declension means to put articles, nouns, adjectives and pronouns into the correct form
In English for example we put an 's' at the end of a noun to indicate that it's the owner of something.
Peter's car, the director's cut...
While in English declension is something so rare that we don't notice it, in German declension has to be considered in practically every sentence. In the declension you must consider several factors. Even if you know all the rules, you will still make mistakes, because you do not always know the gender of the noun. Do not try to be perfect. This is practically impossible. The communication is possible even if the declension is incorrect. More important than declension are for example structure words, separable verbs, the perfect tense and other stuff like this.
I would like to give you two clues that make learning easier:
1. In the plural there is no difference between mask, fem, and neut.
2. The nominative and accusative are identical for fem and neut.
At the end of this page you will find basic rules that will help you on how best to proceed to find out which case is right ..
definite, indefinite article
The case for the subject is always the nominative. The case for the object can be accusative, dative or genitive. If you don't know how to find out, go to the basic rules
overview German articles
German possessive pronouns
The possessive pronoun is dependent on the owner and the 'possession'. You must first find the possessive pronoun, which belongs to the 'owner' and then add the ending, which belongs to the case and the gender of the 'possession'.
In this table you will find all the personal- and reflexive pronouns in German. The column on the right shows the basic forms of the possessive pronouns, which are used in the table above.
plural of nouns in German
There are many different ways in which the plural is formed in German. Some ways I would like to present here.
1 Sometimes, the plural is identical to the singular.
2 With some nouns you must change the vowel and / or add a suffix.
3 With female nouns ending on –in the plural ending is always –innen.
4 Most female nouns ending on –e just add an -n to form the plural
5 Nouns, that do not belong to the first group and end on a consonant, add an -e.
6 As in English not every nouns has a plural form.
adjectives between article and noun, the n-declension
If an adjective is connected with the verb 'sein' , we do not have to decline. But if the adjective stands between article and noun, we do. In the table you see the ending, which has to be added to the adjective.
basic rules for German declension
Find out the grammatical case step by step
The subject and only the subject is always in the nominative case.
Otherwise it must be an object. Go on: Is there a preposition before the noun?
If the preposition is 'für, gegen, durch or um" the case is accusative. You're done.
If the preposition is 'mit, zu, aus or von" the case is dative. You're done.
dependencies between prepositions and the grammatical case
If the preposition is 'in, an, auf, über, unter' dative or accusative is possible. The verb will tell you which one is right. In order to find out you have to ask either
a) where is something or
b) where is it moving to?
This is one of the most confusing things in German declension. It's really difficult. There is only one way to make it: practicing.
Look at the example
If there is no preposition possibly the verb may tell us which case to use. Normally it's the accusative. Few verbs go with the dative. Some verbs can have two objects, one in the dative, one in the accusative.
dependencies between verb and the grammatical case
We still have to consider the genitive. Genitive may be understood as something like the owner of a property.
Notice: only with male and neuter nouns we add an " - (e)s " to indicate the genitive.
There are a few prepositions and verbs that go with the genitive. But this is no stuff for beginners.