Someone made a post with a chart of the article declensions in German (thanks!) and we thought it would be great to explain a bit more about that!
What does declension mean? It means that words change depending on the role they play within the sentence. The role will determine the case.
In German we decline articles, adjectives, pronouns and some nouns, and there are four cases: Nominative, Accusative, Dative and Genitive.
How do you know which case to use?
- Nominative is used for the subject of the sentence → Sie ist klug / Die Frau ist klug / Die neue Frau ist klug (The new woman is smart)
- Accusative is used for the direct object (it usually answers the question “what?” or “who?”) → Er grüßt sie / Er grüßt seine Mutter / Er grüßt seine glückliche Mutter (He greets his happy mother)
- Dative is used for the indirect object (it usually answers the question “what?” or “whom?”) → Er schenkt ihr das Buch / Er schenkt das Buch seiner Tochter / Er schenkt das Buch seiner kleinen Tochter (He gives the book to his young daughter)
- Genitive is mainly used for possession (it usually answers the question “to what or who does this belong to?”) → Meine Tante ist die Schwester meiner Mutter / Sie ist die Frau des Bäckers / Sie ist die Mutter meiner kleinen Cusins (My aunt is my mother’s sister. She is the baker’s wife. She is my little cousins’ mother)
German isn’t the only language that has this feature. English has it as well (although more restricted): When you use “me” instead of “I” in “She told me a secret”, you are declining that pronoun!
There are some other instances where a certain case is required (with prepositions, for example), but that’s a topic for another day!
Do you have any questions about declension and cases? Have your noticed them in other languages? Comment down below!