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The Gender of German Nouns (das Genus)

Other Related T opics


Nominative
Grammatical gender and sex have little to do
with one another. The terms "masculine,"
"feminine," and "neuter" are conventions for
grammarians, not biologists. Even after
recognizing that, learners of German will soon
discover that common sense is still not always
a good guide in figuring out whether a noun is
der, die, or das. Mostly, you just have to learn
a noun's gender (and plural) along with the
word itself.

Accusative
Dative
Genitive
Adjectival Nouns
Adjective Endings
Suffixes

There are, however, a few categories that might be of help.

Masculine:
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Studies Department

male humans and animals: der Mann [man], Knig [king],


Vater [father], Lwe [lion], Br [bear]
days, months, seasons of the year, points of the
compass: der Sonntag [Sunday], Mrz [March], Herbst
[autumn], Osten [East]
But: das Jahr [year], die Woche [week] (but: der Mittwoch
[Wednesday])
forms of precipitation, kinds of wind: der Regen [rain],
Schnee [snow], Hagel [hail], Fhn [fhn], Monsun
[monsoon], Orkan [hurricane].
five words ending in -ee: der Kaffee [coffee], Klee [clover], Schnee [snow], Tee [tea], See [lake] (but
note: die See [sea])
most nouns that are derived from verbs but have no suffix: der Kauf [purchase], Wurf [throw], Sprung
[jump], Riss [rip], Gang [gait]. Exception: das Schloss [lock; castle]
most nouns ending in -er, -el, -ling: der Lehrer [teacher], Wecker [alarm clock], Fremdling [stranger],
Feigling [coward], Schlssel [key]
But: die Trommel [drum], die Butter [butter], das Fenster [window], die Schwester [sister], die Mutter
[mother], das Wetter [weather], das Zimmer [room]
most nouns ending in -en: der Boden [floor; ground; soil], Regen [rain], Wagen [car; wagon].
nouns with the suffixes -ant, -ar, -r, -ent, -eur, -ier, -ist, -or, -ismus: der Spekulant [speculator],
Kommissar [commissar], Volontr [trainee], Friseur [barber], Student [student], Offizier [officer],
Tourist [tourist], Lektor [(publisher's) editor; adjunct teacher], Kapitalismus [capitalism].
brands of car: der Mercedes, Porsche, Ford

Neuter:
many offspring of humans and animals: das Kind [child],
Kalb [calf], Kken [chick], Lamm [lamb].
names of animals that include both male and female: das
Pferd [horse], Schwein [pig], Schaaf [sheep].
But: der Fisch [fish], der Hund [dog], die Maus [mouse],
die Schlange [snake]
names of cities, continents, and most countries: das alte
Berlin [old Berlin], Asien [Asia], Frankreich [France].
But: der Irak, der Iran, der Libanon; die Schweiz
[Switzerland]; and countries ending in -ei: die Trkei
[Turkey]. For more information on using articles with
geographic locations, see
http://faql.de/grammatik.html#geo.
metals und chemical elements: das Gold [gold], Silber [silver], Eisen [iron], Blei [lead], Chrom
[chromium], Uran [uranium].
But: der Stahl [steel], der Schwefel [sulphur], die Bronze [bronze]
all words that are from other parts of speech that are used as nouns but do not signify people: das
Essen [food; meal], Leben [life], Rauchen [smoking], das Ich [ego], das Schne [Beauty; the
Beautiful], das Wenn und Aber [if and but], das Blaue [blue yonder], das A und das O [the alpha and
omega].
collective nouns: das Volk [folk], Gebirge [(group of) mountains], Besteck [cutlery], Geschirr
[crockery, dishes].
But: der Gesang [song, singing].
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numbers when they indicate a set (of people, years, etc.): das Duo [duet], das Quintett [quintet], das
Jahrzehnt [decade], das Dutzend [dozen], das Jahrhundert [century], das Jahrtausend [millenium].
nouns with the endings -chen, -lein and -sel: das Mdchen [girl], Frulein [Miss], Rtsel [puzzle].
nouns with the suffixes -ett, -ment and -um: das Ballett [ballet], Sonnett [sonett], Sakrament
[sacrament], Parlament [parliament], Neutrum [neuter], Helium [helium].

Feminine:
female humans and animals, often with -in: die Frau
[woman], Tochter [daughter], Kuh [cow], Lehrerin
[teacher], rztin [doctor], Wlfin [she-wolf].
numbers and digits: die Eins [1], die Siebzehn [17], die
Zweiundzwanzig [22].
But: see above concerning sets.
names of ships and airplanes: die Bismarck, die
Europa, die Boeing.
a great many words that end in -e: die Wanne [tub],
Birne [pear], Tasse [cup], Zahnbrste [toothbrush],
Wiese [meadow].
But: some are masculine: der Name [name], Junge
[boy], Lwe [lion], Hase [rabbit, hare], Kse [cheese].
all with the suffixes -ei, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -t, -ung: die
Bckerei [bakery], Krankheit [disease], Freundlichkeit
[friendliness], Gesellschaft [society; company], Fahrt
[trip], Wohnung [apartment; abode].
But: der Sprung [jump (Here the "ung" is not a suffix;
the noun comes from the verb "springen")].
all with the suffixes -age, -enz, -esse, -euse, -ie, -ik, ion, -itis, -tt, -ur usw.: die Reportage [report], Lizenz [license], Delikatesse [delicacy], Friseuse
[female barber], Melodie [melody], Politik [politics, policy], Nation [nation], Gastritis [gastritis],
Universitt [university], Natur [nature].

The future is feminine, and so is the past!

Controversies:
There are even some nouns about which native speakers don't agree. Some differences
are regional. In Austria and Upper Bavaria, for example, it is possible to say "der
Radio," rather than "das." Sometimes the importation of a new word into the language
creates uncertainty. For a discussion of some of these problems, see
http://faql.de/genus.html

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The Nominative Case (der Nominativ)


Other Related T opics

In English:

Noun Gender
Accusative
Dative
Genitive
Adjectival Nouns

In standard English, the subject of a sentence is in the nominative case, which is


marked either by word order or by certain forms of personal pronoun (I , w e, he, she,
and they). Thus the difference between "Dog bites man" and "Man bites dog" is clear,
as is the difference between "I see her" and "She sees me."
There is also an official "predicate nominative," although it is rarely used in colloquial
speech: "It is I," "If I were she."

Adjective Endings
Prepositions
Suffixes

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Studies Department

Are those your eyes? Biotix answers all your


questions. [Ad for paternity tests]

In German:
German marks case in a variety of ways, with word order being the least important.
The nominative personal pronouns are:
ich = I
wir = we
du = you ihr = y'all
Sie = you
er = he
sie = she sie =they
es = it
Four further nominative pronouns are man, jemand, keiner, and w er:
Man sagt das nicht.
Das kann man nie wissen.
Jemand soll ihr helfen.
Ihn kennt keiner.
Wer wohnt hier?
Ich wei nicht, wer das gesagt hat.

One doesn't say that.


One can never know that.
Someone should help her.
No one knows him.
Who lives here?
I don't know who said that.

