German declension: Wikis

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German grammar

Nouns
Verbs
Articles
Adjectives
Pronouns
Adverbial phrases
Conjugation
Sentence structure
Declension
Modal particle

German declension is the paradigm that German uses to define all the ways words can change shape to reflect their role in the sentence: subject, object, etc. Declension allows speakers to mark a difference between subjects, objects, indirect objects and possessives by changing the form of the word—or its associated article—instead of indicating this meaning through word order or prepositions (e.g. English, Spanish, French). As a result, German can take a much more fluid approach to word order without the meaning being obscured.

As a fusional language, German marks nouns, pronouns, articles, and adjectives to distinguish case, number, and gender.

Modern High German distinguishes between four cases—nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive—and three grammatical genders—feminine, masculine, and neuter. Nouns may also be either singular or plural.

Contents

Articles

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Definite articles[1]

These correspond to the English "the".

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Masculine der den dem des
Neuter das das dem des
Feminine die die der der
Plural die die den der

Indefinite articles[2]

These correspond to English "a", "an", or "one". Note that there is no plural.

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Masculine ein einen einem eines
Neuter ein ein einem eines
Feminine eine eine einer einer

Nouns

Only the following nouns are declined according to case:

  • Masculine weak nouns (e.g. Herze) gain an -n (sometimes -en) at the end in cases other than nominative, but the genitive for Name is Namens.
  • The genitive case of other nouns of masculine or neuter gender is formed by adding -s (sometimes -es).
  • Nouns in plural that do not already end in -n or -s (found in loanwords) gain an -n in the dative case.

There is a dative singular marking -e associated with strong masculine or neuter nouns, e.g. der Tod and das Bad, but this is nearly obsolete in contemporary usage, with the exception of fossilized phrases, such as zum Tode verurteilt ("sentenced to death"), or titles of creative works, e.g. Venus im Bade ("Venus In The Bath").

Pronouns

Personal pronouns[3]

Genitive case for pronouns is currently considered archaic [3] and is used only in certain archaic expressions like "ich bedarf seiner" (I need him)

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
ich - I mich - me mir - to/for me meiner
du - you (informal singular) dich - you dir - to/for you deiner
er - he ihn - him ihm - to/for him seiner
sie - she sie - her ihr - to/for her ihrer
es - it es - it ihm - to/for it seiner
wir - we uns - us uns - to/for us unserer
ihr - you (informal plural) euch - you euch - to/for you eurer
Sie - you (formal singular & plural) Sie - you Ihnen - to/for you Ihrer
sie - they sie - them ihnen - to/for them ihrer

Interrogative pronouns

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Personal ("who/whom") wer wen wem wessen
Impersonal ("what") was was
1
1
  1. There is neither a dative nor a genitive of the impersonal interrogative pronoun. Generally, prepositions that need to be followed by either case merge with "was" to form new words such as "wovon" ("whereof") or "weswegen" ("for what reason").

Relative pronouns

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Masculine der den dem dessen
Neuter das das dem dessen
Feminine die die der deren
Plural die die denen deren

Possessive pronouns

All possessive pronouns conform to the same inflectional paradigm:

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Masculine - -en -em -es
Neuter - - -em -es
Feminine -e -e -er -er
Plural -e -e -en -er

To illustrate, here is the complete paradigm of mein ("my").

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Masculine mein meinen meinem meines
Neuter mein mein meinem meines
Feminine meine meine meiner meiner
Plural meine meine meinen meiner

Demonstrative pronouns [4]

These may be used in place of personal pronouns to provide emphasis, as in the sentence "Den sehe ich" ("I see that"). Also note the word ordering: den corresponds to "that", and ich corresponds to "I". Placing the object at the beginning of the sentence places emphasis on it. English, as a generally non-declined language, does not normally show similar behavior, although it is sometimes possible to place the object at the front of a sentence for similar emphasis, as in: "Him I see, but I don't see John".

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Masculine der den dem dessen
Neuter das das dem dessen
Feminine die die der deren
Plural die die denen deren

Reflexive pronouns

Used when a subject and object are the same, as in "Ich wasche mich" = "I wash myself"

Accusative Dative
mich - myself mir - to/for myself
dich - yourself dir - to/for yourself
sich - himself/herself/itself/oneself sich - to/for himself/herself/itself/oneself
uns - ourselves uns - to/for ourselves
euch - yourselves euch - to/for yourselves
sich - yourself/yourselves (formal) sich - to/for yourself/yourselves
sich - themselves sich - to/for themselves

Indefinite pronouns

the pronoun "man"

Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive
man - one/you/they einen - one/you/them einem - to/for one/you/them sein - one's/your/their

Attributive adjectives

Predicate adjectives are undeclined.[5] Other adjectives use the following declension patterns.

Strong inflection[6][7]

This is used when there is no preceding article.

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Masculine -er -en -em -en
Neuter -es -es -em -en
Feminine -e -e -er -er
Plural -e -e -en -er

Weak inflection[6][7]

This is used when there is a preceding definite article ("der-word"). These include jen- ("that, those"), solch- ("such a"), manch- ("many, some"), jed- ("each, every"), all- ("all"), dies- ("this, these"), and welch- ("which").

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Masculine -e -en -en -en
Neuter -e -e -en -en
Feminine -e -e -en -en
Plural -en -en -en -en

Mixed inflection[6]

This is used when there is a preceding ein-word (i.e. words like mein, dein, sein, kein etc.) or one that declines alike (like unser for example).

Nom. Acc. Dat. Gen.
Masculine -er -en -en -en
Neuter -es -es -en -en
Feminine -e -e -en -en
Plural -en -en -en -en

Mixed inflection is same as weak inflection, except bold suffixes (masculine nominative, neuter nominative and accusative) that are same as strong inflection.

Non-declining geographic attributive adjectives

Many German locality names have an attributive adjective associated with them which ends in -er, for example Berliner for Berlin and Hamburger for Hamburg, which are not marked for case but always end in -er. If the place name ends in -en, like Göttingen, the -er usually replaces the terminal -en.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, p. 55
  2. ^ Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, p. 58
  3. ^ a b Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, p. 209
  4. ^ Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, p. 213
  5. ^ Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, p. 169
  6. ^ a b c Canoo guide to adjective inflection
  7. ^ a b Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, p. 170

See also


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