The grammatical case

(The four grammatical cases in German grammar)

Table of contents – the grammatical case

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Explanation of the term case
  2. Further explanations and exercises

What is a grammatical case?

The case (German: Kasus) denotes the grammatical category or function in which a noun appears. In the German language, there are four different cases: nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative. Knowing the correct one is essential for the declension of the words involved. However, it may sometimes be tricky to determine the case, but you can ask specific questions (as listed below) to facilitate it.

Compare the following examples that illustrate the determination of each case:

  1. The nominative (1st case) answers the question “Who or what?”:
    • Example: Das Essen schmeckt sehr gut.“ (The food tastes very good.)
      • Question: Wer oder was schmeckt sehr gut?“ (Who or what tastes very good?)
      • Answer: Das Essen schmeckt sehr gut.“ (The food tastes very good.)
      • Accordingly, the noun ‘Essen’ (food) is in the nominative.
  2. The genitive (2nd case) gives the answer to the question “Whose?”:
    • Example: „Es war Peters Idee ins Restaurant zu gehen.“ (It was Peter’s idea to go to the restaurant.)
      • Question: Wessen Idee war es ins Restaurant zu gehen?“ (Whose idea was it to go to the restaurant?)
      • Answer: „Es war Peters Idee.“ (It was Peter’s idea.)
      • Here, ‘Peters’ (Peter’s) is in the genitive.
  3. The dative (3rd case) gives the answer to the question “Whom or to whom?”:
    • Example: „Ich habe meinem Chef einen Brief geschrieben.“ (I have written a letter to my boss.)
      • Question: Wem habe ich einen Brief geschrieben?“ (To whom have I written a letter?)
      • Answer: Meinem Chef.“ (My boss.)
      • Respectively, ‘Chef’ (boss) appears in the dative.
  4. The accusative (4th case) gives the answer to the question “Who or what?”:
    • Example: „Er hat auch seine Kollegen eingeladen.“ (He has also invited his colleagues.)
      • Question: Wen oder was hat er eingeladen?“ (Who or what has he invited?)
      • Answer: Seine Kollegen.“ (His colleagues.)
      • Correspondingly, ‘Kollegen’ (colleagues) occupies the accusative case.

Further explanations related to the ‘Grammatical case’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘The four grammatical cases (Kasus) in German grammar’ and could also be interesting:

  • Declension in grammar
  • Using nouns in German grammar
  • The subject in German sentences
  • The genitive object in German grammar
  • The dative object in German grammar
  • The accusative object in German grammar