Articles and adjective endings also mark the nominative case. Note that the adjective
endings depend not only on gender, but also on whether they follow a "der-word," an
"ein-word" or no article at all:1
Masculine
der rote Stuhl
kein roter Stuhl
roter Stuhl

Feminine
die neue Lampe
keine neue Lampe
neue Lampe

Neuter
das alte Buch
kein altes Buch
altes Buch

Plural
die roten Sthle
keine neuen Lampen
alte Bcher

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The nominative case is used in five settings:


To designate the subject of a sentence:
Ein Unglck kommt selten
allein.
Irren ist menschlich.
Stille Wasser sind tief.
Neue Besen kehren gut.
Das Leben ist kurz.

I t never rains but it


pours.
T o err is human.
Still w aters run deep.
New brooms sw eep clean.
Life is short.

As a predicate nominative - or, thought of in another way, as the "object" of the


verbs sein, w erden, and bleiben:
Sie ist ein kleines Kind.
She's a small child.
Er ist mein vierter Mann
He became my fourth
geworden.
husband.
Er bleibt mein bester Freund.
He remains my best friend.

Your child wants so much to become a veterinarian. You


could explain that Mother Natur helps herself. Or simply
finance [your child's] schooling.
As a citation form (e.g. a dictionary entry or a label). Note: this does not mean
that the nominative is a noun's natural state, nor does it imply that the
nominative is the default case. Citing in the nominative is simply a convention,
adopted in part because the nominative definite articles are unambiguous with
respect to gender: der Stuhl, die Lampe, das Buch.
W hen addressing someone:
Junger Mann, geben Sie das sofort zurck! Y oung man, give that right back!
Liebe Oma, Dein Brief ist endlich
Dear Grandma, your letter finally
angekommen.
arrived.
In certain exclamations:
Du meine Gte!
Ach du lieber
Gott!
Ich Idiot!

For heaven's
sake!
Oh my God!
I 'm such an idiot!

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1 The so-called "der-words" are the articles der, die, das; dies-, jed-, jen-, manch-,

solch-, w elch-. The "ein-words" are ein, kein, and the possessive pronouns: mein,
dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, I hr, ihr.
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The Accusative Case (der Akkusativ)


Other Related T opics

In English:

Noun Gender
Nominative
Dative

In standard English, the direct object is marked either by word order or by certain
forms of personal pronoun (me, us, him, her, and them). Thus the difference between
"Dog bites man" and "Man bites dog" is clear, as is the difference between "I see her"
and "She sees me."

Genitive
Adjectival Nouns
Adjective Endings
Prepositions
Suffixes

Grammar Review Home


Dartmouth German
Studies Department

Some things you can't explain in two or three sentences. Up to 15


hours of phone time. The new Gigaset C340.

In German:
The accusative case has several functions in German. It is marked in a variety of ways,
with word order being the least important. The accusative personal pronouns are:
mich = me uns = us
dich = you euch = y'all
Sie = you
ihn = him
sie = her sie =them
es = it
There are accusative forms for other pronouns: man becomes einen, keiner becomes
keinen, and w er becomes w en. In colloquial speech, jemand is usually the same in
both the nominative and the accusative, but jemanden is possible. The reflexive
pronoun "sich" can indicate either the accusative or dative form of er, sie (= she), es,
Sie, or sie (= they).
Articles and adjective endings also mark the accusative case. Note that the adjective
endings depend not only on gender, but also on whether they follow a "der-word", an
"ein-word", or no article at all:1

Masculine
den roten Stuhl
keinen roten Stuhl
roten Stuhl

Feminine
die neue Lampe
keine neue Lampe
neue Lampe

Neuter
das alte Buch
kein altes Buch
altes Buch

Plural
die roten Sthle
keine neuen Lampen
alte Bcher

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Please keep this area open for arriving and


departing hotel guests. Many thanks.
There is also a class of so-called weak masculine nouns that take an "-n" in the
accusative case (as well as in the dative and genitive cases). Among these nouns are
those that end in "-e" (except Kse [cheese]):
der Mensch
den Menschen
[human]
der Name
den Namen
[name]
der Glaube
den Glauben
[belief]
der Jude
den Juden
[Jew]

der Nachbar
den Nachbarn
[neighbor]
der Kunde
den Kunden
[customer]
der Wille
den Willen
[will]
der Russe
den Russen
[Russian]

der Herr
den Herrn
[lord; gentleman]
der Junge
den Jungen
[boy]
der Gedanke
den Gedanken
[thought]
der Kollege
den Kollegen
[colleague]

der Held
den Helden
[hero]
der Experte
den Experten
[expert]
der Trke
den Trken
[Turk]
der Riese
den Riesen
[giant]

Other endings of weak nouns are "-ant," "-arch," "-ege," "-ent," "-ist," "-oge," "-om," "oph," and "-ot." Some examples:
der Buddist
[Buddhist]
der Student
[student]
der Philosoph
[philosopher]

der Katholik
[Catholic]
der Komdiant
[comedian]
der Fotograf
[photographer]

der Protestant
[Protestant]
der Astronom
[astronomer]
der Enthusiast
[enthusiast]

der Pilot
[pilot]
der Patriarch
[patriarch]
der Anthropologe
[anthropologist]

Again: note that all of these nouns are masculine. Furthermore, their plural forms are
the same as their accusative forms: e.g., den Studenten; die Studenten. ("Herr" is an
exception: den Herrn; die Herren).
Typically, dictionaries identify weak nouns by giving not only the plural but also the
weak ending: "der Bauer (-n, -n) farmer, peasant." This first ending cited is actually
that of the genitive case, but with weak nouns the accusative and the genitive are
usually identical.

Uses of the accusative case:

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Uses of the accusative case:

1) To designate the direct object of a verb.


This includes the expression es gibt:
Es gibt noch eine Menge
There's still a lot to do.
zu tun.
Sie sucht einen reichen
Mann.

She's looking for a rich


husband.

Arbeit macht das Leben


s.

Work makes life sweet.

Er schreibt ihr einen


langen Brief.

He writes her a long letter.

Er trifft den Nagel auf den He hits the nail on the head.
Kopf.
Denn wen der Herr liebt,
den zchtigt er wie ein
Vater den Sohn, den er
gern hat.

For whom the Lord loveth he


correcteth, even as the father
the son in whom he
delighteth.

Do you know all of our pharmacy's services? 2) A great many verbs distinguish their direct
We have a telephone service for our
customers. Support hose made to measure. and indirect objects through a combination of
Devices for caring for the sick at home. We the accusative and dative: "Sie gibt es mir";
measure your blood pressure. We rent out "Er schenkt seiner Mutter ein Buch." One
electric breast pumps. We rent out baby would expect fragen, kosten, and lehren to
carriages.

follow the same pattern, but they do not; both


objects are accusative:

Darf ich dich etwas Persnliches fragen? May I ask you something personal?
Das hat mich eine Menge Geld gekostet. That cost me a bunch of money.
Sie lehrt mich die deutsche Sprache.
She's teaching me the German language.

3) The so-called "cognate accusative" marks a noun that completes or


specifies the idea of the verb, even when it is not necessarily a direct object:
Wir fahren am liebsten Rad.
Sie luft Ski.
Wir schliefen den Schlaf des Gerechten.
Er starb den Tod eines Helden.
Sie fhrt nur erste Klasse.
Meine Gromutter spielt sehr gut Tennis.
Wir laufen Gefahr, den Zug zu verpassen.

