German cases... not sure!

I’m still a bit confused with the German cases. Could somebody please tell me if I understand the cases correctly?

Nominative - either the subject or the predicate nominative.

He is the man. ‘He’ is the subject and the predicate nominative is ‘the man’. So both of these words are in the nominative.

Accusative - the direct object
I buy the apple
I = the subject, and the car = accusative/direct object.
Ich kaufe den Apfel.

Dative - the indirect object
I give her the apple.
I is in the nominative, the apple is direct object/accusative and ‘her’ is the indirect object/dative.

Would it be something like:
Ich gebe ihr den Apfel

Genitive shows possession: The sister of his wife loves cake.
Die Schwester ihm Frau liebt Kuchen.

You have to pay attention also to some prepositions.
For example, after ‘von, aus, mit, nach, zu…’ is used always Dative: mit meinem Freund, nach der Schule
After 'für, durch, entlang…- Accusative: für meinen Freund, durch den Wald
After während, statt - Genetive: während des Sommers
Good luck! Viel Erfolg!

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Besser: Ich kaufe einen Apfel
Ich gebe ihr einen Apfel.
Die Schwester seiner Frau…

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Thank you for the comments, evgueny40! I probably should have used einen/an as that would have made more sense in German and English. Although, I wouldn’t have thought to say ‘Die Schwester seiner Frau’.

I am aware that some prepositions always take the dative/accusative. At the moment, the only dative prepositions I know that take the dative are ‘außer, aus, bei, mit, nach, seit, von and zu’. I am also aware there are 50-something verbs that always take the dative such as ‘gefallen’. Unfortunately, German grammar is still a mystery to me.

I can only give you my advice from my experience learning German, and I hope the German experts will let us know if anything I say is nonsense.

The problem with these examples is that they only cover a small number of possible sentences where you need to know the case. I remember this used to confuse me like crazy when I was a beginner in German. The most difficult in German is distinuishing between accusative and dative.

In the sentences you give for the accusative and the dative, the distinction is clear and I think you have understood it well. But when you are not making a sentence about buying something or giving something, these examples don’t help much. Just as an example, take the two sentences ‘I see you’ and ‘I help you’. You would think that ‘you’ in these sentences would have the same case, but they don’t.

I see you = Ich sehe dich
I help you = Ich helfe dir

There are many examples of this sort, and I have rarely understood why one is accusative and the other is dative. After a lot of exposure to German it starts to become quite natural to use accusative in some sentences and dative in others, but it is still unclear to me in lots of cases.

Another thing you have to look out for is reflexive verbs. A lot of verbs are, without rhyme or reason, ‘reflexive’. This means that without warning, you will be attacked by a meaningless reflexive pronoun (e.g. myself, youself, himself) after the verb, assuming the verb hasn’t been banished to the end of the sentence. For example, you wouldn’t just say “ich errinere” (I remember). Instead, you would say “ich errinere mich” (I remember myself). Here, ‘mich’ is the reflexive pronoun in accusative. However, in some cases (e.g. “ich stelle mir vor”), this reflexive pronoun is dative. I think this is meant simply to punish learners and make babies cry. Native speakers will swear that there is a logic behind it, but then they can never give a coherent explanation. Oh well, at least the spelling makes sense…


Wait, I forgot to mention prepositions…

Certain of these become more clear if you translate them into English in a more direct way. The phrase ‘es gefällt mir’ is a bit confusing if translated as ‘I like it’, but is easier to understand if transated as ‘it pleases me’.

Thank you for the detailed post! :slight_smile: I have encountered irregular verbs (in Assimil) and so they still confuse me slightly. May I ask when you started to learn German? Do you have any tips for a beginner learning german, please?

Vielen Dank. I think that is similar in Spanish… instead of ‘I like’ it’s ‘me gusta’ which comes for gustar which is ‘to please’.

They confuse me too. I have been learning German and living in Austria for three years. I still have very much to learn. My main tip is the same for all languages. German is not as hoplessly complicated as it first seems. You just need to keep exposing yourself to it in meaningful ways, and it will get simpler and easier. All these difficulties with cases and pronouns and reflecive pronouns will get easier with time.

Of course I have more specific advice for German, but I would need to think about it a bit.

Thanks. I hope it becomes easier. I know it will do if I keep on studying but it’s frustrating just being stuck in the beginning stage of learning a language.

It’s similar in Russian too. They say “мне нравится” or something like that.

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You can say that again. I am at that point in Russian now. It feels like it will never end. Mostly there is just too much vocabulary to learn.

Die Deutschen sagen: “Aller Anfang ist schwer”.
But the most important thing - not to give up, at the same time - not to be overloaded, and just go ahead, step by step, enjoying the process of learning.

They say also:
Übung macht den Meister