The German Cases

Posts: 0
Aug 30, 2016
Apr 3, 2018 at 11:38am

I have no idea how to understand the German cases. The way it is explained doesn't make much sense to me. I have taken German in High School and my teacher taught the same way Sonia does and nothing ever clicked. Just when I start understanding why a structure does this and why it is, it is suddenly skewed. My brain almost needs a rule of thumb to follow in order to understand. Does anyone have a way to remember how to tell between the cases that simply made more sense to them?

Posts: 0
Ornskoldsvik, N/A
United States
May 9, 2014
Apr 4, 2018 at 7:03am

Not sure if this answer helps, but I think the problem with German cases is that there isn’t just one rule, there are many. First you have to know enough (English) grammar to understand terms such as subject (which requires the nominative case), direct object (accusative case) and indirect object (dative case). Then there are lots of rules about certain articles, verbs and structures that require a certain case in a certain situation. My advice is to avoid putting any stress on yourself in the beginning about being able to _produce_ the correct sentence, but instead be comfortable with making lots of mistakes and just aim to _understand_ why a certain answer was the correct one (using Google, grammar books or whatever method). This will gradually build up your Sprachgefühl and you'll make fewer and fewer mistakes. Good luck, and remember that slow but steady will win the race!

Emilie Poyet
Posts: 0
Barcelona, Catalunya
United States
Dec 1, 2010
May 29, 2018 at 6:02am

I agree with Hornsten in the sense that there is no "easy way" to explain and understand the basic uses of the German cases. You have to have quite a good knowledge of grammar, to be able to tell which function each element has in a phrase. Once you get these, it's just a matter of practice -a loooot of practice I know!
That said, there are also many situations where you just have to use one case or another and not look for a reason. For example I remember that when first learning about the dative case I made a list of prepositions that always trigger the dative and just learned them by heart: Aus, Bei, Mit, Nach, Seit, Von, Zu.
I've repeated the list so much that I still use it as a mnemotechnic device any time I start doubting. I made the same thing with the accusative case, or prepositions that can trigger both cases depending on context etc etc
So my advice would be for you to start making your own lists and learn a few of them by heart, it really helps, then you'll see it becomes more and more natural with practice.
Mastering the cases is a really long process though, and it is one of the most difficult aspects of the German language, so don't let it put you off, keep at it and don't be afraid of speaking, even if you make a few cases errors sometimes, people will understand!

Posts: 0
Muncie, IN
Apr 28, 2018
Jun 19, 2018 at 6:27am

It would be easier to answer specific questions because it is a rather large topic you touch upon. Most German grammar books have explanations, and you can easily find explanations online as well. Over simplifying, one can say that the subject of a sentence will be nominative case, the direct object accusative case, and the indirect object the dative case. But which case to use after prepositions, for instance, I find easier to learn through repetition. There is no "rule" to apply that is of much help, or else it's more work to learn when to apply rules than to just memorize.

Viel Glück

Posts: 0
Portland, OR
Feb 15, 2018
Jul 20, 2018 at 5:53pm

As I (hopefully) understand it:

The nominative, or subject, form is the simplest to learn.
The accusative and dative get very tricky with the prepositions. But, in at least many cases, the accusative case handles direct objects (and directions), the dative case handles indirect objects (and locations), and the genitive deals with the possessive.

the bread (the word "the" is nominative) das Brot
I eat the bread ("I' is the subject, while the bread is the direct object, so you use the accusative) Ich esse das Brot
I give the bread to you ("I" is the subject, "to you" uses the dative because it's an indirect object, and "the bread" once again is the direct object
Ich gebe dir das Brot
I give you the bread of the bakery ("of the bakery" uses the genitive) Ich gebe dir das Brot der Backerei

If this is confusing or incorrect, someone please correct me!

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