We prefer to bike.
She skis.
We slept the sleep of the just.
He died a hero's death.
She always travels first-class.
My grandmother plays tennis very well.
We run the risk of missing the train.

4) To indicate specific time (when no prepositions are involved):


Was machst du nchste Woche?
What're you doing next week?
Jeden Samstag essen wir auswrts.
We eat out every Saturday.
Letztes Jahr sind wir ans Meer gefahren. Last year we drove to the ocean.

5) To express a measurement:
Er ist zwei Meter gro.
Er ist einen halben Kopf grer als ich.
Das Mdchen ist ein Jahr alt.
Er geht einen Schritt zurck.

He's two meters tall. (= 6' 6.7")


He's half a head taller than me.
The girl is one year old.
He goes one step back.
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Der Ort liegt eine Stunde von der Stadt. The place is an hour from the city.

6) As the case for certain standard greetings and wishes. The implication is
that the speaker is wishing the other something (e.g. "Gute Nacht" is short for
"Ich wnsche dir eine gute Nacht." Other examples:
Guten Morgen.
Schnen Tag noch.
Herzlichen Glckwunsch!
Vielen Dank.
Gute Besserung.
Guten Appetit.

Good morning.
Have a nice (rest of the) day.
Congratulations!
Many thanks.
Get well.
Bon appetit.

With prepositions:

1) As the object of the following


prepositions: bis, durch, fr, gegen,
ohne, um, and wider:
Er bleibt bis nchste
Woche.
Die Liebe geht durch
den Magen.
Er tut alles fr sein
Kind.
Was hast du gegen
ihn?
Ohne mich!
Es geht mir nicht um
das Geld.
Seine Handlung war
wider das Gesetz.

He's staying until next week.


The way to a man's heart is
through his stomach.
He does everything for his
child.
What do you have against
him?
Count me out!
For me it's not a question of
the money.
His action was against the
law.

On which one will you decide?

Decide yourself when it's a question of your health.

2) Under certain circumstances with the following "two-way" prepositions: an,


auf, hinter, in, neben, entlang, ber, unter, vor, and zwischen. When these
prepositions delineate a spacial area, and the verb indicates movement that
crosses the border into that area, the preposition takes the accusative (if the
action is entirely with the area, then it takes the dative case):

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Sie geht an die


Tr.
Er wirft sein
Buch auf den
Tisch.
Sie fhrt hinter
das Haus.
Bringen Sie
den Stuhl in die
Kche
Er legt die
Bestecke
neben den
Teller.
Er tritt vor das
Haus.
Der Hund luft
zwischen die
Huser.

She goes to the door.


He throws his book onto the table.
She drives behind the house (into
the area behind the house).
Bring the chair into the kitchen.
He puts the silverware next to the
plate (into the area next to the
plate).
He steps out the door (in front of
the house).
The dog runs between the houses
(through or into the area between
the houses).

These prepositional phrases are often contracted (if the article is "das"):
Er geht ans Fenster.
Sie setzt sich aufs Sofa.
Ein Fremder kommt ins Haus.
Wir fahren heute aufs Land.
Die Brcke fhrt bers Wasser.

He goes to the window.


She sits down on the sofa.
A stranger comes into the house.
We're driving to the country.
The bridge leads across the water.

3) When these two-way prepositions define time, rather than space, they take
the dative. The exceptions are auf and ber:
Er geht auf (fr) ein Jahr nach Mainz.
He's going to Mainz for a year.
Der Vortrag hat ber eine Stunde gedauert. The talk lasted over an hour.
Was machst du bers Wochenende?
What're you doing over the weekend?

4) These two-way prepositions take the accusative case in many idioms, as


well. A few examples:
Sie denkt oft an ihre alte Lehrerin.
Er glaubt an mehrere Gtter.
Wir erinnern uns gern an unsere
Kindheit.
Ich kann mich nicht an seine
schreckliche Stimme gewhnen.
Ich warte auf meine Freundin.
Das geht dich nichts an.
Knnen Sie auf meine Frage
antworten?
Wir hoffen auf besseres Wetter.
Es ist kein Wunder, dass sie auf dich
bse ist.
Why think about age Wir haben keine Aussichten auf eine
bessere Zukunft.
already now?
Leider mssen wir auf den Film
verzichten.
Unsere Kinder sind verrckt auf ihren
neuen Coach.
Er hat gar nicht auf meinen Vorschlag

She often thinks of her old


teacher.
He believes in several gods.
We like to remember our
childhood.
I can't get used to his terrible
voice.
I'm waiting for my girlfriend.
That's none of your business.
Can you answer my question?
We're hoping for better weather.
It's no wonder that she's mad at
you.
We have no indications of a
better future.
Unfortunately we'll have to do
without the film.
Our children are crazy about
their new coach.
He never reacted to my
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reagiert.
Du kannst auf dich stolz sein.

suggestion.
You can be proud of yourself.
He's totally fallen in love with
Er hat sich total in sie verliebt.
her.
We're happy about the new
Wir sind glcklich ber das neue Haus.
house.
Ich freue mich auf deinen Besuch.
I'm looking forward to your visit.
Wir sprechen gerade ber die
We're just now talking about the
politische Situation.
political situation.
1 The so-called "der-words" are the articles der, die, das; dies-, jed-, jen-, manch-

, solch-, w elch-. The "ein-words" are ein, kein, and the possessive pronouns:
mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, I hr, ihr
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The Dative Case (der Dativ)


Other Related T opics
Noun Gender
Nominative
Accusative
Genitive
Adjectival Nouns
Adjective Endings
Prepositions
Suffixes

Grammar Review Home


Dartmouth German
Studies Department

Your team sits in three countries. And yet in the same office.

In English:
In standard English, the indirect object is marked either by a prepositional phrase,
word order or by certain forms of personal pronoun (me, us, him, her, and them). Thus:
"He gave his girlfriend a diamond ring;" "He gave a diamond ring to his girlfriend;" "He
gave her it;" or "He gave it to her."

In German:
The dative case has several functions in German. It is marked in a variety of ways,
with word order being the least important. The dative personal pronouns are:
mir = me
dir = you

uns = us
euch = y'all
Ihnen = you

ihm = him
ihr = her ihnen =they
ihm = it
There are dative forms for other pronouns: man becomes einem, keiner becomes
keinem, and w er becomes w em. In colloquial speech, jemand is more common, but
jemandem is possible. The reflexive pronoun "sich" can indicate either the accusative
or dative form of er, sie (= she), es, Sie, or sie (= they).
As with the nominative and accusative cases, articles and adjective endings mark the
dative, but here there is no distinction between a "der-word" and an "ein-word".
However, endings are still different when there is no article at all. Note that plural
nouns themseves receive an "-n" unless they already end in "-n" or "-s":1

Masculine
dem roten Stuhl
rotem Stuhl

Feminine
der neuen Lampe
neuer Lampe

Neuter
dem alten Buch
altem Buch

Plural
den roten Sthlen
alten Bchern
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As in the accusative case, the so-called weak masculine nouns take an "-n" (or "-en")
in the dative (as well as in the genitive). Among these nouns are those that end in "e" (except Kse [cheese]):

nom. der Mensch


der Nachbar
der Herr
acc. den Menschen den Nachbarn den Herrn
dat. dem Menschen dem Nachbarn dem Herrn
[human]
nom. der Name
acc. den Namen
dat. dem Namen
[name]
nom. der Glaube
acc. den Glauben
dat. dem Glauben
[belief]
nom. der Jude
acc. den Juden
dat. dem Juden
[Jew]

