. Just leave out the apostrophe before the “s” being used to indicate possession and KAPOW! Instant genitive case substitute!

Before you go off becoming a skilled grasshopper all by yourself, I will give you a chart to make this lesson easier to remember. Yes, I took the notes for you. You’re welcome.

Nom: RESE  Akk: NESE
Dat: MRMN  Gen: SRSR