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German grammar

This page will attempt to outline the grammar of German.

Cases German has sixteen total cases for nouns, which are created from four types in each of two aspects. The first aspect is gender. There are three grammatical genders (male, female, and neuter), and there is also plural, which, while isn't technically a gender, functions like one. The other aspect is context. There are four possible contexts, nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. When choosing the article for a noun in German, the following chart may be used (in this chart, the definite article[?] ('the' in English) will be followed by a | which will be followed by the indefinite article[?] ('a' or 'an' in English):

male female neuter plural
nominative der|ein die|eine das|ein die|einige
accusative den|einen die|eine das|ein die|einigen
dative dem|einem der|einer dem|einem den|einigen
genitive des|eines der|einer des|eines der|einiger

There is also a semi-case called reflexive. The reflexive case only shows up when using pronouns, so it does not have articles for it. The reflexive case is used when the subject is the same as the object (direct or indirect). (table to be filled in)


nominative accusative dative accusative reflexive dative reflexive
I ich mich mir mich mir
we wir uns uns uns uns
you (s.) du dich dir dich dir
you (pl.) ihr euch euch euch euch
you (formal) Sie Sie Ihnen sich sich
he er ihn ihm sich sich
she sie sie ihr sich sich
it es es ihm sich sich
they sie sie ihnen sich sich

Word Order Word order in German seems complicated to many German students, but it is actually quite simple. Below are some rules about where to place the words in a German sentence:

  • Adjectives always come before the noun they modify.
  • In statements, the subject always comes first or third and the auxiliary verb comes second. If there is no auxiliary verb, the main verb comes second. If there is a seperable prefix, the prefix goes on the end of the sentence, as does the main verb (with seperable prefix on the beginning of the verb) if there is an auxiliary verb.
  • In yes/no questions, the verb usually comes first and the subject comes second. If there is an auxiliary verb or seperable prefix, it follows the same rules as the previous one outlined for putting parts on the end. If the subject comes before the verb, this often implies disbelief, like in English: "The prisoner escaped?" vs. "Did the prisoner escape?".
  • In a command, the verb comes first, followed by the pronoun 'Sie' if talking formally or 'wir' if taking to a group with the speaker included, followed by the modifiers and the rest of the sentence.
  • Declaritives are treated like statements.
  • The time aspect usually comes before the place aspect.



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