The accusative (4th case)

(Purpose of the accusative case in German grammar)

Table of contents – accusative

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Explanation of the term accusative
  2. The object complement
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What is the accusative?

The accusative (in German: Akkusativ) denotes the fourth of the four grammatical cases in the German language. As a rule, the direct object is in the accusative case, and so it becomes the accusative object. Furthermore, the accusative answers the questions “Who …?(Wen …?) or “What …?(Was …?), which can be utilized for a reliable determination of this case.

Compare the usage and occurrences in the following:

  • Numerous transitive verbs require the accusative, such as:
    • lesen (to read), kennen (know), einkaufen (buy), fragen (ask), sehen (see), tragen (carry), lieben (love), überweisen (transfer), wählen (choose/vote), etc.
      • Example sentence: „Kannst du deinen Onkel fragen, ob er uns abholt?“ (Can you ask your uncle to pick us up?)
        • Checking question: Wen kannst du fragen?“ (Who can you ask?)
        • Answer: Deinen Onkel.“ (Your uncle.)
  • Various prepositions also take the accusative:
    • bis (until), für (for), gegen (against), ohne (without), um (about), durch (through), etc.
      • Example sentence: „Das Geschenk ist für meine Eltern.“ (The present is for my parents.)
        • Checking question: „Für wen/was ist das Geschenk?“ (For whom is the present?)
        • Answer: „Für meine Eltern.“ (For my parents.)
  • Likewise, the fourth case is necessary for clauses in which specific adjectives are used:
    • los (loose), wert (worth), gewohnt (familiar), etc.
      • Example sentence: „Seine Entschuldigungen sind doch keinen Pfifferling mehr wert!“ (His apologies are not worth a thing anymore.)
        • Checking question: Wen/was sind seine Entschuldigungen wert?“ (Who/what are his apologies worth?)
        • Answer: Keinen Pfifferling mehr.“ (Not a thing.)

What is an object complement?

The object complement is the constituent that appears in conjunction with the accusative object. This complement is related to it, and no preposition is used to combine both parts. Note that such an object companion does not occur frequently and is only possible with certain verbs.

Some examples of these verbs are:

  • nennen (to call somebody something), heißen (call somebody something), schimpfen (tell somebody off), etc.
    • Example sentence: „Der Chef nannte seine Sekretärin einen Engel.“ (The boss called his secretary an angel.)
      • seine Sekretärin’ (his secretary) designates the accusative object.
      • einen Engel’ (an angel) is the object complement.
    • Watch out! In the following sentence example, however, no object complement is present because a preposition, which is ‘als’ (as) in this case, stands between the two constituents:
      • „In ihrer Rede bezeichnet sie ihn als Retter in der Not.“ (In her speech, she calls him the helper in her hour of need.)

Further explanations related to the ‘Accusative in German grammar’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘The accusative or fourth case of the four German grammatical cases’ and might also be helpful: