German Grammar: Genitive

I did some cleaning and found my old German notes. Then I got bored and decided to give you all a refresher post on the genitive case. The explanation I gave of it before was inadequate anyway.

So anyway, the genitive in English works by either using an apostrophe after a noun (ex: “the Judge’s ruling” or “the dog’s fur in my pancakes”), or by using the word “of” with an article (ex: “the ruling of the Judge” or “the hair of the dog”).

(The hair of the dog… Haha! That reminds me of this old television show. I can’t recall the name of it now, but I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. Actually, ol’-what’s-his-face might have said it in the movie instead of the show. I’m not even sure what I was watching now.)

Possession can be shown multiple ways in German as well.

First: by use of the -s ending on a proper name. This one is similar to English, but no apostrophe is used. (ex: “Peters Auto” = “Peter’s car”)

Second: by use of the actual genitive case. In this case, -es is added to the end of most masculine and neuter nouns with only one syllable and -s is added to the end of the masculine and neuter nouns with more than one syllable. When you want to change a masculine noun ending in -e to the genitive case, you add an -n after the -e (ex: “das Auto des Jungen“).

There are no special genitive endings for feminine and plural nouns, but the articles or adjectives have the genitive -er ending. (ex: “das Auto der Lehrerin” or “das Auto meiner Mutter” taking note that the words “Lehrerin” and “Mutter” remain in their regular forms, not taking a special genitive ending while “die” changes to “der” and “meine” changes to “meiner“)

Third: with the von preposition and the dative case in colloquial German can also be used together to show possession.

Example 1:

Genitive: “Das ist das Auto meiner Mutter.”

Dative: “Das ist das Auto von meiner Mutter.”

Example 2:

Genitive: “Das ist das Auto meines Vaters.”

Dative: “Das ist das Auto von meinem Vater.”

Notice again how the word for “mother” does not take a special ending in the genitive case since it is a feminine noun, while the word for “father” takes a special -s ending in the genitive case because it is a masculine noun.

As a quick reminder: plural nouns don’t have special endings either (same as the feminine nouns). An example of this would be, “Hier ist das Haus meiner Eltern.” You can see “meine” change to “meiner” while “Eltern” stays the same because it is plural.

Another reminder: neuter nouns act like masculine nouns in the genitive case and take either the -s or the -es ending, so in the genitive case a phrase like “das Land” becomes “des Landes“.