[neighbor]
der Kunde
den Kunden
dem Kunden
[customer]
der Wille
den Willen
dem Willen
[will]
der Russe
den Russen
dem Russen
[Russian]

der Held
den Helden
dem Helden
[lord; gentleman] [hero]
der Junge
der Experte
den Jungen
den Experten
dem Jungen
dem Experten
[boy]
[expert]
der Gedanke
der Trke
den Gedanken den Trken
dem Gedanken dem Trken
[thought]
[Turk]
der Kollege
der Riese
den Kollegen
den Riesen
dem Kollegen
dem Riesen
[colleague]
[giant]

Other endings of weak nouns are "-ant," "-arch," "-ege," "-ent," "-ist," "-oge," "-om," "oph," and "-ot." Some examples:
der Buddist
[Buddhist]
der Student
[student]
der Philosoph
[philosopher]

der Katholik
[Catholic]
der Komdiant
[comedian]
der Fotograf
[photographer]

der Protestant
[Protestant]
der Astronom
[astronomer]
der Enthusiast
[enthusiast]

der Pilot
[pilot]
der Patriarch
[patriarch]
der Anthropologe
[anthropologist]

Again: note that all of these nouns are masculine. Furthermore, their plural forms are
the same as their dative singular forms: e.g., dem Studenten; [plural:] Studenten.
("Herr" is an exception: den Herrn; [plural:] Herren).
Typically, dictionaries identify weak nouns by giving not only the plural but also the
weak ending: "der Bauer (-n, -n) farmer, peasant". This first ending cited is actually
that of the genitive case, but with weak nouns the dative and the genitive are usually
identical. There are a few exceptions.
One neuter noun is also weak in the dative (and takes an "-ens" in the genitive):

nom.
acc.
dat.
gen.

Server Error

das Herz
das Herz
dem Herzen
des Herzens
[heart]

They need time to grow. We give it to them. The future has


long been with us. [ = an ad promoting the use of coal
while wind energy gets further developed]

Uses of the dative case:


1) To designate the indirect object of a verb.
Er erzhlt seinen Kindern eine Geschichte.
Sie schreibt mir eine E-mail.
Er erklrte seiner Frau, warum er ihr ganzes Geld auf
dieses Pferd setzte.
Er schreibt ihr einen langen Brief.
Was schenken Sie ihrem Vater zum Geburtstag?
Kannst du das der Polizei beweisen?

He tells his children a story.


She writes me an e-mail.
He explained to his wife why he put all his
money on this horse.
He writes her a long letter.
What are you giving your father for his
birthday?
Can you prove that to the police?

2) W hen there are two objects (direct and indirect): a dative noun precedes an
accusation noun; an accusative pronoun precedes a dative pronoun; and a
pronoun always a noun:
Ich gebe dem Mann ein Buch.
Ich gebe es dem Mann.
Ich gebe ihm das Buch.
Ich gebe es ihm.
It is possible to change this word order for emphasis, e.g. "Ich habe das Buch
dem Mann gegeben (und nicht der Frau)."
3) Some verbs take the dative case even though logic might suggest the
accusative:
Sie glaubt mir nicht.2
Ich danke dir.
Kannst du mir verzeihen?
Helfen Sie mir!
Er hat ihr nicht geantwortet.
Sie folgte ihrem Mann durch die Tr.
Das Kind gehorcht seinen Eltern gar nicht.
Der Wagen gehrt meiner Schwester.
Was ist dir geschehen?
Ich bin ihr oft in der Stadt begegnet.
Sie hnelt ihrer Mutter.
Du gleichst dem Geist, den du begreifst.
Eine Entschuldigung gengt uns nicht.
Ich gratuliere dir zu deinem Nobelpreis.
Seine Rede hat mir sehr imponiert.
Deine Ausreden ntzen uns wenig.
Sein Name fllt mir nicht ein.
Ich rate dir, mit dem Bus zu fahren.
Das schadet ihm nicht.
Immer schmeichelt er seinem Chef.
Du kannst mir trauen.
Widersprechen Sie mir nicht.

She doesn't believe me.


I thank you.
Can you forgive me?
Help me!
He didn't answer her.
She followed her husband through the door.
The child doesn't obey its parents at all.
The car belongs to my sister.
What happened to you?
I often ran into her in town.
She resembles her mother.
You resemble the spirit that you comprehend.
An apology isn't enough for us.
I congratulate you on your Nobel Prize.
His speech impressed me very much.
Your excuses aren't much use to us.
His name doesn't occur to me.
I advise you to go by bus.
That does him no harm.
He flatters his boss all the time.
You can trust me.
Don't contradict me.

4) A number of verbs with the inseparable prefix "ent-" or the separable "nach-"
take dative objects:
Du kannst deinem Schicksal nicht entgehen. You can't escape/avoid your fate.
Er konnte der Polizei nicht entkommen.
He couldn't escape the police.
Der Hund ist mir entlaufen.
The dog ran away from me.

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Sie will diesen Problemen nachgehen.


Fahr los. Wir kommen dir spter nach.
Der Hund luft der Katze nach.

She wants to investigate these problems.


Start driving. We'll follow you later.
The dog chases after the cat.

5) Still other verbs with the separable prefixes "bei-" and "zu-" take dative
objects:
Sie steht ihrem Mann bei.
Wir wollen der Sitzung beiwohnen.
Hren Sie mir bitte gut zu.
Die Unbekannte lchelt ihm zu.
Whrend sie spielt, schauen ihr die Mnner zu.
Sie ist dagegen, und ich stimme ihr zu.
Er wollte einer linken Partei beitreten.

She helps/stands by her husband.


We want to attend the meeting.
Please listen to me closely.
The unknown woman smiles at him.
The men watch her while she plays.
She's against it, and I agree with her.
He wanted to join a leftist party.

6) W ith some verbs, the dative object would become the subject in an English
translation:
Die richtigen Leute fehlen uns.
Dein neuer Freund gefllt mir.
Beim dritten Versuch gelingt es uns.
Deine Frau tut mir Leid.

We lack/are missing the right people


I like your new friend.
We succeed on the third try.
I feel sorry for your wife.

7) The so-called "dative of interest" establishes a point of view. Here too, the
dative object can often be rendered as the subject in English:
Es ist mir kalt.
I'm cold.
Jetzt reicht's mir aber!
I've had enough of that!
Seine Haltung passt ihr nicht.
She doesn't like his attitude.
Ist Ihnen nicht wohl?
Don't you feel well?
Wie geht's dir?
How are you?
Das kommt mir irgendwie bekannt vor. That somehow seems familiar to me.
Ist der Stuhl dir unbequem?
Is the chair uncomfortable for you?
Das war meinem Mann zu dumm.
My husband found that too stupid.
8) The "dative of interest" often appears with predicate adjectives or predicate
nominatives:
Das ist meiner Mutter besonders interessant.
Meine Kinder sind mir eine einzige Freude.
Das ist ihm sehr peinlich.
Sie ist ihrem Mann in allem weit berlegen.
Diese Mode ist Europern vllig unbekannt.
Wir sind Ihnen sehr dankbar.
Das ist dir bestimmt leicht.
Ihr Anruf ist uns sehr wichtig.
Das ist mir unmglich.
Die Jacke ist ihr zu teuer.
Das scheint mir richtig zu sein.

