What are cases? Basically in English, you pretty much always use the word “the” as an article. So the man, the car, the baby etc. regardless of their gender or what role they play in a sentence. In German, you use different words depending on the role (the case) and gender of the things being talked about.


English has some situations with grammatical cases similar to German. For example, in the sentences “He pets the dog” and “The dog bites him”, “he” and “him” both refer to the same man. In the first sentence, the man is referred to in the nominative case (he) because the man is the subject of the phrase, in other words, he is the one doing the action. In the second phrase, the man is referred to in the accusative case (him) because he is the object of the sentence, or the thing being acted upon.


It is important to note that although you often hear the types of cases lumped together in the same category, the cases are not really equal or on the same sort of like “level” (like North, West, South and East for example I would consider to be “on the same level”). The different cases do not show up in equal frequencies and “affect” different types of words.


For example, from what I gather from my learning so far, the nominative case will always refer to the subject of the sentence while the accusative and dative cases will refer to the object. I originally misunderstood the idea of what a case was, thinking that a case applied to a whole sentence. Rather, it is individual words in a sentence that differ depending on the case.


Specifically, the words that change depending on the case are personal pronouns (I, you, he/she etc.), indefinite articles (a cookie, a man) and definite articles (the cookie, the man)


For each case, the article also changes depending on the gender of the word. For example, the word for man (maa) is masculine, the word for woman (frau) is feminine and the word for child (chind) is neuter (note that gender is given to objects somewhat arbitrarily and there isn’t really anything that makes a tree (baum) masculine or a puddle (laachä) feminine). Always use an article before a person’s name.


When to use what case

Nominative case

This case is used when referring to the subject of the sentence. That is, the person or thing doing the action indicated by the verb. If you can ask the question who/what did the action, the nominative case is probably used. Always used after the verbs sii (be) and werde (will).

For example: maa zahlt für alles (the man will pay for everything)

Who did the action? à the man, therefore you use dä before maa


Accusative case

Used for a person or thing (the noun) that is directly affected by the action of the verb

For example: Ich iss s’brod (I eat the bread)


Dative case

Used to show the indirect object of a verb. You are able to ask: Who to/for or to/for what? In most situations you can also ask whom.

For example: Ich gib anärä frau än öpfel (I give a woman an apple)

I gave the apple to whom? à the woman therefore use anärä



Personal Pronouns                         Articles

ich I
du you
er he
sie she
es it
miir we
ihr you
sie they
  Masc Fem Neut Plur
Definite article d’ s’ d’
Indefinite article än ä äs
Negative (ind. art.) kän käs



Personal Pronouns                        Articles

mich me
dich you
ihn him
sie her
s it
ois us
oi you
sie them
  Masc Fem Neut Plur
Definite article d’ s’ d’
Indefinite article än ä äs
Negative (ind. art.) kän käs


Personal Pronouns                        Articles

mir (to) me
dir (to) you
ihm (to) him
irhä (to) her
irm (to) it
ois (to) us
oi (to) you
ihnä (to) them
  Masc Fem Neut Plur
Definite article am am
Indefinite article ammä/amnä anärä/närä ammä/amnä
Negative (ind. art.) käm/keim känerä/ keinerä käm/keim känerä/ keinerä

Definite articles that convey emphasis (i.e. not this man but that man)

Case Masc Fem Neuter Plur
Nominative die das die
Accusative die das die
Genitive däm därä däm dänä