Basic German Grammar

German is an inflected language where nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns are inflected into four grammatical cases. The cases are the nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. The case of a particular noun depends on the grammatical function of the noun in the sentence.

Grammatical Cases


  • The subject of a sentence, the thing doing the action


  • The direct object, the thing which is directly receiving the action, or the object of certain prepositions


  • The indirect object, as in when an object is given to someone, or the object of certain other prepositions


  • The possessor of something, or the object of certain other prepositions.

German Genders:

In German, nouns are classified into one of the there genders:

  1. Masculine (Männlich/Maskulinum)
  2. Feminine (Weiblich/Femininum)
  3. Neuter (Sächlich/Neutrum)

Unlike English, the gender of a German noun and the sex of the thing to which the noun refers often are not related. For example, in German, a stone (der Stein) is masculine. Words that describe a male or a female, such as woman (die Frau) or man (der Mann), generally take the grammatical gender corresponding to their sex, with the notable exceptions of “girl” (das Mädchen) and young woman (das Fräulein), as every noun ending with “-chen” or “-lein” is neuter.

On the other hand, the gender of words that do not describe a male or a female, which are all neuter in English, is apparently random. The arbitrary nature of grammatical gender can be seen in the example of three common pieces of cutlery: “knife” (das Messer) is a neuter word, “fork” (die Gabel) is feminine, and “spoon” (der Löffel) is masculine.

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