That's especially interesting to my mother.


My children are nothing but a joy to me.
That's very embarrassing to him.
She vastly superior to her husband in all things.
This fashion is wholly unknown to Europeans.
We're very grateful to you.
That's surely easy for you.
Your call is very important to us.
That's impossible for me.
The jacket is too expensive for her.
That seems correct to me.

9) The dative can also indicate toward whom an action is directed, especially
when parts of the body are involved:
Sie haut ihm eins in die Fresse.
Sie klopft ihm auf die Schulter.
Tut Ihnen der Kopf weh?
Ich muss meiner Tochter die Schuhe
anziehen.
Er hat ihr die Nase gebrochen.
Ich will ihm den Kopf waschen
Sie putzt ihm die Zhne.

She pops him one in the chops.


She taps him on the shoulder.
Do you have a headache?
I have to put my daughter's shoes on (her).
He broke her nose.
"I'll wash his head" (= I'm going to give him a piece of my
mind).
She brushes his teeth.
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10) Of course the reflexive is used when the the action is directed back toward
the subject:
Du sollst dir die Zhne putzen.
You ought to brush your teeth.
Ich habe mir den Finger gebrochen. I broke my finger.
Er kmmt sich die Haare.
He combs his hair.
Sie frbt sich die Haare.
She dyes her hair.
Er rasiert sich die Beine.
He shaves his legs.
Ich wasche mir die Hnde in Unschuld. I will wash my hands in innocency (Psalms 26: 6)

With prepositions:
The object of the following prepositions is always in
the dative: aus, auer, bei, gegenber, mit, nach,
seit, von,and zu. Note that "bei dem," "vom dem,"
"zu dem," and "zu der" are normally contracted:
Die Katze sprang aus dem
The cat jumped out of the
Fenster.
window.
Er war aus dem Huschen.
He was over the moon.
Auer deinem Bruder taugt
Except for your brother, your
deine Familie nicht viel.
family isn't worth much.
Sollen wir bei mir Essen?
Should we eat at my place?
Die Mnche reden nicht beim The monks don't talk while
Essen.
eating.
Bei diesem Wetter bleiben wir In this weather it would be better
lieber zu Hause.
to stay home.
Conveyance only with a valid ticket. Wer sitzt mir gegenber?
Who's sitting across from me?
After 8 p.m. please enter at the front
Er
tanzt
mit
seiner
Frau.
He's dancing with his wife.
by the driver and show your ticket.
Fhrst du mit der Bahn oder Are you going by train or by
mit dem Wagen?
car?
Nach dem Film gehen wir zu After the movie we'll go to your
dir.
place.
Seiner Mutter nach ist er ein According to his mother he's a
Genie.
genius.
Sie arbeitet seit zwei Jahren in She's been working in Berlin for
Berlin.
two years.
Viele Studenten bekommen A lot of students get money
Geld vom Staat.
from the state.
Sie ist die Frau von meinem
She's my uncle's wife.
Onkel.
Hast du was zum Schreiben? Do you have something to write
Rotkppchen geht zur
Gromutter

with?
Little Red Ridinghood is going
to her grandmother's.

Under certain circumstances the


dative is used with the following
"two-way" prepositions: an, auf,
hinter, in, neben, entlang, ber,
unter, vor, and zwischen. When
these prepositions delineate a
spacial area, and the verb's action or
lack of action remains entirely within
Please exit your car, ring (the bell) to the left of the door the area, they take the dative. If the
and announce yourself to the porter over the intercom. verb indicates movement that
crosses the border into that area,
the preposition takes the accusative case):
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Die Gste sitzen am Tisch.


The guests are sitting at the table.
Der Hund liegt auf dem Teppich.
The dog's lying on the rug.
Sie arbeitet hinter dem Haus.
She's working behind the house.
Man kann nicht zwischen zwei Sthlen sitzen. You can't sit between two chairs.

"an dem" and "in dem" are usually contracted:


Er steht am Fenster.
He stands at the window.
Es gibt einen Fremden im Haus. There's a stranger in the house.

Cell Phone Repair Service for small repairs. Bring it


in to the booth in the morning and pick it up on the
same day in the afternoon. Or visit us in the Nokia
Shop Berlin at Hauptstrasse 80a in Friedenau and
have your phone repaired immediately.
W hen these two-way prepositions define time, rather than space, they usually take
the dative. The exceptions are "auf" and "ber":
Am Montag machen wir die Wsche.
We do the laundry on Monday.
In der Nacht sind alle Katzen grau.
At night all cats are grey [Any port in a storm].
Er soll unter einer Stunde reden.
He's supposed to talk under an hour.
Vor jedem Essen trinken wir ein Glas Portwein. We drink a glass of port before each meal.
Vor einem Jahr hat sie kein Deutsch gekonnt. A year ago she couldn't speak any German.

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These two-way prepositions take the dative case in certain idioms, as well. A
few examples:
Sie arbeitet jetzt an einem Buch.
Das Kind hngt an mir.
Das Wasser ist am Kochen.
Ich zweifele an seinem guten Willen.
Sie hat lange an Krebs gelitten und ist dann an
dieser Krankheit gestorben.
In Deutschland gibt es einen Mangel an Kindern.
Du bist schuld an meiner Erkltung.
Nimmst du am Programm teil?
Kuwait ist reich an l.
Wir messen ihn an seinen Taten.

She's working on a book.


The child is attached to me.
The water's boiling.
I have doubts about his good will.
She suffered from cancer for a long time and
then died of this disease.
In Germany there's a shortage of children.
It's your fault I have a cold.
Are you taking part in the program?
Kuwait has abundant oil.
We measure him by his deeds.

As a man, you're measured by your deeds. You're loved for your weaknesses.
Sie besteht auf ihrem Recht.
Unter diesen Bedingungen bin ich bereit, es zu
tun.
Sie fhren ein Gesprch unter vier Augen.
Weil wir jetzt unter uns sind, knnen wir darber
reden.
Endlich habe ich diese Prfung hinter mir.
Ich warne Sie vor dem Hund.
Er war auer sich vor Wut.
Hast du wirklich Angst vor mir?
Kondome schtzen vor AIDS.
Diese Information soll zwischen meiner Mutter und
mir bleiben.

She insists on her rights.


Under these conditions I'm ready to do it.
They're having a tte--tte.
Now that we're among ourselves we can talk
about it.
I've finally got this test out of the way.
I warn you about the dog.
He was beside himself with fury.
Are you really afraid of me?
Condoms protect (you) from AIDS.
That information should stay between me and
my mother.

1 The so-called "der-words" are the articles der, die, das; dies-, jed-, jen-,

manch-, solch-, and w elch-.


The "ein-words" are ein, kein, and the possessive pronouns: mein, dein, sein, ihr,
unser, euer, I hr, and ihr.
back to text
2 That's with people. W ith things glauben takes the accusative: "Sie glaubt meine

Antwort nicht" (She doesn't believe my answer).


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The Genitive Case (der Genitiv)


Other Related T opics

In English:

Noun Gender
Nominative
Accusative
Dative
Adjectival Nouns

English shows possession through the


genitive case, which marks the noun in
question with "-'s" (or in a plural already
ending in "-s" with just the apostrophe):
"the horse's mouth"; "the books' covers."
One can also use a prepositional phrase
with "of ": "the color of the car" (= "the
car's color").

Adjective Endings
Prepositions
Suffixes

Grammar Review Home


Dartmouth German
Studies Department

Forming the Genitive in German:


Like the nominative, accusative, and
dative cases, the genitive case is marked
by pronouns, articles and adjective
endings.
In the genitive, there is no distinction
between a "der-word" and an "ein-word."1
As a rule, one-syllable nouns take an "es" in the masculine or neuter (des
Mannes), although colloquial speech will
sometime add just -s. Multi-syllabic ones
take just "-s": (des Computers):

Masculine
des roten
Stuhles
roten Stuhles

Feminine

Neuter

Plural
The care of one tooth is simple.
But you have a couple more of them.

der neuen des alten der roten


Lampe
Buches
Sthle
neuer
alten
alter
Lampe
Buches
Bcher

Note that the possessive adjectives (mein, dein, sein, ihr, etc.) are not genitive in and
of themselves. Nor is the interrogative w essen (= "whose").
As in the accusative and dative cases, the so-called weak masculine nouns take an "n" or "-en" in the genitive. For example:

nom.
acc.
dat.
gen.

der Mensch
den Menschen
dem Menschen
des Menschen
[human]
nom. der Bote
acc. den Boten
dat. dem Boten
gen. des Boten
[messenger]
nom. der Jude
acc. den Juden
dat. dem Juden
gen. des Juden
[Jew]

der Nachbar
den Nachbarn
dem Nachbarn
des Nachbarn
[neighbor]
der Kunde
den Kunden
dem Kunden
des Kunden
[customer]
der Russe
den Russen
dem Russen
des Russen
[Russian]

der Herr
den Herrn
dem Herrn
des Herrn
[lord; gentleman]
der Junge
den Jungen
dem Jungen
des Jungen
[boy]
der Kollege
den Kollegen
dem Kollegen
des Kollegen
[colleague]

der Held
den Helden
dem Helden
des Helden
[hero]
der Experte
den Experten
dem Experten
des Experten
[expert]
der Riese
den Riesen
dem Riesen
des Riesen
[giant]

Other endings of weak nouns are "-ant," "-arch," "-ege," "-ent," "-ist," "-oge," "om," "-oph," and "-ot." Some examples:
der Buddist
[Buddhist]
der Student
[student]
der Philosoph
[philosopher]

der Katholik
[Catholic]
der Komdiant
[comedian]
der Fotograf
[photographer]

der Protestant
[Protestant]
der Astronom
[astronomer]
der Enthusiast
[enthusiast]

der Pilot
[pilot]
der Patriarch
[patriarch]
der Anthropologe
[anthropologist]
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Again: note that all of these nouns are masculine. Furthermore, their plural forms are
the same as their accusative, dative, and genitive singular forms: e.g., den Studenten,
dem Studenten, des Studenten; [plural:] die Studenten, den Studenten, der Studenten.
("Herr" is an exception: den Herrn, dem Herrn, des Herrn; [plural:] die Herren, den
Herren, der Herren).
Typically, dictionaries identify weak nouns by giving not only the plural but also the
weak ending: "der Bauer (-n, -n) farmer, peasant." The first ending that is cited is that
of the genitive case. W ith weak nouns the accusative and the dative are usually
identical with the genitive - but not alw ays. A few weak nouns add "-ns," for example:

nom.
acc.
dat.
gen.

der Glaube
den Glauben
dem Glauben
des Glaubens
[belief]

der Wille
den Willen
dem Willen
des Willens
[will]

der Gedanke
den Gedanken
dem Gedanken
des Gedankens
[thought]

der Name
den Namen
dem Namen
des Namens
[name]

One neuter noun is also weak in the dative and takes an "-ens" in the genitive:

nom.
acc.
dat.
gen.

das Herz
das Herz
dem Herzen
des Herzens
[heart]

W hile the Latin accusative and dative forms of Jesus Christus (Jesum Christum, Jeso
Christo) are not used in modern German, the genitive is: Jesu Christi.
The genitive personal pronouns are rare nowadays, but they do exist (some further
examples of their use can be found below):
meiner = (of) me unser = (of) us
deiner = (of) you eurer = (of) y'all
Ihrer = (of) you
seiner = (of) him
ihrer = (of) her
ihrer = (of) them
seiner = (of) it
The demonstrative pronoun, on the other hand, is commonly employed:
dessen = (of) him/it (masc.)
derer = (of) her/it (fem.)
derer = (of) them
dessen = (of) it (neut.)

Wir danken im Namen derer, die in Nte


geraten sind.
Meine Brder und deren Kinder sind schon
angekommen.

We give thanks in the name of those who have come


into hardship.
My brothers and their children have already arrived.

In ambiguous situations, the demonstrative possessive pronoun points to the nearest


preceding (i.e. the latter) noun:
Pauls Sohn und dessen Freunde haben Hunger. Paul's son and (Paul's) son's friends are hungry.
[not: Paul's son and (Paul's) friends are hungry].
W hen such a pronoun depends on a preceding noun, desselben or derselben can be
employed:
Das Mikroskop, Theorie und Anwendung
desselben.

The Microscope: its Theory and Use [book title]

Die meisten Glaubenslehrer verteidigen ihre


Stze nicht, weil sie von der Wahrheit
derselben berzeugt sind, sondern weil sie
diese Wahrheit einmal behauptet haben.

Most doctrinal theologians defend their propositions,


not because they are convinced of the truth of them,
but because they have at one point asserted that truth.
[aphorism by G. C. Lichtenberg]

converted by Web2PDFConvert.com

Further pronoun examples can be found below.

Uses of the
Genitive Case
in German:
Germans will
often assert
that the
genitive is
disappearing
from the
language. It is
certainly used
less than one
[pun:] Geh nicht tief ins Wasser,
or two
weil es da tief ist.
centuries ago,
but it still
occupies an important position. Primarily, the
[There is room in this subway car for] 2 genitive designates a relationship between two
bicycles. No bringing [a bike] along when this nouns in which one of them belongs to the
car is traveling at the front of the train.
other. The former can be in any case, but the
latter is in the genitive:
Was ist die Telefonnummer deiner schnen Kusine?

What is your beautiful cousin's phone number?

Sie hat den Brief ihres Vaters gar nicht gesehen.

She never saw her father's letter.

Das Bild deiner Frau ist besonders gut.

Your wife's picture is particularly good.

Der Motor dieses Autos ist viel zu klein.

This car's engine is much to small.

Die grte Liebe aller deutschen Mnner ist Fuball. The greatest love of all German men is soccer.

The point of the game is to throw the ball in the

Der Zweck des Spiels ist, den Ball durch den Korb zu
basket.
werfen.

Note that the genitive noun comes second. The


opposite sounds either archaic or poetic:
"Das also war des Pudels Kern!"
[Goethes Faust]

So that was the


poodle's core!

Proper names in the genitive do precede the noun,


however. If the name already ends in "-s" or "-z,"
then an apostrophe added:2
Was hast du mit Roberts altem
Computer gemacht?
Veronikas neuer Freund ist
schn.
Heinz' Hut ist wirklich hsslich.

What did you do with


Robert's old computer?
Veronika's new boyfriend is
handsome.
Heinz's hat is really ugly.
Success is the sum of correct decisions

In colloquial speech Germans often use the preposition von (with the dative, of
course) instead of the genitive:
Ist das der Freund von deinem Bruder? Is that the friend of your brother?
Wir suchen das Haus von seiner Mutter. We're looking for his mother's house.
This construction with "von" is always used if
there is no article to mark the genitive:
Er ist ein Freund von mir.
Das Abstellen von Farhrdern
ist verboten.

He's a friend of mine.


The parking of bicycles is
forbidden.

converted by Web2PDFConvert.com

Uneducated Germans sometimes use the dative


and a possessive adjective to create a genitive
effect: Bist du dem Mann seine Frau? Are you the
man's w ife?
The genitive is used to indicate an indefinite day
or part of the day:
Eines Tages sollen wir das
machen.
Eines Morgens hat er vergessen,
sich die Schuhe anzuziehen.
Eines Sonntags gehen wir in die
Kirche.

Some day we should do


that.
One morning he forgot
to put his shoes on.
Some Sunday we'll go
to church.

Although Nacht is feminine, it here - and only here


- assumes an analogous structure: Sie ist eines
Nachts weggelaufen. She ran aw ay one night.

The Dative is the Death of the Genitive.


A Guide through the Labyrinth of the
German Language [book by Bastian
Sick]

A number of
prepositions take a genitive object. The most
common are statt and anstatt [instead of], trotz [in
spite of], wegen [because of] and whrend
[during]. In normal speech, German often use the
dative after trotz and wegen. The grammar-police
find that appalling, but in fact the dative form is
actually older in these cases.
Statt eines Regenmantels trgt er
einen Schirm.
Trotz der Klte wollen wir
schwimmen gehen.
Wegen der Arbeit meines Vaters
mussten wir oft umziehen.
Wir machen alles des Kindes
wegen.
Whrend des Sommers wohnt er
"I go to Block House [a chain of steak bei seinen Groeltern.
houses] only because of the salad."
"That's what they all say."

Instead of a raincoat he
carries an umbrella.
Despite the cold we want to
go swimming.
Because of my father's work
we often had to move.
We're doing everything on
account of the child.
During the summer he lives
with his grandparents.

W hen just a masculine or neuter noun follows the


preposition, there is no genitive "-s":
Anstatt Fleisch isst sie Tofu. Instead of meat she eats tofu.
Note also:
Er entschuldigte sich immer wieder wegen seines
schlechten Deutsch.
Trotz ihres guten Franzsisch konnte sie nichts
verstehen.

He apologized repeatedly on account of his


bad German.
In spite of her good French she couldn't
understand a thing.

Less frequently used are auerhalb [outside of ], innerhalb [inside of ], oberhalb


[above], unterhalb [beneath], diesseits [on this side of ], and jenseits [on the other
side of ]:
Sie wohnen auerhalb der Stadt.
Nur ein Spieler darf innerhalb dieses Kreises
stehen.
Oberhalb dieser Linie gibt es ein paar Kratzer.
Die Leber sitzt unterhalb der Lunge.
Diesseits der Grenze spricht man Deutsch, aber
jenseits spricht man Hollndisch.

They live outside the city.


Only one player is allowed to stand inside this
circle.
Above this line there are a couple of scratches.
The liver is beneath the lung.
On this side of the border German is spoken, but on
the other side they speak Dutch.

George O. Curme's Grammar of the German


Language (New York: Macmillan, 1922) lists a total
of 123 prepositions that take the genitive (p. 357),
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but most are very rare or confined to legal language.


They include anlsslich [on the occasion of],
angesichts [in the face of; in view of], infolge [as a
result of; ow ing to], ungeachtet [despite;
notw ithstanding], etc.
Genitive prepositions do not form "da-" compounds.
Instead we use genitive demonstrative pronouns,
getting structures like whrend dessen [in the
meantime], statt dessen [instead of that], and
trotz dessen [despite that] - written as one or two
words.
There is a special form of wegen:
Wir gehen seinetwegen
zu Fu.
Ich mache es
ihretwegen.
Kaufen Sie das nicht
meinetwegen.
Meinetwegen knnt ihr
es verkaufen.

We're going on foot on account of


him (for his sake).
I'm doing it on account of her (for
her sake).

The grand race of the lowest prices.

Don't buy that for my sake.


As far as I'm concerned (for all I
care), you can sell it.

Quite a few verbs once took a genitive object, but over time they have switched to the
accusative. One example is vergessen, although the name of the flower
Vergissmeinnicht (forget-me-not) remains. Some verbs officially still take the genitive,
although many native speakers will use the accusative instead. It is with such formal some would say stilted - German that you might encounter genitive pronouns:
Die Angst bemchtigte sich seiner.
Wir bedrfen Ihrer Hilfe.
Man muss unter 16 sein, um sich eines VCRs zu
bedienen.
Ich erfreue mich seiner Anwesenheit.
Wir harren ihrer Ankunft.

Fear seized him.


We require your assistance.
You have to be under 16 to operate a VCR.
I enjoy his presence.
We patiently await her arrival.

Some predicate adjectives are also associated with the genitive:


Er ist seiner Beliebtheit sehr gewiss.
Ich bin mir dessen bewusst.
Ach ich bin des Treibens mde! [aus Goethes "Wandrers
Nachtlied"]
Sie ist des Mordes schuldig.
Er ist ihrer nicht wert.

He's very certain of his popularity.


I'm aware of that.
Oh, I'm weary of this restless
activity
She is guilty of murder.
He's not worthy of her.

Certain noun phrases in the genitive act like prepositional phrases:


Wir sind heute guter Laune.
Sie geht guten Mutes nach Hause.
Er arbeitet festen Glaubens dafr.
Meines Erachtens ist das nicht ntig.
Meines Wissens ist nichts brig geblieben.
Sie behauptet das allen Ernstes.
Du bist heute guter Dinge.

We're in a good mood today


She goes home in good spirits.
He works for that with a firm faith.
In my opinion that's not necessary.
As far as I know, nothing was left over.
She claims that in all seriousness
You're in a cheerful mood today.

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Junk disposal of all kinds


bulky refuse / plastic, synthetics and scrap metal /clearing out of cellars, attics, and
apartments /
demolition work / moving service, mini-transport / free inspection / short notice possible
Painting jobs. Fast, clean, and reasonably priced.

1 The "ein-words" are ein, kein, and the possessive pronouns: mein, dein, sein, ihr,

unser, euer, I hr, ihr.


The so-called "der-words" are the articles der, die, das; dies-, jed-, jen-, manch-,
solch-, w elch-.
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2 Increasingly, Germans are putting apostrophes onto all names, especially in

commercial enterprises. This option is unavailable to non-native speakers.

Frnky's Flowers.

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Adjectival Nouns (substantivierte Adjektive)


Other Related T opics
Nominative
Accusative
Dative
Genitive
Gender
Adjective Endings

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Dartmouth German
Studies Department
(From Der Spiegel) A survey of 25,000 university graduates: why so
many study the wrong thing.

Adjectival Nouns in English:


Because English adjectives are uninflected, it is more
difficult to make nouns out of them. One can talk about
certain abstract concepts like the True or the Good, but in
most cases, at least "one," "thing," or something like
"man," "woman," or "guy" is required to create a noun
phrase: "He's an odd one." "Let's drink a cold one" [a
beer]. "Have a good one" [a nice day]. "I did the wrong
thing." "It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of
heaven." "I'm talking about the fat guy."
It can be a little easier in the plural: "The rich are
different." "For ye have the poor always with you."

Adjectival Nouns in German:


Because German adjective endings carry considerable information about case, gender,
and number, the noun that they modify can sometimes seem redundant. W hen
Germans refer to Ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl as der Dicke, they don't need a further
noun, since the der, followed by the -e ending on dick tells us that we are dealing with
a single masculine subject (in the nominative case). So long as the context is clear, all
that's needed to make the noun is to capitalize the first letter.
A number of such nouns constructed in this fashion have become conventional enough
to be listed as dictionary entries in their own right. Some adjectives that become such
nouns are "bekannt" [= acquainted], "angestellt" [= employed, hired], "verwandt" [=
related], "erwachsen" [= grow n-up], and "deutsch" [= German]:
Sie ist eine gute Bekannte von
mir.
Er ist ein Angestellter dieser
Firma.
Meine Verwandten sind alle
verrckt.
Nur Erwachsene drfen diesen
Film sehen.
Die Deutschen sind gern
pnktlich.
der Dicke

She is a good acquaintance of mine.


He is an employee of this company.
My relatives are all crazy.
Only adults [grownups] are allowed to
see this film.
Germans like to be punctual.

(Note that "German" is the only nationality designated by an


adjectival noun.)

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Frequent usage has produced other conventions:


Ich mchte ein Helles.
Und ich nehme ein Dunkles.
Heute fahren wir ins Blaue.
Er traf ins Schwarze.
Mein Alter geht mir auf den Wecker.
Meine Alte versteht gar nichts.

I'd like a light beer [a pils].


And I'll have a dark beer.
Today we're driving into the wild, blue yonder.
He hit the bull's-eye.
My old man [my father] gets on my nerves.
My old lady [my mother] doesn't understand anything.

Your parents will puke!


Plural adjectives of color represent members of particular political parties: e.g., "die
Grnen" = the Greens; "die Roten" = SPD or PDS.
The examples above are all in the nominative case, but the adjectival inflections hold
true in the accusative, dative, and genitive, as well. Here are examples of "the old
man," "the rich woman," "the Good", "the poor [poor people]":

Masculine

Feminine

Neuter

Plural

der Alte
* ein Alter
Alter

die Reiche
eine Reiche
Reiche

das Gute
* kein Gutes
Gutes

die Armen
keine Armen
Arme

acc.

den Alten
einen Alten
Alten

die Reiche
eine Reiche
Reiche

das Gute
* ein Gutes
Gutes

die Armen
keine Armen
Arme

dat.

dem Alten
Altem

der Reichen
Reicher

dem Guten
Gutem

den Armen
Armen

gen.

des Alten
Alten

der Reichen
Reicher

des Guten
Guten

der Armen
Armer

nom.

Some of the forms in the above chart may seem hard to work into the conversation,
but they do exist. Note the following:

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Es hat keinen Zweck, Altes mit Altem zu ersetzen. There's no point in replacing old with old.

Something light can be so delicious ...


They are more apt to show up in the vocative:
Du Armer! You poor fellow!
In the plural, however, there are some surprises, especially in the vocative:
Wir Grnen sind nicht so unrealistisch. We Greens are not so unrealistic.
Ihr beiden seid echte Profis.
You both are real pros.
Germans also frequently say or write "ihr beide", however. And, although "wir Grnen"
and "ihr Grnen" are used more consistently, both "Sie Grnen" and "Sie Grne" are
possible. Go figure.
Note that "beide" is not capitalized. The same is true for "andere":
Wir beiden sind da, aber wo bleiben die anderen?
Hast du etwas anderes zu sagen?
Ich komme mit den anderen.
Diese Tasse ist schmutzig. Ich hole eine andere.

We're both here, but where are the others?


Do you have something else to say?
I'll come with the others.
This cup is dirty. I'll fetch a different one.

The adjective may also be in lowercase when the impression is less of an adjective
used as a noun than of a noun having been omitted:
Sie hat einen Weiwein bestellt, aber ich nehme einen roten.

She ordered a white wine, but I'll take a red.


Es gibt wenig gute Schriftsteller, aber er gehrt zu den besten.

There are few good writers, but he belongs to the best.


Compare this last example to the following:

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Only the best stay calm in difficult situations

Certain forms
appear in
apposition:
Friedrich der
Groe war Knig
von Preuen.

Frederick the
Great was the
King of Prussia.
Kennst du August
den Starken?

Do you know
August the
Strong?
Friedrich der Groe

August der Starke

Der Kaiser gab


August dem
Starken den
Oberbefehl ber
die
sterreichischen
Truppen.

The Emperor
gave August the
Strong command
of the Austrian
troops.
Sanssouci war
das
Sommerschloss
Friedrichs des
Groen.

Sanssouci was
Frederick the
Great's summer
palace.
A more common appositional structure is formed with the pronouns "etwas" or "nichts"
Ich will dir etwas Schnes zeigen. I want to show you something beautiful.
Er fhrt nichts Gutes im Schilde. He's up to no good.
Wir reden von etwas Einmaligem. We're talking about something unique.
The adjectives "viel" and "wenig" sometimes look like pronouns, because they normally
take no endings in the singular:

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Wir haben wenig Interessantes zu berichten. We have little of interest to report.


Ihr Boss hat viel Gutes ber Sie gesagt.
Your boss said a lot of good things about you.
Seine Rede enthlt wenig Wahres.
His speech contains little that is true.
Ordinal numbers act the same way as other adjectives:

The best solution? Every second (person) has already found it. Berliner
Sparkasse [Berlin Savings Bank]. Every second Berliner is already our customer.
Demand more.
The possessive adjectives form nouns in the same way, except that they are not
capitalized:
Ich sehe dein Fahrad, aber wo ist meins? Naja, ich fahre mit ihrem.

I see your bike, but where is mine? Oh well, I'll take hers.
Er ist Deutscher, und ich bin auch einer.

He's a German, and I'm one, too.


Sie ist eine Verwandte von mir, also bin ich eine von ihren.

She's a relative of mine; thus I'm one of hers.


Es gibt mehrere reiche Lnder in der Welt, und Deutschland ist eins von den reichsten.

There are several rich countries in the world, and Germany is one of the richest.
Especially when using adjectives that have been derived from present or past
participles, it is possible to pack a great deal of information into the adjectival noun:
das Gefundene
die Gestorbene
ein Studierender
ein Studierter
die Betende
der Alternde
das Werdende
der Auserwhlte
das Unverhoffte
die Leidtragende

that which has been found


the (female) deceased
someone (male) who is studying
someone (male) who has studied
the praying woman
the aging man
that which is in the process of becoming
the chosen (male) one
the unexpected
the (female) mourner

* The nominative masculine and neuter and the accusative neuter are different when

the article is an "ein-word." The articles in this category are ein, kein, and the
possessive pronouns: mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, I hr, ihr
The so-called "der-words" are the articles der, die, das, dies-, jed-, jen-, manch-,
solch-, w elch-.
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